I love a cutter. Help me help her.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have fallen in love with a woman who cuts herself. I knew that she used to do it, and of course this means she carries the propensity to do it, so it's not a complete surprise. She bears the scars, some in scary places such as just below her jawline. But she has said before that it's behind her, and I did believe her--I think she believed herself--until today. She was helping me at work, and had seemed very sad and withdrawn, but didn't want to talk about it and I hadn't pressed the point. She was about to leave, and I walked out to see her sitting in her car, a great deal of blood dripping down, knife in her hand.
She'd cut the back of her other hand, quite deeply (she will have scars) but not to the point of any serious damage. She was sitting, stunned, near catatonic, barely responsive, shaking. I held her and talked to her and after a while the bloodflow stopped and she became more able to talk ... she said she "couldn't feel anything" and felt compelled to do this awful thing, just to "find out if she was still alive".
I held her some more, got my offsider to cover for me, talked to her ... I found a book that she liked in her car, a book about a rat, asked her to tell me why she liked this book--really just trying to draw her into conversation--and she became convinced of the idea that she should get a pet rat. I was dubious, and tried in my awkward way to establish her intentions for this rat. She normally loves animals, but she was dripping with blood and had a knife beside her, so I was more than a little worried. But she talked about having a pet rat to care for, and so after a while longer, she cleaned up and she and I went to the pet store and bought a young rat (a friendly, cute little thing who curled up in her hair and prompted the first smile I'd seen from her all day) and a cage, food, and litter for the animal. So I'm not worried for the rat's safety, and now that she has the pet rat, I'm less worried for hers. The rat is a focus of care, someone else to consider, a little life dependent on her.
So she does need to be needed.
She very much misses her son, who lives with his father interstate, an arrangement she believes is for the best for his sake. She has in the past had custody of him and has never done him any harm. I believe it is fear and self-doubt that leads her to live away from him, but it's her decision to make.
She and I are not lovers right now, but I do love her, and I believe I will love her as long as I live. If it were my choice, I'd choose her ... but I have come to terms with the possibility of this not happening, and I am open to the idea of being in love with someone else, and while I'm not actively pursuing that, I have dated a little bit. So don't worry about me. This question, as much as possible, is not about me.
She's had an on-again-off-again relationship for a while with a single dad, she's very fond of his little son, and she stayed with him rather too long for the boy's sake. They quite recently broke up, at her initiative, and when we went to dinner last week she seemed very happy about this and proud of herself for taking that step. I was a fling, initially, nearly a year ago, while they were off ... but she made a very strong impression on me, I've stuck around, and I believe we are good friends. She is under no illusions about my intentions towards her - I love her, I want her to be with me, but I want that to be a free and happy choice, not a last-ditch option or running away from something. I've told her as much, and I believe that she believes me. She is attracted to me, we do have a definite chemistry and we enjoy each others company a great deal, but she seems very reluctant to commit to me, and I surmise that for her to sleep with me implies in her mind that commitment, implies accepting that view of our relationship, because that's how I feel about it. So she doesn't want to. I believe that deep down she thinks that she doesn't deserve to actually be loved ... and it seems that merely loving her anyway hasn't been enough to shake that self-view.
So I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to her, holding her, telling her and trying to show her how vitally important she is to me, that she matters more than anyone or anything to me, and not just to me, she has many good friends. I believe and hope that she felt better, especially after buying the rat. She's named her little rat now, and I trust that she will care for it, and that it will give her another reason to refrain from self-harm.
She is a lovely, kind, bright, good person, beloved by her many friends, the most amazing girl. But she is deeply troubled, and feels compelled to harm herself, apparently in this disturbing and frightening way. I truly do love her, but I only want her to be with me if it will make her happy ... and I'm not sure that it will. I'm not sure what will.
Disturbing as I find the cutting to be, and much as I would rather she not do it, if she truly needs to do it, I consider it better that she does it as safely as possible ... is this achievable? How? How can I mitigate the harm without enabling it, express disapproval without prompting "rebellion" against my disapproval? It isn't my place to make her stop; I could try, I would try if she actually asked me to, but absent such a request I don't see how I can and even if she did ask I'm not sure how I could do it.
What can I do? My highest priority here is her happiness. Maintaining a friendship with her is second, her being my girlfriend, perhaps eventually my wife, is third (I do believe she is my soulmate - I have problems of my own, and she really is the only woman I have ever felt so deeply connected to, cared so much about) ... but I would like all three, if possible. Advice and suggestions? Anyone been a cutter and "got better"? Anyone believed themselves undeserving of love, but found themselves convinced otherwise, and if so ... how did he or she do it?
A friend of mine who has had more experience with cutters, due to the circles he moves in, thinks that it is quite significant that she did the cutting almost in front of me, and also that she did it on a very visible body area, her hand. He thinks that this is a wordless cry for help. If so it's a cry I would willingly, energetically (though not happily) answer, but I don't know what exactly to do, and she doesn't seem able to tell me. Any ideas?