Tag Archives: self-injury

Bullying: It Never Stops

26 Jul

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Once upon a time—in the late 90’s—I was sitting in math class at my Christian high school.  We had some free time so I was working on homework when a student in the back of the room began harassing me.  “You’re a lesbian, you know that?” he taunted.

One of his smirking friends joined in pointing out that I must be a lesbian because I didn’t have a boyfriend.  At least they didn’t call me ugly or fat—that day.

Finally, unable to stand it anymore, fighting back tears I told them to stop, which just encouraged them to continue their torment.  My teacher was standing at the front of the classroom, no more than 15 feet from where I was being verbally abused.  I looked straight at him and asked, “Aren’t you going to do anything about this?”

I’ll never forget his response.  It’s one I’ve heard used by educators, parents, and adults everywhere when they talk about bullying.  Dismissively, he said, “If you ignore them, they’ll stop.”

If you ignore them, they won’t stop. 

I know because I tried that, too.  The bullies only jeered more loudly.  Other joined in or laughed, while a few girls sometimes giving me pitying glances.

Back in those days I didn’t cry nearly as much as I do now.  I would hold it in knowing that they could never see you cry.  You can never let them see that they got to you.  I knew I would come home and drag a razor across my wrist or thighs or stomach and somehow that would release my pent up rage.  No one called it “cutting” or “self-injury” back then, just para-suicidal behavior.

Sometimes during middle school and high school, I imagined I would stand up and give an impassioned speech, which would change everything, like I was staring in some sort of Hollywood blockbuster.  I would tell them how much it hurt to be called names, to be pushed into my locker, and to be left out.  They would finally understand, apologize, and we’d all become best friends like on “Saved By the Bell” episode where Zack dated the fat chick.

I couldn’t wait to grow up because I thought there wouldn’t be bullies anymore, or at least I wouldn’t have to go to school with them every day.  When I became an adult or at least went to college everything, I assured myself that everything would be OK.

When I went to college, everything was OK.  I met and befriended real lesbians on campus and wondered what those immature high school boys would say about that.  I excelled in my classes, like I usually did, and felt secure in my environment of friends who accepted me.  Finally, I was part of the “in” crowd or maybe just in a crowd.

They (whoever “they” are) say that bullying is just one of those things kids do and the victims will survive.  Students just need to toughen up, educators say, because kids will be kids.

I wish I could say it still didn’t hurt.  I wish I could say the kid who made fun of my voice every single say in sixth grade science class hasn’t affected why I sometimes feel awkward when my voice is amplified over a microphone.  So many of these lies still rattle around in my brain and the lies have become my truth.  It is something God and me are working on together. 

The truth of the matter is that words do hurt.  The far reach of social media has made bullying even worse.  I recently watched a documentary called The Bully Project and I cried through much of it.  I couldn’t even watch the entire thing.  Emotions I thought long dead resurged.

Finally, it occurred to me that no matter where you are, what age you are, or what you do, there will always be bullies.  Work bullies, neighborhood association bullies, church bullies (who do it in the name of God), road rage bullies, mommy group bullies—and you know what?  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Frankly, I’m sick of bullies.  They’ve taken too much from me and I’ve let them.  I don’t have any deep answers on how to solve the bullying epidemic.  I don’t know how to make teens stop sending stupid text messages or posting ridiculous nonsense on Instagram or Snapchat.  All I know to do is to tell them over and over again the effects of bullying. I can’t change them, but I can change me.  I can stop giving their words meaning and move past the hurt they inflicted.

I refuse to be like my math teacher, who incorrectly told me they would stop.  They never stop.  Instead, I work with students as they deal with conflicts and teach them about who they are in Christ so the truth can overcome the lies, so the light of God can overcome the darkness

In this work, I have found redemption for my own middle and high school years eaten by the locusts.  There is healing in ministry—something that makes the scars bring forth His light. 

