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#338899 - 08/24/10 02:27 PM my wife is self-injuring *triggers*
CruxFidelis Offline

Registered: 06/16/10
Posts: 486
Loc: NJ
At 4:30am this morning, my wife jumped into my lap like a small dog. "Time to get out of bed and GO!" I knew she wasn't really excited to be getting me & a 2-month old infant out the door for 5:30am dialysis, but I always appreciate her coffee-infused exuberance in the morning, so I leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.

There was a small, thin scab behind her ear. Obviously an exacto knife or something similar was involved. She always cuts in places no one would ever notice. No one, except me.

My wife's been a cutter as long as I've known her, and that's about 12 years. It's not as severe as it used to be. When she was a teenager, it bordered on life-threatening, and she cut too deep several times and ended up in the hospital. Over the years, her self-injury has improved. She prays when she gets flashbacks. She calls friends when she is tempted to cut. She comes to me and I can sometimes bring her out of it. I still find scars. I don't know what else I can do to help her, and she doesn't know what else she can do to help herself.

So I wasn't surprised when I saw that cut. I didn't even say anything. We've had that conversation so many times already. She knows it hurts me, she knows it hurts herself but she feels like she has so much pain, anger and frustration inside her. Yes, there are so many ways she can let those emotions out, but cutting is so intuitive and comforting for her. It's what she knows.

Now I understand that desire and it scares the life out of me. I couldn't talk when I was being sexually assaulted. I felt my body breaking in two as he beat me in my most intimate areas. No sound came out of my mouth. My chest went up and down mechanically. Would I have passed out from the pain if I could scream? If I could scream, would that have given me any power? I kept all my pain inside up until last week, and I'm realizing how powerful words really are. I want to bleed out all the pain and emasculation that happened to me, but would it do anything? That's not an addiction I want to take on, and I know my wife and son need me to be the strong & secure one. But I know what it feels like to want to bleed, and I wish I didn't. Every time I look at her this morning, I see the cut and think to myself, "I did that. If I never told her maybe she wouldn't have felt the need to cut."

So today I told my wife some of those thoughts. Not necessarily that I was triggered by her cut, but I explained the intense desire I have to scream as loudly as my lungs will allow. I vented out some of my sadness and fear so that I can be strong on the inside. She said, "I'll scream with you, Pete." I was a little concerned about doing that in such a densely populated area. What if people think something is wrong and knock on the door? "As soon as we're able to, I'll take you someplace in the middle of nowhere and we'll both scream and scream." I hope it helps me find some sort of release. I can't allow myself to resort to something more sinister and self-destructive.

What are things you do to keep yourself from going down that path?

I haven't talked to her about the cutting, yet. I want her to be able to heal from this so badly, and I worry that disclosing to her about my abuse is now an impediment to her healing. I'm trying to tell myself I did the right thing but it's hard coming down after the "high" I felt after telling her.

- Pete

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross

#338900 - 08/24/10 02:47 PM Re: my wife is self-injuring *triggers* [Re: CruxFidelis]
earlybird Offline

Registered: 02/18/10
Posts: 1007
PETE I'LL BE SCREAMING WITH YOU. And when we are done and exausted we will share the healing power of loud voices being heard.

Edited by earlybird (08/24/10 02:48 PM)
Balanced (My goal)

There is symmetry
In self-reflection
Life exemplified
Grace personified

#338926 - 08/24/10 10:23 PM Re: my wife is self-injuring *triggers* [Re: earlybird]
Ken Singer, LCSW Offline

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 5781
Loc: Lyons, CO USA
See if this article has any bearing for her:

Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse

#338934 - 08/25/10 12:21 AM Re: my wife is self-injuring *triggers* [Re: Ken Singer, LCSW]
CruxFidelis Offline

Registered: 06/16/10
Posts: 486
Loc: NJ
That article was really useful, Ken. I always associated the word "intervention" with other people taking an action in the best interest of someone who is hurting him/herself, but never used as a self-directed measure.

