Life is Pain and Beauty and Truth: By Miriam
HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Miriam” is a pseudonym.
Trigger warning: graphic descriptions of self-injury and suicidal attempts and thoughts.
“who does these things to you ?”
i do. i hate myself. and, i think i have lost the will to live. i’m tired of fighting to survive. i want to give up. i want to die.
the dark battle with the mental illness i still fight began with me.
i don’t remember a lot of my childhood. i have fragments of memories. but i’ve tried to forget the rest, the good along with the bad.
the bullying and the abuse began in junior high.
there were three adults. the first, a leader at a church. the second, an athletics coach. the third, an academics coach. they were all close friends with my parents. i trusted them. i looked up to them. i respected them. and i endured emotional abuse under each for a total of four years.
they taught me that i was worthless. that anything i tried to do was never good enough.
i can’t count the number of students that bullied me. but it came from everywhere: the church youth group, the debate team, the sports team. some were my friends. some were my role models. they were all tormentors in the end. i couldn’t escape being the victim, for four years of my life.
they taught me that i was fat, weak, gay, emo, worthless, stupid, dirty, and deserved to die.
i could only deal with so much. at age 13, i started fighting depression. it grew worse over the next two years.
at age 15, i was sad. i was tired of living. and i wanted more than anything to escape. to be happy again. i became an expert at pretending to be okay. fake smiles were second nature.
i wouldn’t let anyone close enough to let them hurt me. i couldn’t trust anyone. so no one knew. no one noticed how much it hurt.
i was alone.
may 25, 2012. i was home alone. the pain in my mind was unbearable. the heartache of the shame i felt was too heavy. i wanted to die. but i couldn’t kill myself. i wouldn’t let myself. i was too scared.
so i did the first thing that came to mind, to try and relieve the pain. i broke apart a plastic razor i found in the bathroom cabinet and i took the thin blade from it. i pressed it horizontally to my wrist. and i cut.
six small cuts. barely deep enough to break the skin, but still deep enough to bleed, to hurt. it brought relief like a flood in a way that i can’t explain with words.
i’ve tried to retrace my thoughts since then to figure out what ever gave me the idea of cutting myself in the first place. i’ve hit only dead ends.
but i had found an escape.
for the next month, i was okay. i knew i couldn’t cut my wrists because it was still summer and i couldn’t hide my arms easily. so i cut the skin across my thighs. every night. i got a little more courage. the cuts became a little deeper.
it hurt so good. no one noticed.
they taught in church that god is supposed to be the ultimate source of joy and peace.
i felt a deep shame. if god made christians joyful, why was i depressed. if god gave christians peace, why did i have to get relief from a blade.
i knew i was a bad christian. i knew that god must hate me.
they said that god loves the world and all the people in it. but he didn’t stop my bullies and abusers from hurting me.
i knew. god doesn’t love me. i stopped praying. i stopped reading the bible. i didn’t know why i should anymore. it wasn’t helping me get better. if god didn’t love me then i didn’t see why i should love him.
i didn’t love him anymore. i hated him. he made this happen to me. he made me hurt. he gave me life but then he made it so bad that i wanted to die.
i knew i was a bad christian. so i told my parents. they cried a lot. i promised i would get better and i would never cut myself again. i promised i would start loving god again. i said everything would be okay again.
i tried hard to keep my promise. it only lasted a month. then i got worse. i broke down and starting cutting again. every night. deeper and deeper.
i wanted to die. maybe i could get enough courage to try and kill myself someday.
four months later. they found out. my parents took me to the doctor. he asked me a lot of questions and then gave me a bottle of pills to take. once a day. he said it would help me to feel better.
so they all pretended everything was okay now. i had pills. i should get better now.
i got worse again. it was winter now. i started cutting my wrists and worked my way all the way up to my shoulders. i could hide them under jackets and long sleeves. it didn’t matter anymore anyway.
the pills weren’t working. the doctor gave me higher doses of pills.
they took me to a psychologist. she seemed nice. she asked lots of questions. i told her about everything. she wanted to see my cuts. i showed her. she wanted me to talk to my parents. she wanted me to show them my cuts. she wanted me to promise to stop cutting.
i didn’t know what to do.
i said yes.
after it was over, i wore short sleeves again. people stared at the scars lining my arms. they asked me what happened. i told them a dog had scratched me.
depression swallowed me again. the doctor gave me more pills. it was a different kind this time. he said they would help me not to feel tired.
but i was tired. i was tired of living. and i was sick. really sick.
i wanted to die. i thought i had enough courage to try.
it was 1:13AM. i couldn’t sleep. i didn’t want to live through the next day. i knew i could die now.
i thought about my knives. i got them and cut deeply into my wrist. i wanted to slice through a vein and bleed to death.
i failed. i was left with a mess of sticky blood. but i was too scared to cut deep enough to die.
i knew i would try again soon.
and i did. two weeks later. i tried reaching a vein again. i almost did it.
