on creating a constant nightmare: to cut or not to cut

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses what might happen when you cut.

This post functions primarily to educate others on what goes through someone’s head before cutting. This is an issue that is not discussed nearly enough, and those who have cut or done another form of self-harm are often misunderstood and stereotyped. Please note that everyone’s situation is unique, and I can only use what I know. This post combines my experiences with those of others I know personally and with those whose stories I have read. Feel free to comment with any personal experiences that might benefit the conversation.

Suppose you want to cut.You probably have some reasons. Maybe you’re going through a situation that doesn’t seem like it will get better. Maybe the emotions are too strong that you don’t know how to handle it anymore. Maybe think you deserve pain. Maybe you want to punish yourself. Maybe you don’t really want to do it but don’t think you have another choice. You’ve probably thought about it a lot.

That first time, you probably won’t do a whole lot of damage. Maybe, you decided to just do it once and never do again.

So, let’s say you decide to scrape yourself the first time. It feels great. It feels so relieving and gives you a sort of rush. But these good feelings last only as long as you do it. When you’re done, you are flooded with guilt. You feel worse than before. But you can’t push the thoughts of the next time out of your head. You had vowed to do it just once, but you already want to do it again. But doing the same thing over and over again won’t give you the same rush, so you’ll do it a little worse. And the cycle will continue.

You do it for a period of time. Maybe you hear voices that tell you to do it. Maybe you do it for the rush or the self-punishment. Or maybe you’re doing it for another reason. There are an infinite number of reasons for cutting.

You are terrified of being alone because of the fear of repeating it. Maybe you’re scared that one day you’ll go a little too deep and end up in the ER. Maybe you’re scared you’ll hit an artery and no one will find you and you’ll accidentally kill yourself. Maybe you see bloody images of yourself in your head that are portrayed as good and encourage you to repeat the self-harm. Maybe you’re nervous around other people and don’t want people to touch you, partly because it hurts but also because you don’t want them to feel the band-aids, scabs, and scars through your clothes. Maybe some scars are accidentally seen and you find yourself lying to explain what happened. Strain is put on all your relationships, even your closest friendships. Your thoughts get darker. You wonder when your friends will stop caring. You might become grateful to past or current bullies for showing you that you are awful and needed punishment. You will hurt every day. You will live with the shame and regret every day.

Then, let’s say you decide you want to try to stop. This is when it gets hard. Cutting is an addiction. Stopping an addiction often involves withdrawal. Not only do you have the above symptoms but you also have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal could be voices that increase with volume until you give in and cut again. Maybe you feel the pain of cutting without having to do it. Maybe you start writing on yourself to avoid cutting and find your arms and parts of your legs covered in writing. Maybe you find yourself replacing it with another form of self-harm. It feels like you are in a living nightmare. All you want to do is to escape from your brain. You know that if you cut again, it will get a little better – for the time being. But then it will be even harder to stop.

How it ends it up to you. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of fighting. Maybe you’ll keep giving in. Maybe you’ll end up at the ER and that will scare you so you’ll never do it again. Maybe you’ll go to the ER and like the attention from your family and do it badly again. Maybe you will gather the courage to never do it again.

Those who cut are humans in so much (emotional/psychological) pain they don’t know how to survive. They aren’t creeps or vampires or monsters. The chances of them wanting to hurt others is incredibly low. Even when that is present, it might not be linked to the self-harm but to something deeper, like the cause of the self-harm or another psychological issue. If someone tells you that they’re cutting, it took a lot of courage, so listen to them and ask if there is any way you can help them. Who knows? Maybe you’ll save a life.

an encounter with light

Written in my journal in mid-February….

Today was beautiful. God is awesome, and I was reminded of that today. I am at InterVarsity’s winter conference.

The past week before coming here involved breaking down several times. I am seeing a counselor, and we discussed some deep things recently. Together, we reached the conclusion that panic attacks were no longer my biggest struggle. At one point, they were. But, at some point in time, another issue reached the forefront: repressed emotions. I have been repressing emotions for years. Some emotions come through the cracks but not always to their full extent, and sometimes they do not surface at all.

So, back to this particular week. I’ve been having a lots of little moments this week where bits and pieces would surface, and I would just start crying. I was not totally sure at the time what it was that needed released, but I knew that something needed to come out. I have been praying all weekend that whatever needed to be released could be released so that I wouldn’t go back to my college with the same buried issue. Tonight, though, I did not pray one of my normal, everyday kind of prayers. It was a cry out to the Living God. It was a plea for freedom from the very depths of my soul. It was a cry for the One who defeated death to break the chains that had me so trapped for so many years.

