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Bullying And Self-Harm: My Daughter’s Journey from Cutting to Recovery

I always said I would fight for my child, and I meant that with every ounce of my being. In 2009, I had to do exactly that. I was not only fighting the school and the bullies, but I was also fighting my daughter herself.

Our story starts when my daughter was a sixth grader in middle school in Norfolk, Virginia. I understood that middle school was a time where kids think they are tough and girls have drama, and I honestly thought that we were dealing with just that. I told my daughter to ignore the girls that were picking on her and that they would eventually stop. I told her to stand up to them and they would eventually stop. I told her to report it to the teacher, guidance counselor, and principal, and they would ensure it stopped.

My daughter listened and then she stopped talking about it, so I believed that things had gotten better. Unfortunately, the bullying had reached a point that changed not only her life, but mine as well. Instead of talking to me about being bullied, she started to self-harm instead.

Bullying And Self-Harm: Getting Help

On Mother’s Day in 2009, my daughter reached out for help. She sent a letter saying the bullying had gotten so bad that she had started to cut herself. She was doing it on her thighs so that no one would know. She used razors, the metal part that holds the eraser on a pencil, broken plastic utensils. I sat on my floor and sobbed. I sobbed for the girl who couldn’t understand why everyone was so mean to her. I sobbed for myself, wondering what had I done wrong, how I had missed the signs?


After years of therapy, and endless attempts to build her confidence, I began to fight for my daughter’s life. With each passing day, she was getting more out of control with cutting. I was beyond scared and counseling wasn’t helping. I worried that I was losing her.

One day, she came to me and said she needed serious help; she was having thoughts of ending her pain. This time I didn’t cry; instead, I got angry. Not at her, but at everyone else. She stayed in the mental hospital for five days, but things really didn’t change. I went to the school. They blamed me. I went to the superintendent. They took the word of the principal at the school. I went to our congressman, and still nothing.

Self-Harm Recovery: Still Fighting

In February 2012, I took her out of school so she could be home schooled. With the assistance of the home school teacher, she passed eighth grade. I could see that she was starting to gain confidence. Although thoughts of suicide still loomed and she had a “death” date, that date came and went, and then the following day we celebrated her life.

Every day remains a constant struggle. She still fights the battle of depression and anxiety. I realize that some may think that bullying is normal and that children should just let it go, but I have witnessed firsthand that the victims (and their parents) never fully recover. My daughter can be very distant at times, and during those times, I worry if she will go back to hurting herself. I know that she still cuts, and for her that is her comfort zone.

I often wish that we could go back to sixth grade, and that I would have seen the signs and prevented the damage that was done. But, deep down, I know that I couldn’t have done any more than I did.

Michele Keyes, a single mom of three, is in active duty in the US Navy in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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