You never forget where it happens.Self harm is a very gradual thing. Nobody wakes up one day and just starts bleeding. I didn't recognize it then, I only see the signs looking back now. This is my story. I'm not sharing it for pity; I'm not sharing it for pride. I'm sharing my story for two reasons: 1. So Outsiders can understand how it happens 2. So Insiders can know there is hope The next step down into the world of stress-release and self-loathing was a single thick black hair on my right arm. I'm a perfectionist. Any discovery of flaw was an invitation to act in self-correction. I entered the battle against the single black hair. When plucking, pulling and biting could not end it's determination to grow, I decided to go for the follicle. My battle with the resulting "never-healing-scab" continued throughout highschool until a dermatologist shaved it into a clean, flat scar. The black follicle was vanquished, but my newly formed habits of ripping made me the loser. I discovered I could change things about myself I didn't like. Notice the emphasis on self. Thus empowered, time and stress enabled my new "freedom." I dug my scalp for dandruff ... which then became scabbed. Hidden, secret scabs ripe for the picking. Any flaw was up for grabs. The scar behind my widow's peak earned fresh attention as I fought it's irregularities. Beautiful little moles that decorated my wrists like bracelets became a nuisance and I pinched the melanin from my skin with my nails. I miss them now. God is graciously giving me others which I intend to treat with more care. Internally, the struggle to feel loved grew stronger. Anger at feeling ignored welled up within me; toxic venom that demanded expression. Instead of dousing others or giving it safe ventilation, I poured the poison on myself. There was always a lack of tweezers at my house. After I made my left eye near sighted reading Jane Eyre on my side (it was a heavy tome) I used my newly shortened vision plucking out a third of my armpit hair.
I was truly losing perspective.Separate from the self harm, I enjoyed expressing my hurt safely using makeup. Thankfully homeschooled, I practiced black liquid eyeliner and dark makeup in ways I would never wish to be seen in public. I know how to paint a black eye.
Unfortunately, my self harm only continued after I left home. I still remember the shame of being socially awkward.An intentionally ignorant homeschooler who never fit in at church youth group or even the homeschool co-op, I got culture shock attending a worldly ballet school. I didn't know much about making friends. Circumstances broke me in ways I couldn't even begin to understand. Sprained ankles and sitting out the first semester stole my identity as a ballet dancer. Second semester I dropped down four levels and took class with the children. Pride was stripped from me in a room full of eight-year olds.
This part of my journey was the lowest I'd ever come.My left hand fully trained, I pinched and ripped the bumpy spots on the outside of my right arm like a nervous animal afraid of attack. Digging further than I realized, red wounds appeared while in ballet class, sometimes even dripping.
"Don't pick it."Her quiet voice begged me with compassion. To this day I am thankful for little Sarah. Her tiny voice was heard the loudest in the midst of my struggles. I put bandaids on before class, but I still ripped at home. Not that I could call any of my living situations a "home." Upstate NY and South Florida are the only homes I have ever known. The four years between do not count. They're marked by the soul-crushing brokenness of a nearly hopeless, nomadic ballet student. The instability was a strong force in the initiative of self harm.
Just as my descent was extremely gradual, so was my escape.It's weird. I knew I was hurting myself, but I actually didn't realize how much I struggled with self-harm until I connected with some girls on twitter this past month. Lovelies, this one's for you. So how did I escape? To be honest, I don't really know.
Self harm was always a resulting expression of my near constant anxiety.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
We live in a broken world; living in a broken would SHOULD be distressing.
Do you know what He did? Do you know what He freed me from?Closer than the habits I used to express my hurt, I tightly gripped my incorrect perceptions of God, the world, and myself. It's one thing to know something in your head; it's another to know it in your heart. Only when our hearts understand and know the truth, are we truly able to live with freedom. Real friends entered my life, friends I have kept to this day. Friends who recognized my false understandings and weren't afraid to challenge my opinions.
I'll be honest, plenty of times ... they made me mad.And that's exactly why I count them my friends. They cared enough about me to tell me where I was wrong and needing change. Countless times, I brought my infuriated hurting heart to the throne room of God and He began to show me what was right.
The truth will set you free.Nothing ever only but the truth. Lies will only keep you enslaved; self-realization apart from God will only transfer you into different, deeper kinds of bondage. Thinking you can rescue yourself in your own strength actually leaves you weak. But when you trust in Christ ... in your weakness, He is strong.
As God removed the lies clasped within me, other insecurities surfaced.
The panic attacks I'd learned to stifle as a small child came back. Suddenly I had an irrational fear of knives. I thought they would jump up and attack me. I thought I'd lose control and use. I never graduated to sharp objects. The red evidences of tweezers were enough for me. It got so bad I'd run out of my own kitchen like a desperate startled squirrel and crouch behind a wall weeping. It even happened at work. Must have been the scissors. Somehow, I found myself hyperventilating in the back room trying to call someone who could talk me into sense. I was the only person in the store. Multiple voicemails later, the part-timer called the store to check her schedule. Thank God she did. Linda saved me that day. I went out on the salesfloor, the lone employee, and before my tears were dry on my face customers were handing me money with eagerness in quantities I have rarely seen still to this day.
New release of expression; Different pus, same infection.
God showed me something.Part of my fears that day were founded on doubting God's ability to provide for my needs. God showed me He could and would ALWAYS provide for me. I must trust the means as He sees fit. He does that for those who are faithful. I also remembered one thing from my mentor's garbled voicemail reply:
" ... We need you ... "He challenged me to get in the Word and relearn the truths that would conquer my fears. Next came a challenge from both him and another friend:
"I don't want to hear you talk about this anymore. You're done."At first their words may seem harsh, but remember ... this came from people who walked with me in my brokenness and showed up to help even in the most ridiculous circumstances. (How does a person lose their keys in the ocean? Oh that would be telling ...) Their words came from a place of knowing it was time to throw down the ctrutch. That despite what I thought, I no longer needed it. Expanded, their words sounded like this:
"You are too mature for this now. "When those thoughts come, you tell them 'no.' "You know who you are in Christ well-enough to leave this in the past and leave it for good."They were right. There's a time to talk about things; a place where processing is needed to understand a wound either fresh or ignored and unhealed. There's a time to limp. A time to lean on others, to depend on their faith and vision taking the next step. And there's a time to throw down the crutch. Or even having it wrenched from you, still continue onward trusting God with the struggles of each day. Choosing not to worry about tomorrow, focusing on being found faithful with the task at hand. This is not to say I don't still struggle. I do. Pimples and dandruff still appear in my hair asking for picking. Cuticles yearn; exfoliation begs. But I'm not a slave to it anymore.
"Megan, stop picking."As I listen to the Holy Spirit and obey in His strength, He helps me take the next step forward.
He has redeemed me by His Blood. He took the death of a slave so I can live.
My body belongs to Him now; I will choose to honor Him with it.My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Christ lives in me. Why would I choose to do anything with it that would make Him uncomfortable in His home? Some who read this will pity me, that my hurt and anger took this form of expression. To you, I kindly say don't. Each of us has poured out the poison of our anger wrongfully and no way is better or worse than another. All have fallen short of the glory of God. Some will read this and judge me because my not "graduating to knives" somehow makes my story less valid than theirs. To you, I promise I will never judge the validity of your emotions ... even if you choose to judge mine. To those of you fighting to hope, let me encourage you...
There is hope.
Christ is enough for me. And He has made all the difference.
I pray you will let Him be enough for you, In Jesus' Name, Amen.
An update has been posted as of November 5th, 2013.
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