G2SI: Recovering

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me say this: I feel like a hypocrite writing this. I slipped up, recently, and broke my record of being self injury free. I cannot sit here and write to you that there is an easy way to recover from self harm, that there is a way to banish it forever. I can, though, tell you that it is a struggle, and we may all slip up sometimes, but I hope and believe that there will come a time when I no longer want to hurt myself when I feel bad, that one day I will look at the rows of razor blades in shops and have no interest in them, that one day I will never worry about baring my arms again. I hope you, if you self injure, will find use in the tips I have picked up, even though I cannot tell you a story of how I overcame cutting, and how it is all better now.

I don’t want to self injure because I don’t want to keep on hurting, I don’t want to hurt mentally and I don’t want to hurt myself physically to try to get relief. Part of trying to recover, for me, was to go to the doctor, to see a psychiatrist and to take the medication I was given. It is for this reason that I continue to take that medication, and I do what my psychiatrist advises, and, were I offered it, I would take long-term therapy as well. That is my advice to you – seek professional help, and do what they say. Today psychiatrists and therapists are well aware of self injury – and they will be aware of whatever it is that makes you want to hurt yourself. For me it was depression, and I seek to treat that depression, and in so doing treat the self injury. I take the medication and I try to protect myself from becoming ill, although not always successfully.

I do not want to self injure because God does not want me to self injure. I, once, tried to convince myself that God approved of what I do, that he liked me to mortify the flesh, as the saying goes. I no longer believe that, and the reason I no longer believe that is not because of what the Bible says nor because of what Christians say but because I have a Father who loves me, and just as I would not want to see one of my loved ones hurting themselves, hurting at all, so neither does God. When I self harm I am relying on myself, I am trying to deal with the problems and the pain I am feeling with my own methods – but I cannot. Sometimes I think that we who suffer mentally are really the ones who understand how futile our own efforts to save ourselves are. It is more obvious in us that we cannot help ourselves, we can cut ourselves, but we cannot take the pain away and we cannot make it better. We need the help of others – God working through others. I tell myself that if I rely on God in the bad times, and try my hardest to make a leap of faith, that he will reward me, and help me. Our God is a God in constant relationship – that is, for me, the essence of the Trinity. We come together as a Church when we have communion – in whatever denomination we might happen to be in. We are a people in relationship, and we need both a relationship with God and a relationship with others in order to be whole. For that reason I would recommend that you find a trusted person to hold you to account. A person who you can go to when the urge is strong, and who you can say anything to. Your first port of call for that person should be God – but, as I said, God works through other people in our lives and we need someone, friends, family, someone at church, to whom we can go and say “I want to hurt myself” and have them listen.

Sometimes we fail. I have failed. But that just means picking myself up and starting again. God doesn’t condemn us for failing to be perfect – he sent his Son to give us his perfection instead. God understands us, far more than we understand ourselves, he has been tempted by every temptation we have had. He knows. That is why in my list of alternative things to do I have suggested, along with the others, prayer and Bible reading. Christian music, too, is good – I cannot hold the thought of harming myself along with a song about God. The two do not go together in my world, and the longer I can keep a hymn, worship music, whatever in my head, the longer I can keep from harming. One thing I want to say is never think your mistake is forever – each day is new, and we can always start again. A writer I like wrote that “no beating is final while life lasts” – even if we have to pick ourselves up a million times we can get there in the end.

We are not our own – we belong to Christ and maybe reflecting on that, and how our bodies are his, might stop you from picking up that knife, or whatever you use, and I am hoping that the next time I face a problem I too can focus on the God who made me, and not on scarring his creation.

It is not easy, but you must want to stop. Like I read in a book about giving up smoking once – if you don’t want to stop then you never will. If you are thinking “I want to stop because I don’t like wearing long sleeves” then do you really have the wherewithal to stop when temptation comes? Deep down, do you want the self harm to end? Think of all that we lose when we harm – we cannot dress as we like, we worry about others seeing our scars and wounds, we give ourselves a reason to be ashamed, to hate ourselves, we mar God’s creation and we feed our desire to self destruct. We hurt our families, our friends, our lovers. Our own private pain affects others as well as ourselves, and I cannot bear to know that my mother cries in the night over what I do to myself and what I feel. It has to stop.

There are many ways people overcome cutting – and there are many stories to be heard. For example there are true stories of recovery in the books on my Christian books page. There are many books that can be read, and maybe it will or maybe it won’t help you to read them. Tell someone – get them to work through with you why you are hurting, and why you hurt yourself. Get professional help and find someone to hold you to account. Know that you are forgiven when you fall, that the Lord is there beside you, and that there is an alternative to living like this.

I will, now, pick myself up and begin again, because I will get there, and I have a God who catches me when I fall. His eye is on the sparrow, and your every hair is numbered – you are his son or daughter, and he will bring us through.

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  1. […] articles on self injury from “Christian Views” to “Cutting and Marking in the Bible” to “Recovery” and others available on my Guide to Self Injury […]

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