Accepting Help

A mother and daughter’s sides of self-harm

Published online: Apr 26, 2021 Articles, East Idaho Health Izzy Burke & Katie Burke
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Content Warning: The story below contains information about self-harming.

I have a child who self harms. I don’t say this lightly, it’s not fun airing dirty laundry. My 14-year-old has busted apart razor blades and purposely cut herself.

When I asked my daughter, Isabelle, if I could write this story, she immediately responded with, “I’m not ashamed that I needed help and others might need it too.”

Over two years ago, I started noticing cuts on Izzy's arms and legs. Of course, I would ask and there was always a reason. A slip. Got caught on something sharp. A close call shaving gone wrong. And I believed it. Why wouldn’t I? She’s a wonderful child with almost straight A's. But then one day it clicked in my head. Accidental cuts aren’t perfectly straight. A quick perusal through her Instagram and Snapchat conversations confirmed it to be true. She was intentionally cutting herself. 

When I asked her about it, it seemed black and white to me. Our conversation pretty much went, “This is not a fun habit, so you’ll just stop. Case closed.” 

Believe it or not, that didn’t work. I realized she was wearing long-sleeve shirts in the middle of July. 

So the next time, I cried. Not enough. Still cutting. I punished. No dice. I threatened bigger punishments, like you won’t see your friends outside of school until your 30. New cuts still appeared. I sobbed. Her dad pleaded. We banned razors from entering the house and so she popped the metal part off a pencil. I got a phone call from a brave parent whose kid had confided in them that I should check the bottom of her feet. She never stopped, she simply moved locations to a place I wasn’t checking. 

It became so toxic for our family, that I caught myself lying for her. I would tell my husband, Chase, I thought it was better so he could relax, when deep down I knew it was a form of denial for both of us. 

This all came to a head last September when we went into our bathroom and there was blood everywhere. When I asked to see her legs, I screamed. I was ready to go through the rounds with her again, but Chase said not this time. He was ready to admit we were in way over our heads and we needed to check our child into the adolescent program at the Behavioral Health Center. 

If you’ve ever had to leave your child at a mental health facility, my heart goes out to you. She was so angry when we left that I doubted she would ever speak to us again. Chase stayed in the parking lot for hours because he couldn’t even imagine leaving his child somewhere he couldn’t protect her.

Izzy’s Story

The first time I had ever cut myself was in January of 2018. I never imagined it would get bad. It started out with just a few on my arms every couple months, but soon I became addicted to the feeling. At my worst point, I would do it so much I’d nearly pass out. I can’t really explain why I did it, I would always just give myself excuses to keep doing it. Even after I got caught several times, I learned how to be more clever about it.

The day I went to a mental hospital is a day I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My dad came into my room asking me to explain. When I tried to make up another excuse, he saw right through it. I remember refusing to tell my parents where I hid my blades, because to me those blades were everything. I put them over my family, friends, school, food, water, quite literally everything. They were the most important things in the world to me. I don’t think I ever realized that until that day.

I had to quickly say goodbye to my little sister, brother, and my mom while my dad took me to the ER. When my dad asked me why I did it, why I continued to do it, I didn’t have an answer. In fact I can’t even tell you right now why I did it. I think it started because physical pain is so much easier to deal with than emotional pain.

I remember when I got to the emergency room and they told me to change into a hospital gown and I broke down.  I remember the nurses inspecting my legs, I remember a counselor coming in and telling me they were sending me to the Behavioral Health Center. I was police escorted there and checked in. I walked into my designated room bawling. I couldn’t believe I got caught. I didn’t sleep great that night.

The first day was a little crazy, but as the days went by it got easier—until the fourth day, when a counselor made me call my parents and explain to them every bad thing I’ve ever done to myself.

When I was in the mental hospital it wasn’t exactly a blast to say the least. The 7 a.m. wake up calls were not awesome and neither was not being able to talk to my friends or have private phone calls. But the mental health help made it worth it. The groups, where they teach coping skills, were fun and the food was amazing. 

I’m not ashamed of going to the Behavioral Health Center. It’s not a place where they put you in straitjackets and lock you in white padded rooms like the movies say. It’s a place where educated people are trying their best to help you get over whatever you’re going through. Sure, scrubs aren’t exactly the fashion trend of this generation, but the socks were pretty dope. 

In the end, this was the best choice my parents could have possibly made for me, and accepting the help was the best choice I made for me. If you or someone you love are struggling with something like self harm, suicidal thoughts, or anything like that, please reach out and accept the help they are trying to give you. I’ve learned that there’s no way you can do everything for yourself. You aren’t in this alone. 


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