My junior year of high school was more than half a lifetime ago and I still remember the words of the students and my teacher.  I still feel the sting because I am human.  But I don’t let it consume me because I am redeemed.

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Imagine there’s no heaven.

21 Feb

John Lennon once famously asked his listeners to “imagine there’s no heaven.”  The song, “Imagine” has been played millions of times and sung at every “peace” rally since its inception. 

Imagine there’s no heaven.

For years, I sang along blissfully unaware of the lyrics, or I would just skip over the “religion” part.   After all, imagining all the people living life in peace is a wonderful notion.  Then again, from my reading of the Bible, that is Heaven—a place where there is no more war, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where every tear is wiped away, where the Prince of Peace sits on His throne, and all God’s people live in harmony with one another.  No more doctrinal wars, denominational divisions, and congregates complaining about the worship music.  Heaven is truly a life lived in the peace God intended us to have with Him before the Fall.

Some who don’t believe in God have used this song as sort of an anthem.  See all the wars that religions has caused, they scream.  See what you Christians have done in history, they yell.   Religion has caused great upheaval in history and sadly, many wars have been fought in God’s name.  I don’t deny that the Church has a bloody history, which is both sorrowful and shameful.  I wish that the history of the Church was defined by kindness, by being that lighted city on a hill, and that the beauty of the Gospel was the central message we preached (and to many, this is exactly how it is characterized by the lives and works of many amazing men and women).  Sometimes the loudest, brashest, most idiotic “Christians” make headlines while the Mother Theresa’s of the church are often ignored.

Despite the Church’s past failings, over which I have no control, I can’t imagine why I would want to imagine there’s no Heaven, or even worse, that there’s no God.  The thought of it makes me sick, as if someone ripped out my beating heart and screamed in my face, “You have no hope!”  Truly without God, there is no purpose for my life, no redemption for my failures, and no hope that there’s anything beyond this existence.  The aloneness I feel—that separation from that God Elisabeth Elliot so eloquently describes in The Path of Loneliness—would never be filled if God does not exist (though I imagine I’d feel nothing if the world was truly devoid of God, something I imagine only Jesus felt when He was forsaken by God at the cross).  Not only would I be hopeless, I would be truly and awfully alone, despite having a life surrounded by loved ones.  My umbilical cord to God would be severed and I would die from lack of nutrition.  Oh. My. God.  To truly imagine it is horror indeed.

There are times where I’ve been just about hopeless.  During one of these episodes, I considered strangling myself with a belt, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it.  Another time, I wanted to slash my wrists so I would bleed to death, but I just could not do it.  I used to suffer from suicidal ideation, where I would think of creative ways to die and fixate on them, yet I would only act these out through self-injury. 

A counselor once told me that I made it out alive because I never lost my hope, though at times it was waning, maybe even eclipsing.  Even when I could not see God, He was there co-mingling my hope with my faith…and I knew He was there.  A little voice (the Holy Spirit’s voice) screamed to me that I still had a purpose, that God would still use my life for His glory. 

I know what it is to imagine there’s no God.  I tried to do it for exactly 12 hours one day, and I was so tormented, I had to admit I believed in God.  I was just so angry at Him that I wanted to Him to stay far away from me, and for years, that was the weird ebb and flow to our relationship.  He never left me and I knew that.  That’s how I know He will never leave me, that His promise to be with me always is true.  And I believe that there’s a Heaven where I will dance forever in His warmth, our relationship fully restored because of the blood of Jesus.

Imagine there is a Heaven. Imagine there is a God who created you, who loves you, who wants to have a relationship with you…now that’s something to sing about.

Slammed by the YA Book: My Journey into Self-Injury

11 May

Growing up half a block from the local library is every kid’s dream come true.  Well, if that kid was an avid reader like me.  A few times a week—almost every day in the summer—I went to the library and paged through books by Aliki, Eric Carle, Beatrix Potter, and the rest of the authors that I loved as a child.  I took out as many books as my junior library card would allow and poured over the stories again and again.   I don’t know if I loved Eric Carle or Beatrix Potter more.

