Why do I Hurt Myself?

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 1999

Dear Annette,

I was incested from age 10-12 by my father. As an adult I have tried to talk to him he just denies it. I am dealing with that and bulimia in counseling now.

I used to hurt myself, but I don't know why! I would burn myself and then later it was like "Look what this has done to me or something." At first I started hitting myself in the face with a wooden hairbrush and got bruises. Then later, I beat myself on the thighs and arms with a metal bar until I was a solid mass of bruise. After that I would burning myself. Sometimes I took mega Tylenol every day.

I haven't burned or hurt myself since June. I think a lot of it was to take away the emotional pain so maybe I would FEEL something.

I think maybe that's why I'm still struggling with the bulimia, maybe I secretly want to show them that I'm still hurting inside. This is my "secret" way to hurt myself. Sometimes I still want to hurt myself the other ways, but I don't like it when my husband finds out and feels bad. Bulimia is the quiet way.

Maybe I'm hoping it will make me sick enough to have to go to the regular hospital (not the mental) to show them that there is something wrong. I don't know exactly why. But the weird thing is I hate being at the regular hospital too. So I'm not sure what my thinking is. I think part of it is I don't want to weigh a 175 pounds again. What is wrong with me? Sometimes I think I must be going crazy.


Dear Going Crazy,

You hurt yourself to feel. When people are continuously incested or molested over time, they choose one or two options. They either close down all their feelings so they cannot feel that is going on or they split their personality into two or more parts. When something bad happens they switch to the protectorate for protection or a sexual deviant who likes that kind of thing.

You obviously chose to close down your feelings. You got so good at hitting the off switch that you lost the on switch and burn yourself to feel something.

1. Please tell your counselor of your feelings and possible reasons why you choose to continue the bulimia. Get it under control as soon as possible, because the stomach acid will eventually erode your insides and you will hemorrhage and bleed to death.

2. Please get help for the mutilation to yourself. There are therapies now that will help you locate the on switch and feel again. The therapy is relatively short and easy.

Both of these problems can be taken care of with counselors who specialize in these areas. Perhaps your counselor is one of these. If not, perhaps s/he can tell you who is or use your telephone yellow pages and look under counselors.

Best wishes,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Annette Nay Homepage

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