April 23, 2007

Poem

Take a second and find your own story
Tucked behind the third couch cushion
Crumpled at the bottom of a shopping cart
Reflecting from the mud puddle down
By the old, white country church’s cemetery.
Don’t be so scared of not living an epic
Remember this moment… this very moment
With the sun shining, and the scent of the wind
Fresh in the air… in your very mind and soul
Beckoning your smile to come out and play.
Don’t focus so much on the ugliness of life
Because you miss too much of the beautiful
Already… when you’re not looking, that is.
And there is so much beauty in things-- in everything
In everything.

April 19, 2007

Mhmm

I have been waiting to post this. I wrote it for a creative non-fiction contest that my school sponsors, and I have been waiting to see if it won or not, so that I don't post something that is copyrighted in another publication. I did not win (I came in 3rd place), so I thought I would share it with the people who read this blog-- if anyone (aside from Bob, my dad, and the Ryans). Here it is-- after much revision. Special thanks for Prof. Teddy Norris for editing and proof reading.
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"Flesh and Blood"
Most of the people I know tend to make their cuts short, deep, and quick. They say it adds to the effect. It maximizes their available space. Mine were never short or quick. Mine were long, thin, and sometimes even decorative-- if a long, thin gash on the arm can even be considered "decorative." I’d slide the blade across my skin, just like the blades of ice-skates, carving slick grooves into a freshly Zamboni-cleared rink. In my mind, this was something that was supposed to happen. The slate was not supposed to be left clean.

People will tell cutters all of the psychological things that go on when they try to destroy themselves-- self-mutilation, they call it. I call it destruction by choice-- destruction by something as slick and beautiful as a razor blade. It releases a rush of endorphins, thus providing a sort of "high" without taking any real drugs. This is the scientific explanation of self-destruction. The addiction is often reduced to nothing more than chemistry in the brain and certain events from one’s past that flipped a switch in their mind, turning off the lights on their way out of the room.

I would argue though, that self-harm has little to do with the physical body at all. The high is not just endorphins; it is feeling—any feeling—which truly captivates the individual. That’s all it takes, really—sensation. I often found myself in a strange, thick atmosphere, in which I was hardly lucid. It wasn’t even that I was hurting— I just couldn’t feel. It is common for anyone who is depressed to be so emotionally damaged that he or she becomes numb. It’s a coping mechanism, like two year-olds plugging their ears when they don’t want to listen, or an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. But self-destruction is far beyond little metaphors. For the most part, self-destructors are suffocating in the dark room, and they have just stubbed their toe for the fifth time. But, if they see a small, shining stripe of blood on their arm, the sting of the wound is the best and most intense feeling they can conjure. When you’re that numb, I swear it’s better than falling in love.

It always surprises me when I tell others about this struggle of mine. "Struggle"… what a religious word! I say it out of habit because I was raised in a religious household, and am very religious myself. But, the connotations of the word "struggle" are very applicable to the mindset of a cutter. In a religious sense, the word "struggle" often denotes a person fighting against something they have no true desire for.

It is easy for a person to fight against something they never really wanted to begin with, but I wanted to cut. I wanted desperately to leave no perfect spot of flesh on my body. In the New Testament, The Apostle Paul wrote, "…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). I struggled with both flesh and blood, but I also struggled against this addiction of the body that had great authority over my life. I struggled in the darkness of this world and the darkness of my mind after the switch was flipped.

In my experience, it is rare for a non-cutter to focus on or even recognize the brutality of self-destruction. Most people usually want to focus on the origin of it. If they are initially shocked by the fact that I ever participated in self-destruction, they are even more shocked when I cannot give a definitive answer as to why I gave up my entire high school career to multiple forms of it. I cannot give a specific situation or tragedy from my past that led me into depression, I know only that I have dealt with it. I also know that I can pinpoint the exact moment when it all began.

I remember I was standing outside my house in Farmington, Missouri. Because Farmington is mostly suburban, there is very little "city noise." It is a place where falling snow is heard in winter. That night, it was snowing. Like many self-destructive individuals, I had reached a point socially where I couldn’t stand to be around people. There were days when the sound of someone’s voice would send me into a frenzy of unchanneled rage and incredibly irrational thinking that would become belief for me. It was that particular night (while the sound of each snowflake pounded repetitiously in my head as it hit the ground) that I made the decision-- I hated myself.

Amid all this business of self-hatred, social awkwardness, and self-destruction, my biggest struggle-- the real bane of my existence-- was (and often still is) found in a little, belligerent thing called ED-NOS: "Eating Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified." ED-NOS is a category of eating disorders that encompasses anyone who has disordered eating habits but is not underweight (a defining symptom of anorexia nervosa) or participating in all of the facets of bulimia. It is a hodge-podge of all eating disorders. In my life, however, ED-NOS has not just been a condition, it has been an entity— nearly a monster.

I couldn’t have been anorexic, because I actually was "fat." I was 248 pounds, as I recall. I also obviously wasn’t bulimic, because I never intentionally made myself throw up. I was, however, massive. At only five feet and five inches of height, I was lumbering. I hated my body. I struggled with it. I fought against it, because I had no desire for it. I also didn’t eat more than 400 calories a day. I exercised for no less than three hours per day, and I was never happy with myself. Even after losing 70-80 pounds the summer before my junior year, I still wasn’t good enough.

