Throughout high school, I battled several demons. I was often severely depressed, tremendously insecure, and always felt misplaced. These feelings, although strong, were buried deeply, and no one could see how hurt I was; I was excellent at putting on a show for people. On the surface, I seemed confident and happy. I had a lot of great friends, excellent grades, and was accepted by every college to which I applied. I had the world ahead of me, and from the outside looking in, it would seem I had no reason to loathe myself to the core.
When I was eighteen, I moved to New York City for college. I was excited- I thought that running away would be the answer to my problems. The funny thing is, no matter how far you run, you will always run into your biggest problem: yourself. Initially, I thought I was happy. I was building a life in the city. I had a job, friends, classes, etc. Within weeks I knew my way around the city, could ride the subway like a boss, and started to feel like I was where I was meant to be. Nonetheless, deep down inside, the scared, insecure, weak little girl still existed. I wanted to prove to myself I could keep up with this enormously fast-paced lifestyle.
While juggling school, work, friendships, and the city itself, I had a boyfriend back at home. As if I could even focus on taking care of myself in the midst of it all, he was constantly demanding my attention. Although I want to skip the details, it was not a healthy relationship. We fought almost every day and broke up several times before, finally, my roommate staged an intervention at Panera, and I came to terms with the fact that I needed to break up with him… once and for all. And that’s when I started to crumble.
Although before the breakup I had dealt with depression and thoughts of self-destruction, the breakup itself acted as a catalyst to bring buried issues to the surface. Being in a wild city with no positive influences and a hectic lifestyle was no help. I was popping pills like it was nobody’s business, frequently having meltdowns in which I would cry for hours straight with no logical explanation, and had strong urges to self-harm. Although I dealt with temptation to self-harm in high school, I rarely gave in. However, so far away, it became increasingly difficult to fight my self-hatred.
I was tired of trying to cope with my depression. While at a party, I drank myself into oblivion, honestly not even caring if something bad would happen to me. I remember very little from that night. My last memory is picking up a bottle of Jack Daniels with the intention of chugging it completely. Then I woke up in the hospital, alone, with scratches and bruises all over my face and body. I had never been so scared and helpless as I was in that moment.
After returning from the hospital, I was disgusted with myself, and the only way I knew to cope was to burn myself. I spent at least half an hour in the bathroom burning my arm with a cigarette lighter. I was ashamed of myself for all of the trouble I put everyone through during and after my alcohol binge. Self-harm quickly became a normal way for me to cope. When my roommate took my lighter away from me, I began to scratch myself until I bled. The pain felt freeing. In a sense, it brought me back to my body, and the stinging kept me there for a while. It reminded me that I was alive when I felt so numb. My inner pain made sense when I could physically feel it on my body. Despite common misconceptions, it was not any sort of cry for help or attention.
After my alcohol poisoning incident I began going to weekly therapy, where my doctor told me I was underweight I had symptoms of an anorexia-type eating disorder. I was surprised to hear this because, when I looked in the mirror, I saw an ugly, fat girl who was ashamed of her body. In fact, many of the times I self-harmed were triggered by my disdain for my body.
I cannot say I had an “ah-ha” moment where one day I started loving myself, stopped hurting myself, and now I’m alright. But I can say that I have gone six weeks without hurting myself, and although I have had several tempting moments, they all passed, and I was able to resist. I can also say I have gained ten pounds, and although I am not always happy with what I see in the mirror, I remember that feelings lie. What I feel is not what is real.
Since returning home for summer break, I have had several revelations that have helped me to continue to live a healthy and happy lifestyle.
1. John 10:10 says “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (MSG)”. While in New York, I had pretty much killed communication with all the positive influences I had back home. I was very ashamed of who I was and created a victim mentality in my head that my friends would be ashamed of me as well if they knew what had been going on with me. A couple weeks after I returned home for the summer, I opened up to an old friend who I hadn’t talked to for almost the entire year. After hearing my story, she reminded me of something incredibly awakening: God has a plan for my life SO great, that the devil has clearly been trying to undermine it. She told me that next time I want to hurt myself, I need to remember that the devil is trying to rob me of my destiny and that I obviously have a great one if he has been trying so hard to kill my spirit over the past year.
Whoever is reading this, I need you to know that God has a GREAT plan for your life. There is a spiritual warfare for you soul because the enemy is afraid of all you can accomplish. Whether that appears in the form of addiction, depression, self-harm, insecurity, an eating disorder, or loneliness, it is your choice to submit to it or to fight it. (Resist the devil and he will flea from you, draw near to God and He will draw near to you.) God has greatness prepared for you but you cannot be his instrument until you submit to him.
2. Being bitter is a waste of time and energy. Everyone is not out to get you. Most likely, no one is purposely hurting you. Life does move on. There is no such thing as stuck. These feelings are self-imposed traps created out of fear, and in a sense, they act as excuses to delay the self-improvement that begins by taking personal responsibility for your own thoughts and actions. Before I moved to New York, I had a little bit of resentment toward the people around me, and when I moved, that resentment turned into bitterness. I was mad at people for making me feel left out, alone, not seeing how hurt I was deep down, blah blah blah blah. In reality, these people didn’t even know I was having these problems because I never told them. Bitterness ate me up and didn’t affect any of them. I tried to play the blame game- I wouldn’t feel this way if it wasn’t for this person, that person wasn’t there when I needed them, etc. But in reality my life is in my hands, and in my hands alone.
3. Strength comes in numbers. While living in New York, I met a lot of people. I hung out with a lot of people. But I didn’t actually have any friends. Everyone was just someone I could be with so I would not have to be bored, but there was nothing constructive. Pretty early on, I decided I didn’t want to spend my time with most of the people I met, and that I would just be “friendless”. Furthermore, I barely communicated with friends from home. Although I went to church almost weekly, I rarely made connections, as most people I met were simply passing through, on vacation, visiting on business, etc. Sufficed to say, I had no positive influences. Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. I had no one to sharpen me. I was mostly alone, but man was not meant to be alone- we were created for community, to help each other, to build each other, and to sharpen each other. Whatever you are facing, you were not made to endure it alone! Plug yourself into a community and find people who can help you- people who are edifying and encouraging and help you to stay on a safe path.
I thought freedom was a place. I thought that place was New York City. I was wrong. Freedom existed within me all along; I just had to tap into it. If you had the patience to read through all of this, (1) God bless your soul, (2) know that you are ALREADY FREE. You simply need to act on that freedom. You won’t find it by running away, you won’t find it in drugs, you won’t find it in a relationship. You have it within you. 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 says that the spirit of the Lord lives in you and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Whatever it is you are facing, just know that nothing can separate you from that freedom. Remember that when you feel like you are in bondage, you do not have to act on those feelings because they are not the truth. You are free – go and live and love and learn.