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I’m giving up hate-reading for Lent!

I used to be a self-injurer. Once or twice a week for six years, I had a date with a razor-blade. Then, last October, I started taking medicine to treat my depression and eventually my self-injuring tendencies went away…

…sorta.

I don’t hurt myself physically anymore. In fact, it’s rarely even a temptation now-a-days, which is a great accomplishment for me.

But, sometimes I wonder if I have simply replaced my razor blade with a thing I’ve heard called hate-reading.

A couple times a week I’ll find myself wanting to indulge in misery (an emotion reminiscent of my self-injury days). And go I’ll go to Mark Driscoll’s website, or the “Counsel for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” or the comments section of Relevant Magazine.

And I’ll get angry. I’ll soak in the hurtful words and let myself sink into a dark place of hatred.

I call it research. But it’s not. It’s emotional self-injury. It’s my new-found way of indulging in an old addiction. 

So, I’m giving up hate-reading for Lent!

I’ve never actually given up anything for Lent, but since I’m on a religious journey right now, in which I am seeking new religious experiences from traditions that I am unfamiliar with, I thought it might be interesting to try. I think you’re supposed to give up a luxury, and I’m not sure if over-indulgence on rage-inducing blog posts counts as a luxury, and anyways, you’re probably not supposed to write blog posts proclaiming the things you’re giving up for Lent. So, potential fail on my part there, but I think doing this will be healthy for me regardless.

Obviously, as a blogger and a women’s studies major, I am still going to engage in and critique the world around me–I’m not going to lock myself in my room and hide from things that make me angry.

But I don’t have to spend hours reading through the archives at Boundless.org, nor do I have to engage with hateful commenters on Relevant Magazine (I can’t anymore anyways. I got banned for calling someone an “a-hole.” Not my proudest moment, but it was that experience that inspired this decision!).

I’m not going to change the world through hate-reading. Hate-reading only leaves me burnt out and miserable.

I hope this experience will help me learn how to draw lines between constructive criticism and emotional self-injury. I hope it will inspire me to find more creative and positive means of activism. I hope it will free up my time for prayer and reflection and action.

So, I’m giving up hate-reading for Lent!

Here’s to forty days of peace!

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Dear Razor Blade,

Dear Razor Blade,

I’m sorry for what happened the other night, but the fact remains: I stopped cutting in November.

The road got bumpy and the cutting bandwagon didn’t have any seat-belts. I was emotionally vulnerable, and I know I shouldn’t have brought you into my house the other night. But I did. What happened happened.

I know I’ll sound like a jerk for saying this (until I remember that you’re an inanimate object and I’m only writing you a letter because I enjoy personification), but the other night meant nothing to me. That part of my life, the part of my life that involved you- it’s over. We can’t see each other anymore, and no, we can’t be friends. A clean break is best.

Every time I see the scars on my arm, I can hear the words that I used to pretend you said to me, “You’re a cutter. I’m a razor blade. We were meant to be together.”

But you’re wrong.

I’ve changed. I’m not a cutter. That part of me died 8 months ago.

I was meant for something better.

I have a life to live, and I can’t let you hold me back. I’m tired of letting you get under my skin. I’m sorry, razor blade, but this is goodbye.

Sincerely,

Sarah Moon


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Having secrets makes me lonely

If you haven’t ever visited http://www.postsecret.com/, you should do so. People mail postcards containing a secret to the site’s creator. Every Sunday, new secrets are posted.

I’ve never sent in any of my secrets but there is usually at least one secret each week that I can relate to. And sometimes being able to relate to something can be helpful.

Take the past two weeks for example. I spent them fighting off depression. Nothing new. I’ve struggled with depression on and off for most of my life. But since I quit cutting last November, things have been especially difficult. Cutting was my comfort blanket, my pain reliever (how’s that for irony?), my quick fix.