I got older and graduated into books like Bunnicula, The Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little, and of course, The Baby-sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin.  My goodness, I owned and read every single book in the series.  One day while cruising through the “young adult” section at the library, I found a book by my beloved Ann M. Martin called Slam Book.  Naturally, I checked the book out and began devouring it on my short walk home.

Slam Book is about a group of high school girls who make a “slam book”—a composition notebook in which students anonymously write [mostly mean] statements about one another.  It was Mean Girls before there was Mean Girls.  In retrospect, I have to admit the book is pretty lame, but as a middle school girl I knew two things—I hoped that the kids at my school would never make a slam book and if they did, that I never read it.

I felt particularly attached to one character, who was dumpy, unkempt, and the butt of many jokes.  I don’t remember the details, but as a result of the slam book, she commits suicide.  And it wasn’t just that she committed suicide—Martin laid out the graphic details, probably to elicit sympathy for the character.  However, I took it as a how-to guide.

A year and a half later, like the girl in the book, I took a shaving razor out of our bathroom closet and made diagonal cuts on my wrists.  I was 13 years old and thus began my lifelong struggle with cutting.  And until now, I have never been able to admit that I got the idea from a book—a book by Ann M. Martin called Slam Book.

True, I obviously had other problems going on in my life because there wasn’t a rampant outbreak of self-injury because of Slam Book (though I have noticed it’s out-of-print, probably due to its lack of revenue generation.) Initially, I was so offended by the book, I immediately returned it to the library, thrust it at the librarian, and told her that there was an upsetting suicide in the book.  I said there should be some sort of warning on the book and that girls my age should not have access to this supposed “young adult” reader, appropriate for ages 12 and up.  The librarian apologized and the book never graced the library’s shelves again.

Yet the idea never left my mind—how the character laid everything out so neatly in her bathroom to perform the perfect suicide.  Towels, warm bath, razor, note.  And, oh, how they lamented her death!  How they saw the error of their ways!  How they knew they mistreated her!  But it was too late.

It wasn’t too late for me.  If only I could elicit the same reaction without dying…if only…

Years later, I would learn in a socially conscious episode of “7th Heaven” that what I did was called “cutting” and it was becoming a problem.  Eventually, someone would form a group called To Write Love On Her Arms, high school counselors would go to seminars to learn how to address the “new teen bulimia,” and I would go to graduate school to help other girls who cut, just like me.  No one ever told me they got the idea from Slam Book, and maybe no one else did.  I hope no one else did.

There’s a delicate balance in place when young adult authors choose to address certain issues such as abortion, anorexia, rape, bullying, cliques, and the like, and probably more checks-and-balances in place now than in 1989 when Slam Book was published.  Still, YA authors need to remember they are writing books marketed not to adults (though many adults read YA), but to impressionable young teenagers.  If the book says for readers 12 and up, then authors better make sure they write age appropriate material for that audience.

Was it all Slam Book’s fault? Should I file a lawsuit against Ann M. Martin?  Do we need to have a Baby-Sitter’s Club book burning party?  Of course not.  I always had a choice.  I merely want to offer a cautionary tale that just because something can be written doesn’t mean it necessarily should be written.  There will always be impressionable teens out there that use YA books as a how-to guide for life, not to explore another reality.

Thanks to Andy at ReadingTeen.net for inspiring this topic.  This book review caused me to consider the responsibility that young adult authors have to their audience as well as the impact a book can have on a teenager.

This was originally published at BackseatReader.net.

For more on this topic, read Cutting//Emo//Hope//God and One Thing I Can’t Say in Church.

Cutting//Emo//Hope//God

6 Apr

Apparently this is supposed to be comical; I think it's sickening. Yet it's less offensive that a picture of an actual kid cutting herself and less heart-breaking.

