The harsh edge of the blade flashed in the light that came in through the window. Tori squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth as she brought the razor down onto the open skin of her arm. She felt numb and dirty. Both old and new scars covered her body from her thighs to her arms and even on the hidden area of her stomach. Blood beaded on the thin lines made by the blade, and Tori pushed the knife away, disgusted with herself. She’d messed up—again.
Every time that Tori promised herself she wouldn’t cut anymore, something would happen that made her give in. Someone would make a mean comment about her at school, she would get in a fight with her parents, or she would simply look in the mirror and think, I can’t stand myself. I deserve this. And then she would be in that same dark place she so often was. It was like she could not stop, no matter how badly she wanted to end this habit.
It was like an addiction.
Tori had been a Christian for several years—ever since she responded to the altar call at summer camp when she was eleven. At first her passion for God grew, but then life started to get hard. Her parents got a divorce. She lost a couple of friends right before she entered high school. Now Tori felt like God was far away. She felt like when she prayed, her pleas were static and distant. She wondered if God could even hear her. She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She felt ugly and unloved. Maybe I’ve messed it all up, she thought bitterly. I can’t love myself. Maybe God can’t love me either.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
For most of my middle school years, I struggled constantly with self injury. I was depressed, I felt disconnected from God, and I expressed my hidden pain through the blade of a knife. Self injury may be something that you or someone you know struggles with, and if that is the case, then I hope this article can help you find encouragement.
One of the biggest problems with self injury, namely cutting, is that it is a compulsive behavior. According to Dr. Drew Pinsky, cutting is an addictive syndrome. When you cut yourself, you activate thrill mechanisms and cause a surge of endorphins to rush to your brain. This gives you a false sense of relief and even a high of sorts. Each time something happens that makes you feel sad or upset, you feel the need to turn back to self injury to give you that same release you felt before. Cutting can easily become an unending cycle. You want the temporary relief, so you cut… And then you feel guilty for allowing yourself to cut, and the guilt causes you to cut again… And around and around you go.
Even if you have only been cutting for a few months, it can be extremely difficult to stop. In fact, it may seem impossible. Please know that it is possible to end this addiction. I haven’t cut for nearly three years. It takes courage, strength, and faith in God, but it is possible. If you are struggling with self injury or depression, please keep reading. The points below can help you discover a light at the end of the tunnel—a way out of the unending cycle.
No matter how you feel, you are loved. When you feel depressed and alone, it is easy to feel unloved. The truth is there are people who do love you, people who want to be there for you when you feel this way. You have family members and friends who love you. If no one else, then I love you even though I don’t know you personally. I honestly do love you, and I hurt for you. Above all else, Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you so much that he suffered and died for you. He loves you no matter what you’ve ever done. Deuteronomy 14:1, 2 says, “Do not cut yourselves…for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Even though this verse was written for the people of Israel, it still applies to you as a Christian. You are God’s chosen possession. He doesn’t want you to hurt. He wants you to have peace and joy.
Even when you feel like God is far away, he has never left your side. Guilt is often a huge issue for Christians who cut. Aren’t Christians supposed to be those on fire believers who worship Jesus with every fabric of their beings? They aren’t supposed to be messed up people who have dark secrets that nobody knows about, right? The perfect Christian is a complete myth. Every Christian has problems even if it doesn’t seem like it from their outside appearance. Everyone experiences trials throughout their lives. You can still be a Christian and struggle with self injury. It is an addiction that is hard to overcome. Ask God to help you through this difficult time. He is there for you. He longs to hold you in his arms and take the pain away. When you feel disconnected from God, continue to pray, read your Bible, and go to church. When you continue to worship God though he seems far away, you are expressing to him that you still have faith in what he can do. Hebrews 13:5 says, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Keep your faith in Jesus and know that he will never lose faith in you.
Talk to somebody about what you’re going through. Proverbs 27:17 says that like iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another. Find someone who cares about you and can give you accountability and encourage you to work through your emotions constructively instead of through self injury. Ask your friend for guidance, prayer, and understanding. You may even need to find professional help. If you are a minor, talk to your youth group leader or a teacher at your school. Approach your parents about what you’ve been going through. An experienced adult can help you learn to sort through your problems and find hope.
Search for a new way to cope. You may cut to help you release your pent-up emotions, it may be a way to punish yourself for the bad things you have done, or it may be a way to control something in your life when everything else seems to be crumbling all around you. No matter why you cut, you are handling your problems the wrong way. Take up music lessons, start a journal, go to the gym an hour a day… Find something that can start to replace this habit, something that you can turn to when you feel like you need to vent your anger and hurt.
Learn to love yourself again. When you feel hatred and disgust for yourself, it is difficult to honestly want to stop hurting your body. Take out a sheet of paper and write a list of at least ten reasons why you deserve better than cutting. It could be “I’m a loyal friend” or “I’m a beautiful creation of God.” When you feel the urge to cut, remind yourself over and over that you are loved and that Jesus has planned so much more for your life.
Learn to forgive yourself. You may relapse. You may go months without cutting and then mess up again. When you fall, it is easy to feel angry at yourself and want to give up. Instead of punishing yourself for messing up, take it into perspective. Make a calendar of how long you’ve gone without messing up and congratulate yourself for making it that far. Cutting is a hard addiction to overcome. The closer you come to healing shows how strong you are becoming. Jesus forgives you for every sin and mistake, so learn to forgive yourself as well.
If you have a friend who is struggling with self injury, don’t give up on her. She needs your encouragement and support. Don’t constantly talk about her problem but occasionally let her know that you’re there for her and are ready to listen when she needs to vent. Ask your friend if you can go talk to an adult together but don’t try to force the issue unless you believe that her life is in danger or else the stress could cause her to cut again. Spend more time with your friend. Let her know that you love her and want to be around her. Leave her encouraging notes. Compliment her. Whatever you do, don’t criticize your friend about her self injury. Judgemental remarks are likely to cause her to cut even more. Instead let her know that you’re concerned about her safety and want her to stop because you care about her.
If you have suspicions that your friend is suicidal, that is another issue entirely. If your friend is suicidal, then please tell an adult and get your friend help. Making a friend angry—maybe even angry enough to not forgive you—is worth it if it means saving her life.
You may be struggling with self injury right now. If you are, then don’t give up. You are not alone in your addiction. According to CNN.com, one in five teenagers claims to have participated in self injury. Self injury is a difficult thing to overcome, but it is possible. You are loved and cherished by God. Put yourself into his hands. Hope can be found through the Lord. He has so much more in store for you than you can possibly imagine.
Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”