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Miranda Writes: About Cutting




by Omar Miranda

Cutting is an outside way of letting others know that you’re hurting inside

“I’m going to be suspended, ain’t I? Did you really have to call my parents? I’m so embarrassed! This is the worst day of my life!”  Sheri1 angrily shouted at me as she sat in my office, hysterical and bawling her eyes out.

Sheri was a tenth-grade student at the local high school where I was working as a school counselor. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her voice was hoarse because she’d been crying so much. I told her the reason I called her parents was that self-mutilation, or cutting, as it’s typically called, can be a very serious habit that follows a person well into adulthood if it’s not dealt with when it starts.
In Amanda Wakefield’s story “I Wanted to Die,” which appears in the November 13 issue of Insight magazine, she tells how her personal struggle with depression led to many negative behaviors, including experimenting with cutting.

Neither parents nor teens realize what an epidemic of cutting there currently is. In my nearly 21 years of working with teens, I’ve seen this problem continue to mushroom and to show up in younger and younger kids.

Alarming statistics

Here are some alarming statistics on cutting in the U.S. It’s estimated that one in every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years of age cut themselves regularly. Those who cut make up about 70 percent of teen girls who self-injure. Though some males do cutting too, it appears to be done mostly by females.

I used to cut myself, so I definitely understand the feelings that teens have when they’re doing it, but why they do it can vary greatly. Here’s the bottom line: cutting is an outside way of letting others know how much you’re hurting on the inside.

A lot of people cut themselves because they have something in their lives that’s out of control and cutting is a way for them to control something—even if it’s only how they feel.

Another reason people cut is that it makes them feel better. As crazy as it sounds, when you get cut—whether accidentally or deliberately—your body reacts defensively by releasing some natural feel-good chemicals for the purpose of relieving some of the resulting physical pain and tension. But of course, cutting is a very unhealthy (and only temporary) “Band-Aid” for whatever the real problem is. The only way to truly solve the real problem is to start to talk about it—first and foremost with God and then with someone such as a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, teacher, pastor, parent. This is really the most effective way of dealing with what’s going on, but first things first. Let’s talk a little more about cutting.

Root and fruit

Many people say that cutting is the problem, but actually it’s just the fruit (the result of a much deeper problem, issue, or stressor).  Anyone who is cutting needs to begin to deal with the root (the problem/stress that’s causing the urge to cut).

Typically, people who consistently cut themselves don’t feel suicidal. That’s because the cutting releases enough of the horrendous feelings they’re struggling with to prevent them from moving on to suicide. However, cutting itself can quickly become a serious problem, because the cutter depends on it as a solution. As with any kind of unhealthy escape you use again and again, cutting’s effectiveness decreases over time. Then anxiety and/or depression may begin to set in.  As a result, the person may become suicidal. If that happens, she/he must get help immediately!

If you suspect that someone is suicidal, there are a few questions to ask: How long has that person been feeling suicidal? Do they have a specific suicide plan? Do they have the means to carry out that plan? If they’re feeling suicidal, they don’t have to suffer alone! They can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and speak with someone who cares and is knowledgeable about suicidal feelings, depression, anxiety, and cutting.

The bottom line

Here’s the bottom line: if you know somebody who is cutting or who you strongly suspect is cutting, confront them—but in a caring way. Ask them some tough questions. Get them the help they need.

What if you think they might be cutting but really aren’t sure? Well, probably the best way to find out is to play detective. Begin paying attention to their behavior involving clothing. Are they wearing long-sleeve shirts or long skirts or pants when it’s not cold? Are they practicing extreme modesty—suddenly unwilling to change clothes in front of anyone else, wearing clothes that cover every area of their skin? If so, these may be attempts to cover scars made by acts of cutting or burning.

Typically, people who are cutting or who are depressed, anxious, or suicidal have low self-esteem. They need to be reminded that God loves them and sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for them. God has a specific plan for their life and for His glory, and He wants only good things for their life. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you.”2

I hope this discussion has helped you to know how to better deal with feelings that may cause cutting, or help you to help a friend overcome cutting. Remember what the Bible says: “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omarmiranda@earthlink.net; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org; or you can check me out or send me a message at my Web site, thriveatlife.org; or you can reach me via snail mail (slow!) at the address printed below.

Remember, God loves you, and so do I!

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, certified Christian counselor
Abundant Life Ministries
155 Earl Street
Plainville, GA 30733
Phone: 1-770-354-2912

1Not her real name.
2All Scripture quotations in this article are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.

­­Omar Miranda is a Christian counselor with 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column “Miranda Writes.”
 





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