This is actually a post I’m pulling over from my now defunct personal blog. It’s a couple of years old, but the message is still as true as the day I wrote it.

I was perusing the Internet to see what hip new resources are out there for “kids” who cut. There were a lot of superficial one-pagers on health sites offering “advice” for questions that kids who cut ask like, how do I stop cutting? Why do I cut? Where do I get help? and so on.

As a recovering cutter (we’re always recovering–it’s a long-life battle), I was a bit dismayed. There wasn’t a lot of great info out there for those who desperately need to know there’s hope–that, yes, you don’t have to use the razor tonight, feel ashamed when you wake up tomorrow, and feel that familiar sting as you clean the dried blood off your arms with antiseptic. Maybe you thought this was the time you cut so deep you wouldn’t wake up (or hoped you wouldn’t) or you wonder if a staph infection will set in and kill you outright. If you’re a cutter, recovering or active, know that there is hope tonight.

You can be His, bought with His blood, healed because of His wounds, and loved because He Is Love. He desperately wants to show you how beautiful you are, to care for you, and to heal you from this habit that’s taken over your life. All you have to do is ask. Let Him takes these crimson ashes of shame and trade them for a crown of beauty.

That being said, there are also a lot of mean people out there who think that cutting is some sort of hilarious joke. I’m 31 and started this deplorable practice when I was 14. I spent over half my life battling this demon that wants to tell me I’m not good enough, pretty enough, worthy enough–that I’m just not enough. There’s nothing amusing or “emo” about it, at least not for me.

True, cutting is sort of “trendy” these days, but back when I was in high school; it didn’t even have a name and no one knew how to treat it. Being one of the most difficult disorders to treat because cutting is the symptom of a deeper, darker issue, it’s a practice I wish teens would give up entirely. Don’t do it because your friends do it or to be emo or to write bloody poetry. When you turn 28, you’ll look at your scars with shame, wishing you could be that 14 year-old kid again–this time I’d throw the pink Lady Bic into the trash, and go on my merry way. But I realized that four years too late, and have wrestled with it since. I suppose if people want to mock, they can mock. I just hoped to enlighten their ignorance.

Another “trendy” thing for cutters to do is ban together and support one another by posting pictures and being “proud” of their cutting. In fact, I found one site that has a “cutting challenge” each week. You can post pictures. I moved right along to another sad, slightly sadder, where people would announce that they cut, the extent of the injuries, and that they were sad. Others would offer *hugs* and what not. Then a few days later, the same person would post the same comment and it would happen over and over and over again. A cycle of cutting, gratification, and cutting.

I don’t know who you are, why you cut, or how you wandered upon this post, but I am praying for you right now. I am praying that you fight the urge, find the strength, and maybe change the course of your life. Hope is just around the corner and love is right here waiting for you in a God who loves you and wants to heal ALL your wounds, not just the ones on the outside.

If you want to know God personally, here’s a link to help you get started. Or please feel free to e-mail me with any questions. Vulgar e-mails/comments will be ignored and deleted. I’ve also written a bit on this topic, including resources for parents and youth workers. Please e-mail me if you’re interested in any of these materials. Also, To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com) is a great place to find help and support.

One Thing I Can’t Say in Church

14 Oct

What is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?

When I first considered this questions posed by Anne Jackson (read BSW’s interview with Jackson) in her book, Permission to Speak Freely (read review), a dozen answers popped into my mind.  As I paged through the book, I encountered brilliant confessions—ones I wished I could be so bold to make.

Then I thought of my own—what was it that I couldn’t say?  What did I need to say?

At first, I thought I said everything that anyone had a right to know, but I found myself transformed by Jackson’s book.  I felt a burning in my chest and no peace of mind—not until I met with my small group Bible study and told them something I needed to confess.

I’ve been struggling with cutting since I was 14.

The ladies looked at me with shock, probably because I was so emotional.  I’m the Bible study leader and I have shared my testimony, so I wasn’t telling these women anything new.

