Monday, April 30, 2007

My Story

The following is a combination of my testimony and research
I have done on the epidemic of cutting and self mutilation...
I did it. I didn't know why I did it, and I didn’t know that anyone else did. I was convinced that my pain, my confusion, my turmoil was so much greater than anyone else's. So I devised a plan to deal with my hurt - a hurt that nobody seemed to understand. If they couldn't tell I was emotionally dying on the inside, maybe they could see it on my outside in the form of cuts, scrapes, burns, and bruises…. But I wasn't alone. I'm not the first teenager to have done this, and sadly I won't be the last. It is estimated that one out of every 200 teen girls between the ages of 13 and 19 regularly practice self-abusive behavior with a reported 2 million cases in the U.S. alone. Although generally practiced by teen girls, it does affect at least 11 thousand boys a year as well. Seventy-two percent of self abusive behaviors are in some form of making cuts on a person's own body.1 People cut for different reasons. But it all comes down to not knowing how to deal with the emotions building up inside of them. So they cut to get attention, or to release the pain. They cut in order to feel something other than what's going on in the inside. And I was one of them.
When I was in 5th grade, my mother started going to therapy. And then suddenly it seemed as if she had disappeared both physically and emotionally from my life. She was still around, but not the women I had known for the first ten years of my life. There was the screaming and the pounding on the walls; the glasses being thrown across the room and the uncontrollable crying - all physical reminders to me that a women who called herself my mom, lived behind the locked master bedroom door. My mother secluded herself in her room all the time. She made multiple suicide attempts and was even put in a psychiatric hospital for a month.
This was my life for about five years. Not only was my mom stripped from me but I wasn't allowed to have contact with my mom's side of the family. I couldn't bring friends over, for fear of the state my mom was in. All of my dad's attention was on getting her better. I made sure I kept my own emotions and issues inside, so I wouldn't cause any more problems for anyone. I would learn in later years that we sued the psychiatrist for malpractice because he manipulated my mom into believing that abuse and other terrible things had happened to her in her past. This created a whole new phase of emotions and confusions. It was a lot for a 14 year old to handle. I remember my younger sister always screaming at me that I was not her mom, but in reality, the one we had wasn't really there.
Youth in an emotionally strained parental relationship, still long for their parents to provide the safety that they are meant to provide. When a parent is only showing his or her child pain and turmoil then pain becomes the most reliable relationship in their lives, and the self-mutilator will welcome pain, because she knows it is the only thing she can trust to be there. Pain is then connected with home and home is where every child wants to be.2
I seemed to always be alone when I was at home; long hours of doing nothing in my room; trying to block out the anguish of my mother and my life. I remember trying everything I could do to block out her screaming and crying, but the air vents would carry every sound into my room and fill my ears. The first time I injured myself was actually an accident. I was holding my cat. She was terrified by the vacuum cleaner, and when I walked by it she freaked out and ended up giving me three really good gashes on the inside of my left wrist. This prompted immediate attention from my mom because she was the only one home and I needed someone to help me.
After that, I started to tease and antagonize my cat to scratch me as well as find new ways to scratch, wound, and hurt myself. To this day, I still bear the scars on my arms from scratches and cuts I did to myself in Junior High. My mother, locked in her room, found more convenient ways of hurting herself with razors and glass, but I didn't even know till later that she was doing this as well. My freshman year of high school I started playing with matches and candles in my room. I would try to see how long I could withstand the burning wax on my hands. In fits of frustration, I remember punching the floor of my room until my hands ached. I almost looked for opportunities to injure myself. Not only did I get attention if it was bad enough, but I could control it and make it happen when I wanted to.
"What self-injurers have in common is that they are often children of divorce, and as many as 90% grew up in homes where communication between parents and child was lacking and where messy problems were ignored, avoided, and ultimately left in silence."3

"… [T]he self-mutilator is someone who has found that physical pain can be a cure for emotional pain."4

It was my sophomore year of high school and my mom had been in recovery for about six months. I felt as if everything might return to normal. Suddenly one Sunday morning, out of the blue, when I thought everything was getting back on track, she left. My dad had found her in the middle of the night on the phone with a guy she had met in an internet chat room. My dad told her to choose. And she left. In a state of shock, my dad still took me and my sister to church that morning, and we drove her to the airport that night. This intensified my negative feelings and I felt like I was spinning out of control. I was careful, though, not to let anyone know how much I really was trying to hold inside. I was afraid of what would happen if I finally did let it all go.
Near the end of high school, I started getting into the "punk" scene. This led me into experimenting with drugs, sex, and alcohol. For a year or so this took over my life and aided in me staying distracted from my crazy broken family.
Through a number of circumstances, and a near drug overdose, I came to live in Santa Barbara in January of 2001. I was raised going to church every Sunday and never doubted the existence of God and who Jesus was. I had been in ministry leadership positions back home and on missions' trips. I had all the right answers in my head and knew what was right and wrong. I had just stopped caring. I tried for a long time to be a "good" girl on certain days, and then tried really hard not to care about anything the rest of the week. I never really grasped what it meant to give all of me to the Lord and to let Him have control. I did not love Him with all my heart. Just the pieces I felt like exposing. I ended up at a young adult Bible study at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara on the first Friday of February 2001. I had very short blue hair. My ears were full of piercings, I still had trembling hands from drugs I had taken before moving, and I was ready to give up on life altogether. Then I once again heard again the message of love and salvation, and my heart begin to melt. I knew I could not keep on living the way I was because soon I would not be living at all. This time it was different. I wanted to give all the pieces of my broken heart to the Lord. I gave my entire life to the Lord that night and I was ready to be a real Christian and work on getting my life back on track.
A week later, it was a different story…
It was late the next Saturday night and I was sobbing on the floor of the makeshift room at my grandparents. My mind began reeling with lies of being worthless and no good. I felt like satan was having a field day with me and I had lost complete control. Lies seemed to weigh me down; Lies of not being able to make it; nobody cared. I couldn't do this. Life was better where I used to live. I found my box cutter that I brought with me from a job I had before I moved and I started to toy with it in my hand as I wrestled with the emotions pounding through my head. Suddenly I took the razor to the inside of my left leg and roughly cut about a dozen lines and watched with satisfaction as the blood came down and the pain seeped out. I sat there in my rewarding pain, seeing my grief and anguish in a neat pattern across my lower leg just above my ankle.

