A Safe Place for Cutters Blog

Trying to be Perfect Makes for Imperfect

A high school girl in my Facebook group, The Safe Place for Cutters, wrote:

“i haven’t cut in a really long time…for me, i was feeling so lost in life and the pain from cutting helped center me. i’ve finally learned that you have to love yourself or else nobody will ever be able to love you. i’m such a perfectionist and it has been so hard to let go of the perfect image that i had of my self, and to accept that i am not always going to be able to live up to my ridiculous expectations of myself, but now that i have, i feel liberated. i hope that all of you are able to find that place of acceptance within yourself…we’re all here for you, because we all are going through or have gone through something similar if not exactly the same as what you’re going through.
much love to all of you!”

Sometimes the members in my group say it so much better than I could ever say myself.

To A Life Worth Living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.


Avoid Toxic People

Toxic People 2Now that you are practicing gratefulness in your life and have made a list of 200 things in your life that you are thankful for you have found that not everyone shares your new attitude that there is always something to be thankful for. You’ll say something pleasant like, “Isn’t the sky a pretty blue?” and they will sneeringly retort, “No it isn’t. It’s a sickly hue of gray.” So what do you do?

Please heed this important advice: avoid toxic people! Unfortunately, there are a few people out there who see the world as one big problem, and in their eyes you’re part of it. No matter how well things are going, they focus on the nitpicking little negative details. And they do it constantly. It’s a habit that totally destroys relationships.

You may be thinking at this point, “Easier said than done. Do you mean if a friend I’ve known for years talks like this, should I just turn and walk away?” No, RUN! His or her constant negativity will drain the life out of you. Now please understand, I am not talking about someone who has a genuine challenge and needs real help. I am referring to those chronic whiners who take great pleasure in dumping all their negative garbage on your plate at every opportunity. It’s the highlight of their day. Don’t put up with it anymore.

To A Life Worth Living,
Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. Click here!

How Can I Be Grateful When Nothing is Going Right?

In my last post I discussed the importance of being grateful. Have you ever noticed how pleasant it is to be around people who are grateful for you or what you have done for them? That’s how you will know the following exercise works.


Something that will help you in practicing gratitude in your life and thus being present and in the moment (also known as mindfulness) is to make a list of 200 things that you are thankful for. Take 20 3×5 index cards and write 10 things from your list on each card. Carry these around with you and focus on one card each day.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how much is really going right in your life.

To A Life Worth Living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. Click here!

When Everything Seems to be Going Wrong

The economy is in the toilet, your so called friends have disappointed you, your family doesn’t understand you, you’re worried about finding a job. Your grades are suffering- and God knows what else. Sometimes life is like that. We feel overworked and underpaid, and the stress takes a toll on our health and happiness.

Take a notice that all of your problems keep you focused on the past by dwelling by what went wrong and beating yourself up over it or worried about what may or may not happen in the future. All of this keeps you from being in the present. You cannot grow or move forward unless you are living in the moment. One of the most essential ways to stay present is to live with an attitude of gratitude.

When you arise in the morning, be grateful to be alive, be grateful for your health, for your job, and children. Be grateful for the country you live in, for the friends you have, and the family you enjoy. Literally, count your blessings every day. Sometimes a patient may tell me, “I have nothing to be thankful for. I hate this place.” I will then work with them to come up with something no matter how small. I will say something like, “Look at what a nice day it is!. It is not too hot or too cold. The sky is blue and clear” or “Hey, you’re talking to me right now. I could be off doing something else instead.” Then I get a response like, “Oh, yeah…I didn’t think about that.”


Three amazing things will happen when you are grateful. The first is that you will actually become more grateful. You will start to realize that, despite the trials of everyday life, you are, in fact, blessed. The irony is that the more things you realize you have to be grateful for, the more grateful you become for other things. It is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The gratitude becomes overwhelming.

The second thing that will happen is that more good fortune and opportunities will begin to come your way. I don’t pretend to understand why this happens, I just know it does. Those who are grateful just seem to attract more and more good things.

And the third thing that will happen is that you will feel great – healthier and more energetic than you have in years!

The stressors in our life are not likely to go away. What we need to do is learn to control our response to them by living with an attitude of gratitude. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn has often said, “The same wind blows on us all; it is the set of our sail that makes us who we are.” 


To A Life Worth Living,


Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.


*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. facebook.com/foresteen.forbes

Did You Know that Exercise Can Reduce the Urge to Cut?
July 24, 2009, 11:00
Filed under: Borderline Personality Disorder, Coping Skills, self-harm, Tools

ExerciseOne of my assignments at the State Hospital where I work is running an exercise group. I used to take the individuals to the park on the hospital grounds and have them walk around it at least twice which is about a mile. Oh, the moans and groans I would have to endure as I insisted they get up off the grass, where they were spread out like fleshy mushrooms, and get moving. I felt like a cruel taskmaster.

Today, an individual told me that she remembered how she had hated it when I persisted in my efforts to get her to walk around the commons. However, over time she began to enjoy the walks and noticed some delightful benefits that included: weight loss, increased energy, motivation, and self-esteem and much to her surprise in a decrease in her urges to cut herself.

Exercise, does have an antidepressant effect making it another important tool for your toolbox.

To A Life Worth Living,
Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend.  Click here!

