Monday, September 1, 2008

Cutting Revisited

Blogs remind me of snapsnots, of short little conversations that I might hear on an elevator or in a waiting room. A lot of them are funny. I tend not to take blog reading or writing too seriously. But there are exceptions. My exception is the blog I wrote on cutting. It generated a few anonymous comments, and a lot of email from kids who cut and from kids who were trying not to cut.

Over the weekend, a teen told me there was to be a cutting party at a friend's house. One of my sons had been invited (he couldn't go because I did not know the parents and no one seemed to know if they would be home). She went on to say this wasn't the first cutting party she knew about.

Apparently, at a cutting party, you make a choice whether or not you want to participate. As I stood in the kitchen making snacks for the kids, I had to will myself to listen with an open mind. Here I was with multi grain organic chips and soda from the health food store trying not to notice the irony of my desire to keep them healthy and safe, and their desire to "experiment" -- I also know that not listening to teens, no matter how upsetting the story, only makes matters worse.

So you don't have to cut at a party like this. She said there's no pressure like that. The upsetting part is how accepted a behavior it is becoming: have something to eat, talk, cut, listen to music. I asked her if I had it right. She said I did. She also told me how a lot of girls had watched a BBC production of Princess Diana admitting to cutting her arms and legs. (But this behavior is also common in boys) I don't know whether that BBC taping normalized the behavior or not, but it's now making the myspace rounds.

I learned a lot from the teens who wrote to me about their experiences with cutting:
cutting is real, and cutting is spreading. And the behavior, even if it begins as an experiment, can quickly become a compulsion. The scariest aspect? The average age to begin cutting is currently between 9 and 10.


Marcia said...

There are no words. I'm just blown away by this. Cutting parties? You aren't pressured to cut -- but you would want to attend if you don't cut? You know, as freaked as I am by cutting, I'm even more freaked that I don't get it. I don't get why it would be a community thing, or just part of an evening.

Anne Spollen said...

I am struggling to understand this, too. Apparently, cutting is an option and the kids sort of accept it -- bizarre as that sounds to us. It's usually done away in another room and can be hidden by clothing.

The other side of this is that kids emailed me about their experiences, and they are - or were - clearly in some sort of pain. And based on those emails, it's a habit that seems enormously difficult to stop once it's begun.

I had no idea the extent of this until I wrote that blog and got that response. It's not local or limited to my sons' friends at all; it's a widespread and crosses over all boundaries.

TerriRainer said...

I think on that post I mentioned my friends daughter, now almost 18, who began cutting in her early teens.

I have had many conversations with her, and did some research into self-mutilation trying to understand.

It does end up an addiction.

I was also told that it's exciting, thinking that if you cut a bit too deep, or in just the right spot, you could accidently hit an artery and bleed to death.

Heck, we just drove our cars fast...that was exciting, but to cause yourself pain to "feel alive"...WTF?

:) Terri

Tabitha said...

Wow, that just scares me. Terrifies me. My boys just turned 3 and 5, and the *average* age to start cutting is 9 or 10?? That means some kids start earlier, and some start later. Geez...I'm so not ready for that.

I can see how easily it could become an addiction. With each cut, the body produces endorphins and creates a natural high. Kids with problems they want to escape, or kids who are simply suceptible to addition could easily get caught up in it. That scares the crap out of me.

Anne Spollen said...

I know what you guys are saying. I used to be a very untroubled person. After my first son was born, worrying became a part time job with occasional days when it was full time.
Sometimes I wonder how much easier the parents who aren't around for their kids have it - they don't talk about this stuff so they don't know about it. I research it...
I guess it's just the age. They seem to love risk as much as I love protection.

Mary Witzl said...

Oh God. Like Marcia, I've got no words. Or at least none that would be effective against this. I think about cultures where this sort of thing is practiced as a rite of passage -- face scarring for decorative purposes, for instance. And at least there, it is done in a ceremony. It is part of the culture, and presumably it is done with a certain amount of hygiene and by people who know what they're doing. But this seems to be different.

I wonder if this is any worse than those Victorian women who had their lower ribs surgically removed to make their waists narrower? I want to think that it isn't.

What you are doing is right: you talk to the kids. I do that too. And I try not to let loose with knee-jerk responses, but it is so hard. As I write this, one of my daughter's friends is visiting. Her mother is a good friend. And this girl cuts...

Anne Spollen said...

I have always envied those parents who participate in what I've termed "vacant parenting" - a kind of detached observation of their kids growing up. They maintain this Zen attitude that I can't seem to manage in my sleep...

I don't know what cutting is, but the folks who emailed me say it made them feel better and they just couldn't stop. And it wasn't just teens - a lot of them are now in their twenties and thirties and
they are still struggling.

I wonder if each time in history will have its puzzling rite of passage.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed

reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Anne Spollen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! And you came all the way back here? Wow - I get email alerts when people post messages, and I couldn't find you.

Anyway, welcome, and I'm glad you enjoy the blog! :)