DEAR ABBY: I am part of a support group on the Internet via e-mail for self-mutilators -- people who cut themselves, beat themselves, etc. All of us are survivors of abuse. We don't do this to get attention, despite what many people may think. It is an effort to turn unbearable emotional agony into bearable physical pain. People who mutilate themselves are also depressed and, while some of the comments made in our chat room would make a "normal" person call the asylum, most of us barely bat an eye.
We have created a supportive atmosphere where people can communicate with others who care about them and understand what they are going through, or just rant if they need to.
Today a friend of mine from the chat room was hospitalized for severe depression. I was devastated because we had been corresponding and supporting each other through similar difficulties. He had discussed "running away," but thanks to the people from the e-mail group, he is now safely in the hospital.
Abby, self-mutilation is so often misunderstood. People don't want to talk or even think about it. Knowing that I'm not the only person who does it has made me feel a lot better. I, too, am experiencing major depression, and a friend of mine from the group e-mailed me into the wee hours of one suicidal morning, until she was certain I was going to be all right. We are so far apart geographically, but on the Internet, I and others like me can find people who are experiencing what we are going through and we can help each other.
If it hadn't been for the Internet, I would not have learned more about my self-mutilating behavior and would never have gained the support I needed to survive. People should not condemn or fear a technological advance that has just saved someone's life.
I apologize for the length of my letter. Because of the help I have received from people I have never seen face-to-face, I hope to overcome my need for pain and abuse. With their help and support, someday I may even make it to my senior year of high school. Sign me ... HEALING
DEAR HEALING: Thank you for an honest letter, and for explaining a behavior that few individuals understand. I hope that with professional help and the support of the members of your chat room, you will achieve complete recovery. In your case, the Internet and e-mail are a powerful complement to therapy. The best of luck to you.