Self harm.

10 Jul 2017

I have been a member of Moodscope for a while and have found some comfort in accessing this website.

Today I stretch out for more comfort, please can I have a double dose.

I am a parent (mother) to a young man (19 yrs old), who is a severe self harmer. Severe is putting it politely.

He has been in a secure hospital for a number of years and I have lost count of the amount of hospital admissions and operations he has had.

As a parent, thinking you are going to have to say good bye to your beautiful and troubled son is in describable. I thought the first time would be the worst but I was proved wrong. Every time is a trauma.

I now sit here as he is waiting for news of another operation - he has damaged his arm so badly that he has lost use of it and they are deciding whether to operate to repair it or remove the arm - a trauma in itself.

I do not want sympathy but I do need wise words to try and work through the above and continue to be the mum I am.

I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor but today a struggling one.

Michelle x

A Moodscope user.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

Email us at to submit your own blog post!



July 11, 2017, 3:59 a.m.

Michele, I wish I was Vivian the psychotherapist I came to know a few weeks ago. She has a force in herself, I liked her very much.Surely, she will have a word for you, or, she will wait for you to speak. I had a very brief contact while a few mothers and a daughter were teling their stories in a group.



July 11, 2017, 3:41 p.m.

Cyndi mentioned professional help "for family members to support/support themselves when a loved one self harms." I think that is what this therapist, and I, too, would recommend you. I also did a short research to learn more about this on the web. Do not be alone in such a difficult time.


July 11, 2017, 5:59 a.m.

Hi Michelle Sending you wishes for comfort (huge amounts), peace, hope, trust and love. I can't imagine what is going through your mind right now, I would encourage you to consider doing as many comforting things for you as you can muster.... One thing at a time, one moment at a time & one hour at a time. Maybe start with a hot cup of tea or coffee, in your favourite mug/cup - one that you can hug your hands around to feel some comfort. Then as that soothes you draft a list of the small things that make a difference. I'll be keeping you, your son & family in mind. When we are powerlesss it's then that the littlest of things make a difference. With love x



July 11, 2017, 6:14 a.m.

Michelle my heart goes out to you. I have no experience of physical self-harming. I do have two beautiful daughters, one who used to binge drink and loved dare-devil antics in unsupervised locations, the other who suffers from PTSD and who only recently admitted her thoughts of suicide. As parents I think we open ourselves up to the greatest imaginable sorrow - the knowledge that our children can suffer and could die before us. When times with either of them were tough and I found myself repeating the same old messages and "lectures", which I suspected were becoming counter-productive, I found the simple phrase "stay safe; we love you" was much more powerful for me, conveying as it does the acknowledgement that inthe end the choice is theirs. I can't remember where this quote comes from, which also helped me "If you someone, let them go" ... Looking after yourself without feeling guilty (!) will also send a powerful unspoken message, with the added bonus of strengthening you to cope with the future. Treasure the good times. Frankie x



July 11, 2017, 6:26 a.m.

Dear Michelle My heart reaches out to you, as a mum I too am struggling to help my 18 year old troubled daughter as she makes some 'unwise' choices in her life.and realising sadly that I can only support they are her choices to make. I am also a self harmer, thankfully not to the extent of your son but enough to wear a long sleeved top everyday so I don't have to explain the scars and marks or have people wonder. Because of this I can understand my daughter and your sons need for what they are doing but it doesn't make it any easier as a mum. All you can do is love them and support them and remind yourself that you are doing your best and no one can do more.



July 11, 2017, 6:59 a.m.

Hi, I second the comments of Anne and Frankie, look after yourself, your own oxygen mask first etc. Are there support groups for self harmers? I assume (never a great idea) that there are support groups for family members too? It seems awful that you are having to go through this cycle over and over. Do something nice for yourself today! A swim or a massage, or a great scone! A wee treat, because you need that break from the stress of the situation. A yoga class is a good place to be, you have to focus on the moves which gives your mind a break, yeah, maybe something that absorbs your thinking power! Sending you a hug.