Cutting was like an abusive boyfriend that I couldn’t leave. I thought I needed it. I thought I couldn’t live without it. And though I eventually worked up the courage to leave that “relationship,” I still have Cutting’s figurative contact info in my figurative phone. And I am still tempted, almost daily, to give it a call. When I’m depressed, that temptation only grows.

After bragging about my time on the cutting bandwagon, I felt guilty about how much I really wanted to cut. I couldn’t tell others about my desire to use my HM of choice (pokemon humor…heh). People look up to me. People are proud of me. I couldn’t let my ego take a stumble like that. I had an image to keep up.

But I wanted to cut.

These were my thoughts for the past two weeks until I visited Post Secret  and saw this secret (sorry if the profanity offends anyone).

My feelings exactly (profanity included).

I wasn’t alone.

And knowing I wasn’t alone reminded me that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s normal to miss something that was such a big part of my life (even if it was bad for me). It’s okay to be honest about my humanity. It’s okay to tell my secrets.

So, here I go, pushing my pride off the balcony. I miss cutting too. The months since November have been some of the worst months in my life just because I’ve had to face them without cutting. I’ve been acting like quitting has given me happiness and freedom. But really, I’ve just felt weak, needy, and lost.

And, more than anything, I’ve felt alone.

But when other people tell their secrets, I know I’m not.

So, tell your secrets. And I’ll tell mine. And we’ll get through this mess that they call life together. And it will be easier because we won’t be alone.


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3 Months, Thanks to You All!

I’ve written multiple, brutally honest (and hopefully not too “emo” sounding posts) about my self-injurous tendencies. In fact, one of my biggest reasons for starting a blog in the first place was the hope that I might clear away some of the shadows of ignorance and taboo surrounding the issue of self-injury. Many people do it. Few people talk about it. I believe that this is a problem.

I am an extremely private person and don’t always enjoy talking about such things in the most public place on earth (the internet, for those who haven’t had their coffee yet). However, I feel compelled to share so that my fellow self-injurers know they aren’t alone, and so that those who don’t self injure can better understand our position. I share in order to give other people what Jon Acuff, of “Stuff Christians Like,” refers to as  “The Gift of Going Second.”  But don’t think this hasn’t been a gift to myself as well. Let me explain to you a bit of the intrinsic value that blogging has bestowed open me!

First, a celebration of sorts! I hesitate to get too excited, since my biggest downfalls seem to occur directly after proclamations of victory (I blame deforestation: not enough wood to knock on). However, I have been cut free (slicing and dicing being my preferred method of inflicting pain upon myself) since November! This may not sound like a major deal. After all, it is only February. However, taking into account the biweekly razor blade dates that occurred LAST February, I would say that I have reason to be excited! I don’t believe that I would be able to have such a celebration if I had never started blogging! Why? Well, allow me to explain!

–Writing, as I have discovered, is a much more effective and healthy means of relieving depression. Letting out my problems in words, rather than in blood, has been wonderfully therapeutic!

–Blogging gives me support and accountability. Yes, I had wonderfully supportive friends before this blog. But, the topic of self-injury, being the taboo topic that it is, doesn’t come up often in conversation. “Hey friends! How are you today? Oh, by the way, I’m a cutter!” This may be the extreme introvert in me talking, but I find blogging to be a much more effective communication tool. Now, my friends know what I struggle with, why, and how to best help me in my adventure!

–It turns me into a land-locked country. They say “no man is an island,” but I believe I have spent most of my life as AT LEAST a peninsula. I revel in my independence to a fault. Blogging, however, has placed me amidst other self-injurers. We’re all in this together, now, and while I don’t always like that idea, I know, deep down, that it is best.

A new emotional outlet, the support of loving friends, and a family of fellow self-injurers. Would I be able to celebrate the past few months were it not for these things? I think not! Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on this difficult journey. What a blessing you have been! :)


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By his stripes

Christ was pierced for my transgressions.  He was bruised for my sin…

By his stripes I AM healed.

