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home : columns : dear harriette July 25, 2017

5/29/2017 9:23:00 AM
Reader unsure how to handle friend's self-harm

DEAR HARRIETTE: I saw what appeared to be self-harm marks on my friend’s hip while we were at the beach. I didn’t want to bring more attention to these lines by asking for another opinion, but I am worried about her. Should I probe into her life even though we aren’t best friends? No one else seems as concerned as I am. -- Talk to Me, Coney Island, New York

DEAR TALK TO ME: If you think you can get your friend to open up to you, give it a try. Get together with her for a quiet engagement. Introduce a conversation about your life, and encourage her to speak about her own. Know that most people who are living with some kind of emotional disorder or stress do not willingly talk about their challenge. Instead, they usually hide them from the people who interact with them.  

In order to get your friend to talk about what you saw, you probably have to ask her about what you think you noticed on her hip. Rather than asking if it was self-harm, why not ask her if she fell or otherwise injured herself? Tell her that you are asking because you noticed marks on her hip. If you have some sense of what your friend may have done, ask her specifically if engages in self-harm; even if she denies it, you can still tell her that you want her to be healthy and whole, and you are worried about her. You can suggest that she have a medical checkup to make sure that she is in good health. Ultimately, though, you will need to accept that she will get help when she is ready -- likely not a moment before.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend, “Amanda,” is too spontaneous for my liking. I need concrete plans to be able to commit to something and write it down in my planner. Amanda, however, likes to call me around 6 p.m. and ask if I want to go to a concert in two hours or take the weekend off to go camping. She works for herself, so it is easier for her to make these kinds of plans, yet she always tells me I’m “boring” or “old” whenever I can’t give in to her whims. Have I lost my sense of fun, or is Amanda being too hard on me? -- Forewarning, Rochester, New York

DEAR FOREWARNING: You and Amanda have very different concepts of time. That doesn’t make either of you wrong. It makes you different. You do not need to judge yourself harshly, nor should Amanda judge you. To stop the critiques, point out to Amanda that you two have different ways of planning your lives. This is not representative of being old or young, boring or exciting -- it is just different.  

Tell Amanda that the chances of you spending time with her increase when you have more warning. This is based on your schedule and the way that you manage your time. Explain that you will try to be more spontaneous, but you cannot guarantee that it will work. Most important, you will feel more comfortable if the two of you can plan a date together.  

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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