July 11, 2017, 7:06 a.m.

Reading over your blog again the severity of your sons situation means you have already exhausted support groups, apologies for seemingly unuseful support. This is not an area I'm familiar with. I agree with Anne look after yourself well.


July 11, 2017, 7:03 a.m.

Hi Michele,thinking of you at this difficult time. May your continued loving presence be a support for your son. Thanks for sharing. It must be very difficult for both of you at the moment.



July 11, 2017, 7:10 a.m.

Hi Michelle I have no experience of what you are going through, but I do have children and I just wanted to send you love, hug and support


The Gardener

July 11, 2017, 7:38 a.m.

Michelle, I woke in an awful state this morning, and your blog, ironically, has cheered me up, because there is hope in the worse cases, except mine - my husband's Alzheimers is 'galloping' and he is becoming a monster who cares for nobody, but we HAVE had a good life. One of our grand-daughters had a very difficult time at school, at odds with her parents - and went on to serious self-harm. Somehow, from somewhere, she discovered the gift for flower arranging - she now does spectacular weddings, has regained self-respect (part-time job as well) and I go to UK for her wedding in two weeks. In the middle of all her troubles she had a baby - who is now a fantastic 15 year old who will undoubtedly be the pride of all at the wedding. One of our sons, brilliant brain, could apply himself to anything, always had a tendency to depression. This 'took hold' led to alcoholism, near suicide. He visits us this week, first time for 2 years, having becoming a PhD in the meantime. He, too, has two super children. I knew very little of the grand-daughter's troubles at the time, but lived through the agony and anguish which you are, Michelle, watching your child self-destruct and being powerless to do anything - Mum's efforts to help seem seen as interference. There can be no worse situation than to sit back and watch - I feel for you deeply, and hope that my two 'success' stories may provide ground for hope for you. As in my present situation, I hope that friends, counsellors, this web-site will give you strength.



July 11, 2017, 8:14 a.m.

Once in a while a blog like this comes in which makes me think " And I thought I'D got worries" . Oh, Michelle, this is so awful to have to witness ,and the suffering endured by your son so immense! My thoughts go out to you today in your distress. I hope his operation goes through successfully and that he doesn't lose his arm. All you can do is repeatedly tell him you love him, and always will. I agree with the other comments that you too must have sanctuary for yourself, and boundaries, otherwise you will yourself be dragged down too. Enjoy the little things you still can, and see if you can pass this enjoyment on to your son. Take him back to the things he enjoyed as a small child, do you remember when? sort of thing, anything comforting and positive. Show him the beauty of life, that lies in the small blessings we all have, reinforce the positive. Having said all this, I know you will probably have tried all this, but know at the very least that you are thought about and sympathised with today. Please let us know what happens, Michelle.



July 11, 2017, 8:39 a.m.

I can only reiterate what others have said. Your oxygen mask first, enjoy small pleasures and know that that there is a huge community of Mooscopers rooting for you and your son. You are already strong and it is good that you have asked for some support, somewhere in the replies there may be a nugget of inspiration. I can relate to watching a child go through stress, fear and pain. Sometimes it is completely overwhelming but then I bob back up again through the ocean of gloom and gasp again for air. We are pioneers battling our way through these illnesses and hopefully in the not too distant future doctors will be able to turn off the gene that causes all this pain. Until then we have to survive. Like others have said small things help. Was there something your son enjoyed as a young boy? In one dark phase my son and I found amusement in playing marbles! This day will pass, as you already know and I hope that you can take some small comfort from all of us sending you our best wishes, hope and support. Do let us know how you and your son are doing.



July 11, 2017, 8:42 a.m.