How often I forget those words- those beautiful truths that I have had memorized since my AWANA Sparks days! It is time to remember:

Christ’s wounds cover my sin of lust. Satan comes to heaven with stones in his hand saying, “This woman commits adultery in her heart everyday. She would rather entertain these self-indulgent thoughts than wait on your perfect plan for sex. Someone must die for that.”

Christ holds out his nail-scared hands and reminds him, “I already did.”

His wounds cover my sin of pride. Satan storms in again. “This woman places herself above everyone. She is selfish and thinks much too highly of herself. Someone needs to take a mighty big fall for this.”

Christ pushes aside his hair to reveal the scars from his mock-crown and repeats himself, “I already did.”

His wounds cover my sin of hatred. Satan returns, feeling confident. “You said yourself that whoever hates another is guilty of murder. Just look at the hateful things she’s said about your own church. Look at the hateful things she’s said about her own family! She’s even hated a man so much that she prayed he would die. How can you possibly let this murder walk free?”

Christ motions to his wounded side and reminds him, “I took her punishment. I died for her.”

And, yet, while all this goes on in heaven, I sit at home, wondering how I could ever pay off my own sin. It will take a lot of wounds, a lot of stripes. “I’d better get started then,” I think, as I take out my favorite razor blade.

But, then Christ shows up. He motions to the stripes all over his body. “These are enough to heal you,” he says. He knows how hard it is for me to believe him. He knows I will inflict much more pain upon myself  before I fully grasp the concept of redemption, but he doesn’t condemn me. He just puts his arm around me (he knows I am not a hugger), smiles, and hands me a band-aid of grace (which are even better than the Spongebob variety). He heals. He comforts. He understands. And, it is a beautiful thing.


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Another…

Disclaimer: I am sorry for my honesty about some controversial things, but I’m done with secrets and done with worrying about whether or not I should be so open about certain things. I went my whole life thinking I was the only one, and now that I know I’m not, I will do all I can to not let another person grow up feeling like “the only one.”

In between typing the very words you are reading, I must stop to wipe more blood off my arm- to erase another drop of shame from another possible scar after another moment of blinding emotional darkness and another failed attempt to handle depression in a healthy manner. Another, another, another. There’s always an “another.” I have nearly given up on “never again”s.

I would venture to say that I am not alone in my struggles. Perhaps you aren’t a cutter, but don’t we all have our “another” moments? Don’t we all struggle with “again”s? Haven’t we all justified hundreds of “one last time”s and broken hundreds of “no more”s? Haven’t we all wondered if there is hope anywhere in the midst of all these “another” moments, and haven’t we all yearned for freedom?

There is freedom in Christ. I believe that. But why hasn’t he given me freedom from cutting? It certainly isn’t because I haven’t prayed hard enough, or read my Bible enough. I’ve always done all the things that “good Christians” are “supposed to do.” So where’s the freedom?

Will I struggle with depression and self-injury my entire life? There’s a possibility that I won’t, but to be honest, I doubt I will ever be able to abandon my old archenemy. The sexual abuse I suffered as a child, the extreme bitterness toward church that I built up throughout elementary and junior high school, the verbal and physical abuse I received from my first boyfriend, my unrelenting perfectionist personality – these things all carry  notorious side-effects, and cutting seemed to be the only cure. When I was angry at myself for getting a B on a report card, I could punish myself. When I felt guilty for the things my ex-boyfriend told me I was, I could relieve the guilt. When I was stressed, but didn’t want the world to know, cutting was a perfect secret release. When I couldn’t get the memory of my abuse out of my head, cutting was a welcome distraction.

