Tag Archives: self-harm

#TakeCare – When It Feels Impossible

For the longest time, the idea of taking care of myself was an anathema to me.

I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do something nice for me – and I found it acutely painful when someone reached out with an act of care or words of comfort.

I just didn’t feel I deserved it.

I didn’t feel I deserved to be liked – and I certainly didn’t deserve the luxury of eating or taking care of myself.

The hatred I had towards myself and my body was unlike I’d ever experienced – it was visceral and violent. And the only way I could manage the intense feelings was by cutting myself or making myself sick.

Both the self-harm and eating disorder served the same function – to manage the unmanageable – to make the mysterious emotional pain, tangible.

I used to wonder, as I watched the scars heal, whether something inside me could be healing in tandem.

It was bundle of contradictions, even then.

I was consumed with shame – but the only way I knew how to deal with the shame was to hurt myself.

I believed God forgives sins – but I couldn’t count myself among the forgiven.

And then, still in the depths of self-destruction, I went to Bible College.

Before I went, I made a strange decision to be myself. I decided I wasn’t going to hide behind a facade – but be honest about who I was and how I was feeling. I fully expected to be hated and disliked. I’d convinced myself that those who loved me did so out of duty.

The problem was, people welcomed me, they became my closest friends.

It turned my worldview on its head.

And yet I still lived under my own tyranny.

Until eventually, I began to loosen my grip on my self-destruction and cereal eating.

With the support and encouragement of my friends, I began to take care of myself.

Small ways at first; making sure I got out in the fresh air once a day, eating more in small increments.

The small increments grew; I started to eat more healthily, exercise gently.

It took a long time to get anywhere near something which looks like recovery, the thoughts have remained, but life became a better option than death.

Quite simply, I let the community around me love me back to life.

As they cared for me; drying my tears and  encouraging my faltering steps, I began to take care of myself.

I glimpsed something of a God who cared more than I could imagine through the acts of care I received from my friends.

And so this week in particular, I want to encourage you, reading these words, to take care of those around you who are struggling.

And to those of you who are struggling – hold on – and let those who love you take care of you.

For more information on self harm and where to get help- check out http://www.selfharm.co.uk

UThis post first featured on //www.threadsuk.com

Responding to Self-Harm #TakeCare

It’s seen as something attention seeking teenagers do.

It’s seen as a preserve of the ‘mentally ill’.

It’s seen as a passing phase, perhaps as ‘nothing serious’.

And yet.

It’s the leading cause of death for  adults between 20 and 24 according to a recent Lancet Commission report.

Self-harm is killing people.

And it’s important to note here, that these are not people who were necessarily trying to take their own lives.

Self-harm is not suicide.

Self-harm is a coping mechanism, a way to manage unspeakable pain in a tangible way.

People at the very beginning of adulthood are dying as they try to navigate their lives.

We can suggest countless reasons why young people in their twenties are self-harming; the pressures of debt, lack of affordable places to live, dissatisfaction, not to mention rising rates of mental illness.

Self-harm doesn’t stop as soon as people turn twenty, but all too often the sources of support seem to. From living amongst friends in university houses with student support and student pastors available to talk to, entering the workplace with a boss and navigating the career ladder can feel incredibly isolating.

How can we even begin to respond?

There is no easy answer, no one size fits all response which will remind  people that their lives are valuable and that they are valuable. Medication and mental health service input might be required, better systems of support and learning coping mechanisms are vital   but more than that; space, community and vulnerability are needed.

Space before God to understand who they are without the labels of ‘young person’ or ‘student’. Communities in which they can work out life in a safe place, and vulnerability to learn that no one is perfect, no one is sorted.

Recovery, of any kind cannot be done in isolation.

We cannot let a generation of struggling young people turn into adults who can see no solace outside of scars.

We need communities to remind us that all solace comes from a God who, through His Son was prepared to bare His scars.

By His Wounds… Guest post by Kadash

I hate it when you go to those church services where people pray for each other and then they fall over. Why would you fall over praying? That’s just stupid. At least, I thought so but then one day it happened to me. I fell over.

