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Black girls who cut themselves, and the pain of self-injury

Sometime last year, during the course of a seemingly normal evening, I spotted an oozing gash across my daughter’s forearm. I was sitting in bed when she casually popped into my room to ask me a question. The sight of the wound jolted me awake, and I winced because it was fresh, bright red and fairly deep.

“Skylar!” I gasped, pulling her to me for a closer examination. “What happened to your arm?” She waved away my concern in the nonchalant way that 12-year-olds do when they don’t feel like being bothered to go into the details their parents demand of them.

“Oh, I scratched it on a nail on the bulletin board in music class,” she told me. I knew it was a lie.

Usually, I commence to firing her up for even attempting to get one past me. This time, I left it alone for a few days. I wanted to pay closer attention before I unfurled any accusations. A week later, I spotted another cut. Then another. And another.

The discovery sent me into a panic. What did it mean? Was she suicidal? Even if she wasn’t, could she accidentally dig too deeply into her flesh and slice a major vein? It sounds so dramatic, but visions of waking up in the morning to find her in a pool of blood made me sick with worry.

Aside from watching anguished young white girls mutilate their bodies during the occasional episode of Intervention, I’d probably never had a concerted thought about self-injury. It just wasn’t part of our reality. I certainly didn’t know anyone personally who suffered from the urge to hurt themselves and, whenever I did run across a story, it was never about a black child. As a matter of fact, that cultural aspect ultimately made our situation even more complex. It’s been challenging to shed the stigma that self-injury is confined to white kids. Even I used to think that way.

I kept my daughter’s struggle with self-injury secret for a long time – this is actually the first time I’ve shared our story with a group outside of our circle of immediate family and close friends – partly because I felt like a failure as a mother, partly because I didn’t want anyone to write her off as a troubled child or a razor-wielding psycho.

She wasn’t. My baby was cutting herself – like others before her – to vent her hurt, anger, feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness and despair. The point is not to commit suicide. The normal angst of puberty was exacerbated by a tenuous relationship with her father and drama with friends and classmates who seemed to have the most tumultuous, fine-one-day, chaotic-the-next relationships I’d ever seen, even among tweenagers. I’m sure I contributed to her frustration, too. To release the emotions she couldn’t verbally express, she cut her arm and eventually, her belly and thigh, too.

The post Black girls who cut themselves, and the pain of self-injury appeared first on theGrio.

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