Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dealing With Self-Harm

There's only a certain level of pain we can take. And, though Christ gives us super-natural strength, sometimes we fail to realize it. For many, self-harm has been an escape, and a way to control the things in our lives that seem to be out of control. If you've used this as a way of dealing with the pain, I hope the following testimony from one of my classmates, Joel, encourages you as much as it encouraged me.

My name is Joel. My testimony is typical for the most part. I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents. I’ve gone to church every Sunday for as long as I can remember. I’ve gotten straight A’s in school and I love to work hard at everything I do. I love music and want to study it in college. I sing on the worship team at my church and go to Bible study every Wednesday night. Before three years ago all these things would have only been half the story. While true, it would have only been the good looking truth. One thing I’ve learned over the past several years is that while all truth is good, not all truth is good looking.

Looking at my life now you probably would not have been able to guess that, three years ago, I was deeply depressed and heavily into cutting. There were times where I didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time and any positive things in life seemed to have completely disappeared. I couldn’t tell how many times I’ve cut if I wanted to, it happened so often. I never understood why people hurt themselves until I became one of them, and even now I still couldn’t give a 100% definitive answer if I wanted to. What I can do is share my experiences and give my testimony.

It had started after an argument with my parents and siblings, what seemed to be the worst argument I had ever had. The feeling of being completely alone and hated was what drove me to do it. The truth was that I had so much stuff I wasn’t dealing with, and had not dealt with, that I had allowed myself to get to this point. It felt impossible that things could get worse. Suicide seemed extreme, so cutting for me, was a last resort alternative. I didn’t think there was anyway I could be feeling as bad as I was without being physically hurt. I remember thinking to myself at one point, “All this pain can’t just be emotional. I feel like I’ve been beaten or something, c’mon where are the bruises? Where am I bleeding to be feeling this bad.”

One of the reasons I was also cutting was because I was so hurt and angry at everyone around me, I wanted them to feel just a small fraction as bad as I was. I could never have hurt anyone physically, but I knew they cared about me. So by hurting myself, someone that they cared for, I would be hurting them. I want to pause for a second and say to those people who want to play down depression, and say that it’s just a person acting out or a phase. You are living in an ignorant reality. It is very real and lots of people deal with it. Some are people that you would never expect to deal with it because they hide it so well. Depression can’t ever really be fully understood until someone has gone through it. Someone could have literally handed me a new car or a million dollars and I wouldn’t have been happy with it. It was so much more than just a consistent pessimism. Waking up in the morning and wishing my life was over is just a small way to describe how “life” was then. It stayed like this for more than 7-10 months. I started drinking on a regular basis thinking that it would help numb the pain. I didn’t think it could get much worse because cutting was my last resort. I thought living in constant pain was just how life was going to be from then on out. Then there was a breaking point. I’m not sure if there was any one thing that triggered it, but I guess I just got tired of living in constant pain.

Suicide started to seem more and more like an escape. I didn’t know how to feel anything other than pain and it got to the point that I didn’t even want to feel that anymore. My dad, being an pastor, works as a counselor to people who want to commit suicide all the time. So the idea of suicide wasn’t anything new. I understood the whole “think of all the people you’ll hurt” angle and at that point I couldn’t have cared less. As I sat in my room with a gun on my bed, I got onto Facebook to say goodbye to all my friends. Then a friend started talking to me. I told him what was going on and what I planned to do. He begin to tell me how much God loved me. He said he had a friend that committed suicide and it really hurt him. He said that he, and all the people at youth loved me, and he asked me to not do it. I can remember God saying to me at that point, that it was decision time. It was the most conflicted I can ever remember being. All I could do at that point was weep and cry out to God. The beauty of being so low is that you have God to carry you all the way up to where He wants you to be. That night was the night that Satan and depression lost their control over my life.

After that night, I began to turn my life around. I started to see all the little things that God had done in my life. At the same time, I noticed all the changes He had made during that dark time in my life. Before that time in my life, I didn’t know what it meant to rely on God. I couldn’t comprehend having a personal relationship with God. Those things changed after all those negative experiences. Not to say that God made it happen by any means, but I do believe that God took what satan intended for evil and used it to bring my life around to where he wanted it. I can stand here and say that God allowed me to be broken down, not because He’s an evil, vindictive God. But because I was so stuck in a false relationship with Him, while living for myself, I wouldn’t have found Him any other way. He outwitted satan and brought me to the point I’m at now.

For the longest time afterwards I felt relieved that God had saved me, but I wanted the past to stay in the past. It’s so easy to get ashamed over cutting as I had. As my relationship with God grew, so did my understanding to the extent of which I was able to share my story. I had felt ashamed, but only because satan put that fear in my mind in order to keep me from talking. Satan knows that there’s power when things are brought to light and that was one thing I still hadn’t fully grasped. It took up until now for me to realize that I could do so much more harm to others by not speaking up. I want to emphasize that I don’t think that I can do anything. Anything that is done, is done by God through me. I didn’t have anybody speak to me about cutting and if I had than I probably would be telling you a different story. My biggest prayer and my vision is that I’d be able to share the hope of Christ that I’ve found, with people who don’t know that life gets better. To tell others that are dealing with cutting and depression, that life can be hard and life can kick you down, but to relate God’s love to them in a personal way. So often people stop short at just relating to other’s pain and not sharing the good news of Christ. We were put on this earth to bring God’s love to the hurting and hope to the hopeless. I’m here today because I realized that I couldn’t do that by staying silent and I pray you won’t either.

This brings me to today and what God has laid on my heart. Over the past several months God put it on my heart to try and reach those that were dealing with self-harm and depression. After a lot of prayer, I decided to start a ministry to do just that called Scars of Faith. The mission of Scars of Faith is to show God’s love in a way that doesn’t judge, condemn, or hate. But in a way that will allow people to see God’s unconditional love for their life. Also to stop the lie that people are worthless by showing them that their value is found, not in what man says they are worth, but in what God’s says they’re worth. I’m really blessed to be joining with Arial Marsh and her ministry, Lions of God, in order to reach as many people as possible. I pray that you would help in anyway you can, wherever you can, by showing unconditional love to those who need it most.

Be sure to check out Joel's ministry, "Scars of Faith." I hope you're inspired to let Christ heal your pain, and let Him tell your story so that YOU can heal others. :) God bless.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

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Aimee said...

Wow Joel, thank you THANK YOU for sharing your story. I am checking out your Facebook page and blog. This ministry is going to be so beneficial to so many teens.

Megan Brickley said...

Wow, this is inspirational. I'm sure that you are going to reach out to the masses through your story.

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