Not sure I have wise words, but as a mother of a seriously troubled young man whose life is a mess... I'm just thankful for each day that he lives, as that means there is hope. I can only support him in my own way and have to be content with that, knowing that I can't do more. I can't fix him, I can't make things 'all better'. I just keep trying to let him know that I will never abandon him. I recently read what promised to be a very challenging read: And I Don't Want to Live This Life: A Mother's Story of Her Daughter's Murder by Deborah Spungen. Her daughter had borderline disorder (emotionally unstable personality disorder). The book is as much about the girl's and her family's life as about her death and its aftermath, and I did cry a lot while reading it. It's emotionally a difficult read; however I found great insight and encouragement in its pages that helped me to deal with my own situation.



July 11, 2017, 8:58 a.m.

My heart goes out to you also Michelle. I am sure that you are doing all you can for your son and just be there for him. I don't know anything much about self harm except what I've heard about people experiencing a sense of relief from doing it. I get the impression that it is perhaps an addictive behaviour. Apologies for my ignorance, I guess where I'm going is where you've probably there a possibility of more effective emotional behavioural treatment for your son? I'd love to hear from any professionals in this area, about any ways forward there have been and what that journey might look like. I also hope that the op goes well and that there is something positive available to help improve this for him. I loved what TG said about discovering a talent, passion or interest, not as any kind of a solution, just why not! These things have to come about naturally of course, I'm also wondering if you have any support or counselling for dealing with this? Sending love light and virtual hugs to you and all Michelle. LPxx



July 11, 2017, 9:14 a.m.

I too hate sympathy



July 11, 2017, 9:26 a.m.

Dear Michelle, I am sure you will feel the Moodscope force of love and concern shown here and a double dose, if not a triple comfort dose full of squishy cushions, crocheted blankets of comfort wrapped around you as you so desperately need. Even though it seems many of us have experienced children who self harm, (so we know the pain you are feeling) it is hard to put into words how we manage to cope. My daughter self harmed greatly during her first year at uni...when she was supposed to be having a 'great time'. She also put on three stone but hid the gained weight and the scars on her arms under huge, baggy clothing. I would get calls from her and would have to drive 250 miles to go and help her, as she felt so ill, physically not mentally. She didn't tell me about the cutting of her arm, so deep that her friends sent for an ambulance and she had to have stitches...she just covered it up. It was only when she was ready, that she eventually told me how bad it was, and had been - and then we talked and hugged, cried and hugged again and I made her promise to tell me when things were getting bad and when she was getting low, so I could try to help her with various strategies. As everyone has said, Michelle, keep yourself as well as you can, so you can be there for him and reassure him that your love is immeasurable, always there and we are here for him too. He is loved, he is worth everything. Bear hugs x



July 11, 2017, 9:41 a.m.

Michelle Your blog is one of the most moving blogs I have read. I am a mother and have no idea of the pain you are going through and I have no wise words. I just wanted to say how I admire you as a mum and a survivor.



July 11, 2017, 10:32 a.m.

Hi Michelle, my understanding and heart is with you. This said, each situation is unique. I don't know if it will be helpful to you to share my own/another's story? Sometimes it can, so here goes : I have a 16 year old daughter I love to the sun and back and to infinity, like you do for your son. I'm a modern dad and so have also been 'mum'. She lives between a CAMS residential unit and, now, our split home. It started with anxiety, panic attacks, and physical sickness, then self harming (unknown to us at the time)and eventually to suicide attempts. One being so severe (I cannot say what or how - not fair to our dear readers) she went from A&E to admission. The 'place' is awful but we have all gotten used to it now. At home we keep a vigil, scared to fall asleep and when she is at the unit, however unpleasant we feel it's a safe place for her. I'm not sure what wisdom I can give to you as I too feel at a loss as what can be done, as someone wrote above - there are plenty of things to help turn it all around for the better 'but' it must and can only come from the sufferer. We can't give it as if it were a pill. I've read all about the 'black dog' and keep another book on the subject by my bedside, these help with understanding, which is a help to 'me' but not necessarily to her. I feel your pain, and constant worry - it's scary, and constant. Above all, it's so-oo sad, my heart broke when she told me one day a few weeks ago "Dad, forget about me. Get on with your life, really. It's not your fault. I just don't want to live anymore. I am so so sorry Dad...". We have rays of sunshine though, she also suddenly brightens up and talks of the future at times. She says she wants to live when she is in a mood of 3+ (to 10), and adds she can't help not wanting to live when she is at below 3,all responsibility and action just disappears. Therapy and change of anti depressive drugs are helping. I think, every one's comments above are so true - look after yourself (better than I am!- ah **** addictions eh!)as number 1 priority, always tell him 'keep safe - I love you', and keep that hope! TRAVEL is a great healer, when you can - go somewhere different with him, be safe, and have some fun. "Acceptance" of how things are, as hard as it is to find, will also help you. I don't know you, but I love you both. If there's a ***, I wish for your son that he finds light and happiness once again.



