'Real Teens, Real Stories,
By T. Suzanne Eller
thought I was losing my mind, going psycho. I never told people what was
going on inside of me. I only shared the surface stuff that was evident
for all to see. I skipped classes in school because I didnt see
the point in going. I laid in bed and blocked my door so my mother couldnt
come in. She eventually gave up, but I had already given up on myself.
While I was at home, I started cutting myself. It made me feel better
in some weird way. I wrote things in my arm with a razor as if my flesh
were a billboard for all to see my craziness. My mother freaked out when
I came out of my room with my arms covered in bandages, swaddled under
my long sleeves. Then I moved to my stomach because there was more room
My mind swerved from thought to thought, plans of hurting myself to pay back
those I loved with pain. I hoped they would realize what they lost and that
others would look down on them for not being there for me.
My only outlet during this time of my life was art. It was a passion, and
I painted and created projects on the potters wheel. Ceramics was the
only reason I attended school.
Some days I loaded up my easel, paper, paint, and water bottles and drove
far away to a wooded area. I walked so deep into the woods that I lost myself
in the scenery. Though it was only 40 degrees outside, I sat and painted in
the middle of nowhere. I was content to be alone with my art. It was calm
and no one knew I was there. I could paint and listen to the stillness that
It was my secret place and there I could be happy. Not full happiness, not
like laughing, but peaceful. If I wanted to scream, I could. I could yell
and cry as loud as I wanted, and I didnt have to explain why.
I became a hermit. Though I didnt talk much before, my silence became
ridiculous. The strange thing is that I continued to be involved in school.
I was in the marching band. I was in the Guard, and I took it very seriously. I
practiced for hours, building up my strength and tolerance.
I had friends, including my best friend, Christina. I shared with her the
details of my life and she couldnt believe it, but I understood. I had
trouble accepting it myself.
At the end of my senior year, I enrolled in college to study art. I traveled
to St. Louis with big plans, imagining how I would arrive at this new place
and how everything would be great. I believed that my life would be different.
It didnt take long to realize that moving did not solve my problems.
I had very few friends. I hated my job and school wasnt what I
expected. I was terribly homesick, not for the "home" part but for
the woods, my place of peace. I drove four hours to Bloomington every other
weekend and then four hours back to St. Louis just so I could be in my special
place for a few hours each week.
I was miserable at school. I quit my job. I started skipping classes and
closed myself away from others again.
Same old, same old. Back to my previous life.
One night I was writing a term paper. As I sat in front of the computer,
I thought about how lame it was that I was doing nothing. I decided to see
a movie, so I drove to "The Loop," which is a downtown area in St.
I decided to burn time while I waited for the movie to begin. I was walking
down the street when I saw two girls in front of me. A man stood on the sidewalk
and held out a flyer. They pushed it away. I marched up and took the flyer
since those two girls had acted so rudely to the guy. I figured that
he was promoting a band or something. I took the flyer from him and started
to walk away when he said, "May I ask you a question? What is your relationship
I stared at him, and then I laughed because his question sounded really funny.
I didnt understand how anyone could have a "relationship"
with God! The guy said his name was Jamie, and then he introduced me to another
person named Chuck. More of their friends joined us. For the next two hours
I stood on the street and we talked about God.
I couldnt believe it. I was raised as a Christian, but I never felt
about it as I did this night. I looked at each one in the group of people
and studied them, wondering what it was that intrigued me about them. There
were about six or seven people standing in the cold talking about God. They
each seemed to have a beautiful attitude, peaceful and caring.
Jamie rubbed his hands together and warmed them. "Brooke, do you want
to accept Christ?" he asked.
"Stop talking to those guys!" someone shouted and interrupted our
conversation. I stared at a guy that I knew who stood not far away. He had
walked by earlier and asked me to come and hang out with his friends. He was
not a good person, and I definitely didnt want to spend time with him
and his friends. When I said no, he had waited close by and listened to every
word that Jamie spoke.
"Do you want to accept Christ?" Jamie asked again.
Chuck joined him. "Its up to you, Brooke."
"You dont have to listen to them," the guy shouted. His friends
joined in and started mocking Jamie and Chuck. My natural response was to
yell at him to shut up, but I actually felt sorry for him.
I nodded. "Yes, but will you pray with me?" I asked.
The whole time that I prayed, the guy and his friends cursed me out. I clenched
my eyes shut and peace flooded me. The words of those who stood in the background
and mocked me helped me to understand what I was walking away from. I thought,
They are still stuck, but I found my answer.
Soon after I was saved, I found a project I had created titled "Butterfly
Man." It was an assignment for my graphic arts class. "Butterfly Man" had
the body of a butterfly, but the face was a composite of several different
graphic files of mens features. As I studied it, I almost dropped the
piece. The face looked like Jamiethe man who had stopped to share his
faith with me on the street. Same goatee. Same face shape and coloring.
Was God reaching out to me even before I met my new friends?
I took the portrait to Jamie and he framed it. "Isnt it awesome,
Brooke?" he said. "Butterflies are a symbol of new beginnings."
There are still reminders of my past. Sometimes if Im really cold,
or if Ive just come out of the shower, I can see the faint outline of
the word "Why?" that I carved on my forearm. That was a question
I asked when I had no answers.
Today it is a reminder that my scars are healedin more ways than one.
above story, "Butterfly Man, " is by Brooke Shewmaker as told to T.
Suzanne Eller and is excerpted from the book Real
Teens, Real Stories, Real Life (RiverOak Publishers) by T.
T. Suzanne Eller is a speaker and author of Real
Teens, Real Stories, Real Life. Her second book, Real
Teens, Real Issues - What Teens Say They Need from Parents in Today's
World was released in 2004. You can find out more about Suzie
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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