And, there I go again. Referring to my struggles in past tense as if they are over. Speaking in past tense helps my pride, keeps me from facing and admitting to my problem. You would think that the sting in my arm would be enough to wake me up, but it isn’t and it never has been. A few years ago, I spoke in front of my youth group about my “story.” I told them that, “thanks to God,” I had stopped cutting. Truth was, I had cut the night before. I had been so nervous about speaking in front of people the next day, and I couldn’t handle that on my own. A week later, I cut again, this time due to the guilt that I got every time I got an “I’m proud of you,” or “You’re so strong!” from someone in my youth group. I stopped sharing my story for a long time, because I thought I was too messed up to help people.

But, as I write this note that is not turning out at all to be like what I had planned it to be (that’s what I like about blogging- there doesn’t have to be an outline or a coherent progression of thought, which is much more real than my academic papers) I am realizing something. Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean that I will be perfect. Yes, I am aware that the Spirit can empower us to give up sinful lifestyles and to do right, but let’s face it, we’re always going to have “another” moments. Freedom means that, for every “another” moment that I have, Christ gives me an “another” moment of grace. I cut again, and Christ forgives me again. I cut one last time, and Christ forgives me like it’s the first time. I am completely covered in his grace! I am just as perfect as Him because he became a cutter for me (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

Do I still want to quit cutting? Yes. Of course. And now that I know what freedom is, I believe I can start on my journey to quitting. Unfortunately, I don’t know the next step yet. Counseling perhaps (though, this would be a terrifying step indeed). I don’t know. It’s like being released from prison. The freedom is grand, but I seem to have no where to go. That’s okay for now though. I know I’m free.

I also know that, even if I am still cutting, I can share my story without shame. Yes, I am messed up, but so is everyone else. We all have “another” moments. We all fall. This is why we must stop walking alone. Sometimes we need help getting up. Sometimes we need to be carried. Sometimes we need a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on. Freedom isn’t the end of this journey- it’s the beginning. We all have a long way to go. Let’s do it together!


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Stuck…

There are many areas of life which the church tends to avoid. These issues are too controversial, too taboo, to awkward to discuss, and so we just pretend they don’t exist. I believe the most commonly avoided of these topics is female masturbation. But only slightly less avoided is this: Never go in against a Si- wait…no…that’s not the one. Ahem. Please Excuse my Princess bride obsession. Only slight less avoided is the area of self-injury.

I’ve only heard one church sermon on self-injury. Just one, in my 20 years of church-going. I wish I could say that the message was helpful, loving, and changed my life, but sadly, ’twas not the case. The preacher used the story of the demon possessed man in Matthew 8 that cut himself with stones in the graveyard to support his theory that all self-injurers are demon-possessed. When I left the church service, the preacher smiled, and shook my hand. There was no great exorcism. Just a smile and a hand shake, and I thought to myself, “If he only knew…”

I’m a self-injurer. I have been for about five years now, and, no, dear Preacher who will remain anonymous, I am not possessed with demons. I am just stuck. I am caught between the everyday problems of life and the church that actively ignores those problems. Dear church (referring to the general, world-wide body of Christ, NOT any specific congregation), I love you, but so many of us are stuck. You act like you have a monopoly on the freedom of Christ. You put imaginary conditions and stipulations on it, and us who are stuck feel like we’ll never be able to get to it, so we turn elsewhere. Every time I am told that I only suffer from depression because I don’t have “the joy of the Lord,” I turn to cutting. Every time I am told that “reading my Bible and praying more” will make me forget a horrific incident from my past, I turn to cutting. Every time I am told not to talk about the sins I struggle with because “it’s a bad testimony,” I turn to cutting. It’s not my first choice, but when I’ve turned to the church, it wasn’t there.

I don’t know the answer to this problem. I wish I could write a post about freedom right now, but I just can’t. I’m still stuck. But, is there anyone out there stuck with me? Maybe you’re not stuck in cutting, but there are so many things out there that we get stuck in. Perhaps, together, we can push our way out. Perhaps, together, we can find an answer. I know Christ’s freedom is out there somewhere…but it’s not right here. And, I’m stuck. Right here.