“You’re not cutting now, are you?” asked one elderly lady.  I looked down at the band-aids on my wrists before answering.  I inhaled deeply.

Yes, I am.  I dissolved into a flood of tears and snot.  I told them I was embarrassed, that I should be a better leader, and I was afraid they would judge me.  Someone passed me a box of tissues and it was then I noticed that a few members were also crying.

There was not one look of judgment on anyone’s face—just compassion and understanding.

Because I try to be real with my Bible study about my life—because our group tries to be real with one another, I hoped I could share one of my darkest secrets with this ragtag group of saints. Fortunately, I was met with love and encouragement.  Oh, and they still want me to be their Bible study leader.  I am what Henri Nouwen calls “a wounded healer.”

But I can’t see your face.  You may react by praying for me (thank you), sending me a kind e-mail, or maybe just by saying, “Me too.”  Or perhaps you’d rather leave me a nasty comment, judge me on my faith or lack thereof.

Now that it’s “out there” I don’t feel the disgusting shame of hidden sin hanging over my head taunting me, telling me that I’m not good enough.  I can more clearly hear God tell me that I am His beautiful child, despite my scars, which He has covered with HIS BLOOD, not mine.

I’m so glad I allowed myself the permission to speak freely—will you give yourself the same liberty so you can find true freedom in God?

Take 5 with Lanae’ Hale

18 May

If Dolores from the Cranberries and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer ever merged into one person, that person would be Lanae’ Hale.  Born into a musical family, Lanae’ originally pursued a career in nursing before following God’s call to Nashville to share her love of God through music.  Not only did Lanae’ meet the love of her life, she found a home among the Centricity Records artist and releases her first album, Back & Forth, on May 19.

Through difficulty and despair, including  struggling with cutting in her teens, Lanae’ learned how her brokenness could be used by God for good. Lucky for us, Lanae’ talks about her story in Backseat Writer’s latest “Take 5”.  You can also check out my audio interview with Lanae’ coming soon at The Christian Manifesto.  On a personal note, I really like Lanae’ Hale, both musically and personally.  Her album is on permanent rotation here at Casa de Amy.

When I first heard your album, I thought, “Where did this girl and her amazing vocals come from?”  To get to know you better, I’d love to learn three interesting facts about Lanae Hale.

Note from Amy:: So Lanae’ forgot to answer this question; therefore, I’m going to choose three interesting things I learned about her while talking to her on the phone–her all-time favorite band is Death Cab For Cutie; she went grocery shopping on the day of the audio interview; and she wants to visit Chincoteague Island, VA with her husband because I told her how awesome it is! And I think she likes animals…but I’m not certain.

Your debut album, Back & Forth, is saturated with meaningful music from love songs to desperate cries to God.  What is the meaning behind the album’s title track “Back & Forth”?

Growing up in Florida, one of my favorite things to do was going to the beach just as the sun was setting. I’d climb up into the life guard stands to just watch and listen to the waves rolling in.  It was my time to be alone, to think and pray…to be alone with God.  Now living in Nashville, I think back on the beach and the time I used to spend there. I realize now how much “life” reminds me of the ocean.  Our lives are constantly in motion.  Some days are less chaotic then others, but a lot of the time we have those waves that are constantly crashing, and just like life, sometimes it’s hard and it’s messy.  I’ve especially found that to be true when I take a stand and speak truth.  The second we, as believers, step out in faith we enter a war-zone and the enemy turns the heat up.  Satan gets SO mad when we are obedient to the call of Christ.  It seems like our lives are constantly fighting back and forth. During those times it’s so good to just hold tight to Jesus and never let go, because He is all we need to get through it.

I love your transparency, Lanae!  You share about your struggles with cutting as well as pill and alcohol abuse.  “If I’m Broken” seems to follow this theme.  Please share how you can to write this incredible song.

