January 08, 2007


A very late night conversation with a couple of my friends on New Years Eve/Day inspired me to write this post. It's something I don't talk about nearly enough.

I was “saved” at the age of three. I loved God, and I knew who he was, even if I was young. I wouldn’t quite say that I understood the saving power of who He is, though. It took a lot more than a prayer to teach me that. I had a great Christian education, and was well versed in Scripture and Christian doctrine. I could debate theology with anyone, and still appear extremely intelligent for my age.

But, when I was 13, my family moved out of state and then moved again when I was 14. By this time, I was seriously doubting my beliefs. Maybe “doubting my beliefs” isn’t the right way to put it. I still knew God, and I knew how He could provide for my needs, but so many things in life seemed so much more logical than He did. Because so many illogical things had happened in such a short time before this, I thrived on and sought out practicality, logic, minimalism, strictness, and reason. What eventually came of this was in no way logical, though.

I don't remember a lot of what happened in my life between the ages of 14 and 16, but I remember that they were very dark days for me. I was very depressed. I began to punish myself for not being able to be happy, for trusting people I shouldn‘t have, for doing something stupid at youth group, or even for getting a bad grade. At first, it was only skipping meals, scratching at my arms, and running myself down all the time. The first manifestation of it all that I can remember was at a performance of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker". My brother asked why my arm was scratched, and I told him fearlessly that I had done it. He jokingly called me "Cutter", and never brought it up again.

That was just the beginning.

It quickly escalated to punishing my body through exercise and under eating. At one point, I was eating one small meal a day and exercising for a little under four hours a day. I would fill up on coffee and diet soda, or I would manipulate my metabolism so that I wouldn't even get hungry at all. What I couldn't do by swimming laps, I'd make up for in walking or stay up working out in my room. I lost about 70 pounds the summer before I began my junior year, but even that wasn't enough-- I wasn’t enough. So I continued to push myself. I would hitch rides to the local rec center when our home pool closed for the year, and I started walking to friends houses and Bible study regularly.

Even though I was consistently controlling my body, I started cutting myself when I was 15 years old. It started with thumb tacks and mechanical pencils, and eventually I was using razors and even knives if I could. I never thought I would come clean, but when I made the choice to tell my youth leader about my habit, I knew that I had to tell my parents. I didn't want them to find out about it through anyone but myself. A little after my 16th birthday, I had my parents and myself convinced that I wasn't going to cut anymore, but I soon fell back into it. This was worse. I never used anything but razors or knives, and the cuts seemed to last longer and go deeper each time. I saw people who had been into cutting at my age, who were then in their 20s, trying to raise families and have careers-- the baggage that self-harm left was unbelievable, and I knew deep down that I could very well have been on that road. So, I pushed people away because I didn't want to have to explain myself to them-- but really, it's because I didn't want to face myself when all was said and done. I didn't want to end up in a psych ward. I didn't want to end up constantly unstable, and facing more mental disorders than I could even fathom. I lived a seemingly double life. I led youth group and worked with non-profit organizations, all the while destroying myself for some unvoiced reason-- a reason I couldn't even find words for.

After six more months of battling with myself and my rage (as well as with my parents, who found out about one of my relapses because my little sister saw a cut on my arm-- ironically, it is one of the only scars visible on my arms to this day), I finally realized how far I had gone. It occurred to me one night, at a bon fire, that it wasn’t okay for me to bleed instead of crying, or talking to someone about what I was feeling. It wasn’t okay, regardless of my weight or pants size, to starve myself or obsess over how I looked. I also realized how futile the pursuit of control was. At least, it wasn’t at all worth the price I paid for it.

I had ruined many relationships in my life. My friends were hurt. I spent many nights on the phone with my three closest friends (what good friends they were, even if I wanted desperately to get away from them)-- it wasn‘t rare for them to be crying or yelling or both. My parents couldn't trust me, and with good reason. Sometimes even now, if I have a scratch on my arm, they‘ll ask about it, which only reminds me of how much they deserve to hold my trust (as well as what a blessing it is for me to hold theirs after all I put them through.) Worst of all, I had injured my relationship with God in a major way. By cutting, I stood in His face and told Him that He wasn’t good enough to sooth my pain. By starving myself, I told Him that I didn’t trust Him enough to make me beautiful.

A few weeks after the last time I cut, my family moved again. God showed me how incredibly good He is. In the town that I moved from, my reputation was ruined. I couldn't be considered a stable, healthy girl anymore, and I didn't want to live in that manner in the new community I would have to be a part of. God pretty much got in my face and said "Straighten up, I’m giving you a second chance."

The second chance came. I’ve been able to come into contact with others who are coming out of the depths and darkness of self-harm. I still struggle with all of these things. Mostly cutting, and the feeling that I need to punish myself. But now, I know just how much I need God, and how willing He is to let me start over. It is so much more than a blessing-- my second chance. To be able to shine, even if I’m not quite there yet. To be able to smile again (which I've been told I never stop doing-- Praise God! What else is there to do, really?), and more than that-- to be able to cry again. To be able to stand up and say, “I’ve been there, and I know for a fact that you don’t have to be.”

But more than anything, I am forever grateful that my God is a rescuer. He is MY rescuer.

"We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us... because we have been here." - Betsie Ten Boom

"Does anybody know how I feel? Sometimes I'm numb, sometimes I'm overcome. Does anybody care what's going on? Do I have to wear my scars like a badge on my arm for you to see me, I need release. Do I have to scream for you to hear me? Do I have to bleed for you to see me? 'Cause I grieve, you're not listening to me. Do I need to scream? Has anybody seen what's been done? Where was my defense? No one heard my protest. The eyes of God were watching me. It's time to make my peace, let it go and be released so I can breathe again. I'm on my knees I've been marked, set apart, but I'm cut so deep and afraid of the dark. One drop of blood from the hole in Your hand is enough to heal me and make me stand. 'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me. I don't have to scream for Him to hear me-- Don't have to bleed for Him to see me. 'Cause I'm clean, He is listening to me. I don't have to scream. I don't have to bleed .'Cause I'm clean, He is listening-- And I don't have to scream." - ZOEgirl, Scream


Slatts said...

This is a very candid window, and it shows a lot of peace of soul to be able to talk about it in this way. Thanks for the view.

Terry M. Goodwin said...

Your previous post said - Maybe Someday I Will Have Something Inspiring to Say - That day is today. WOW

I have never pushed you in this matter but now you have opened the door.

It is time for you to share this story with as many people as you can. It is not just your story. It is the story of God and you and others need to hear it from your mouth. Parents need to hear it and those who hurt themselves need to hear it. I applaud your courage to share.

As a parent, I wish I had known more about this during the time you were going through this.

I love you so much Jessica that words fail me - and that's rare!

Jessica R. Goodwin said...

It almost surprises me that you would say that. Mommy appologized after reading this, and said that she should have been more in tune with me. It doesn't surprise me to think that you would have wanted to help me through, but I've realized that if two you had known more about what I was into, I don't think God would have had such opportunity to get my attention.

In the end, it all happens the way it's meant to happen. :) I love you more, by the way.

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