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Under Pressure!

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Destiny123 asks:

I'm 16 years old. The blade has been calling my name for 5 years now. It scared my parents to where they placed me in a mental facility 4 years back. It was the hardest time of my life. I was in 6th grade at the time. I was scared I wanted to end it all. Now I love my life honestly I have no reason for the blade anymore. My older brother has set an amazing path for me. Not doing any drugs, does great in school, has a great girlfriend. He's a perfect guy and the best older brother...I feel like I've let him down. This isn't just a habit, it's an addiction. Just the feeling of holding my razor g
ives me the feeling that the pains almost gone. I have a problem and I feel like I need help from a professional. Like I said...That period of time was the hardest in my life and I don't want my parents to go back to thinking I'm still depressed and suicidal, which I'm not. The main reason I think I do this is because of all the pressure I feel. It builds up inside me. My dad constantly makes me feel like I can't do anything right, I'm a star athlete for my high school crosscounty, varsity girls basketball team, and track causing me to feel like I have to win. People say it's easy not to cheat on your boyfriend/girlfriend. That's true if no one wants to have sex with you. I love my boyfriend we've been together since I was 12 and its a constant battle not to cheat on him. My parents are homophobic which is sad because I'm bisexual and they don't know because the fear kills my inside to tell them. I've never had a girlfriend but I've known I was bisexual since I was in elementary school. All of this is unbearable for me to take sometimes...and I give in and let the razor bite through my skin. Is there anything I can do to help with my cutting relapse without having to make my parents go through that again?

Heather Corinna replies:

Sometimes when we're in a really horrible spot, on top of being supported, an unexpected gift can help, too. So, I got the best gift for you right now I could think of and that I had access to.

It's Kate Bornstein! If you don't know about Kate already, know that she's one of the most amazing people out there, someone who has also been through a whole lot in her life for so many decades and yet manages to continue to keep coming out not only swinging, but channeling so much of her fantastic energy into helping other people as best she can and making the world a better place. Kate is a tireless, compassionate activist and the author of My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, two fantastic and unique books. I thought Kate would be just the right person for you to hear from in this moment, and she was glad to offer you some really sound wisdom and support.

Here's what she had to say:

Dear Destiny,

First off, yay to brave you for putting this all down in writing for the world to see. By simply doing that, you’ve made it easier for many more people to understand they’re not alone. So, thank you for your good deed. Please do take that thanks to heart, Destiny — and whenever some voice inside you tells you that you’re worthless, you play my voice louder telling you that you’re a doer of good deeds. Okay. Let’s get on with your letter. Oh my, you’ve got so much going on!

I hear that you’ve been cutting for five years, since you were 11. You’re 16 years old now. A year after you started, you entered the hardest time of your life. You were admitted to hospital to treat your cutting. You were in the 6th grade, it was an awful time for you, and you were thinking of taking your own life. Ow, ow, ow! I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

Fast forward to today. It sounds like you’ve changed your life for the better. You’ve been out of the hospital for four years, and you’re more of top of your life. And yet still, you’re cutting. You say it’s an addiction and that you need more help with it. At the same time, it sounds like you’re consciously using cutting as a coping measure to deal with the many demands in your life. Still, you want your parents to know that you’re really okay.

Destiny, it sounds to me like you are okay. It doesn’t sound like you’re cutting out of self-hatred, am I right? It doesn’t sound like you’re cutting to punish yourself. But if that’s the case, and you think you deserve to be punished, then the cutting isn’t a good idea right now. If you ever want some good support and help around cutting, you can always call the National Self-Injury hotline, at no charge to you, at 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288).

How to stop? Oh god. One day at a time? It’s hard. Just try your best. But if you’re cutting safely, hygienically — not cutting deep, not cutting a across blood vessels or tendons — and consciously (not on drugs or alcohol), more out of self-loving than self-loathing, then I’m in no position to suggest you stop. It’s helping you to relieve pressure in your life, and I hear you that there is some serious pressure going on in your life, and some very serious demands.

First off, you’re getting messages from your Dad that you can’t do anything right. To compensate for that, you push yourself so hard that you’re a star athlete in three different sports. I’m sorry that you’re getting that kind of message from your dad, but hot damn, Destiny! Congrats on channeling that frustration into some healthy, rewarding activity and congrats on succeeding so much at that, as well!

You do need to resolve the bad situation with your dad. Now, are you able to talk with your dad about how the two of you relate to each other? Not what you’re doing with your life, just what are the basics of your relationship with each other.

