When Kids Cut

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

If you’re from my generation, if you happen to not be in my profession and if you’re lucky enough not to have personal experience with the title of this post, you may be confusing it’s meaning.  I am not speaking of kids cutting classes. I’m speaking of kids cutting themselves.  I’m speaking of self-mutilation.

Cutting, as the kids call it, has been a growing trend among adolescents, girls in particular, for over a decade.  For years I’ve referred to it as the new bulimia. Both are merely symptoms of a deeper, more complex issue.  At the risk of oversimplifying it, cutting is an expression of emotional pain which the cutter is unable to express or resolve. Clinically speaking, cutters typically fall into 1 of 2 camps:  Seriously depressed or seriously attention-seeking.  For the purpose of this post, the cause is unimportant.  What is important is that you, my reader, fully comprehend that in every instance, cutting is a choice.  It is a maladaptive coping mechanism, which is a clinical term for a fucked up response to stress.  And I’m appealing to anyone who has considered cutting or who might consider cutting in the future, and I’m about to give you a new reason to find another outlet for your angst.

Cutting leaves scars.  The scars are visible and they are typically in such a pattern that the cause is unmistakable.  As people become better versed in this phenomenon, and in connecting the dots (a person who cuts doesn’t have healthy outlets for pain), it will become more and more difficult for you to find things like relationships with healthy individuals and jobs.

I interviewed someone last week for a job as my assistant.  I was so impressed with this candidate that I was trying to figure out how to offer her more than she asked for in salary.  The day of her 3rd interview was a hot day in New York and she wore a short sleeve shirt.  As she reached out to shake my hand, I saw the horizontal scars - the hallmark of self-mutilation, peep out under her sleeve.  I kept her just long enough to be polite and I never offered her the job.  And if she reads this, she’ll know why.

Yesterday morning, as I squeezed onto the subway to get to work, a 20-something guy moved his arm up the pole so that I’d have room to hold on.  When I grabbed the pole just under his hand, I saw his scars.  The scars were old, which made me feel good that he probably has found a new way of coping as he’s matured.  He was beautifully dressed and very handsome.  He looked like he had his shit together.  And then it occurred to me that for the rest of his life, he’s going to walk around with those scars on his left arm. And he’ll always be vulnerable to people like me who will judge him, or worse, who will pity him.

Don’t cut.  It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.