November 15, 2008

My Self-Harm Testimony

The first time I can remember harming myself was when I was a freshman in high school. One day I was really stressed out over something, I can't remember exactly what, but then all of a sudden I felt this relief and then when I looked down I saw that I had hurt myself on my arm. I was scared and didn’t know what I had done or why, but I liked the feeling that it gave me—calm, relieved—it was amazing how I felt. Somehow I knew right away that I needed to hide this, that it was wrong and that no one could know about it. So I wore a sweatshirt to school the next day. The hard part came when it was time for PE; I changed into my PE clothes and started worrying about how I was going to cover it up. I thought about just wearing my jacket but it was really hot out and so I couldn’t just wear my jacket. So instead I just made sure that my arm was against my body the whole time and that no one could see what I had done.

That was the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last. From then on I would hurt myself in whatever way I could to get that calm relieved feeling again. When I could control it I tried to be careful to not hurt myself in places that I couldn’t cover up. But sometimes I would be stressed out or angry or any other emotion that made me feel out of control and I would just all of a sudden look down and there would be a scratch across my arm, or a line of blood, that’s when I would just cover it up and no one ever even noticed, or if they did they never said anything about it.

During the end of my freshman year of high school my best friend was diagnosed with cancer. I was already dealing with the self-harm and this only made matters worse. When I first started harming myself it was just every once in a great while, but with her diagnosis my emotions were out of control most of the time and the harm became more frequent. Throughout the 17 months that she struggled against this disease I began to realize what I was doing and that there had to be a way to deal with these emotions in a more positive and healthy way. Much of my life I had used journaling as a way to express myself, but with the cutting I had no longer needed that outlet. I started journaling again with all my being. I poured my whole self onto those pages, and it helped me keep from harming myself most of the time, but there were still those times that I would lose control and look down to see a bleeding line across my wrist or thigh. Throughout my friend’s treatment there were many highs and lows in my life and I had dealt with them in the way that I had taught myself to—some through journaling and some through cutting. My friend passed away November of my Junior year, I had this feeling that my friend could look down at me from heaven and that she could see me cutting myself and I decided that I never wanted to let her see what I had been doing, I would stop, if not for myself then for her. I had never told her about my cutting, I hadn’t told anyone, and I didn’t want her to “find out” in this way. I stopped for a long time, the longest I had ever gone with out cutting. It was just over a year.

To give you the full story of my struggle I need to backtrack a little to my sophomore year. The summer before my sophomore year I met an amazing lady, L, who started working as a youth leader at my church. She and I became friends pretty soon and hung out a lot. She shared her testimony at youth group one night, she had been molested in junior high by a guy she was supposed to be able to trust, later in college she developed bulimia which was her way to stay calm, and gain control in her life. Once I heard her story I was so amazed that she did something similar to what I had been doing, I found my peace, my calm through hurting myself and she found hers through bulimia. Right away I knew that I needed to hear more of her story since it was so like mine. We had been hanging out with each other for a while at this time and I had been able to share with her some other things that were going on in my life and she had helped me get through a lot of stuff. Talking to her became a way that I could express myself and became another form of release. But the self-harm was still there, it was always there as a way out and sometimes I didn’t even want any other way out of it.

It was the summer after my sophomore year, I was at a church event called SERVE and I had met this girl there named A, when I first met her I saw the scars on her arms, when she caught me staring at them she told me that she used to cut herself and that that’s what the scars were from. This scared me a lot, I realized that I could get to the point where I would end up with scars and I really didn’t want to have scars, permanent reminders of what I had done to myself.

I started thinking and journaling about telling L because of the fact that I knew I needed to stop, I just couldn’t keep on doing this and A’s scars had proved that to me. So I talked to L and asked her if I could talk to her that night. She said yes and I should just come and find her. So that night I went to go find her and she was in a meeting with all of the leaders it ended up that the meeting went too late and we didn’t get a chance to talk. The next day we were at the beach with the group and she came up and hugged me and whispered in my ear, “I missed you last night.” I told her that I had missed her as well and we decided that we could hang out and talk that night. I went to find her later on that night and when I did we headed off together to go talk alone. I was really nervous about telling her because I knew that if anyone tells a youth leader about abuse, self-harm, or anything like that the leader is required by law to tell their parents. I definitely did not want my parents to know. So right off the bat I asked her if I could tell her something and she wouldn’t tell anyone. Of course she said that she couldn’t keep it a secret if anyone was hurting me (which I knew included myself). So I just got really quiet and sat there. She asked me if what she had said had changed what I was going to say. I nodded my head. She continued to ask me questions about what I had been going to tell her. It ended up that I just asked if she could keep me accountable for something. Through later times when we hung out she would ask me how I was doing with ‘it’. She just called it ‘it’ because she didn’t know what ‘it’ was. But she was able to hold me accountable all the same. This worked for a while, but I really couldn’t be completely open with her because she would have to tell my parents. Because I couldn’t be completely open with her I wasn’t able to express what was happening with me, she just knew what little I could tell her and what she had deduced from what sort of questions I had asked her about her past. But all in all it was really good for me to know that she would ask me how I was doing with ‘it’ and I would have to tell her whether things had been going well or not.