After a few minutes of that, this feeling of darkness washed over me, but it didn’t consume me. It was all the bad emotions I’ve suppressed over the years. It felt dark and cold and … broken. I felt the brokenness, the disconnect between what I felt and what life was originally designed to be before the entry of sin in the Garden of Eden. These feelings were accompanied by images of scenes where people hurt me and of other bad experiences that impacted my life greatly. It was terrifying. It was far worse than my worst panic attack. It was worse than hallucinations of monsters I’ve had in the past. It was real, raw emotions. It was like 10 years worth of pain and emotions, all at once. I was sobbing, and making that like wail-like sort of sound. Tears were pouring in rivers down my face, to my shirt, my lap, the floor… I was a mess. But, somehow, I was okay with that. I was at peace with all of it. I knew that God was there, and I knew my prayers were being answered. I knew that it would pass, and I had to let it happen. I knew that if I tried to stop it, then it would not accomplish fully its purpose.

But then, when the darkness was draining out, this light came flooding in, along with joy and hope and more peace than I ever thought was possible to exist. I am pretty sure I started laughing at some point, just because I couldn’t contain the joy that filled my entire being. I was shaking, to, because the amount of hope and joy and light and life…. my body couldn’t contain all of it.

May I never forget what happened tonight. May I always remember that He is the peace amidst the most scary thing I’ve ever known. Let me never forget that His light shatters the darkness, and the darkness cannot even attempt to fight back, because the light is too powerful. Fear and peace don’t have to be antonyms, and aren’t antonyms for those who place their hope and trust in Christ. I was terrified, but still at perfect rest.


What God did that night was a miracle. He worked through my hurt and my pain to do something beautiful. This, too, is a part of my story. And I cannot keep it hidden. What is written above was recorded in my journal (with some minor edits) on February 18, 2017. I have avoided telling my family and some people about it, but I shouldn’t do that. It is a story of how God works in broken places and it is now a part of my history.

getting that initial diagnosis: some days it will be hard and that is ok

A little about me… I am a college student with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypocholesterolemia, and some other medical stuff. Getting that first diagnosis is hard.

Getting that diagnosis is confusing. It made me wonder what the rest of my life would be like. I wondered how much it would affect me every day until the day I would die. I wondered how long I would live, and I caught myself googling the name of each diagnosis followed by life expectancy. I started reading other people’s stories and life hacks for managing these diagnoses. I read about all the diagnoses and the vitamins and supplements I was given.

Adjusting is also really hard, but I think the hardest part is managing all the emotions that come up. Confusion. Anger. Frustration. Fear. And then all the questions too: How do I deal with this? Why does my doctor seem to be so confused by these lab results? Which doctor do I go to next? Why did all those other doctors not understand this? Why did no one pick up on this when I was 11 and was tested for this then? Why me? Why now? Why can’t I do this the way I used to be able to?

Getting that initial diagnosis is hard, and it can be really confusing, especially when you know there is a missing piece that doctors do not understand. It is frustrating when you have to wake up at 6 to get up by 8. It is frustrating when you cannot play the piano on some days because your hands are too shaky. It is frustrating when you have to take breaks in sports practice and eat a ton of food – just to prevent passing out. And it might get better, but it might not. It might get better, but it might be hard every day, for the rest of your life. If you were looking for false hope, I am not giving it here. It’s pointless. It might not get better. But that’s ok. You might not be able to do things the same way, and maybe there will be missed opportunities. But that is ok.

We who have chronic illnesses have something that others do not. We can relate to each other. I have really strong bonds with others that have chronic illnesses, because we understand what it’s like to have to miss a class because of having a rough day and not being able to get out of bed until later. We also have beautiful stories. I could tell you about 400 different times that God spoke to me through the autoimmune disease and the other things. God works through us in unique and different ways. Our pain can be beautiful. Our testimony can lead others to Christ. Our weakness can show the strength of Christ within us.

So, to anyone who just got a scary diagnosis, it is going to be hard. You have a long journey ahead. But Christ gives strength! Trust Him, for He is painting a beautiful story that includes your pain and your weakness.

self-harm

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses self-hate and self-harm.

I first heard about cutting when I was 12 or 13. My initial reaction was “Wow, you must be really hurting to choose to hurt yourself.” But I had no idea. Even a week before I first hurt myself, I still could not understand why someone would choose that.

