Ask Amy: Self-harming friend coping with other pain

October 30, 2013 

Dear Amy: I recently noticed a lot of precisely cut lines on my friend's arm. I am pretty sure that these cuts were the results of self-harm.

As soon as she noticed me looking at them, she covered her arm. I haven't said anything to her yet.

She seems like a happy person with loving parents and supportive friends. I don't think that there is anyone bullying her. She is generally liked and is popular.

This is really worrying me, and I don't know how to handle it.

Please help me to help her.

— Worried friend

Dear Worried: A person can seem happy and healthy on the outside and still be insecure, anxious or in pain. You simply never really know what people are going through.

The reason some people cut themselves is because they are trying to find ways to cope with feelings that are otherwise unexpressed.

You should notify your school counselor about this. If it's not treated, self-harm ("cutting") can progress and become even more serious. You are a very good friend to notice this and want to help.

Dear Amy: Two of my close friends just broke up, and I'm looking for advice on how to deal with the aftermath. The breakup wasn't "bad" — no fighting, screaming or bad-mouthing.

But I still feel stuck in the middle because they're extremely uncomfortable and depressed around each other. I met these two at the exact same time. There is no way I can, or would even want to, pick sides.

The problem is that I can't think of a way of hanging out with one without the other finding out. I can't simply invite one and not the other with any hope of keeping it a secret.

I'm really at a loss: These two people are my closest friends in the world, and I don't know how I'm supposed to weather the storm without making things worse.

— Stuck

Dear Stuck: Your primary job is to be honest with both friends and to cope with your own discomfort.

This is an awkward situation and will remain so until everybody settles down. Tell both friends: "I know this is tough on you, but it's hard for your friends too. I'm going to do my best to spend time with each of you, but I hope you will figure out a way to hang out together with the group."

If you choose to spend time with one friend, and the other wants you to be exclusionary, you'll have to spell it out that you care about them equally and won't be pressured to choose between them.

 

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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