Wounds that Heal
By: Ashley Tolbert
I remember hearing stories in high school about self-mutilation and wondering how someone could do that to her own body. It made no sense. My immediate conclusion was that it had to be for attention. What else could drive a person to do such a thing? I also remember knowing that something like that would never be a problem for me. I was too strong to ever resort to hurting myself, or so I thought.
I remember the first time like it happened yesterday. I stood in the shower, staring at the razor in my hand, terrified and empowered at the same time. With one quick slash to my upper thigh, I felt strangely in control. One would think a cut that deep would hurt. But honestly, I remember no pain. All I knew was that, for a moment, my emotional pain was silenced. I didn't think about my father dying in a hospital bed or that the man I was going to marry told me he didn't love me anymore. I simply watched my own blood spiral down the drain, hoping that somehow my emotional pain would vanish as well. It didn't.
I grew up in a loving, Christian home. Both of my parents are credentialed ministers and while we were never rich growing up, my older sister and I never wanted for anything. God always provided for us.
At a young age my mother began to teach my sister and me that our bodies were special; a temple of the Lord that should be treated with respect. She instilled truth which said we are God's beautiful design and that He loves us just the way we are and as true as that is, the world wants to tell girls a different story. It wants girls to believe they are only as beautiful as the clothes they wear and are only as important as their boyfriend's think they are. I was 12 when I began to believe those lies.
A series of tragic events happened to my family and to me personally and I gave in to that lie which said I wasn't pretty enough, smart enough, or good enough. Throughout middle and high school I learned to suppress my feelings of inadequacy and mask them with my outgoing personality. I was the "funny" girl - the class clown everyone counted on for a good laugh. No one, not even my family knew just how broken I was on the inside.
After completing my first year in college I found the man of my dreams - the one I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Finally things began to even out for me emotionally. Just when I thought my life was turning out to be something good, the bomb dropped and within a matter of weeks the life I thought was mine shattered!
Trying to cope with the near loss of my dad as well as the most important guy in my life became too much for me to deal with. Instead of turning to my Heavenly Father for strength, I took comfort in the deceiving peace I found in a razor blade.
Like most people, I suppose, who deal with addictions I tricked myself into believing I was helping myself - that I needed to do this and without it I wouldn't survive. But God knew better! He sent people into my life who invested in me, who recognized my need for help but never judged me. Yet it wasn't until I reached out for help that the true recovery began. I realized after taking a paper clip to my leg in the bathroom at work that I was in desperate need of help.
I began seeing a Christian counselor twice a week and while recovery was slow and at times almost unbearable, opening up to someone godly and trustworthy was an absolutely essential part of the healing process. Through months of counseling and with the help of people who love me enough to hold me accountable and, of course, by the grace of God I am free from my addiction to cutting. God used significant other people in my life to help me through some very dark days.
If you or someone you know is headed down this path of self-destruction and you feel there is no other way to make the pain stop, may I encourage you today. We serve a God of deliverance who understands any and every hurt you are experiencing far better than we as humans can.
Remember the simple childhood song "Jesus Loves Me"?
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.
Now when I feel emotionally drained and out of control I remember that control is not mine in the first place. It's God's. He is in control of my life and I have never been more thankful. For when I am weak, He is strong.
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you"
(1 Peter 5:7, NIV).
Steps that Heal
- Talk to a close friend or relative, someone you can trust and who can assist you in finding the help you need.
- Find a Christian counselor or therapist. As uncomfortable as talking to a stranger may be, an unbiased party is always a good sounding board. A pastor can fill this role as well.
- Choose one or two people to be your accountability partners. These people will help to keep you on the road to recovery. They are the ones you can contact if ever you feel the temptation to harm yourself in any way.
- Find an activity you enjoy that you can do either on your own or in a group such as reading, sports, jewelry making, running ... something fun that you enjoy and that can occupy your time and relieve stress or pressure.
- Make daily prayer a habit. When times get tough, you have to be strong in your faith, leaning on the Lord to help you through. This is something your parents, counselor, Girls Ministries leader, and accountability partners can help you with.
"...By his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)