July 11, 2017, 11:29 a.m.

Hi Michelle, i really feel for you as my Daughter is also a self harmer she started at 15 due to being bullied and is now 33. She has been in and put of hospital too and also in rahabilitation places for up to a year. I feel i should have done more as i aldo suffer from depression and had post natal illness after her very premature birth in 1983. 5 years ago she had her own child and i thought how on earth will she cope she did until her child was 3 and social services took her. Im sorry if this sounds like its about me but i really want you to know you arent alone. I have been through some bad days but we will get there



July 11, 2017, 11:45 a.m.

I pray your Son will be ok. Thinking of you xx



July 11, 2017, 12:04 p.m.

Michele, I haven't written in awhile but I saw your post this morning and I wanted to let you know that I am sending you strength. I cannot imagine the pain that you have endured. But you have and you will. My sister was self destructive and every phone call I thought would be the last. My therapist told me that I have to take care of myself. That I may have to let go. I never could, but slowly and surely I made boundaries. I know you are not looking for sympathy, just understanding and I guess I wanted to say you are not alone and we are here for you. Lexi


The Gardener

July 11, 2017, 12:16 p.m.

Heart-rending stories above. Can anybody explain - self-harm seems to be a 'relatively' recent phenomenon. Eating disorders seem to have been 'recognised' for, perhaps, two generations? We had a d-in-law, now 60, who did have psychological problems. One night, around 2 a.m I was told she had slashed her wrists (not living with son by then). She did herself no life-threatening harm but got a lot of attention, although she was not kept in hospital. If self-harming IS modern, is it tied in with the wave of bullying and self-disgust which seems to have arrived with the spread of social media? Playground bullying is nothing new, but once in your own home they could not get at you. Lexi, you have underlined the fear and impotence which go with these near tragedies.



July 16, 2017, 11:14 p.m.

Self harming is a very ancient practice. Just in ancient times it was considered a spiritual act, or to remind one of the mortal body. Maladaptively in modern society it's a very addictive pressure valve for emotions and pain you can't quantify. You cannot measure existential pain, but you can measure one slice on the skin. It also releases endorphins - which is why it's so addictive.


July 4, 2021, 6:38 a.m.

Usually those who are engaged in these practices have a mentor who set the rules for the infliction in the body considering the evolution and psychological state of the person..


July 11, 2017, 12:28 p.m.

Love and support to you Lexi and to all in this lovely Moodscope group. I am very moved by your post Lexi and by all the comments above. xoxo



July 4, 2021, 6:39 a.m.

I echo your words, Melanie.


July 11, 2017, 12:32 p.m.