ED-NOS was the monster that lurked in the closet of the dark room in my mind. It was by far my most beloved obsession. Often, ED-NOS was the one thing in a wide-open room that I would stumble over. I was Franz Kafka’s "Hunger Artist," making a grand spectacle of myself because of what I knew I could not be. The things average people valued could never fulfill me. ED-NOS provided me with a purpose—it made me feel accomplished. This made ED-NOS the hardest facet of self-destruction to give up.

It is easy for me to ramble about cutting or ED-NOS, because those were the thorns in my side. They were not my real heart-issue, though. Self-destruction is the most common heart-issue. It creeps into everyone’s lives. It is often found in grand masquerades, or in something as subtle as a teardrop. Self-destruction is not habitual action; it is a lack of habitual accountability. After training your mind into self-destruct sequence, one must train it back to a normal way of coping-- just as one would have to train a dog to sleep in a doghouse or relieve itself outside.

It is common for people to ask me if I ever had any sort of counseling for my habits of self-destruction. "No, I’m not crazy" I tell them, not because one must be clinically insane to participate in therapy, but because I am not crazy. I am recovering. If hating your body, or wanting to be someone else makes you crazy, I don’t think there is one sane person in the world. But, self-destruction magnifies our criticisms of ourselves-- it draws them out of us, sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes in the form of short, deep, and quick cuts.

Many people need counseling to deal with the sorrowful tunes played out in their life, and someday, I could find myself there, too. In a way, I seek counsel everyday. I talk with those who have been recovering much longer than I. I pray. I journal. I smile. I trudge through the hard days. I choose to feel. It is enough. It is enough to be reassured that I am not any less sane than those around me. It is enough to no longer hate myself each moment. It is more than enough to know that self-destruction does not loom in every corner of my dark mind. It is not in my power to self-destruct, and for this I am glad. Instead, I choose to strive for self-reconstruction.

April 17, 2007

UPDATE

I am currently. . .

Reading: Story of a Soul - St. Therese of Lisieux.

Watching: Numerous Hitchcock and Agatha Christie films

Craving: Something more... something different... and coffee, of course.

Learning: that love is vital... loving Him is vital.

Rejoicing: My best friend of 8 years, Abbi Saunier, is getting married. She is my hero(ine).

Trudging: Through the final projects of the semester... one 8 page paper down, two more to go. (not to mention the Creative Writing Portfolio, Irish Lit responses, World Lit responses, Detective fiction final exam &&& the final Creative Writing short story-- which I haven't even started. yaya!)

Enjoying: Color, contrast, SPRINGTIME, and beautiful things.

Trying: To flex my artistic muscles a little.

I'm not normally one for posting icons on my sites, but this one...
I just couldn't resist.

April 02, 2007

Coping Mechanisms: religion's not the only one.

Many Christians place blame on authors of secular philosophy for causing the downfall of the modern Church. Nietzsche, who is considered one of modern Christianity’s most formidable philosophical foes, espoused the idea that “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science). His writings have no doubt influenced modern society and culture in vast and prolific ways, still, the American Church fools itself into thinking that what Nietzsche had to say in the 1880s actually bears any weight in the Christianity of today.

Growing up in church, I always heard about the evils of secular philosophy, and how they are at fault for the Church’s lack of reverence and “Pure Religion” (see James 1:27). As I have grown, however, I see that the Church is often in a state of great complacency. Even if the world is going to Hell, it doesn’t mean that the Church must decline. On the contrary! She should do no less than to rise to the occasion and prove that religion is no more a “coping mechanism” than secular philosophy. She must turn around the argument.

Even if the supernatural and the religious only existed simply because religious individuals subconsciously think that there is a need for it, or that it will give them comfort when facing the fears of death and eternity, I would argue that the atheistic and the anti-religious exists for the exact same reason. The religious may need their God, but the irreligious of the world crave godlessness, if only to justify their immorality or to make sense of their pain.

I would say that in a sense, Nietzsche is no more a realist that the Romanticist writing in order to eradicate the past, tradition, and the religiously stiff, but just as the Romantic period sought to break away from the Enlightenment, so the Realist Movement sought to break free of the tenants of the Romantic Era. Nietzsche aimed in all his work to provide a new meaning for human existence in a meaningless world. In the absence of any transcendent sanction, men must create their own values. Nietzsche's writings are either analyses and criticisms of the old system of values or attempts to formulate a new system” (Gale Literary Index).

By reading the selection of Nietzsche assigned by my Western Literature professor, I have come to recognize that the ideals of one man cannot be at fault for the complacency of an entire institution which he was not even connected to. I have also recognized the fact that Nietzsche was only doing what countless other writers have done-- pressed forward in a social reform which conveys very little logic, and even less benefit for the world.

On Being Overdressed

Imagine a little girl, dark wispy hair, big gray eyes. She dances in a black velvet tutu across every part of her life. There is joy in the ...