How did I end up falling over? I had gone to one of those ‘prayer and healing’ services to see what happened. I’ve been a Christian all my life but still, I was sceptical of healing ministries. I was in a good mood that day, the sun was shining and I felt quite happy. But as I was praying I felt as though I should go forward and be prayed for. So I did. They asked me if there was anything I needed prayer for and I said “No, not really. Just pray for me please.” I shut my eyes and prayed and they held a hand up and prayed for me. In theory I was praying for my future, for guidance, but in reality I was just trying to hide from my past.

I can’t speak for others, but my story of self-harm started shortly after a traumatic break up with my then girlfriend when I was 17. During the break down of the relationship it seemed that everything I tried to do to fix things just made them worse. When we broke up, I blamed myself and it wasn’t long before I decided to punish myself. One cut a day for 50 days across my shoulders. Punishment. I told myself that was it, but it seemed that I could never go more than a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, before something would upset me and I’d cut again.

That time as I was praying, it had been maybe two months since I’d last cut myself but the urges were coming back and I didn’t know how long I could last. As I was praying for guidance, I fell.

I wasn’t pushed, and I wasn’t attention seeking. I just felt my knees crumple underneath me and I fell forwards and crashed down on my side. Half of me was still praying, the other half was like ‘What the ****?’ I half rolled onto my back and carried on praying, the other person placing their hand on my shoulder and praying in tongues for me. I sawimages flash before my eyes, but I don’t remember what they were.

And then it happened.

Everything went quiet and dark and I heard a strong but soft voice say: ‘If you need to cut, I’ll be your knife.’ Suddenly my brain was dancing around from thought to thought, Bible reference to Bible reference and it all made sense! I remembered Jesus and I remembered him hanging on that cross. Not the clean and mildly sexy Jesus of paintings but the bloodied and beaten Jew with nails through His wrists and blood flowing from gashes and wounds that covered His body. I remembered Isaiah 53.5:

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’

And as I remembered, I knew that I didn’t have to punish myself for the things I’d done wrong. Whether that was for the things I did wrong to my Ex or to God or to myself, I knew that the punishment had been dealt with by Jesus on the Cross. I knew that whatever my struggles or urges to cut, I could pray and Jesus would take them upon himself.

As I lay there on the floor I realised someone was still praying for me with their hand on my shoulder. Awkward, I was ‘done’. So I said ‘Amen’ out loud and opened my eyes and looked up to see who was praying for me. There was no one there; there was no one within three metres of me.

Since that day, I’ve only wanted to cut myself once and I didn’t. I prayed and five minutes later the urge was gone. I’m 20 and it’s now been over one year since I last cut myself. I may still have the scars on my shoulders, but I also have the truth that Jesus died for my sins on the cross and who was raised to life three days later to prove that he was greater than any sin we need to be freed from.

My prayer for you this Easter is that you’ll look beyond your circumstances, your past, beyond whatever is keeping you down and look to the Cross and the man on the Cross. I pray that as you look to that Cross you’ll see that sin and death are real, but that they cannot keep Jesus pinned down and I pray that you will join in the freedom of Easter day when Jesus came back to life as the Lord of all; our savour! Amen.

Sounds Mental… Self Harm

To accompany our new teaching series, I’ll be blogging about the topics once we’ve had the meetings on a Monday once a fortnight. We kicked our “Sounds Mental” series off yesterday using  the lyrics of the song “Angel” by Sarah MacLachlan – which you can listen to here.

Recovery from self harm is difficult – because it is an addiction and a coping mechanism – and recovery comes through finding new ways to cope. More information about self harm can be found   in our article marking National Self Harm Awareness Day 2011 .

There’s always some reason, to feel not good enough…

Whilst having low self-esteem can be one of the contributing factors in a struggle with self-harm, it can also be an issue in recovery. For many, being labelled a “self-harmer” can make it even harder to move on. We all have many labels – from our position in the family, our job and sometimes our painful past. They can be unhelpful and hard to overcome, but it can help to remind yourself of other, more helpful and hopeful labels. Whether that be that you are a survivor of a hellish time, a daughter or you’ve completed a charity bungee jump! For the christian, we have a complete identity in Christ – children of God and created in His image. It’s this identity which sustains and never changes, no matter how hard it may be to accept it.

