I am a counselor to teens. Over the past year I have seen an alarming amount of the young women I work with use self harm as their coping mechanism when life’s challenges get to be too much. Finding ways to talk about loving ourselves, having more positive outlets for expressing strong feelings, and being able to self regulate without taking these emotions and inflicting harm on self, are conversations I have every day. It is easy to get overwhelmed as a clinician in trying to help out and to give new skills to use. What I want to do is jump up and down with urgency shouting “Your beautiful body! Stop hurting it! You are worth so much!”. Instead I try to keep my professional poker face, express concern, and hope that with new skills learned, better choices are made.
One very helpful intervention for this challenge of cutting and self harm that I have found is The Butterfly Project. It is a simple and lovely way for kids to take care of themselves, through the care of a hand drawn butterfly. The rules are clear. 1. When you feel that you want to cut yourself, draw a butterfly on that area of your body using a pen or permanent marker. 2. Name the butterfly after someone who cares about you. 3. No scrubbing the butterfly off before it naturally fades. 4. If you cut yourself before the pen fades, the butterfly dies. 5. If you have more than one butterfly, cutting kills them all. 6. Other people can draw butterflies on you, which makes them extra special. 7. People who do not cut, can draw butterflies on themselves to show support.
I have seen a number of butterflies over the past few months. I have also had a number of them drawn on me to show support.
Yesterday I met with a young fourteen year old girl who has been superficially cutting her arms and legs every week for over a year. When I checked in with her about this she said, “Oh that? I don’t do that anymore”. I nearly fell off of my chair in excitement. She also expressed her disappointment that the scars on her arms and legs were not fading. She was scared for wearing short sleeves in warmer weather and in having her family see what she had done to herself. I asked her if she would be open to trying a homemade remedy to help the scars heal. She said yes, and a butterfly cream was born.
4 tbsp. Comfrey Oil
2 tbsp. Calcium Bentonite Clay
1 tbsp. Vitamin E Oil
20 drops Clove Oil
Mix all of the ingredients together and apply to healing scars as needed.
If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies. ~Author Unknown