02 June, 2009

inability to communicate

I saw this letter on the PostSecret web page and it broke my heart:

Dear Frank,

I went to the PostSecret exhibit recently and left a secret on a pink index card that said:

I skipped school today.
My eating disorder is back.
I've started cutting again.

On my way home I went to my family's health care provider to ask for help, but instead of helping me they got frustrated with my inability to communicate what was wrong and told me they couldn't do anything.

I left numb with dejection and hopelessness. I went home and cut myself. I still don't know why. But I cleaned myself up and just sat in my room staring outside for a long long time before picking up my PostSecret books and reading through all of them completely. I felt a little less alone.

I have no idea if this is the right email address to send this to or if you will even read it. But I am writing this to say Thank you for showing me that I am not alone in my solitude. Thank you for taking time. Thank you for giving the gift of PostSecret.

I cut in high school. It was my way of dealing with the chaos I couldn't control. I felt lost, unseen, and not real as what was going on around me was too painful and so it became numb to my mind. I don't remember feeling much during that time - but I do remember I cut so I would bleed so I could remember I was capable of feeling. It is a weird habit. But, in some ways, it is the same as sex, drugs, or alcohol - it's the momentary high (or low), a release from whatever in your life is too unmanageable for you.

I became a Christian when I was 15. For me, the greatest day of freedom was when I realized that not only did God want me broken, He loved me that way. I did have a "burden lifted off my shoulders" moment because I came to God in the midst of one of the hardest periods of my life.

In the midst... meaning I still cut. I remember realizing I needed help but was totally unsure who to go to. So I told someone at the ranch I trusted. I nervously flipped through my magazine and told them I cut, and why I did it - and that I wanted help stopping. They were silent, despondent, detached and left without a word. They never brought it up again, and that rejection only pushed the pain further in.

I told people closer to me, and the look of disgust made me silent for years. I thought that after all we had been through nothing was beyond the love and grace of those closest to me. Standing there, in that moment, I had never felt more shameful and disgraced.

Cutting is a hard habit to understand. It can become an addiction. It is a loss of control, and yet, it is the regaining of it too. I couldn't stop cutting, it was the only thing I had a grasp on at the time, but I could control how, where, for how long, how deep. And with the blood and tears and regret and desire for another avenue to express my pain/anger/etc., there was a deep sense that I was "ok" because I was "in control." I never wanted to die. For me, cutting was not a suicidal thing. It was my desire to live beyond that momentary pain that made me hold onto the one thing that told me I was in control of something (anything).

One day I realized there were healthier ways of dealing with pain. By that time things had simmered down and I could face the desire to want to change. So I did. I told the only person who had been compassionate (and non-judgmental) to me through the whole thing and have never cut since. Sometimes it's hard, the pain or chaos or sadness is too much and it's tempting to reach for a razor or a knife and cut again. But I don't. Instead I pray, or read my Bible, or move or just cry out, hoping tomorrow will be better. Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. But that's not the point.

The point is....

I don't know what the point is. People's hearts are breaking, people feel lonely. We live in this modern age, technological, instant communication society - and yet know each other less. We are called to carry each other's burdens - but how do you do that in the hustle, bustle task orientated, be beautiful and surface and uplift being "pretty" over being real world we live in?

I don't know. But I think a lot of people are self-medicating, cutting, in their own way. And maybe instead of pouring another one, taking another one, sleeping with another one, working another one, escaping through another one - we need to face what we're scared of, what we're running from - even if it is our own emptiness - admit that we are empty, scared, alone, bored - and demand more from those around us, and, more importantly, ourselves.

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© Amanda Lunday