Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Think I'll Be Brave, Starting With You...

When first planning to write this article a couple months ago I had planned an entirely different focus for it than what you’re about to read. Call it providence or just plain irony, I had chosen to hold off on writing it until after a trip I was going on because I thought afterwards I’d have a better idea about my subject. I had no idea just how much my outlook was going to change during and after that trip. I got a clearer plan for my subject –but it has turned out to be entirely different than what I expected.

Originally, I had planned to mainly focus on several different unique ways of dressing to artfully hide embarrassing scars from cutting. Why? Well at the time I had just admitted to my parents that I’d struggled with cutting. It was then I learned that, even when surrounded by people who knew the truth, I couldn’t stand to have my scars in plain view. Even just allowing some of my lesser ones to be seen was a challenge knowing the past few years were written on my arms.

The last several months I’ve literally tried everything to remove those scars from my body. I’ve easily spent between $100 and $200 on scar gels and creams in attempts to heal them and yet more on make-up to cover them. I even attempted using bleach on my skin –as I’m sure you can imagine, that is extremely painful- it felt like I was running a hundred tiny sharp knives over my skin. It didn’t do any good. After about 6 months, I came to the realization that no matter what I did, my scars were not going anywhere. I settled for allowing my less-noticeable ones to be seen and always wearing ¾ length sleeves to hide the ones I couldn’t stand for anyone to ever see. Naturally, this turned my mind to different ways of hiding my shame and regret from the world. That, had been my plan -to tell you all how to hide your shame.

Like I said though, the trip I took drastically changed my view on this –or at least, it was theturning point in the changing of my view. If two months ago you’d told me what I would be choosing to write I would be laughing uncontrollably at the ridiculousness of it. I honestly can only barely believe it even as I’m writing this.

So what exactly am I going to tell you? Well, now that I’ve written almost entire page on what I’m not going to write, I guess it’s about time I tell you, huh? I decided I was going to be brave, face life honestly, and suggest you try doing so as well.

Our past –no matter what it may be- is always going to be there. That’s a fact we all know, even though some of us try to pretend we can make it go away, we all know we can’t. If we’re going to embrace our futures we need to acknowledge our pasts. Our pasts are where we come from–they’re the intros to our current lives. Sure, we might skip over the intro of a story, but it’s there for a reason: To explain how we got to our current place in the story. Yesterday I thought about an age-old question: If I could go back and change anything in my life, what would it be? I realized at that moment that despite all the horrible mistakes I’ve made, there’s not a single thing I’d change because it took all of those things to make me who I am today. The dark areas of my life are definitely not my finest moments or what I’d choose to highlight, but they’re apart of who I am and why I’m what I am today.

I know I can’t keep my scars hidden for the rest of my life. What if I finally get to go toAustralia like I want to? Am I going to wear long sleeves and not go into the water? Yeah, I don’t think so. Eventually, someone is going to see those scars no matter how hard I try to hide them. Unless I never allow anyone to become close to me (which would make for an extremely lonely existence, fyi), I have an impossible mission ahead of me if I’m determined to hide them forever. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be better to tell them upfront at a good time than to have them learn the truth by accident at an inopportune time?

Am I worried about how people react when they see the truth? Extremely! It’s not like there’s much doubt as to what they could be from. Such numerous long, surgically-straight scars could only come from one thing. I’ve already had to face the pain of customers at my workplace looking pointedly at my arms and not taking their eyes off them the whole time I waited on them. Others have seen them and looked on in disgust for the rest of the transaction. I’ve been working there for about two months now and I’m just now reaching the point where I really don’t care or think about it -most of the time. Already I’ve had to wonder if a guy had backed off from getting to know me better after seeing the scars on my arms. And I’ll admit, that last one is an extremely difficult one to have to face, but in the end, I’d rather know upfront how he felt rather than have grown close only to have him reject me later on.

It’s not all sad stories though. I’ve started being more open about my struggles with some of the new friends I’m making at college, and although I’m not going into details, I’m becoming much more comfortable with the whole thing. I can say, yes, this is something I’ve struggled with, and then move on with the conversation. By doing so, it’s helped me to see that I’m not going to lose all my friends if they know the truth, and in turn, has helped me to finally start coming to terms with my past.

No matter what you’re trying to hide in your past, know that you can still find love and acceptance despite it. I was thoroughly convinced that because of what I’d done to myself, no guy would ever want me. The idea that any guy could look with love on someone like me was impossible for me to believe. God changed that one night while I was attending an on-campus ministry known as His House. For the first time since I became a Christian at six, I walked over to total strangers to pray. The only person on the prayer team who was available was a guy. I almost turned around and left, but God gave me the courage to tell him how, though I’d been free from cutting for about 7 months, I still really struggled with the urge to use cutting as a release. What he said while praying for me took my breath away. This guy not only mentioned how he knew of others who attended His House who were struggling with this same issue, but that his own girlfriend had struggled with it and even though he didn’t understand it completely, he understood the desire of having what cutting offered. I hadn’t even known that story was exactly why God had urged me over to pray until after I’d gone back to friends to rejoin the singing. Without either of us knowing it, God had used that guy to show me that even someone who had been a self-injurer could find love and acceptance from another person. To me, that meant more than anything anyone could say about that issue. It was an example honestly put forth without knowing how important to me it would be. God had planned it beautifully, and I’ll admit to having shed a few tears in the darkened room while singing some of those worship songs.

 I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to be open and honest –there will likely be people you will never tell the truth to –and that’s fine. What I’m most concerned with is that whatever is haunting you from your past –be it drugs, alcohol, cutting, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, whatever- that you acknowledge that yes, it’s there in your past, and then move forward in your life being honest with those you should about your struggles. There will likely be plenty of pain and I’m sure you’ll have your share of people who react with disgust –especially if the truth is obvious in some way. Your own parents, like mine, may choose to ignore the truth when presented with it. But I’m also here to tell you that you’ll meet your own prayer team guys who tell you just the right story at the right time, you’ll have friends who will stand even closer by your side after learning the truth, and people who will wrap you in their arms and promise to never let you go. And even if the whole world seems to hate or look down at you at times, know that God really is standing right there and could care less about what you’ve done because He still loves you more than you can ever imagine. He’s just waiting for you to say hi and have a good heart-to-heart about it all. So be brave, face the past and then look towards the future as you use what you’ve learned in your dark times to make it through the rest of your life.


  1. Thank you for being so honest! Bringing up old issues from your past can be very painful, but I'm sure all your readers will stand by you, as will I.

  2. Abby, this was beautiful! God bless you my sister :) in Christ!