Dear Dr. Archer,
I am a 20 year old black female who is into punk culture, and I'm also a recovering cutter, both things of which my parents say black people just don't do.
I was 10 years old when I was raped, and to cope I created multiple personalities within myself so I would always have someone and never be alone again.
My personalities disappeared when I was 14, as if they were my imaginary friends. When I turned 18 and hooked up with my now fiancé they returned, and not willingly.
I can fall asleep and when I wake up I'm someone else. I know I'm crazy, but this is becoming a problem. They have names and they talk differently than me and they act differently most of the time. I can see what's going on -- I just can't talk.
My boyfriend has learned to deal and work with my other personalities. I try to tell my parents, but they say mean things like "that does not happen to black people, only white folks have problems like that." I am too broke for therapy, but meditation does help.
What the heck is my problem?
You may find it interesting to read Black Invisibility and Racism in Punk Rock. In it you will learn that your parents are not the only folks who mistakenly think blacks don't enjoy punk. Even those within the culture are surprised to learn that some blacks enjoy it.
With all due respect to your parents, cutting is blind to race. In other words, people of all races cut or self injure equally. People who self injure are normally in their teens or early twenties and are under stress.
Gender is also about equal with studies showing slightly more women than men engage in SI. Self injury often occurs along with depression, bipolar disorder, OCD or eating disorders. And multiple personalities are also co-morbid.
If you do not have the means to pay for mental health services, I strongly suggest you seek help from your local mental health clinic. You need help, Sara. While I agree that meditation works, you need therapy as well for all of the above.
Self harm is a way of coping; it helps you express the feelings you cannot put into words or it allows you to release emotional pain by replacing it with a physical pain. It may make you feel better for a bit, but as you know the feelings return. Identify what triggers your cutting -- anger, sadness, guilt?
Recognize this, then start developing healthier alternatives than cutting. Draw or paint on paper in red ink or paint; keep a journal; listen to music that expresses your feelings or write your negative feelings on paper -- and then rip it up.
If you must see the marks on your body, use a red marker and mark where you'd normally cut. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it rather than cut. Do what works for you without causing yourself physical injury.
Please show my answer to your parents; I know they love you and want nothing but the best for you. It is important to know that mental health does not look at our skin color. It can affect anyone.
Do everything you can for yourself, but I also suggest your community mental health clinic. Coming to terms with your childhood trauma could help you tremendously in how you live your life today.
I wish you much success, Sara. Good luck.