I did it because I wanted to try it. I wanted to do it once. So I did. I told myself I would do it once that I would just scrape the surface. Just once. Not bad. No more. I did not even totally realize why I wanted to do it. I thought about it some for a couple days before doing it, but it was more just deciding when and where to do it than anything else. If I had thought about it, if I knew why I wanted to do it, I think things might have been different. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The following is what I wrote in my journal the day I almost did it.

I want to hurt myself, but I just don’t have the courage to do it… I’m also scared that someone will figure it out… But tonight, I’m going to do some minor stuff, with a safety pin or scissors or something sharp. Just some scratches, and maybe a few drops of blood. So just a little but not too bad…

But I didn’t do it that night. The next day, I convinced myself that I wouldn’t do it that badly and that it would be ok. So then I did it.

I couldn’t help it.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t do much,….  Only had a few drops of blood and some scrapes. …  I’m sorry.  But it felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

The thing is, I did have a choice. I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t think through it. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. And I started a living nightmare. Right away, I caught a glimpse of what I started. The next day, I wrote this.

6:15 am. Last night… I did something crazy.  Something I never thought I’d actually do.  And then I tried justifying it, saying it wasn’t that bad.  And it wasn’t that bad, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt myself on purpose.  I took a safety pin and scraped my skin until it bled a little.  At first, I enjoyed it.  It felt good. But then, as I realized what I had just started, I just felt the pain of all the years built up,… and I was just shaking and wanting to cry but not able to really cry it out… I don’t want to do this again.

1:50 pm. What did I get myself into? … Was this worth it?  I’m afraid I started a chain reaction of events that will be rather difficult to stop… I want to do it again tonight.  It felt good last night, until it was over…

Each time for the first week or so, almost every single time was worse than the past times. In a sense, I was gaining confidence in self-harm. Each time, I told myself that it was not bad last time and that this time it would be ok to do a little worse. Over time, minor scrapes became shallow cuts. It was an addiction. I got started, and then it became harder to stop. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.

A couple weeks later, I wrote this…

People can look at my smile and think I’m ok.  And I am.  But maybe there’s something behind it – intense fear maybe – that most people don’t see.  And maybe, deep down, I’ve wanted them to see it all along.  And maybe, in those few moments that I revealed what I’m hiding, I discovered who I really am.  Yeah, I’m that “monster” that allowed herself to be controlled by the panic attacks…  But maybe, deep down, maybe I’m also the girl that just was waiting to be told she was beautiful.  Maybe I was waiting to be told that those words weren’t supposed to mean what they did.  Maybe I was waiting for someone to believe that I really was hurting.  Maybe the girl that everyone thought was crazy just wanted to be loved and understood.  Does that make sense?  Or am I that “monster”?

And then a few days later I wrote this…

To everyone that’s ever hated me, you were right.  I’m an idiot.  To everyone that’s ever told me I’d be better off dead, you were right.  I wish I hadn’t been born right now.  To everyone who has ever told me that I wasn’t worth it, you were right.  If I died then, I had like no friends so it would’ve been easier to say goodbye and I would hurt way less people…  To everyone that ever hurt me, I’ve been angry at you, but it’s ok now because I understand you.  I’m that obnoxious, annoying, stupid, worthless idiot that you always thought I was.  Thanks for being honest even though it hurt a lot.  It ruined my life in a way but it showed me how awful I really am.

These were my thoughts. I hated myself. But I just wanted to be heard, to be understood. I wanted to understand why someone called me a monster when I had a panic attack that I didn’t know how to deal with. I learned quickly to keep everything inside. And then when I hurt myself I initially only told one person and even doing that much was hard.

The next day, I wrote this, which was part of what made me really want to stop.

Right now, I just feel so empty inside.  I don’t know but I hardly know who I am right now…  I’ve been told to be myself, but sometimes I don’t even know who that is.

Self-harm caused me to question the very foundation of who I was. I was doing things I never thought I would ever do. I was on a roller coaster that alternated between doing ok and hurting myself.

Now, I haven’t hurt myself for a while. But I still struggle with it every day. I pray every day for the strength to get through the day without doing it. Some days are worse than others. A lot of the time, I see gory images of myself covered in blood with stab and cut wounds all over. In my head, that image is portrayed as good. I fight with all my might and pray just to convince myself that the image really is not good. I fight and pray every day to not hurt myself. A lot more friends know now, so I have a lot of people to turn to for help. Finding healing has not been an easy process, but it is going. With self-harm, seemingly minor victories are major accomplishments, because each victory takes so much courage. Each day that I stay strong is another victory. And I am learning that this too can be a part of the beautiful story of my life that God is writing. It is broken, but He is making into something beautiful.