Four Years of Freedom

I don’t really like to talk about self harm. Strangely enough I’d prefer to discuss pornography and the Church than talk about self harm.

Today, though, I get to celebrate four years of no self harm. So I’m going to talk about it. 

I have a difficult time being proud of that because there is always a little voice in the back of my head that tells me it is a dumb accomplishment. Every year I feel as if I’m able to conquer that voice just a little more and this year I’m shoving this blog post in its face because four years of no self harm is something to celebrate.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet, I used to be a self harmer. I had some dysfunctional family dynamics growing up that led to some unhealthy coping mechanisms. One was porn, which I’ve blogged about before, but another was self harm. Out of a place of utter desperation and frustration I used to cut myself. It is hard to even type that because it seems so irrational. Even as a former self harmer I have a difficult time explaining exactly why it helped. All I know is that it did. It was not healthy, but it got me through moments where I felt like I had no other choice.

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding self harm. The biggest one is that people self harm for attention. I hear a lot of people use this one when they see teenagers hurt themselves and it breaks my heart. Even if there is some truth, maybe it is time to give that hurting teenager positive attention, because if they need attention so badly that they resort to harming themselves then odds are there is a deeper issue.

Don’t just dismiss the deeper issue because someone is doing something for attention.

Another one is less of a stigma, more of an assumption. When I talk about self harm most people think it refers to cutting. In my case that is true. It is not, however, true in all cases. There are many other ways people hurt themselves and unfortunately a lot of them are easy to hide. Some people bruise themselves (“Oh, I just ran into a door”), others burn themselves (“Yeah, hurt myself baking again”), others pull out their hair, bang their heads into things, claw and pick at their skin, and a million other things that constitute self harm. Self harm is more than cutting.

So on the fourth anniversary of my sobriety, I wanted to bring attention to something that is very much a problem. I also wanted to share because I know there are strugglers out there who need to hear that they are not alone and that there is hope. I won’t lie and say that everything is perfect. There are moments where I feel like I am spiraling out of control and all I want to do is track down a knife and cope in my old unhealthy ways…but those days are few and far between, and thanks to the people in my life I don’t have to go through them alone anymore.

My biggest advice to anyone struggling, whether it is with self harm, pornography, or anything else that hinders your ability to find joy in life and brings you shame, is to reach out. Tell someone. E-mail a pastor anonymously, post it on an anonymous board, tell it to your dog, to your hamster, or if you’re brave tell it to a friend, an adult, a parent. The first step to learning how to cope in a healthy manner is this: Learn to cope with people, not alone.

As always, my e-mail inbox is open to anyone who needs to share: rdlenix@yahoo.com

Above all else I give thanks to God for being with me every step of the way. Here is to year five. 

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The Struggle

It sucks to know what is going on in my head while having no interest in fixing it.

Often times it is easier to succumb to the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, that I’m unlovable, that I’m annoying, that I’m a burden, than it is to constantly fight against it. It is easy to be cranky, to isolate myself, to tell the world to leave me alone because I can handle everything just fine on my own, thanks.

Yet it is in the fight that there is growth. It is when I grapple with these voices, these concepts, and these beliefs I hold about myself that I begin to see change. When I cease to blindly accept that I am worthless, unlovable, and annoying I find that underneath it all that I’m actually okay. The lies that I tell myself crumble under the slightest pressure and I feel freedom.

The struggle is still there, though. I went out with a friend tonight and we talked about the struggle. We talked about how, in the midst of all our issues, things seem so bleak and so uncontrollable. All we want to do is be on the other side of them, to be done with them, to be on to the next thing because the next thing just has to be better. We want to be on the far end looking back and admiring how we’ve grown.

It is funny because we both came to the conclusion that when we look back, odds are we’re looking back from a place of new struggle wishing that we were back struggling with the old things. There is always going to be a new struggle or a new lesson to learn. That’s just life, honestly. I’ll discover something about myself, put it into practice or do something about it, only to find myself in something deeper than I hadn’t realized before.

I find out how to cope in one environment and when I’m thrust into another suddenly I’m drowning in old temptations and struggle all over again.

That’s kind of the cool thing about life though: We never really figure out all the answers. I’ll figure out little bits and pieces about myself and understand more about my mind and how I function, but the moment I grasp that I seem to unlock a whole different level. People are like video games, except there is no final boss battle or kill screen. We just keep advancing to the next level and in the process get to turn around and help people out who are a few levels behind because we’ve been there, done that, and know all the secrets and cheats.

It is a process that I’m not particularly fond of, especially on days like today when I’m in the midst of a struggle to adjust to an entirely new situation…but I know in the end I’ll come out of it more refined than when I began.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28