Seeing what we don’t want to see

This post is a part of The Write On Project
Topic: Warning Signs

If you are a self-injurer, the following post could contain triggers.

I was 14 years old when I cut myself for the first time. I wasn’t very adept at it. I used an industrial razor blade I found on top of the refrigerator. I dragged it across the back of my hand, making scratches more than cuts. For several months, that’s all I did. But the scratches became a bit deeper each time, drew just a little bit more blood.

They may have been shallow, but they were noticeable. I was asked on several occasions what happened. I told everyone that my cat had scratched me. They all, without exception, easily accepted that . . . even though most of them knew my cat only had claws on her back paws.

The more they asked, the more I learned to hide my marks. By the time I was making actual cuts, they were on my upper thighs. I remember going into a panic before my 8th grade day trip to a pool. I tore apart my dresser for a t-shirt that was long enough.

I lived with an amazing mother. She loved me, cared for me, talked to me, and comforted me. And still, she was painfully clueless. Every so often she’d catch a glimpse of the darkness inside of me. She’d sit on my bed and I’d see pain in her eyes. I was ashamed, and I used my gift for words to convince her that everything was wonderful.

Maybe it wasn’t so much my gift as it was her desire to believe what I was saying.

She didn’t know I had a bottle of “just in case” pills in my medicine cabinet. She didn’t know that every time they switched her cancer meds, I’d steal a handful of the old ones. I never did have any idea what those pills would have done had I taken them. I pretty much figured that enough of anything would get the job done.

I always had a knack for convincing people I wasn’t crazy, but looking back, I think I was ridiculously obvious. I think, “If I saw me back then, I’d know I needed help.”

But as I watch my daughter grow up in a world where pain is so much more easily accessed than it was when I grew up, I begin to doubt myself. Will I notice if she gets panic attacks? Will I sense if depression sets it? Will I know if she cuts? Or takes drugs? Or any number of other things?

As a parent, will I notice the signs or will my desire for everything to be okay keep me in a fog of denial? And if I do notice, how will I deal with it?

A lifetime of my own dysfunction has taken on a new meaning now that I’m a parent. I may have several years before I need to worry about these things, but I’ve never been one to allow time to give me comfort.

There are countless commercials, made-for-TV-movies, public service announcements, and articles about talking to your kids, listening to them, and watching for signs of self-destructive behavior. But like everything else in life, it is all so much easier said than done.

The truth is I’m terrified that my daughter will be like me. I’m terrified because quite honestly, I don’t know what would have helped me back then. On the occasions when I was confronted, I became defensive. I put on my best, “I’m better now” face and swore I’d never do it again. They always believed me.

I think it’s human nature to believe those things we want to be true.

I don’t have the answers. Sometimes, I think I should. I think experience should give me an upper hand. But in the end, I’m just another parent worrying about doing what is best for her child.

And the best I can do is make a promise to myself and to my daughter that my eyes, my ears, and my arms will always be open.


10 responses to this post.

  1. This is an amazing and honest post, Dayle, and I wish that all parents could read it.

    “And the best I can do is make a promise to myself and to my daughter that my eyes, my ears, and my arms will always be open.” – So true.


  2. I have no words Dayle. Well, actually I do. What does not kill you makes you stronger and wiser. So don’t worry, you are a wonderful mother who knows the signs and will know how to react (even though I hope you never need to).


  3. Posted by Anita on March 29, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Well, I think you know me well enough to know what I’m thinking. I’ll just add one thing to that thought. All of the things that have happened, things that you’ve done and things others have done to you, have made you exactly the person you’re supposed to be. Your life, with all of your experiences, has also made you the perfect mother for your daughter. You were meant to be her mother, and she was meant to be your daughter. Some things in this life are just intended to be that way, and I can relate. 😉

    Don’t let fear of a possible future worry you. Whatever situation might arise, you’ll know exactly what to say, and exactly what to do. Regardless of what your daughter may go through in her life, she couldn’t be in better hands!

    Love ya!


  4. I love what Anita said!

    I never physically harmed myself growing up, but I can relate to being incredibly depressed and having thoughts of doing so. My mom, like yours, was a wonderful woman and though I sometimes wonder how she didn’t notice my depression sooner, I truly believe she would have helped me in anyway HAD she seen it.

    I’m not a mother yet, but when I have a child one day, I will probably be looking at her to see if she will inherit my depression somehow and hope that I will have the right words to say and know the right thing to do. I have no idea if I will be capable of doing that or not, but I definitely plan on doing the best job I can do and I think that’s all anyone can do. You have been through a lot and come out such a strong woman and I agree with Anita, that Abby is in great hands! None of us may be perfect at anything, but we can all be the best that we are able to be!


    • Thank you, Sharon!

      This reminds me of the post I wrote about school bus bullying . . . I’m trying to find that delicate balance between not ignoring real problem and not projecting fake ones! It can be rather difficult at times, but I’ll take one day at a time (as best I can) and like you said, be the best that I am able to! . . . And I have no doubts that you will be a wonderful mother when the time comes!


    • Posted by Anita on April 2, 2012 at 12:43 am



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