Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Girl's Impulse to Cut Herself Returns With Her Depression

DEAR ABBY: I have been depressed for years, and at times I cut myself. My mother sent me to counseling, but it didn't help much.

For a while, I was more or less happy. I had my boyfriend, school wasn't too much of a problem, and I was having fun. But lately, I've felt really stressed and depressed, and I got back into my old habits.

Unfortunately, I cut myself in front of my boyfriend. He got mad and left. He said: "You act like a crazy person. You apologize, but you never change. You never mean anything you say. To heck with this!"

I seriously considered suicide. The urge was so strong it scared me, so I took my razors and threw them away. Then I called a friend who's having similar problems, and we talked. She helped me realize that maybe I hurt myself for attention or pity, and I can control acting like that. She said my boyfriend really loves me, and if I cut myself I'm cutting him -- and her. Later it occurred to me that I was a little mad at him, and maybe I do this to myself to get back at other people, too.

I don't want to lose anyone (myself included) over this stupid drama. I want to stop hurting everyone and deal with my feelings, whatever they are, in a healthier way. Psychologists haven't helped, but I need something to keep my head on straight. How can I change for good? How do I change my whole way of thinking? I know I need to -- I just don't know how. -- WANTS TO STOP IN DENVER

DEAR WANTS TO STOP: You are asking intelligent questions. To me, they indicate that you are ready to be completely honest and accept the help you so desperately need. When people hurt so badly inside that they inflict pain upon themselves to distract themselves, they need more help than a layperson can give them. It's time to consult a licensed medical professional.

I don't know why your sessions with the psychologist weren't helpful. Perhaps you weren't seeing the right person or you weren't ready. Now that you are, ask your doctor for a referral -- preferably to someone with experience with cutters. You may need medication to help maintain your chemical balance, but it's important to talk out your need to hurt others by turning your anger on yourself. Once you fully understand it, you'll have a better chance of controlling the impulse.