A couple months later my friend passed away and so I had already tried to stop with L helping as much as she could but after my friend passed away I made a commitment that I didn’t want her to ‘see’ me doing these things. So I was doing really great for a long while and then I messed up. Eventually my mess-ups got further and further apart and I ended going for about a year without harming myself. I was so happy to tell L that I had made it so far and at that point and I told her how long I had gone without doing ‘it’, she was so proud of me when I had been doing good. She was amazing! I later began to cut again, I never told L about it because I didn’t want her to be disappointed in me. I looked up to her so much and just couldn’t stand the thought of her being disappointed in me. Like one time I was helping her clean up after helping out at the Junior High youth group and I had gotten some chocolate on my arm. L noticed the chocolate and was like what do you have on your arm? I only saw the healing cut on my arm and didn’t see the chocolate so I told her that I had the cat had scratched me. Little did I know that she hadn’t seen the scratch but rather the chocolate on my arm. When we realized we were talking about different things we laughed and I cleaned off the chocolate and we continued to clean up. The subject was over at the time I wrote this poem describing my feelings when she saw my arm.

I don’t know if I should tell you
You’re leaving tomorrow
And you’ll be gone for a few weeks
So I guess
I guess I have a while
To figure out what to say
When I had the chocolate on my
You asked “what is that”
It was so close
To the cut
And I thought that is what you meant
And I was almost relieved
That you’d caught me
But then you pointed at the chocolate
And I realized
You hadn’t caught me after all
And again I somehow felt
Because I can continue living
My L I F E
- excerpt from poem ‘I wonder’ by me

As of now I have stopped and do not want to start again. It is hard sometimes because I definitely still get these urges and sometimes I almost actually give in. I want to be able to deal with my frustrations and emotions in a healthier way than through cutting, I know that in my life cutting began to rule me, I started doing it because I could control it in a way that I could not control the emotions that ran rampant through my body. But in reality I couldn’t control it, it controlled me.

Now I am coming to a point in my life that I will be leaving home and going to college. I am excited to leave and become more of my own person but I am also sad to be leaving those that care about me the most. L has been an amazing person in my life and I don’t know what I will do without her. I know that I can make it through and that she will be only a phone call or e-mail away but it will still be hard to leave her when she has been such an amazing part of my life.

The above was mostly written 5-4-08. Some small changes made on 6-24-2008 and 11-10-2008.

Added below 8-20-2008 (some small changes 11-10-2008)

Recently I have realized that my story started earlier than when I actually started harming myself. I wanted to give you some more information about what happened before I started harming myself. This is some stuff that was before the beginning of my testimony that I have already typed out previously.

When I was in junior high I had my friends from school and my friends from my neighborhood. The friends from my neighborhood I hung out with as often as I possibly could. I had a friend named K who was one of my friends from my neighborhood. We hadn’t always been such good friends but since our other friend, Aimee, had moved away when we were nine we had grown much closer.

Anyways, in junior high, when we were about 12, K started to rebel. She had always been kind of rebellious but that year she started taking it a step further. She began to drink and smoke and have sex with guys, some much older than herself, she also began to do drugs.

When K started to do this it scared me, I didn’t know what to do. She would tell me things that I didn’t understand. I was raised in a Christian home, and very much sheltered my whole life, so I really didn’t know that anyone actually did those sort of things. When I was younger, I was taught that what she was doing was a sin and that it was wrong. I assumed that everyone had been told the same thing, so why was she doing something that she knew was wrong?

Throughout her rebellion I realized that the world was not as safe and perfect as I had thought it was. That was a huge realization for me and my world began to spin out of control. I now had to deal with a lot of stuff, both what K was doing and the fact that my whole worldview had changed practically overnight. I was so confused during this point in my life.

One night after K had told me in particular detail about what she had done with some guy the night before I went to my mom to try and talk to her about what was going on. You have to realize that I didn’t really talk to my mom about anything, especially about things as huge as this. When I went to talk to her I sat on the counter and just spit it out and told her what was going on. It was such a relief. What came next was completely unexpected. She flat out told me that my friend, my best friend, was lying to me, that she couldn’t be doing that and that I should just go to bed. So I did. But I knew that what K had told me was true.

But now, after I had told my mom my biggest secret, I felt so rejected. I never tried to tell her what was going on in my life again. My life continued to fly out of control. I didn’t know what to do. This was how my life went through 7th and half of 8th grade.
In 8th grade K’s habits had gotten worse. Eventually she was caught at her middle school with drugs on her (we didn’t go to the same school, she went to public school and I went to a Private Christian school in the next town). K was kicked out of her school and her parents decided to move her away to get her away from the drugs and to help her to stop using.

This was devastating! My best friend was moving far away. (Really only about an hour away, but to a 13 year old that is a long way.) I missed her a lot and now I didn’t have my best friend any more, of course she was only a phone call away but it was just not the same.

Well the move didn’t help and she found herself some new druggie friends and began to spiral downward again. The only difference was that now I was out of the loop, I didn’t know what was going on with her, it seemed like she had forgotten me.

I don’t ever remember experimenting with self injury during this time in my life but this is definitely the time where I began to lose control. This is also the time when I began journaling was probably the one thing that kept me from self-harm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OK one last comment, then I'll give it a rest for a bit:

"So instead I just made sure that my arm was against my body the whole time and that no one could see what I had done."

I had to catch myself from crying when I read that. I could just imagine you running around hurt... Gah.