Michelle, I hope you are finding comfort in these comments. I have self injured a lot, mostly in the past, and I have also known and worried for many others who also do so. One thing I know for sure: severe self injury is scary, but actually the severity of the injuries does not necessarily correspond to the severity of the anguish that lies behind it. For myself, the severity of my self injury escalated because it took more pain each time to relieve a similar level of distress. In that respect only,it is somewhat like an addiction, perhaps to endorphins? I know this is not of much comfort when someone you love is possibly facing an amputation, but know at least that the increased severity might not correspond to increased distress. That you can only know by what he tells you of his thoughts and feelings. Secondly, there is hope. I have gone from hurting myself most days, and at the very least, fortnightly, at its height, to now having a short cycle of self injury (maybe two or three less severe occrrances) once or twice a year. I needed to learn to feel and sit with my scary feelings, and initially doing this made the self injury worse as a necessary route to it getting better. I think it can be about many things, but at root it is about coping with overwhelm. And I had to become more resilient. I had a very good therapist who helped me to accomplish this, and helped me to integrate warring parts of myself into a much more peaceful whole. Also self injury and suicide are very different things. The first is an attempt to survive, the second is an attempt not to. I have tried both, and for very different reasons. Have hope that all thw while your son is hurting himself, he is struggling to survive. I don't think I have less pain or distress in my life now than I did 15-25 years ago. I just manage it better. I hold hope for your son that he will too. He is young still, I am now 43 and started self harming in childhood. Keep holding hope for him, especially at the times when he can't hold it for himself. Becky



July 11, 2017, 6:01 p.m.

Thank you so much Becky for your insights and experience that gives hope for ways forward. ***


July 11, 2017, 1:14 p.m.

Michelle, As with others my heart goes out to you. I was, and knew a number of self harmers. It is very hard to live with and witness. Have you heard of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, (DBT), developed by Marsha Linehan? It is a Cognitive-Behavioral treatment that saved my life. It is a skill based treatment that teaches one to tolerate distress. They have a family module for family members to support/support themselves when a loved one self harms. My husband went through it years ago. It helped him immensely too. Well wishes in your travels seeking your son's recovery. Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Cyndi, a fellow survivor.


Salt Water Mum

July 11, 2017, 3:28 p.m.

Dear Michelle, Wyvern, Anonymous, Bear of Fiddle Brain, The Gardener, Rachel, Larry, Jackie, Lexi and Becky and indeed anyone else who has experienced this pain of watching your child go through such agony, I am thinking of you all. Thank you Michelle for being so brave as to share this blog with us. Myself and my daughter went through a tough time when a friend of hers self-harmed to a tragic extent. She was very young and it caused ripples of pain, anxiety and experimental self-harming amongst her friends. I felt lost and isolated. As their father is absent, I truly felt there was no one I could confide in who wouldn’t crush me with advice and then get back to their own lives. I was so stressed, anxious and angry. I tried to fix things with her by talking talking talking but eventually, I calmed my words and simply said ‘I’m here, I love you, we’re in this together’ and I booked a child counsellor. The relief I felt when we sat down on that couch together as mother and daughter and spoke to the counsellor in the first session. And my daughter sobbed crying about her friend and I felt we had shared the problem. And her feelings were out now. And her sessions with the counsellor were very helpful. So, I only have a very small idea of what you are going through Michelle. I wish you and your son well. I hope his operation is the least traumatic it can be for him. For you. Someone suggested an occasional change of scene and to spend time doing fun even silly things together - I heartily agree. And mind your self and try not to give yourself too hard a time. This is no one’s fault. Not his and not yours. I wish you peace of mind. SWM x


Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope

July 11, 2017, 7:57 p.m.

