By T. Suzanne Eller
I 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 to write.
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 surrounded me.
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
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 with God?"
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?"
"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
Chuck joined him. "Its up to you,
"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
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
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.
"Butterfly Man, " is by Brooke Shewmaker as told
to T. Suzanne Eller and is excerpted from the
Teens, Real Stories, Real Life (RiverOak
Publishers) by T. Suzanne Eller. You can find
out more about Suzie at http://daretobelieve.org
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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