Kara & Matt: Two Stories of Overcoming Self-Injury Addiction
The 700 Club
CBN.com - KARA: A VICIOUS CYCLE
Kara, 18, grew up in a Christian home with 3 siblings. Her childhood was normal until a family friend’s son sexually abused her when she was 8. Kara became angry and destructive, but her parents had no idea why.
Kara was confused about her own behavior. She buried the traumatic experience so much that by the time she was 12, Kara didn’t even remember what happened. A year later, Kara started hurting herself as a way to cope with the confusion and sadness. This behavior escalated until she tried to take her own life.
Kara was transferred to a psychiatric ward for teenagers where she was treated for depression and anxiety. She continued treatment in outpatient therapy but she was not cooperating. Kara still cut as a way to cope with her feelings. She continued to go to church to please her parents but didn’t believe what the preacher was saying.
Kara remembers thinking, “Why would a God who loves me let me hurt me so much?” This vicious cycle continued through middle school. While her parents tried to help,, the focus was monstly on worldy cures, medications and therapy. As a freshman in high school, Kara’s parents took her to an art therapist where she learned to do art instead of cutting herself. Soon she learned to hide her emotions but found solace in drugs and sex. Then Kara’s parents signed her up for Christian summer camp.
A week before school ended, the brother of the boy who sexually abused Kara died. All of a sudden, the memories flooded her mind of what had happened. Kara made the decision to talk to the young man herself to get closure. When they met for coffee, Kara asked him if he remembered what he did and why. He said, “We had hoped that it was just a bad dream.” He explained that he was abused when he was younger and then apologized to Kara. She forgave him and a strange sense of peace overwhelmed her.
At summer camp that year, Kara told her story for the first time. She saw unconditional love from everyone there and decided to accept Christ into her life. Kara was on fire for Christ and she decided to move to New Zealand to attend Bible college. Soon Kara went back to her old ways and didn’t feel like she could stand up for what was right on her own, but she attended Bible college as planned -- a course through Adventure Bible School, an intensive 6-week outdoor activity course.
Over the weeks, Kara learned to rely on God’s power, not on her own strength. Today she says she is still tempted to go back to her old ways of handling difficult situations and emotional pain but deals with it in her own way. Kara has a tattoo on her arm of the Hebrew word for grace/mercy and it reminds her that Christ has paid the price for her sin so she doesn’t have to punish herself anymore.
Matt Harmon was raised in church from early childhood. He stopped going to church after junior high, and first started cutting when he was 16 as a result of depression. Matt says that when he started cutting it lasted a little less than a year, about the time he was struggling the most with depression. He didn't cut again until early last year, and it again lasted several months, just short of a year.
Matt cut during the hardest parts of the depression, injuring himself a few times a week, and sometimes on the worst days, he cut more and more, until he felt some relief from the pain and sadness he was feeling. Matt himself doesn’t even fully understand why he self-injures. “It was a way of expressing all of my bottled up anxiety, hurt, stress, and anger and turning it back on myself,” says Matt.
When he was a senior, Matt went back to church and made friends with leaders and people in the youth group, which helped him begin to see Christ’s love in others. The acceptance from his new friends was a relief after being hurt by his family's previous church and the pain of feeling judged there. Matt says that God was really pulling at his heart at that time to seek Him more and learn more about His word and promises.
Before he came to his new church home, Matt says that there were several times in the past that he had tried to end his life. As he grew in Christ, Matt felt that God was working miracles, changing his heart and mind. He feels God saved him from those times so that he could glorify him later in life with his testimony. Matt says he felt relief from emotional pain from cutting. Many times his cutting involved multiple cuts or larger, more damaging ones. A lot of the emotional pain he felt was from trying to find his self-worth or value in other’s opinions of him. He based his value on how other people treated him or whether or not they liked him rather than seeking his value in Christ.
After high school, Matt went to art college in Columbus. Unfortunately, Matt’s struggles with depression and self-injuring returned. Matt says that God was giving him a desire to help those with the same struggles he was having even though he himself was still struggling, and he changed his major to youth ministry.
The first year at his new school with a new major was hard for Matt. He tried to adjust to a larger school and to make new friends. He got involved in more extra-curricular activities than he was used to and took more classes. The added stress caused Matt to slip into depression, and he started cutting again. Though there were times where he was stressed and didn't cut, there were also occasions he tried to purposely make himself sick or deathly ill. He had a lot of shame and guilt from sin and felt unloved most of the time.
Matt felt lonely and out of place at school; he had a hard time making genuine friends. When he did make friends, his friends ridiculed him about being depressed and cutting, which exacerbated the situation. The last time he cut it was so bad he had to go to the Emergency Room. It forced him to stop because when his family found out he was watched more closely. He also was terrified of cutting worse and going back into the hospital again.
During that time Matt questioned a lot of things about God. He wondered why God’s people were the ones hurting him and calling him horrible names. A few weeks after his last cutting episode, Matt tried again to commit suicide by taking pills. This was the last time he did anything to harm himself, mostly because he was still being very carefully watched. After that, he couldn't hide things anymore from people. For 2 or 3 months after the suicide attempt, Matt still struggled with wanting to cut. Since that time, Matt has left school and gone back to his home church. He says that God has been changing his heart through the whole experience and that He was not going to let all of it happen in vain.
Matt says he knows there was a lesson to be learned and that God was forming a better character in him through all of his struggles. He says that God has helped him every single day to look for the promise of things getting better and to begin to fully trust Him. Matt thinks it's a miracle that he was able to heal so quickly from the addiction to cut and from the emotions that brought on the urges to self-injure. He is still healing from the hurt he suffered from people, but his joy and the value he’s found in Christ makes life much easier and far better.
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