Hi Emily! So I just started school and in one of my classes I knew no one. There was one person that asked me about the Crichton novel I was reading. Now we sit next to each other and talk about books and movies. A few days ago I noticed this person had razor cuts up and down her arms in little straight rows. This person is nice, and shouldn't hurt herself, but I don't know how to tell her without feeling like a complete asshole! Should I just mind my own business?
Dearest, I admire your compassion and care for a new friend. It’s lovely.
Going to state the obvious here first: if you fear for her health and safety, and think that she is at immediate risk for taking her own life, you should call 911.
But I think that you’re aware this isn’t suicidal behavior, it is self-mutilation behavior, which is a newish phenomenon that is still mystifying professionals. Every human being is different, and the motivations for self-harming are varied, but most reflect a need to feel or express something that can’t otherwise be felt or expressed.
This person you have befriended isn’t waiting for someone to tell her that she shouldn’t hurt herself. My guess is that she knows that, intellectually, but has a hard time connecting the brains to the emotional part of her. Coping skills are coping skills, even if they are unhealthy. If you knew her for years, I’d say a gentle word would be a good idea, but as this is a new friend, immediately telling her that she shouldn’t hurt herself will probably send her scurrying away from you.
What you can do is be a good supportive friend. You can treat her like you’d treat anyone who has the same taste in entertainment. You can make yourself a comfortable place for her, and hopefully she can become a comfortable place for you too. You can let her know you care about her and care what happens to her.
Twitter is awesome. It’s given me a lot of fantastic things, put me in touch with people I would have never been able to interact with, and it regularly shows me pictures of kittens.
But here’s the thing I’m just recently coming to grips with: it’s kind of a misery vacuum. Two tiny things combined to fully open my eyes to this yesterday.
One, I was offline for a few hours because I’m kinda ill, and when I came back on, I found that I had missed a series of epic arguments about sexism and video games and harassment and etc. Normally these would be right up my alley, but I had missed them, so I started thinking about what I had actually missed out on. Further, these other people involved didn’t miss these arguments, they were front and center, and what had they gained from participating?
Not much, that I could see. No one had archived these Twitter battles and put them on a website as an example of great conversations. No one’s minds had been changed. No one felt they won or lost. All that happened, from what I witnessed retroactively, is that two people with wildly differing opinions typed at each other and then stopped. I had missed out on my opportunity to get angry and obsessively refresh my feed, waiting to see what the other person had for me this time. Was that missing much?
Two, my friend Shadi was in a Twitter conversation that I just happened to catch the tail end of, and some other guy kept tweeting at her long after the original conversation was over. She typed something like “Leave me alone. If we were in a public place I would call the police”, and that really struck me, both because of how true it was, and also because I thought “Well shit, you two would NEVER been in the same public place.”
Because this country is big enough and diverse enough that you never have to interact with most of it. And that’s not terrible. The Internet has changed that, for better and for worse.
I think it does us all a great amount of good to get out of our own experiences and see things from other people’s perspectives, people we have literally nothing in common with, to see why they feel the way they do based on all the millions of things that go into a life. I am all for experiences like that, but Twitter isn’t the place to make that happen. Going and interacting with people where they live is how you do that. Volunteering is how you do that. Eating in restaurants in neighborhoods you’ve never seen is how you do that. Making friends different from yourself is how you do that. Twitter isn’t about having eye-opening conversations, it’s about finding the people that disagree with you and shitting on them. Period. It’s about voicing your opinions, well thought-out or not, and then having those opinions picked apart by strangers.
And that kinda sucks. That’s not helpful to move any dialogue along, or make any changes, or come to any understandings. It’s just spinning its own terrible angry wheels.
So I’m gonna stop having debates on Twitter. It’s not worth my time anymore, and I don’t need more things to be angry about.
Further, I’m no longer going to click on links of compilations of angry, racist tweets about things like Indian kids being finalists in a spelling bee. I never had to hear from people who get that hateful over a spelling bee before, and I don’t know why I need to start now. Before Twitter, these people were gathering at work and at their various meeting places and talking about how the country is going to hell in a handbasket, and I never even knew about it. That’s okay with me.
Being witness to this kind of talk on Twitter doesn’t open people’s minds at all. It doesn’t do me any good to know people are racist in America- I am already aware of that fact, and experiencing their racism doesn’t educate me or them. It’s just more anger vacuum.
It’s not your job to bear witness to the hate of every idiot who managed to sign up for a Twitter account. It’s certainly not your job to respond to them and correct them. Focus your intentions on things that can actually bring about change, focus your intentions on seeking to understand and empathize rather than shouting someone down in 140 characters.
My husband just moved to CA for a new job and left us (me, 4 kids) in Toronto while we sort out some immigration nonsense. People expect me to be struggling and keep offering help in shovey ways. I'm fine. What's the best thing to say.
Sit your lovely, well-meaning friends down and say “You know what, I totally appreciate it, and because you’ve offered help, I now have the understanding that if I’m struggling, I can come to you and ask for help. But it doesn’t have to be brought up again- I’ve got it now.”
I understand both how your friends feel, wanting to help and not knowing how, and how you feel, slightly irritated at the idea that you can’t handle this. Irritation is a natural response to this situation, but it’s not really irritation at your friends- it’s at immigration, the concept of long-distance, and the universe itself. Keep your irritation where it belongs.
"Instead of just saying Okay, what’s the first thought that comes to my head — what’s the easiest stereotype I can make fun of? and then just going with that, thinking a little bit deeper and trying to understand the real motivations and attitudes and behaviors that make us human, and then looking at those things as the material you can focus the joke on — I think that’s where the best comedy comes from and that’s why people like Key and Peele are almost infallible. It’d be really tough to put together a legitimate case about them being lazy or insensitive comedians. They feel like humanists to me.”
Hi Emily. Long-time reader, first-time asker. My sister's marriage of nine years has just come to an end and she's miserable. To the best of my ability, I've been trying to give her honest channels to express herself, but at what point is letting her relive her frustration enabling her to run through self-destructive programs? And when am I allowed to say her depression is bumming me out? Thank you sincerely.
You are never allowed to tell someone you care about that their depression is bumming you out. Depression is a selfish disease, and depressed people can be bummers to be around, but it’s her depression that’s bumming you out, not her. Band together with her against her depression, rather than telling her she’s bumming you out.
Also, just so you know, depression is an abnormal response to normal situations. Going through a marriage dissolution is an abnormal situation, and being depressed about it is normal. It’s a normal, natural response to something extremely traumatic. Depression is only diagnosed after separations if at least five or six months have passed. That’s how seriously the mental health field takes divorce.
Encourage your sister to see a therapist, if she isn’t already, especially if she seems to be stuck in the same area of processing her divorce. A therapist can help kick her out of the mud she’s in, moreso than telling her she’s bumming you out. She will be self-destructive for a bit, she might get a bit slutty, and she might just be a total downer for a while.
Your job is to be supportive and tell her about all the fun shit you’re going to do once she’s processed all this and gotten the hang of it. Remind her to hope.