"Physical pain and the sight of oneself bleeding become solutions because of their ability to overpower the strength of these feelings."5

Then my satisfaction melted away as a wave of shame spread over me. I quickly cleaned and bandaged the wound. I tried to quietly exit my room so I could go outside and have a cigarette. As I went down the hallway a door behind me opened and my stepsister, who had been staying the night, came out.
"Are you Ok? What are you doing?" she said in a soft concerned voice. I mumbled a response of some sort and told her I just wanted a glass of water. I got my water and quickly returned to bed; all the while she stood in her door watching me.
Still wanting the cigarette, I opened my bedroom window and awkwardly took a couple of drags. But it wasn't the same. I couldn't stop thinking about how concerned Nichole had been and thinking about the example I was setting for her, really bothered me. She was only 12 and looked up to me with so much love and adoration and I was ready to throw it out right then and there. It was then that I realized that someone really did care.
I found that I had no more interest in my cigarette, and, subsequently, I would never pick up another one after that. I knew I needed help. I knew I couldn't keep living like this. I had a little sister and a family who was counting on me to be there for them for a very long time. A few days later I went to my step-mom and told her everything and showed her the ugly cuts on my leg. With the help of my doctor, a family therapist, and the ever increasing friends I was making at church, my body and heart began to heal.
That night was the last time I ever intentionally hurt myself. It was the last time I ever smoked and I never drank irresponsibly or did drugs again. I started involving myself in a wonderful Bible study on Friday nights, church on Sunday, and home group on Monday nights. I also saw different therapists and found mothers in older women, who took me under their wing, and helped restore the years that were lost. The fellowship and friends I found did wonders for me. I began healthy relationships. I learned to like who I was and realize that God created me and had a purpose for me. Through prayer, church, friends, and family, I have been able to fully recover.
A little later that month after the last time I cut myself, I was out with some friends and telling one how I would get overwhelmed and not know what to do. He suggested I find a scripture that would sum up what I needed, to memorize it, and use in those times when I felt hopeless. 1 Peter 5:6-7 became my life verse that night. "Humble yourself, therefore, under the Mighty hand of God, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." To know that the God of the universe had my best in mind; that He loved me and cared for me; and to really take that to heart, changed me forever. Zephaniah 3:17 also came up around that time, where it talks about the Lord quieting me with His love and singing over me with joy. Through constant fellowship, engaging in the word of God, memorizing scripture, and realizing that God was in control and I wasn't, this is what has made a difference in my life. I may not have had a solid family structure growing up, but the family of Christ has filled up those holes where I was lacking. I have a restored life as well as a restored relationship with my mother.
I did it. I cut because I didn't know how to feel or share that I hurt. Many people do it. My pain, my confusion, my turmoil was great, but I found a God who is greater and is able to deal with my junk, heal my heart, and give me hope.

1 "What is self-mutilation and other self-abusive behaviors?" © 2001 Page Wise, Inc.
2 "Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation" Steven Levenkron © 1999 W.W. Norton and Company New York/London (Page 128)
3 Sullivan, Dana. "When Pain is All You Have." WebMD Medical News © 2000 Healtheon/WebMD
4 "Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation" Steven Levenkron © 1999 W.W. Norton and Company New York/London (Page 45)
5 "Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation" Steven Levenkron © 1999 W.W. Norton and Company New York/London (Page 44)

Copyright © 2007 Kjaere Friestad all rights reserved


Shawn said...

I can relate to almost every aspect of what you have said here. I did all of the above, but the cutting and burning came after I had to stop using drugs. A mild heart attack from mainlining too much coke at once was not even a reason to quit in the shape I was in. I just quit smoking in June. So I just want you to know you are not alone in this thing we are trying to figure out called life.

Emily said...

God is awesome! Thanks for the testimony!

Erin Kredel said...

Thanks for sharing your story Kjaere and for offering hope. I had never read it before so all I can say is I'm so glad Nichole cared enough to ask. I am so glad God brought healing in your life. What an incredible story of his love. Thank you friend! ...and I love you!

anna joy said...

wow, this is awesome. some aspects are similar to my story. thank you for sharing.

Rachel said...

God blows my mind with testimony's like yours. Thanks for being brave enough to share. Glory to Him, our beautiful maker. love you KJ, honored to be your friend, i am excited to see how He will use you in SF! woot! PRAISES!

Cierra said...

Thank you for sharing your story. While growing up with you I knew that there was trouble with your relationship with your mother, but I never knew it was so deep. I think it is wonderful that you have moved forward with God's strength.

Donna said...

I wonder if you're still around; I hope so if for no other reason than to pray for my dil that she'll find what you have - thank you so much and so glad for you

Kjaere said...

Hi Donna, thank you for reading and for your comments. I am very much around still. I am currently teaching preschool in South Africa. You can view more about me now at:
I will pray for your dil