Yes, my life has been quite a roller coaster. I did struggle deeply with cutting.  I was never a party girl but I wanted so much just to escape my emotions, so along with cutting, I dappled a little with alcohol and sleep aids. Honestly, I wouldn’t say I was a pill popper or anything, but I would down about a half a bottle of NyQuil in the middle of the day so that I could just sleep my life away.  Needless to say, I was a pretty miserable person for a while there.

The song, “If I’m Broken,” was inspired by a prayer that I heard by a man who suddenly began to face life-threatening complications. The doctors couldn’t figure what was wrong with him and his family started to lose hope for his survival. But in the midst of chaos and possible death this man prayed, “Lord if I come out of this a whole man or a broken man, I am still your man!” WOW! I was SO moved by his humility.  I think looking at my own life and brokenness, I was deeply challenged by this prayer. I think we are all called to give to the Lord our whole life, even the broken and scared parts. I want to be able to pray that kind of a prayer even in the face of death and tragedy.

Like you, I also have a history of self-injury—long before I ever heard the term “cutting.”  For a long time, that was a very difficult thing for me to talk about with others, especially Christians.  There are a lot of girls who struggle with cutting that will read this Take 5—what would you like to say to them?

Wow…I guess I would say to NEVER give up! This world wants us to believe that we are insignificant and easily replaceable, but the TRUTH is we matter to the God of the universe! I started realizing the worth that I had when I read Psalm 139.  It is full of the truth about how God sees us and what he thinks about us.  I would encourage anyone struggling with self worth to read Psalm 139 and Psalm 147:3.  These verses changed my life and my view of love forever!!!

Not only do you talk about the difficulties, but you write songs to the love of your life—your husband, Josh!  What is one of your favorite love songs on your album?

Ahhhhh, I LOVE talking about my husband!!! He is my very best friend!  I couldn’t have asked for a better husband and I tried to express that by writing the song, “Let’s Grow Old Together”.  Honestly, I tried but words really couldn’t express how amazing he is and how much he means to me!

Post on Cutting :: Secret Under the Sleeve

26 Aug
I know that cutting isnt limited to teens, but I made this image for an article on Backseat Writer and thought it would be appropriate.

I know that cutting isn't limited to teens, but I made this image for an article on Backseat Writer and thought it would be appropriate.

I haven’t written about one of the topics close to my heart in a while–cutting and self-injury. Truth be told, it’s not a particularly easy topic for me to cover. There’s always that lion of temptation that haunts me even now, so I do have to be careful how much time I devote to writing about cutting (writing, as opposed to talking, is especially tricky because writing is a solitary activity).

Recently, one of my former professors, Dr. Phil Monroe, asked me to write a post about cutting for his blog, Wise Counsel. Since Dr. Monroe encouraged me in my writing while at seminary, I was honored to provide an informative post, which you can check out here– On the Problem of Cutting :: Secret Under the Sleeve.

When I wrote about cutting a few months ago here on Atypical Musings, I had no idea that the post would have such an extraordinary response. “Cutting//Emo//Hope//God” wasn’t a particularly eloquent post, nor do I feel it was one of my best. However, it’s been read more than even my musings on Hannah Montana, imagine that!

It saddens me to know that there are still so many girls (and guys) out there wrestling with razor blades on their wrists. There are a ton of books and websites dedicated to this topic, but a lot of them seem to address the symptom (the cutting) and not the deeper issue (the reason behind the cutting). However, just dealing with cutting on its own and ending self-injurious behavior is a battle. I’d considering ways I can help share my own story with others, be an encouragement, and perhaps put my writing to good use. Please keep this in prayer if you are so inclined, but also pray for the thousands of teens who will cut themselves today–pray that they make the choice to stop and to get help.

Cutting//Emo//Hope//God

14 Apr

Apparently this is supposed to be comical; I think it's sickening. Yet it's less offensive that a picture of an actual kid cutting herself and less heart-breaking.