Have you spoken with your dad about the messages you’re hearing from him? Do you know about talking in “I” statements, like “Dad, when you say (whatever), it makes me feel (however).” Saying it that way is much better and more productive than saying words that accuse, like “Dad, you’re making my life miserable because you think I never can do anything right.” Not smart. That kind of talk never works, right?

You can ask him right out, “Dad, am I right in thinking that you think I can’t do anything right?” You can tell him that’s how you’re feeling and you can tell him you’d sure like to hear him say more nice things about you.

Of course, please keep your own safety and welfare in mind first. If talking with your Dad along these lines is going to get you in any way hurt or kicked out of the house, don’t talk with him. Talk with your Mom, or some spiritual counselor, some adult you trust about how your Dad is making you feel. In our culture, adults so often take advantage of youth. It sucks, and I’m sorry. So, it’s good to have an adult on your side on this one.

Another major part of your dilemma seems to be about sex. You love your boyfriend, but there are other people who want to have sex with you and you’d like to have sex with them, but that would make you feel like a cheater if you did. Right. I know that one.

(I bet everyone reading our conversation knows that one.)

I don’t know if you’ve already had sex outside your relationship. Do you have an agreement with your boyfriend to be monogamous — meaning you’re in a sexual or romantic relationship with one person only? I’m using the word monogamous because the words faithful and loyal and true are all loaded words. Like the situation with your Dad, it comes down to talking openly if you possibly can. Because at the bottom of cheating is secrecy, and secrets are freaking deadly. Period.

So, first off: it’s okay to talk about sex. How else would you ever learn to have yourself some sex that is safe, drug-free, conscious, mindful, and mutually respectful? If other people have trouble with you talking reasonably and rationally about sex, that’s on them.
It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. I hear that you’re not talking about drugs, and you’re not talking about having sex here, there and everywhere. Am I right? So, we’re talking about you being very particular about who you might want to have sex with.

Well, do you have a good idea of the kind of person you’d like to have sex with, and the kind of agreements you could make with that person that would make both of your lives comfortable while you’re having sex with each other? That would be a good thing to get worked out before actually going out and having sex with other folks.

You have every right to talk with your boyfriend, with the idea of negotiating some sort of open relationship. Some topics you’d want to discuss with him would include the idea of him having sex with other people, too. Both of you having sex outside your relationship increases your risk for STIs. So, knowing, using, and insisting on safer sex guidelines is the very first and most important thing that you and your boyfriend would have to agree upon, if you haven’t already done that.

Relationships in which partners agree to have sex or romance with more than one partner are forms of open relationships or polyamorous relationship. Give those words a good googling, or check out some of the links at this site included for you at the bottom of this page. There’s lots of smart people talking smart words about being in love with or having sex with more than one person. So that’s sex in general. Now, for some more specifics.

You’re bisexual, and you’ve known that since elementary school. And somehow, your parents have given you a clear message that they are homophobic. So you’ve not told them about your sexuality. Again, I’m sorry to hear that you have so many secrets you need to keep. And yes, you will need to keep your sexuality a secret if coming out might mean you’d get physically hurt or kicked out of your home.

Well, one day, you will want to come out to your parents, one day it will be safer for you to do that, and you want to be well prepared for that moment. So here’s another another googling assignment: search the web to find coming out stories by young adults your age. Read as many of these coming out stories as you can. Look for stories with happy endings, and see what was said to make those happy endings possible.

In the meantime, just love them the best way you possibly can, and cope with the pressure. Which of course, brings us back to cutting, and the need to keep that a secret from your parents. Sure, it will most likely upset them. Most people don’t get the idea of cutting. They think we’re hurting ourselves when we cut, and they want to stop us from hurting ourselves. That’s the best way they know how to show you how much they love you. They may never come around on that one, so the best you can do is to show them that you’re a responsible, loving, young adult. That’ll make everyone happy. Honest.

Destiny, I’m gonna close by telling you what I tell as many people as will listen: Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything. Anything at all.

Love who and how you want. Take good care of yourself however you see you need to do that. Keep your focus on making your life more worth living, that’s all.

There’s only one rule you need to follow: don’t be mean. If you’re not mean, you can do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. I’ve written lots more about this on my blog, so have a look-see there. I hope this helps, Destiny. Know that I’ve got faith in you, and so do a whole lot of other people.

Love and Respect,
Kate

Here are some links to help you out a little more:

written 05 Nov 2010 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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