I have rewritten this post at least a dozen times. My thoughts keep halting. Maybe the problem is that I am trying to be profound and insightful when really I am just as confused about certain issues as the youth going through them. I was thinking specifically into the whole realm of self injury called cutting. After years of youth work I genuinely have stopped feeling surprise when someone reveals that they cut themselves. I moved from that into trying to find a solution that can fix this problem. Now that I've seen the futile mission that is I have moved again into a new place: understanding.
When I encounter a person that cuts I will often ask them why they cut. I thought maybe I could offer some helpful guidelines as to how they could cease the behavior. The fact of the matter is that most people answer with the words, "I don't know." At first I thought that these were the answers of people that were trying to avoid my questions, but I am beginning to genuinely believe the answer. The real understanding came not through study of the many resources and professional psychological explanations of the issue but rather through an intense look at my self.
I was having a bad week. As my emotions and stresses rose I found myself stalling in thought. I know that these "trance-like" states were happening because I would suddenly come back into the fullness of my reality. In that moment of intensity between those to states I found myself with an overwhelming urge to fall back on some of my own harmful coping mechanisms. As the days when by I found those feelings would linger longer and longer. It took a good friend in whom I could confide in that helped to snap my focus back into place.
Life is intense for many of these youth and they rarely see a moment of reprieve. Combined with a technological saturated world of ipods, cell phones, instant messaging, and facebook (by the way email is way out of date by now) they fewer and fewer moments when they will have genuine stillness in their lives. In fact I find they are almost afraid of it. The intensity rises and the overwhelming situations and emotions blend themselves into a bland feeling of nothingness. Suddenly the desire and longing to feel anything becomes overwhelming and the scissors will dance along their skin. For a fleeting moment the pain is something that can be treated. Then they are betrayed by feelings of guilt and shame.
It has the earmarks of an addiction. There is no solution to attack this wide spread problem. Cutters are not projects. They are people who need some health, someone who will listen to them and not freak out at their behavior. That will not look at their cut marks with disgust cut recognize that the blood on their arms is actually their heart on their sleeves. Address their hearts, not the marks their arms.
Thats the best I've got. Hopefully it makes some sense.