there was so much blood. my head hurt and i was dizzy. i couldn’t bring myself to keep cutting deeper. i was too weak and too tired.
i failed again.
i tried to keep living. i hoped that things would get better. maybe the pills would work now.
hope bred more misery.
i was brave enough to give it another shot. the knife couldn’t cut deep enough. i tried something different this time.
i found a large bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet. i swallowed a lot of them. i didn’t count how many. i drank a lot of water and tried to fall asleep.
my stomach hurt. i threw up all the pills.
i failed. for the third time. i used to think that the third time’s a charm.
i was too tired to try again. i cried and fell asleep.
a few weeks later, i tried again.
this time i got scared after i swallowed all the pills.
i called the only person i trusted.
he talked to me for an hour or two. i calmed down.
my stomach still hurt. my head was throbbing. i threw up all the pills.
i had failed. i was still alive, against my will.
i felt like god was laughing at me. i couldn’t stand to live but i couldn’t even get dying right. i was in limbo. in hell.
four attempts and still alive. i was sick. i hated myself. i wanted to die but i couldn’t.
the parts in between are a blur. i didn’t attempt again. i kept visiting the psychologist. i kept taking the antidepressants.
and i started talking to him more.
he asked me about my suicide attempts. we talked about my cutting. about my depression. about my self hate. about my shame. about the bullying and the abuse. about the hurt and the loneliness.
somewhere in all of that, i found myself. i realized that, amidst all the bullshit of life, there were some things that were worth living for. worth staying alive for. he was one of them.
i stopped cutting. i found an alternative. it made him really happy.
i started to talk to my psychologist more. it made him happy too.
i talked to him frequently. no one else cared about me.
the darkness started to clear.
i stopped practicing how to smile in the mirror. he made me smile spontaneously and for real.
i have never met a more beautiful person.
and that is why it hurt so much when he walked out of my life. without a clear explanation. without a spoken goodbye. just a phone call with a vague jumble of words put together that i couldn’t quite process through the shock i was feeling.
it hurt like hell.
and life does that. life is pain and beauty and truth. and i would rather have that than comfort and happiness.
i still have major depressive disorder. i still fight off anxiety attacks. suicidal thoughts dwell in my mind every day. i have constant flashbacks of the abuse.
there are things i’d rather not remember. and things still hurt.
but even though it hurt like hell when he abandoned me, losing my best friend taught me that the outstanding pain i felt from that was worth all that he had taught me when he loved me even though i hated myself.
he taught me how to love myself. to embrace brokenness. to turn shame into beauty. to turn lies into truth. to resist the urge to tear through my skin when i wanted to bleed. to appreciate life even when i felt like i would be better off dead.
through pain, i found myself. because of him.
and so, today, as i was thinking of how to write this, i remembered the first time i told him that i hated myself and wanted to die. when i told him about the abuse.
he asked me, “who does these things to you ?”
i didn’t have a clear answer.
i do now.
i know where i’ve been and what i’ve been through. i remember all the hate and the hurt. i remember all the shame and the sadness. i remember all the trauma and the tears.
and i know now that people like me who have mental illnesses never really do recover. after an experience like this, there is no way to reclaim the person i was before. there is no way i can recover who i once was.
and so, i have decided, to recreate myself. i will create a better life and a better world. there will be pain but there will be love. and i will learn to love myself as i live.
one of the hardest things i’ve ever done is share my story.
i’ve only told a few people. it scares me like hell. it’s tangled and it’s terrifying for me to relive some of the memories. but dragging shame out into the light drains it of its power. i share my story, not because it’s easy, but because it’s needed. because it’s real.
and to the reader: i don’t know what you’ve endured, how you’ve hurt, what you’ve done.
but i am glad that you are still alive.
i had a very similar experience surrounding self injury and my youth group leader. it seems like youth leaders are never prepared for the things teenagers get up to and have no idea how to address them. sometimes all a kid needs is an ear to hear and validate their pain. not one who is obliged to report even the slightest of scratches, or at least encourage them to pass it on to their parents, thus passing the buck. ultimately, it IS the parents’ thing to deal with, but not all parents are capable of dealing with that kind of thing and in many cases it’s best when they’re left out of it.
it’s such a tough issue. i feel bad for everyone involved, really. i can’t imagine the burden of knowing a kid is doing such a thing, but i’ve also been that kid and i had nowhere else to go. when it finally got back to my family, my mom started self-harming too and using it to manipulate me. i feel that as an adult with so much more understanding, that it’s a legitimate coping skill regardless of what anyone might say. while i still do it sometimes, my mom has mostly ruined it for me because i reach for a sharp thing or a heated piece of metal or try to put a cigarette out on myself, she comes to mind with all the baggage i carry from her. there’s no good outcome there.
thank you for sharing.
Thank you oh so much for saying this, Miriam. I really needed to hear this.
So sorry! You are worth it and you are loved. Keep healing!
I’m so sorry, but thank you for sharing!
I am literally crying… Thank you.