“If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”

- Saint John of the Cross

#338952 - 08/25/10 05:46 AM Re: my wife is self-injuring *triggers* [Re: CruxFidelis]
ejccec Offline

Registered: 08/18/10
Posts: 5
Loc: VA
Wow, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this, Pete. I was a cutter for about ten years. It was terribly painful for all of my partners. I can't imagine the ways in which that must trigger you. I've been in partial hospitalization programs twice to work on those kind of feelings/urges/behaviors. Neither program was particularly successful for me (and the urges still visit- though I don't act). I did pick up a habit I learned from a self-injury group in the hospital of using silly puddy to fidgit and occupy my hands when I am having a stressful talk with someone though. I like that- it keeps my hands occupied and my desire to cut is weaker. I'm 30 now- I haven't cut myself in 8 years. I wish I could narrow it down to one thing or another. I can refer to a particular book and a particular website that were pretty helpful, but ultimately I stopped because I was honestly ready. And it was terrible at first- much like stopping any other behavior that you depend on. What a lot of people don't realize about self-injury is that people usually do it because it serves a very specific purpose for them. It releases pain, makes you feel alive, reminds you that you are real. For the things one might wish to accomplish/feel, it is actually pretty effective. BUT ultimately, it's not a healthy way of achieving those states/feelings of peace or release. I tried all the tricks- some worked, some didn't. Holding ice in your hands can be painful and take some of the major overwhelming feelings away or dripping candlewax on your skin- neither will really hurt you. True, you are replacing one pain with another- but you do what you have to do to get over it and then phase it out and move to other, healthier methods from there. I'm glad to hear that it's gotten better over the years. That's a good sign. Just remember that it's not an overnight process. Most people don't stop cutting cold-turkey. That behavior needs to be replaced with a more appropriate and effective way of achieving what she wants. And she will probably need your help and support. But I also don't want to encourage you to be too close to a behavior that may be triggering for you as well. Is there a way that you could support her while still setting boundaries for yourself? Some of the books out there on cutting have good sections for family and friends on how to hold up through this process. I'll leave you with a few resources- my favorite website is from a program called SAFE (self-abuse finally ends). It's They have a good resource list- and I've read a number of those books. The book that really helped me pull it together was called "The Skin Game" by Caroline Kettlewell- it's not on the list (probably because it's a memoir and not so much a scientific/research piece). It MAY be triggering for your wife depending on how easily she feels triggered by talking about things like that. However, it made me feel GREAT to read it- like someone FINALLY just completely understood me- or took the words right out of my mouth. Dusty Miller's book "Women who hurt themselves" is an interesting piece for survivors of abuse. SAFE's website also has a hotline. I don't know. Maybe I am focusing too much on how to deal with your wife's pain and forgetting for a moment that you also have a great deal of healing and recovery to come through. I guess I was just trying to let you know that there are some available resources for her too. Chances are you will both need each other at this point for each of your struggles and pains. I am wishing you luck, open and honest and compassionate communication, and understanding. Please don't feel at all that I've tried to downplay the importance of what you're going through with your own recovery by highlighting options for your wife. It's just that I guess I can speak more to her experience (being a woman and former self-injurer). Hoping everything goes ok in the near and distant future. Be well. -Emily

#338972 - 08/25/10 04:46 PM Re: my wife is self-injuring *triggers* [Re: CruxFidelis]
Sobernow Offline

Registered: 05/17/10
Posts: 256
Loc: Oklahoma

Just to think that you have enough insight to relate to the pain of your wife --- is amazing. And also to realize that you don't want to "hurt yourself" to feel better about your abuse. To realize that there is a healthier alternative.

I am trying to learn the same thing.

Picking up the phone and calling a buddy is a help.
Talking to my wife - even when I am scared - is a help.
Recovery groups are a help.
Taking the risk to meet another survivor this past weekend - is a help.

You are a courageous man.


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