I work with people who struggle with mental illness and addiction. In one of my groups this week, one of my clients who has struggled with addiction for most of her life was talking about the difficulty of trying to stay sober everyday. She has almost 30 days clean and she talked about how sometimes she will go into the place where they hold AA and NA meetings and she won’t leave all day long because if she walks out the door she will use. She has come a long way in the short time she’s been in our program and she said something that really stuck with me this week. She said, “My worst days sober are still so much better than my best days using”. I think that I could relate to that because, although I have never been addicted to drugs, I have lived in a world where I had an addiction and I was filled with despair and hopelessness. My addiction was cutting, and the despair and hopelessness was fueled by the knowledge that I would never be good enough.
I cut for the first time when I was in 6th grade. I remember the day very clearly. It was a Saturday, I had a friend who had spent the night on Friday night and sometime late Saturday morning she went home. I had gotten in a fight with my mom, I don’t remember what we fought about but this wasn’t an uncommon thing. I was stubborn (still am) and liked to do things my own way (still do). After the fight with my mom, I called and talked on the phone with my friend about wanting to kill myself, she didn’t believe me. I don’t think I believed me either. I had to clean the kitchen that day, I was cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes, I took an kitchen knife and slid it across my wrist. It hurt. It was just a scratch. I did it again, another scratch. The cuts were very superficial, barely breaking the skin, but it was my secret, something I had control over. When I went to school on Monday I showed my friends. They were worried and scared. They showed me a lot of attention and told me how important I was to them. I liked the attention. It fueled my desire to do it more.
It didn’t take long for this to be how I coped with everything. My mom used a straight razor to cut my dad’s hair. I conveniently would take 1 or 2 out of the box and keep them with me or hide them in my dresser drawers. I had one with me at all times. When something would go wrong in my life, no matter how small, it became an excuse to cut. Bad grade on a test, cut; fight with friends, cut; woke up in a bad mood, cut. It wasn’t long before it became old with my friends and they weren’t giving me that attention I wanted, so I kept cutting and didn’t say anything. It still felt like it gave me a sense of power and control in my life I didn’t have anywhere else.
At times when I felt like things were really bad, fights with my mom, fights with my friends, I couldn’t wait to get home and get out my razor blade and cut. I craved putting the razor to my skin. I craved the sens of release that would come when the blood would start flowing. I would have times I would black out and not remember cutting. I rarely cut in nice uniform rows, most often they were chaotic. I would just run the razor blade over my skin over and over every which way, no order, not caring, it was a release of emotion. And then, I would have an emotional crash, and I would sleep.
This was my life day in and day out. The smallest things would push my buttons and I would have a reason to cut and I would find a reason or make a reason. I would manipulate situations and people so I would have a reason to cut. I didn’t know any other way to cope and I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling. As I got older and into high school I became more and more hopeless. The secret I was hiding about my cutting, ugly scars that were materializing all over my body, and the shame and guilt that was building within was fueled by daily seminary lessons on living a life of morality. Weekly Sunday school lessons and young women’s teachings about integrity, faith, accountability, living by church standards, and dying inside because I really didn’t know how to do these things. I wasn’t made to be this way. I knew with every fiber of my being I would NEVER measure up to the standards that were set for me.
I tired and tried every day to be the person I was “supposed” to be. I tried so hard, I read the Book of Mormon, and tried to understand and feel something. I didn’t, I thought “There must be something wrong with me.” Every time I tried harder it would drive me deeper and deeper into depression.
I was so lost and alone. I was so broken, I had no sense of who I was or where I belonged. The harder I tried to draw near to this god that my religion taught me about the more broken and hurt I felt. Who was I? Why would God want me? I had no desire to be the person that the Mormon church taught me I should be. I remember being in high school and laying in my bed and truly feeling hopeless. I remember thinking “I will never be enough. I can never do enough, so why even try?” I know that it is only by the grace of God that I made it to where I am today. If God had not put Brian in my life in high school I’m not sure I would have made it.
Just after Brian and I started attending a Christian church, God began to do a lot of healing in our lives. We became pregnant with child 3. This was one of the points that was leading us to divorce. Brian didn’t want any more kids. I did. It was a topic that wasn’t even up for discussion, and although I became pregnant earlier than we had planed, we were excited. When I was 7 months pregnant I tore my meniscus. In high school I had torn my ACL and never had it repaired. So at 8 months pregnant, I had knee surgery. Before Christ this would have caused me to have a mental break down and sent me into a tail spin. I would have felt worthless and hopeless and that I couldn’t do anything right. Kassidy was 3 1/2 weeks early but completely healthy. My knee surgery went well. I didn’t cut. When Kassidy was about a year old we found out we were pregnant again. I did go into a bit of a tail spin with that. We didn’t plan to have any more children. Being pregnant with Kassidy was hard on my body and I had toxemia. But Brian was my rock and reminded me that God was in control and we just needed to trust Him. I became very sick, my blood pressure was so high they had to deliver Aspen 2 months early. I didn’t blame myself or have a break down. I handled this time in my life well. Especially for being someone who struggled with depression and coped with life by cutting.
Within the next 4 years there were many more struggles and major life changes that in the past would send me into a compete mental break down. It is only by the true grace of God that I am alive today. Things sill go wrong. I still have struggles. Sometimes it is the smallest things that I struggle with but I always remember that God is in control, I am already forgiven, and I am enough. If I keep my focus on Christ then no matter what is thrown my way I can manage. John 10:10 NLT says “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” It is Satan that fuels my fire when I am having struggles. When I trust in God and remember He is in control it doesn’t make the hard times go away but it makes them a lot easier to manage.
Every time I think back to where I came from and where I am today, I am truly in awe. God’s hand print is on my life. There is no way I would be here if it weren’t for God wanting me here. I still get overwhelmed with life sometimes. This week the littlest of things have been my struggle. I dropped my phone in the toilet. I have lost my wallet. I have some things at work I’m struggling with and some things in my personal life I’m working through. And this week God took my Love, My rock the thing that is tangible away from me and I had to stop and really pause and rely on God. Brian had training out of town this week and although I talked to him on the phone, it was hard. Remember, I threw my phone in the toilet, my communication with Brian was limited because I didn’t have MY phone. We couldn’t text or talk like we normally do. What amazes me is the same thing 15 years ago would have caused me to have a complete break down. I would have cut, binged and purged, and made him feel guilty about being out of town for his job and having a good time. I am so grateful that God has brought me to place where HE is my rock, my sanctuary, my refuge. God is my safe place.
I’m just a small town girl… Living in the world. My hardest days with Christ are far better than my best days with out Him!