I’ve started this entry a billion times, and cannot come up with a captivating line. I also can’t come up with something funny or witty. So I’ll just say this: I struggle with self harm. Way back in the day I would cut my arm and wrist multiple times a day to make the pain in my heart go away.
Temporarily. It was always just temporary. Like any addict knows, the hurt and the voices and the sad and the numb and the you-name-it always returns. As do shame and guilt for giving in to the addiction.
For me, it was cutting myself with a disposable razor. The first time I ever cut was in my apartment in college and I didn’t know what else to do. I was upset and hurting and I saw the razor and I went for it. And thus began the dysfunctional relationship I had with cutting.
I tried burning myself, scratching myself and pulling out my hair, but only disposable razors satisfied. I was so addicted.
If we’re being honest (and we always are), every once in a blue moon the temptation still creeps out of nowhere. A few months ago I thought I would be super lazy and over-confident in my own abilities, that I bought a pack of disposable razors. (This was a big deal, because I have been clean from self harm for 8 1/2 years, and part of that is not getting within a million feet of a disposable razor.) I got careless while I was shaving my legs and accidentally nicked my ankle. All the emotions came flooding back: the blood, the wave or relief, the rush. I was terrified.
God sent an angel to me, thankfully. He came in the form of baby Bob, and just at the moment that I was fighting the urge to fall into old habits, that precious child started banging on the shower door, demanding my attention. I snapped out of it long enough to get rid of the razors and calm down.
Also? Said angel banging on the bathroom door, screaming for all my attention is the number one reason I only shower 3 times a week.
Side note: God always sends me relief in human form. When I am in that limbo stage of wanting to do something I know I shouldn’t, or I’m wallowing in self pity, or having super negative thoughts, or just fill-in-the-blank, someone always shows up with just the right words, or just the right text. I have many angels on this Earth that have picked me up when I’ve fallen down.
The next day or two I was battling the urge to start self harming again. But like my dad has always told me, “Satan works in the dark”, so I strive to always bring my struggles to the light, to take away the power of the lies and the poisonous thoughts. I talked it out with Chip.
Chip displayed the grace and merciful spirit of Jesus to me. He didn’t jump to conclusions or start freaking out, or talk about how worried he was about me. He just looked at me and said, “You know if you did it, I still love you. And we’d get you help and figure it out. It wouldn’t change anything.”
That literally gave me the strength I needed to get through. The knowledge that the person I love more than anyone or anything in this world would continue to love me and not judge me no matter what I chose made me feel like I could accomplish ANYTHING. And I’m so grateful to say that I overcame that trial and didn’t cut myself. I hadn’t been so tempted in years. Most days I don’t even think about it.
Rewind to 2007. That was a rough year for both me and Britney Spears. While Britney was shaving her head and beating cars with umbrellas, I was drowning in grief.
Super Bowl Sunday. February 4, 2007, the love of my young life, Tommy Harmeyer was killed in a motorcycle crash on his way to bring me lunch at work. I spent years in therapist offices trying to deal with the devastation that came from losing him. The guilt that if he hadn’t been coming to see ME, he would still be alive. The death of all my dreams. We were going to get married and have a wonderful life together. He had healed so many wounds and hurts and the incredible pain caused by the abusive relationship I had been in before him. I saw him everywhere. It was torture.
God used Tommy in so many mighty ways in my life. And he was gone in an instant. I can still feel the weight in my chest, the loss of breath when I heard the words over the phone, “he didn’t make it.”
I didn’t know how to cope. So I cut. And I drank. And I partied. And eventually I would use guys. I couldn’t control losing Tommy, so I would date and hook up with guys and then discard them so that I had the power. I controlled leaving THEM so that I wouldn’t have anyone ripped away from me again.
How sick and sad.
I never got to say goodbye. He was just gone. No break up, no nothing. For YEARS I struggled with feeling like I was cheating on him if I went on a date. Every once in a while I’ll still have extremely graphic nightmares of him dying all over again. Super Bowl Sunday is always a hard day for me. Even 11 years later.
I’ve been open with Chip about Tommy since the very beginning of our relationship, and Chip has been nothing short of phenomenal. We talk about Tommy off and on and he’ll ask me questions about him. He knows how important he was to me, and it’s so precious and touches my soul, because I don’t have to bury the memories. On the 10 year anniversary of Tommy’s death, Chip told me that he would take Frank out for the morning so I could have some time to grieve. They came home with a huge, beautiful mum plant to honor Tommy. I’ll never forget what that meant to me.
I write this, because you cannot understand the reason behind my self harm without knowing about Tommy’s accident.
I. couldn’t. cope.
So I would stash razors all over the place. My car, my purse, every room in my apartment, my backpack. Any time the pain would get to be too much I would go cut in a bathroom.
So many people don’t understand this. It’s really not that complicated. It’s an unhealthy addiction. What do you do? Drink? Smoke? Eat? Watch TV? Shop? Everyone has something that they fall back on and lean on and grasp. Cutting is certainly more gruesome, but no less harmful.
There are so many directions I could take this post. I could talk about my anxiety or my panic attacks. I could talk about my eating disorder. I could talk about how eventually it became suicidal thoughts. I could talk about the spiritual warfare that ensued and the demonic oppression that came with it. And maybe I will post about all those things too someday.
But I think I’ll talk about the restoration I’ve experienced. And I can’t talk about the redemption without talking about my Savior. This song speaks to my soul and maybe you need to hear it as well. My pastor, Jeff Jones, mentioned this song in a meeting we were in one day. I went back to my cubicle and listened to it and just bawled my eyes out. So let’s take a moment to check it out. Maybe it will minister to you like it did to me.
This song sums up my journey to healing. It was long, and drawn out. And so many counseling sessions and therapist couches. And some really crappy counselors with some really horrible methods. And some with really unhelpful, downright HURTFUL sessions. And SO MANY RELAPSES.
But there were also some incredible conversations and wonderful friends who journeyed that hard road with me. And late night cry fests and my parents came to town to visit so many times and spent hours upon hours talking on the phone with me and loving me and listening to my pain and hurt and they were the BEST. I hope I am half the parent to my boys that they were to me my whole life, but especially during those hard years of grief and self harm.
God showed up for me again and again and again. And I felt his presence in the realest way and had I not journeyed that incredibly difficult season, I would not be the person I am today.
Beauty from ashes. Every time. He restored me and if he can restore the complete train wreck of a mess I was, I am convinced that nothing is too far gone for him to redeem. Not just heal, but redeem and use as a vessel of hope.
I’m smiling right now. Through the tears. And I’m smiling because I think back to 11 years ago. I was most likely drunk with an empty bottle of Vodka on the living room floor and passed out with fresh wounds on my left arm.
And tonight I’m writing about the freedom I have found. That is exactly the kind of business God is in. Taking the broken and putting it back together. This life is precious and it’s so, so short. People always say, “we aren’t promised tomorrow”. Forget tomorrow, we aren’t promised our next BREATH. You never know what will happen. Which makes this life all the more precious.
I don’t want to live a life giving into addiction. I want to live a life free of bondage and in pursuit of the love and grace and mercy that I have received. God extended me the ultimate grace, but my friends and family do it as well. They love me and support me and encourage me. It makes me want to be better.
Thanksgiving is next week. What are you thankful for? I’m thankful for 8 1/2 years of sobriety from cutting, amidst a HOST of other things. I’m also thankful that God shows up in my life again and again in the form of people.
So to all my people: thanks for being used by God. Whether you know it or not, you keep me clean, and you keep me sane.