I was perusing the Internet to see what hip new resources are out there for “kids” who cut. There were a lot of superficial one-pagers on health sites offering “advice” for questions that kids who cut ask like, how do I stop cutting? Why do I cut? Where do I get help? and so on.

As a recovering cutter (we’re always recovering–it’s a long-life battle), I was a bit dismayed. There wasn’t a lot of great info out there for those who desperately need to know there’s hope–that, yes, you don’t have to use the razor tonight, feel ashamed when you wake up tomorrow, and feel that familiar sting as you clean the dried blood off your arms with antiseptic. Maybe you thought this was the time you cut so deep you wouldn’t wake up (or hoped you wouldn’t) or you wonder if a staph infection will set in and kill you outright. If you’re a cutter, recovering or active, know that there is hope tonight.

You can be His, bought with His blood, healed because of His wounds, and loved because He Is Love. He desperately wants to show you how beautiful you are, to care for you, and to heal you from this habit that’s taken over your life. All you have to do is ask. Let Him takes these crimson ashes of shame and trade them for a crown of beauty.

That being said, there are also a lot of mean people out there who think that cutting is some sort of hilarious joke. I’m 28 and started this deplorable practice when I was 14. I spent half my life battling this demon that wants to tell me I’m not good enough, pretty enough, worthy enough–that I’m just not enough. There’s nothing amusing or “emo” about it, at least not for me.

True, cutting is sort of “trendy” these days, but back when I was in high school; it didn’t even have a name and no one knew how to treat it. Being one of the most difficult disorders to treat because cutting is the symptom of a deeper, darker issue, it’s a practice I wish teens would give up entirely. Don’t do it because your friends do it or to be emo or to write bloody poetry. When you turn 28, you’ll look at your scars with shame, wishing you could be that 14 year-old kid again–this time I’d throw the pink Lady Bic into the trash, and go on my merry way. But I realized that four years too late, and have wrestled with it since. I suppose if people want to mock, they can mock. I just hoped to enlighten their ignorance.

Another “trendy” thing for cutters to do is ban together and support one another by posting pictures and being “proud” of their cutting. In fact, I found one site that has a “cutting challenge” each week. You can post pictures. I moved right along to another sad, slightly sadder, where people would announce that they cut, the extent of the injuries, and that they were sad. Others would offer *hugs* and what not. Then a few days later, the same person would post the same comment and it would happen over and over and over again. A cycle of cutting, gratification, and cutting.

I have a book here on my desk called Hope and Healing for Kids Who Cut by Marv Penner. It’s due out next month and I’m supposed to write a review for Backseat Writer. I hope Penner won’t let me down and I’ll have a great resource I can recommend others that will offer good insight, real advice, and not the usual cookie cutter answers. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, dears, please know that I don’t know who you are, why you cut, or how you wandered upon this post, but I am praying for you right now. I am praying that you fight the urge, find the strength, and maybe change the course of your life. Hope is just around the corner and love is right here waiting for you in a God who loves you and wants to heal ALL your wounds, not just the ones on the outside.

If you want to know God personally, here’s a link to help you get started. Or please feel free to e-mail me with any questions. Vulgar e-mails/comments will be ignored and deleted. I’ve also written a bit on this topic, including resources for parents and youth workers. Please e-mail me if you’re interested in any of these materials.

When Cutting Comes to Church

15 Feb

By Amy Sondova, M.A. When Cutting Comes to Church: A Guide for Youth Workers is a manual for youth workers who are working with students who self injure. Because cutting still remains largely a female problem, this manual addresses it as such. To get receive a PDF copy of this manual, When Cutting Comes Home: A Guide for Parents, or the research paper that started it all, Razorblade Confessionals, please e-mail me at amy@backseatwriter.com.

