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Addiction and Cutting Issues Since 8yo

Published: August 17, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
(WARNING -- this may be triggering to those who struggle with substance abuse) when i was eight years old, i overdosed on one of my prescription meds because it tasted good and i loved how i felt, even though in the long-term i felt disgusting. my dad quickly found out, i think within 2-4 months, and got me the help i needed. then, when i was fourteen, i wanted to end my life and i took almost half of a bottle, maybe even more than half, of an illegal drug. i nearly died from an overdose, but obviously i lived. i turn sixteen soon and i still take the illegal drug and now i'm beginning to take the occasional extra pill for my prescription meds when i can't get my illegal drug. it's worse when i'm stressed or when i'm in one of my mood swings (i'm diagnosed with early-onset bipolar one disorder). when i'm high, most of the time i'm the exact opposite of relaxed, but i just feel at peace. sometimes when i'm high it's a bad experience but i get a rush and i feel the need to do more. i've also been on and off cutting since i was about eight (in case it wasn't already obvious, eight was when my mental status started to really decline). even though i think otherwise this isn't the life that i want for myself but i'm scared to tell someone. i know that i'm sick and that i need help but i just can't. please help me.
Signed: Addiction and Cutting Issues Since 8yo

Dear Addiction and Cutting Issues Since 8yo,

TeenHealthFX understands how difficult it can be to reach out for help. When we reach out for help we are allowing ourselves to be somewhat vulnerable, as well as allowing ourselves to depend on another person to a certain degree. For some people, this is incredibly difficult and can make reaching out for help feel like a very scary thing. However, given the complexity of issues you are dealing with it is really important for you to be meeting with a reputable psychiatrist and a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist.

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then it is very important to be meeting with a psychiatrist to discuss medication options. There are medications available that can help to stabilize your mood and help to get your symptoms under control.

It is also important to be meeting at least once a week (perhaps even twice a week initially) with a therapist who has experience in working with teens and young adults with bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy can provide education to you and your family about bipolar disorder. Therapy can also help you identify triggers for bipolar episodes, as well as help you to learn effective strategies to manage stress and cope with difficult situations. One common thread with people with substance abuse issues and who self-harm is often a sense of feeling alone or unheard by those around them. If you feel like you do not have a nurturing, dependable support system and/or have difficulties trusting other people or relying on them, this would also be a helpful area to explore with your therapist.

Depending on the extent of self-harming behaviors and substance use, your therapist and psychiatrist might recommend day treatment or substance abuse treatment, given that it is very hard to manage bipolar disorder when there are problems with alcohol and/or drugs.   

Again, FX appreciates how scary it can be to reach out for help. But there are various treatments available that can be helpful to you. So please reach out for help as soon as possible.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

If you get to the point that you are seriously considering suicide or are afraid of your impulses then you need to seek help immediately. You can call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. In northern New Jersey you can also call the crisis hotline from Morristown Memorial hospital at 973-540-0100. Outside this area call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), available 24 hours a day, or the Suicide & Crisis Hotline, 1-800-999-9999, 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Signed: TeenHealthFX