The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "Cutting Away the Pain"
Cutting Away the Pain
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Melissa R. describes how loneliness, stress and depression lead her to intentionally cut herself, which gives her a sense of power and relief from her anguish. Melissa hides her destructive habit and feels like a freak, until her mother’s revelation that she overcame cutting and visits to a therapist help her get the secret fixation under control.

Prompts for discussion and/or writing:

--Cutting helps Melissa feel in control and it relieves her pain. We all feel the need from time to time to resort to harmful habits to relieve stress, such as eating too much or smoking cigarettes. Think of a positive habit you have that has replaced a negative one. What is it, how does it help relieve stress, and why it is better for you than your old habit? If you have not yet been able to kick a negative habit, what positive habits would you like to develop in your life and how could you go about developing them?

--At the root of Melissa’s pain are feelings of hurt and abandonment that no one seems to understand, and cutting herself is a way of avoiding them. What do you think Melissa must do in the future to confront those feelings and deal with them? For example, who might she talk to, and what could she say to them?

--Circle a passage in Melissa’s story that you can especially relate to. Why do you relate to this passage? How does it connect to your own experiences?

--Write a short letter to Melissa, telling her what you think of her for writing such a personally revealing story.

Roleplay:

--Two students, playing Melissa and her friend. Melissa’s friend cannot understand why anyone would intentionally cut herself. Melissa wants her friend to understand why she does it and that many teens hurt themselves to relieve their pain, although not necessarily by cutting.
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(NYC-2001-01-02)

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