Memories seep from my veins…

One of the most painful parts of coming to terms with a battle of self-harm is that scarring can not only damage how we see ourselves, but it’s also a constant reminder of the depths reached for. Coming to terms with scarring is an important part of recovery – but it’s not an easy part. In the mean time, there are now excellent creams which can help lessen the starkest of scars or camouflage make-up which is available from the Red Cross, and can sometimes be prescribed by your GP. Scarring can take a long time to come to terms with – but it might be helpful to be reminded of the scars of another. In Isaiah 53:5 it says “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The scars on Jesus’ palms were the sign of His saving grace – and whilst our scars may not be signs that we’ve saved the world – they are signs that by God’s grace we’ve survived.

Keep on building the lies…

Self-harm is enabled by lies. So often, it would not be possible without half-truths and white lies. When it’s over – the guilt of these lies can be crippling. The guilt of what has been done to the body – and also the effect of this on others can re-enforce old feelings of unworthiness and self-recrimination. So often, we forget that we are meant to forgive ourselves as well as forgiving others. If we have repented and our Creator has forgiven us – we have every reason to forgive ourselves. It’s not easy, but we can remember that it is our sins against ourselves – as well as others which were taken to the cross at Calvary.

I’m going to end with a poem by William Cowper – who suffered from crippling depression in his lifetime. Please be aware that some may find the imagery triggering – but there is a reminder of our beautiful hope in his words.

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

 

 

Saved Despite Scars

I see the cross
Through blades
Trapping me
I can’t reach out
Can’t lay my burdens down
Without reaching for the old ways

I remember His blood
Sign of His grace

Yet I call to mind
Those dark nights
When I reached first
For the danger of the blade

My shame and desire
Block the Holy
Dare not reach out
For the Father’s arms
When I still see the scars
On my own, a reminder of pain

And yet.
It is the cross
Which reminds me
I’m saved from shame
And made new by His grace

My wounds are healed by His.
A poem reflecting on the guilt so often felt by those who are, or have struggled with self-harm. Author Anonymous.

“A scar means I survived”

Scars can be a massive issue. Whether they be the marks of childhood illnesses such as chicken pox or from surviving an attack or fire. Sometimes they are a constant reminder of a battle with self-harm.

Scars can be hard to come to terms with. However they came to be, it can be be painful to be reminded again and again of something which made such a mark on your body, on your soul.

I used to hate my scars. I used to be disgusted by them because for me they represented weakness and I so desperately wanted to be strong. I hated that every day I was reminded of all I had been through, the lengths I had resorted to in order to keep the pain at bay.

I remember very clearly the day I began to see things a little differently. In Chris Cleave’s book “The Other Hand” he writes the following words;

“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means “I survived”.’

A scar means “I survived”. They were words which jolted right through me. Perhaps, my scars were not as ugly as I thought they were. Perhaps they didn’t mean I was weak. Perhaps, instead my scars were a sign that I had fought. Fought with all my heart and all my mind.

It does not mean to say that I chose healthy coping mechanisms or that I should continue down that dark and difficult path. But it did mean that I could stop punishing myself for my past.

It meant that I could begin to be thankful that it was over. I could be thankful that I was beginning to heal.

Linda Hogan expressed it in the following way:

“Some people see scars and it is the wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact they’re healing.”

Wounds heal.

The past can heal.

That does not mean that the pain ceases to exist. It doesn’t mean that you never have to face up to the pain.

It does mean that we can be freed from shame.

Why?

Because of the scars of another. Scars that marked the palms and side of Jesus Christ. Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote

“I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them.”

And so it must be with scars. They will remind us. It might be painful. But it is not the end. We do not have to lose more by gazing at the pain and remembering the shame. Instead we look up and look around, acknowledging where we have been. But not allowing it to stop where we can go.

A scar means “I survived”

A scar means we have a life to live, with all the pain and joy and confusion that life can hold.