Trigger warning: This is a personal story that contains self-harm content.
I cut my wrists with a tube of toothpaste.
I was seventeen, and in the white-walled, locked-down psychiatric hospital for the second time. They took everything even remotely dangerous when I arrived, including the drawstring from my blue polar bear pajama pants. But, when you’re a teenage girl in a psychiatric hospital and all you want is attention — and all you know about getting attention is to do something drastic and damaging — you find any means to do so.
In the empty bathroom of my undecorated hospital bedroom — shared with two other desperate, hurting teenagers — I used a tube of toothpaste with a sharp end that worked surpassingly well. Then I walked out with pride, a thin stripe of blood running down my wrist. Twenty-three years later, the faint scar still runs across my wrist.
It didn’t get me attention, though. The people who worked in the hospital were used to stuff like that . . .and since it wasn’t bad enough to warrant medical care, they told me I was stupid and put me on restrictions that made hospital life a bit more unbearable for a little while. While it wasn’t worth it to them, it meant everything to me. I wore my scar as fashionably as the kids back home wore Chuck Taylors and cherry print dresses.
Then, one day, a boy arrived with Robin Smith hair and eyeliner, looking deeply like a walking song by The Cure, and I loved The Cure . . . I immediately took to him. When he was introduced, he told us to call him Tear and then he showed us the cuts on his arm and, what’s an infatuated teen to do?
I cried out, “Your cuts are so much prettier than mine!”
It became somewhat of a game for us, this sharing of scars and stories, of what we had done and why we had been deemed crazy. We all found a bond, the whole bunch of us attention-seeking kids, whose souls were empty and crying out to God, except we didn’t know we were crying out to Him – we just knew that we were desperately empty.
Then came the excruciating night where I sat dwelling on thoughts of my friends being pampered before senior prom and getting dressed as lovely as ever. I pictured my dress — black and gold, flowing and beautiful. My mama and I had picked it out special just for that night, and it sat hundreds of miles away, tucked in my closet, never to be worn. Instead of wearing a gorgeous gown, I was sitting on some ragged, stained carpet, facing a dingy wall — alone. Other patients that night had visitors and all my friends at home were prepping for prom . . . while I was alone.
Listening to the conversations around me, I became lost in thoughts of what I was missing. As my world spun around inside my head and tears fell, I heard my name, Amy, pulling me out of my pit of depressed thoughts and back into the moment. Slowly, I turned to see Jason, my hospital boyfriend, holding a stunning bouquet of deep red roses. He held them out to me and smiled sheepishly. “Happy Senior Prom.” I was too stunned to move, so he placed them in my arms. “I asked my aunt to buy them for you,” he explained.
Two other patients opened a cupboard and got out a hospital gown. They draped it over my shoulders. “It’s your prom gown!” they said. Someone turned on the radio and there we were, a dozen crazy kids, dancing (without touching) in tattered, old hospital gowns. I cried and laughed. So happy and yet so sorrowful, because these kids, this messed-up bunch of teenagers, came together for me and gave me a prom like no other.
After lights out, I peered out the door at the nurses’ station to see my beautiful roses, the first I had ever received. They were not allowed in my room because, of course, roses have thorns.
Not long after I left the hospital, Christ caught up with me and gave me all the real, thirst-quenching attention a girl could ever need, taking the tattered linen of my soul and mending it beautiful. A year later, after my life changed, Tear came to visit me. He saw the change and asked about it, telling me I had become even more beautiful. He recognized that peace and I had found a way to coexist. How could he get some of what I had found? he wondered.
I told him about Jesus, that Peace and I were, in fact, friends, and that together we were making a symphony of light, of love. Tear hugged me goodbye, wished me luck, and showed me his scars one last time.
Friend, don’t scars remind us of the broken, empty places we once dwelt in? It’s like they whisper to us in the darkness: Remember you are loved, you have been mended, you have been filled. I sit and look at my scars. I remember friends and stories and days of brokenness. We were just a bunch of kids needing Jesus, not knowing that He bled for us so we didn’t need to make ourselves bleed.
Today, my scars might speak of who I was, but His scars tell me who I am.
At (in)courage, we believe in making space for all stories and experiences. With heartache, we recognize the reality of self-harm. With hope, we share this story — proclaiming the help and healing that can be found in community and Christ. We are here for you, in prayer and in the comments below, should you wish to respond to this guest article. If you are in a crisis and considering self-harm, dial 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline which provides 24/7, free and confidential help for self-harm. You are not alone. There is help.Leave a Comment
Diane V Hunter says
What a beautifully courageous woman to share her story of struggle and the peace she now has in Jesus. Thank you for sharing so others can try to be there for hurting people. God bless
Amy Hughes says
Thank you for your kind words. I believe so much that sharing our stories can be healing for others in the trenches.
What a powerful story!
oh wow, I love to hear real, raw stories of God’s Amazing mercy and grace! Thank you.
Such a powerful story and I am touched that you were willing to share this with us. Thank you for your honesty.
Becky Keife says
Amy, we’re so honored to host your tender words on (in)courage. Praising Jesus for the ways He saves us all.
Amy Hughes says
Thank you! I’m so grateful for my story and how it introduced me to the deep love of God.
Thank you so much, Amy. We have experienced this in our family, and I know that other families have also gone through this with their teenagers. I commend your bravery in sharing the real and raw details of what you went through. We were blessed to have an amazing Christian Therapist that helped our family through a very dark time. I advocate for Christian mental health counseling whenever I get the opportunity to share our story.
Amy Hughes says
So many prayers for your family.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for being so courageous to share such an intimate story. So many people are seeking some attention these days. Praying someone can share Jesus & His scars of love with them.
Angela J Fite says
Thank you for being so open and raw telling your story. This was very close to home as my son used to be a cutter. Praise God, he got saved and no longer does that. May God continually bless you!
Rachel Marie Kang says
Amy, thank you for sharing your story with and through (in)courage. You are a light in the darkness — keep in touch!
Amy Hughes says
Thank you, Rachel! I didn’t realize the impact this topic would have, I’ve heard from so many people about it, people sharing their stories with me. I’m so honored to bear witness. Thank you for giving this me this opportunity.