An excerpt from WHEN CUTTING COMES TO CHURCH:

It happened my first week as the youth ministry intern in the summer of 2001. Clara, then 15, a girl I had known for several years, approached me and asked if she could come over to my house and chat with me. Because I had been close to her family since they moved to Allentown, I was excited about the prospect of hanging out with Clara. I babysat Clara and her sister, when they were younger and now I house sat for the teenagers when their parents went on trips. Clara knew me during those turbulent teenage years and she knew my testimony as a recovering cutter.

Clara sat on my Lazy Boy recliner. Petite in stature, she looked lost as she sat with her legs crossed Indian style. Her long hair framed her face and hung past her buttocks. She was a very attractive girl, I noticed, and she looked at me with clear, liquid brown eyes and bluntly said, “I think I’m gay.” Unprepared for such a statement, I kept my composure and explored the topic. True, she had engaged in a lesbian relationship that never directly involved intercourse, but did that make her gay? “Boys just make me feel icky,” she said. “I feel like girls understand me so much better. Amy, you used to be into self-mutilation? I know I can trust you with this. I’m a cutter.” I looked at her pretty face, and wanted to cry. I watched her grow up. I put her to bed when her parents went out. I cared about her. I saw the melancholy torture in her eyes and I knew that she was serious. If Clara was a cutter, who else growing up right in front of me was also cutting?

Over the months and years that followed, more students let me in on their dark, little secret. During one pre-dawn conversation on the high school winter retreat, Julie, 15, told me that she had tried cutting a couple times.

Then another girl, Martha, 16, who I had been counseling, showed up to youth group with mysterious bandages on her wrist. Since I was giving her a ride home that night, I asked her if she had cut. She admitted that she did. The number of students, both male and female, continues to rise dramatically. More often than not, a trusted youth worker knows about a student’s cutting before her parents do.All of a sudden, one of your students has come to you with her horrible secret, or perhaps you found out from someone else, or saw the scars on her lovely, youthful arms. There is hope. God has put this child into your life in this specific time and this place. Because you are her youth worker, entrusted with the responsibility of shepherding a teenager, you are capable of helping her. Come with me on a journey of hope, and let us enlist the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our journey. Remember, this is not a dark end, but a new beginning.

Please Note: If you want plan on using more than ten copies of this manual, please obtain permission from the author at amy@backseatwriter.com.

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A Thread of Reality or a Thin Veil of Madness?

22 Jan

I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself in the place where you have a choice to hold onto a thread of reality or go stark, raving mad.  Suddenly, the thin veil between the two is torn, and you have a choice.  You can feel yourself slowly slipping away, and you know if you don’t hold on to something, whatever that something is, you will eventually lose your mind.  It is indeed a scary place to be.

This is where I found myself in the Fall of 2004.

I’ve alluded to my struggles with mental illness in my blog, but never told the story…not really.  Oh, I have plans for my story!  A book!  Then the whole world will know and I will no longer have to feel ashamed that I am mentally ill because I proved that I could still make something out of my life.  The problem is the book is still forthcoming and only exists as scribbles here and there.  The truth is that the story is still unfolding, even now, even in this moment.

What truly holds me back in many areas of my life is shame.  I am ashamed that I couldn’t handle life, ashamed that I have a Master’s degree in counseling of all things, ashamed of what happened in Fall of 2004.  I can show compassion to those who suffer with anxiety, depression, post-trauma stress disorder, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.  I can consult with others on self-injury, bipolar disorder, and offer cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.  Yet strangely, it is hard for me to show compassion to myself.  More than ever I realize the wisdom of my counseling professors who advised every counselor to also receive counseling.  It makes me feel less alone.

I want to tell my story, at least in part.  But I can’t.  Not tonight.  Not right now.  But I will leave you with this–my diagnosis.  Major Depression.  Anxiety. Complex Post-Traumatic Disorder.  I am more than a depressed, anxious, traumatized young woman, but I’m afraid that when people look at me, all they will see is my diagnosis.  I guess because that’s all I  sometimes see when I look at myself.

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