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When Christ’s Blood Doesn’t Seem Enough

By Mandy Holt As Told To
Deborah Hedstrom-Page

Reaching into the desk drawer, I took out my hidden pocketknife. Feeling numb, I watched myself drag the sharp blade across the inside of my left arm. Ten more times I pulled the knife through my flesh. It hurt, but I didn’t stop. I deserved the pain. I took pleasure in it. As I gazed at the blood rolling off my arm, my depression became a fascination. I enjoyed seeing the deep red liquid slowly fall onto the floor.

I hadn’t wanted to cut myself again, but staring at the pile of homework on my desk, I’d felt defeated. Already behind in my classes, I knew I was failing most of them. “God, please help me,” I’d pleaded into my empty dorm room. “I can’t do all this.”

No miracle activated a bunch of good feelings to ease the building pressure within me. Tears started rolling down my cheeks and plopping onto my shirt. I bowed my head and tried again. “I believe in Your Son. I’m going to a Christian school.”

I stopped, knowing I would fail again. Looking at the ceiling, I yelled at God, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”

My angry words faded into a muddle of depression. Life seemed like one big
battle, and my thoughts and feelings were soldiers fighting each other. I needed relief, so I had reached for my pocketknife.

Self mutilation had been my drug, my addiction for four years. It began with just a few minor scratches but kept increasing. Soon only cutting could ease the feelings that ruled my life. I felt unloved and unworthy of love. I felt depressed but didn’t think I could talk to anyone. Cutting seemed the only way to handle my difficulties. It numbed them for a while. Though my relief only lasted a short time, my passion for the pain inflicted by scissors, thumbtacks, and knives kept growing. At times they seemed to scream, “Cut yourself. Hurt yourself. You deserve it. You can cover it up.” But in truth I was the one screaming. I was yelling for help.

Because of my faith and upbringing, I knew God somehow was the answer, but He wouldn’t fix it. No matter how often I prayed, my inner urges didn’t go away. So I gave up. If cutting made me feel better, I wasn’t going to stop.

Though I’d lost sight of God in my self-mutilating turmoil, He was there, and He hadn’t given up on me. But He knew before I’d do the hard work of yielding my addiction and accepting help, I needed something to wake me from my emotionally numbing cycle.

My jolt awake came my first year in college. Though I’d been open with the school counselor about my problem, I wasn’t ready to quit. After one bad cutting episode, witnessed by my dorm director and other students, the school officials called me in. They explained the danger and disruptiveness of my behavior and then asked me to leave the college.

Being kicked out of school forced me to look at the seriousness of my problem. Packing up my stuff, I felt humiliated. My cutting was taking me away from my new friends and the teachers I liked. It was also putting my parents into the middle of my problem.

My mom and dad knew I cut myself, but confused and hurt by it, they avoided talking about the problem. Though they had gotten me counseling, both thought I could stop cutting if I wanted to. They felt sure I was simply seeking attention or being manipulative and didn’t realize it was a coping mechanism.

Coming back home to this lack of understanding upset me, and at first things were rough. But then two things happened.

Shortly after getting home, I heard my younger sister ask my mom, “Is Mandy going to hurt me too?” This shook me up, and I suddenly realized my self-mutilation didn’t just affect me. I wanted my sister to know I would never hurt her and that started me talking. Trying to help her see that she wasn’t in any danger forced me to put my behavior into words.

After things got better between my sister and me, God showed me something else. I believed a lie. I thought I didn’t deserve to be loved, but day after day my family kept supporting me. Though my parents still struggled to talk about my problem, I noticed they made fewer flippant comments and tried to be more sensitive to my down days. I even caught my dad removing some scissors I’d planned to use on myself. These things helped me start accepting their love.

Although knowing and accepting that I was loved made a huge difference in my healing, letting God have complete control of my life is what broke the power of my addiction. Until I made the decision to let Him take over totally, my relationship with God had been like an emotional roller coaster. My feelings determined how much I lived for Him. If He didn’t get rid of my bad feelings, I did. I fixed them with my self-mutilation.

It seemed to put me in control. No one could stop me from hurting myself, so I felt like I determined when, where and how much pain and punishment I endured. Only when I wanted to quit cutting, did I realized my thoughts about control had also been a lie. I saw how my “control” always turned into feelings of guilt and shame.

As I saw the truth about my mutilation, I wanted to quit cutting more than ever. I wanted to be accountable. I wanted to be honest and stop wearing long sleeves and lying about my wounds and scars. And I wanted to go back to college and move forward with my life.

But even when I put everything about my cutting into God’s hands, no divine miracle swirled around me and made all my destructive thoughts go away. Every day I continuously struggle to believe the truth and not the lies. But God is working.

In the last 18 months, my cutting episodes have gotten less and less frequent, and today I’ve gone five months with none. My changes have allowed me to return to college, and I am working hard toward a degree that will allow me to help others struggling with my addiction.
But I may never be fully healed from it. Even today I sometimes need to go work out in the gym or talk with friends, instead of being alone in my room. But no matter if my days seem hard or easy, I know God has and will provide me with the support I need to not cut. But most of all, He must stay in charge of my life because the only blood I must “find release in” is the blood Jesus poured out on the cross. It alone is the true solution to feelings of pain and worthlessness.

WHAT IF . . .

One in every 200 teenagers cut themselves for emotional release, so you might recognize yourself or a friend in Mandy’s story

IT’S YOU?

1. Realize what you are doing can easily become an addiction. The average self-mutilator is a woman in her late 20’s to mid 30’s who started hurting herself in her teens.

2. Go to God. He may or may not enable you to quit today, but either way, He is the only One who can touch your feelings and heart, healing you from the inside out.

3. Learn about self-mutilation so you’ll understand what you are doing. A good starting place is 1-800-DONTCUT or http://www.selfinjury.com

4. Find someone to talk to who doesn’t condemn you or offer easy solutions.

5. Tell a caring adult about your addiction. It is dangerous. Though you’re not trying to commit suicide, a bad cut could risk your life.

6. Get someone to help you be accountable.

7. Find someone to exercise with, helping you pass destructive urges.

8. Ask one or more family members and friends to pray for you.

YOUR FRIEND?

1. Realize it’s normal for you to feel frightened or angry, but don’t reject your friend. It just adds to their flawed view of themselves.

2. Don’t jump in and try to rescue your friend. First, get some information about self-mutilation so you=ll know how to help.

3. Encourage your friend to talk and be a good listener, without condemning or offering easy solutions.

4. Urge your friend to see a trusted counselor. If they won’t, ask her what caring adult she wants you to tell about the problem. If she says no one, explain you must because of the danger.

5. Be there for your friend, praying for her, holding her accountable, and exercising with her.

6. Above all, love your friend.

©Deborah Hedstrom-Page. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Deborah Hedstrom-Page is a pastor’s wife, writer, and speaker. After 15 years of widowhood and raising four children as a single parent, she married a pastor three years ago and is totally enjoying her new life. In addition to her own four children, she has five step children, and five grandkids. Beside her personal life, Debbie is the author of “Meet Me in the Meadows.” She has also published ten junior-age American history books, a devotional for caregivers, and more than 300 articles. She speaks regularly at women’s retreats and meetings and frequently teaches writing in college classes and workshops.