Self-destruction comes in all shapes and sizes: suicidal thoughts and plots, self-mutilation, eating disorders, destroying things you love and have worked hard for, and many, many more.
According to Center for Disease Control, “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages” and “there is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts” (SAVE).
A Healthy Place reports a staggering 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-harm of some sort; that these habits begin young, are often present in abuse survivors, and that they are often picked up from peers.
The statistics for eating disorders are also overwhelming: “Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.” (ANAD).
You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but that girl in the middle in the photo above wants to die. She’s wanted to die since she was eight or nine years old, so that makes it … five or six years at the time the picture was taken. Or at least, that’s what she thinks she wants.
A few months ago, she started taking medicine to get to sleep and away from the angry and sad thoughts that are in her head because there is nowhere else for them to go. It isn’t the kind of medicine a doctor prescribes, mostly night-time cold and flu medicine from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet downstairs. In this picture, that girl in the middle? She hates her life. Exactly a week after this picture was taken, she wakes up from a combination of night-time meds and as she gets out of bed, her vision blurs and blood pulses in her ears. She falls to the ground, and in that moment, she actually thinks she’s going to die.
And in that moment, she realizes she wants to live, and she wants to live on her own terms.
So things began to change for the middle girl in the picture above.
The girl in the picture above is at her emptiest. At nineteen years old, she’s lived life on her terms. She has pushed through some days like a robot, and curled up in bed through others. She has eaten, and not eaten. She has looked to feminism, liberalism, money and capitalism to make her life meaningful. She has boxed parts of her life up and thrown them away because she can’t stand the pain of looking at them anymore. (Literally and figuratively). Her biggest, most important plan for her life has recently been upset because she’s an emotional and financial disaster.
Even though she grew up in a Christian home, and knew all of the “right” things to do and say, she didn’t believe in a God – at least, not one who was interested in her life. She can’t wait to not go to church anymore, because those people aren’t interested in her either.
Even though life on her terms has not played out at all the way she had planned, she has no intention of changing anything.
Then one night, she’s about to do something she won’t be able to undo, and she feels like she should pick up her Bible instead. It flops open to Isaiah 43, where God says, “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name; you are Mine … you are precious and honored in My sight, and I love you.”
And in that moment, she couldn’t get around it. She wasn’t made for life on her own terms. She was made to be known and loved.
So things began to change for the girl in the picture above.
The girl in the picture above is fat. She knows it because everyone else has let her know it. She gets called Thunder Thighs and Fatty Bolger (a creative insult from The Hobbit) and is told frequently that if she keeps it up (eating, that is), she’ll be turning sideways to get through doors soon, just like someone else everybody knows. (The joke’s on them, because she doesn’t carry weight on her hips anyway.) As she gets older, she’s deeply ashamed of her flabby body and just how much she likes food. Finally, someone close to her confronts her about her weight while she’s eating … loudly and in public. After that, she doesn’t like to eat with people around. It makes her anxious about what people will think.
Suddenly, she starts to lose weight – a lot of it – not because of her terrible eating decisions, but because she’s sick. People don’t know or care that she’s sick, though; they just know she’s looking great. And she knows it, too. She actually likes the way she looks, so she ignores all of the signs that she needs to see a doctor.
But her hair is thinning, and her parents send her to the doctor anyway, and the doctor confirms what she already knows. She’s lost weight because she’s sick, because she’s been putting things into her body for years, and her body has been trying to tell her for years that it can’t take it anymore. The doctor tells her she’s been slowly destroying herself.
And in that moment, she realizes she doesn’t want to destroy herself – not slowly or otherwise. She wants to be who she was created to be – a knower and lover of God and others.
And so again, things began to change for the girl in the picture above.
It breaks her heart to know a loved one doesn’t consider life worth living, because Jesus came to bring that loved one life – abundant life (John 10:10). It breaks her heart to see a loved one’s arms and legs lined with cuts from trying to ease the pain, when the Messiah’s stripes are what heals us (Isaiah 53:5). It breaks her heart to see orange laxative pills on a loved one’s bathroom counter, because that person looks in the mirror and isn’t happy about what he or she sees, when God says, “Hey! I love you. I claim you. As you are.”
Self-destruction. Twenty years in, she still can’t tell you why she’s done some of the things she’s done. She can’t tell you why she still struggles with some of these things. After all, there’s enough pain in this life without inflicting it on yourself.
During the times when she’s most tempted to go back to these old habits, the only thing she can cling to is the fact that God loves her, and life is his plan for her, not destruction.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, an eating disorder, or self-harm, please seek the help of a professional, licensed counselor as soon as possible. If you need immediate help, please contact a crisis center. Your life and health are SO important to God, to me, and to this world!