July 22, 2009, 05:00
Filed under: Borderline Personality Disorder, Coping Skills, self-harm, Tools

Nia Misses from Toronto, ON and a member of my Facebook group The Cutters Safe Place* says that she often feels like she is drowning in the seductive urge to cut hrself. She claims that she finds the 15 Minute Rule helpful for such torrid moments.
She explains, “You tell yourself that you can cut, only if you wait fifteen minutes.
If you wait fifteen minutes, you have to wait another fifteen, just to see how long you can suppress the urge”. She finds that typically, after the first 15 minutes, the urge is gone and adds, “The things that you do to distract yourself from cutting in that 15 minutes tend to also help you get rid of the drowning feeling”.

Nia illustrates her use of 15 Minute Rule by explaining that she had gotten herself addicted to reality TV and using this to occupy herself during the !5 minutes. She has her favorite reality show on her Ipod as well as on DVD so that any time that she wants to cut, she is close by to something that will play an episode for her. She then stops feeling like she drowning, and stops wanting to cut, and then starts YELLING at the Survivors.

Yelling at TV

This is a good use of the Distraction technique that I discussed in an earlier blog.

To A Life Worth Living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. Click here!

Steps in the Chain to Self-Harm
July 20, 2009, 05:00
Filed under: Borderline Personality Disorder, Coping Skills, self-harm, Tools

Chain AnalysisIn my last blog I explained what a Chain Analysis was and how to use it. In today’s blog, I am going to offer an illustration of what a Chain Analysis might look like when completed. The following is an example of a Chain Analysis I did with one of my individuals at the state hospital where I work. I will call her Shaneesh.

Problem Behavior: Shaneesh broke a toilet in order to have some porcelain shards to cut herself with. The staff caught her before she was able to harm herself.  She put up quite a fight as the staff removed her from the bathroom. She was placed  under close watch with a staff who assigned to stay with her (1:1) until Shaneesh felt safe from hurting herself. She screamed at me her psychologist whenever I tried to talk to her.

Precipitating Event in the Environment: Sheneesh had observed a favorite female staff being chased by a male peer the day before and it brought up memories of her drug addicted mother being chased by boyfriends. This made her feel so angry she wanted to kill the peer.

Vulnerability Factors: Shaneesh was already feeling some anger building up inside for the past few days. She wasn’t sure where it was coming from but felt that she was about to “cycle” meaning that she was struggling to control her urges to cut herself after having been free from cutting for two months. Shaneesh also realized that she saw her psychologist as a mother figure and had projected the feelings of rage she had toward mother onto her psychologist.

Consequence in the Environment and Yourself: Shaneesh felt very ashamed of herself for her violent behavior. She was reminded of the poor opinion she had of peers who had done similar behavior with breaking toilets and cutting themselves. Whenever such incidents occur the staff have to take time out to do paperwork to document the incident. This not only adds a burden to the staff who she cares about but angers her peers who now find it harder to get staff attention. In addition, Shaneesh felt alienated from staff members she had felt close to and knew it would take a while to repair the relationships.

The toilet costs $125 dollars to replace which impacts the department budget which results in outings and  activities not taking place as well as other reduced benefits. The department was threatening to put in steel toilets which give an institutional appearance and not nearly as attractive as the porcelain ones. The broken toilet meant that the bathroom would be closed off for a while which would inconvenience her peers as there were now less bathrooms available.

It also meant that she lost her grounds pass for seven days. A grounds pass means that you can wander around on the 162 park like acres of the hospital property and enjoy the peace of being outdoors instead of being on the unit listening to all the chaos that often reminded her of the domestic violence in her home while growing up. Being able to be outside also meant that she could order food such as pizza or Chinese food with her peers instead of having to be subjected to eating the tasteless hospital food.  She was also doomed because she wouldn’t be available for any fun outings with the staff such as attending the Angels game or the Orange County Fair.

Different Solutions: Instead of acting on her feelings to cut herself she could have talked to a staff member that she trusted. She also could have distracted herself by listening to her favorite music.

Prevention Strategies for the Future: Shaneesh realized that she was feeling vulnerable since she had been allowing her feelings to build up because she had been refusing to be open about them by talking to trusted staff, attending group therapy or journaling.

Plan for Repair: Shaneesh agreed to spend the next five days helping staff out by doing cleaning jobs on the unit.

Chain of Behavior:

Thoughts/beliefs: Shaneesh has a love hate relationship with her mother who is currently in jail.

Feelings: The part of her that loves her mother was enraged when memories of her mother were triggered by seeing a favorite staff in danger.

Actions: Ran to attack male peer.

Thoughts/beliefs: Family secrets are not to be shared therefore she believed that she had to keep her feelings to herself.

Feelings: Felt bottled up and angry. Strong desire to cut self.

Actions: Broke toilet

Thoughts/beliefs: If she fought with staff, the pain from having to be taken down by them and forcibly removed from the bathroom would provide needed relief from her painful feelings.

Feelings: Volcanic anger.

Actions: Fought with staff

Lessons learned: Shaneesh realized that a volcano had been building up inside of her and it was related to her that it was wrong to share family secrets. This caused her to avoid talking about feelings to staff and using humor to deflect others and keep them from knowing how bad she was feeling inside. It also kept her from going to group therapy where she might be in danger of having to share intimate parts of herself. As a result, Shaneesh resolved to be more open about her feelings with staff and start attending group therapy. She has been as good as her word and has been more open and honest about herself and attending group therapy. She is a whole new Shaneesh.

Click link for a copy of the Chain Analysis form.

Next: How to Stop Feeling Like You Are Drowning

To A Life Worth Living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend. Click here!