This is the first time I have ever replied to a member of Moodscope but I feel so sorry for you and I hope my words may give you a little comfort. I too have had some stressful times with my son. He suffered badly from depression as a teenager and young man and although he did not self harm in the same way as your son, he did make three suicide attempts - once on my birthday. Apart from all the "normal" and more importantly "acceptable" emotions that I experienced throughout all of this ( worry, despair etc etc) I want you to know that it is okay if you also feel anger as I did. I felt so guilty for having this (selfish) emotion but anger is after all a human response to one of two things - someone is not doing something you want them to do, or doing something that you don't want them to. So if you are feeling guilty about feeling angry - please don't, it's normal. Another thing is the feeling that you have failed or are failing as a mother because he is self-harming. I know it's hard to accept because you gave birth to him and feel responsible, but this really is something within him. You are obviously a very loving and caring mother and all you have to do is to keep on showing him that, even if he rejects you or your love, as my son did.The main reason I want to contact you though is to give you some hope for the future, because after many years of extreme stress with my boy he is now a fine young man who is so much stronger and wiser because of what he has lived through. It sounds cliche to say it was the making of him but it really was. He's quite exceptional in many ways and when I was where you are now I could see no future at all for him. I could not get the right outside help for him, but he found it within himself and this could happen to your son too. It's like a bunjee jump -you have to go down to the very bottom before you can start coming up. Take it a day at a time but believe it will be ok at some time in the future, no matter how impossible it seems at the moment. I send you my heartfelt best wishes for all the strength, support and comfort that you need. Teresa Ps my son is due to get married next week - NEVER would have thought he'd do so well.



July 11, 2017, 8:16 p.m.

Sadly I have no comfort to offer you, only to let you know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your son. Keep on loving him and be kind to yourself. Ask for help with your anguish and keep asking until someone listens. Wishing you both well.



July 11, 2017, 8:46 p.m.

Michelle, What a sad situation to be in. Our children can be so much more to us than we would ever have imagined possible before they arrived. You are very brave to have written about self harm. I would agree with many of the previous comments: 'love is letting go','look after yourself', we learn from our experiences ... particularly the tough ones. The most challenging aspect is often when there is nothing we can do. But strangely, sometimes modelling what we would like to see in another can be really helpful. So again Take good care of yourself. I really would enjoy reading that your son has come through this, in due course. With love Sheena


Jane SG

July 11, 2017, 8:59 p.m.

Sending you and your son lots and lots of love Michelle ***



July 13, 2017, 7:16 p.m.

Michelle, you are so incredibly brave for being so strong for your son, and for sharing such a touching article with all of us. I regret that I myself have probably been the son in this situation many years ago when my mum did exactly the same and stayed strong for me. Even though I didn't show it because my demons wouldn't let me open up emotionally, I was still overwhelmed by my love for her deep down and I'm sure your son feels the same for you for everything you do for him. Even though you may not be a 'victim,' I hope you can be very proud of who you are and what you do - thinking of you both and supporting you all the way.



Aug. 5, 2017, 8:35 a.m.

I'm sat here feeling extremely overwhelmed of the love and comforting words that I have just read. It has come at a special time , when I needed a comfort blanket. My update has a positive that is , our son has not had to have any amputation at present but sadly he continues to self harm. Recently its been swallowing batteries frequently. Last week I was unable to talk to him as I felt so emotional and not in control. During this period , he rang and due to tears in my eyes I picked the mobile up without looking at the number . Yes your right, it was my son, who could hear the pain in my voice. He asked what was wrong and I broke. The conversation continued with tears , not mentioning the running nose, where I told him I miss him, I want him home, I want to hold him , I want to share that extra slice of chocolate cake with him and especially I love him. He rang his dad up at work shortly after this conversation for him to comfort me. Which happened. It gave me a warm feeling that my son does care about me and reached out for help. I have not heard from my son since, he has spoken to dad and sadly the harm continues. On reflection I have learnt that my son can't cope with mum crying or sharing her inner thoughts ( even if it was about a slice of cake). He is in his own zone, a zone I can't connect to or even understand. So after this experience and reading all the wonderful messages, I'm going to try and hold my head up high today and continue being the best mum I can and not to forget me. I'm going to put my best dress on , not forgetting the matching lipstick and smile ( the big smile everyone knows and loves, the smile that is contagious) . Today Im going to feel important , thanks to moodscope members. Thanks to each and everyone of you for you time and effort and very much appreciated. From a Mum who loves her son , through trauma and tears.


Login or Sign Up to Comment