rebelling against low expectations

A Letter to the Teen Struggling With Self-Harm

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To the teen struggling with self-harm…

Considering the times we live in, internal doubts, feelings of failure, numbness, and depression are amplified and even the world around us is hurting very deeply. It can feel like too much to cope with and for some, there is a temptation to turn to pain to make your internal numbness feel tangible.

Maybe you’re here to find out more about the struggle posed by self-harm. If that’s the case, thank you for trying to understand and learn. But maybe you’ve faced self-harm in silence on your own. I was in your situation and I understand your struggle. I would like to share my story in the hopes that God would help you know that you are not alone.

My Story

As a preteen, my life seemed perfectly ordinary. By all accounts, I was the homeschooled Christian girl who didn’t struggle with anything serious. I memorized all the verses for Sunday school and helped out with a smile when asked to volunteer with the children’s ministry in church. I seemed fine, and I often felt that I had no reason to struggle with depression and self-harm . . . but reality painted a starkly different picture.

I was hurting in ways so deep that I was hurting myself to cope with the mental pain I felt every single day. What I felt internally was numbness which went far past a typical sad feeling. My thoughts were extremely isolating and dark, and I needed to feel something through that uncontrollable darkness. Unfortunately, physical pain was the outlet I turned to in order to make sense of my mental pain. It often seemed that God had abandoned me to try to earn my goodness on my own. When I failed at accomplishing such a feat, my world caved inward and pain drove my actions.

Over a period of three years, my habit of self-harm turned into an inescapable dependence. I was hurting myself to the point that when I experienced anxiety and could not turn to self-harm immediately afterwards, I felt like I had failed at something. I tried so hard to stop, telling myself that each time would be the last time, only to fail and fall back into what seemed like an endless cycle of hurt. I disconnected from others in my church and even my family and friends because of the internal pressure I felt to be “perfect” and “good enough.”

My struggle to be good enough gave way, and I was left more broken internally with each day. After a long period of contemplation, I was finally able to shed light on the dependence I struggled with in the dark, and I told an adult exactly what I was struggling with. Recovering and learning how to cope and turn to God in times of discouragement was an incredibly daunting task, but writing this a year after opening up and almost a year without self-harming, I’m here to tell you it’s worth it, and you are not alone in this struggle. There have definitely been times along the way where I felt the urge to hurt myself, and in those times it helped me to remember these truths.

Truths That Heal

You do not struggle alone

Self-harm whispers lies of isolation, of how you are the only one who has ever struggled with thoughts of hurting yourself. This lie forces the struggler into the shadows, causing them to feel as if they are the victim of what they struggle with. If you struggle with self-harm, know that you are not alone, and that every person struggles with something.

When I was comparing my struggle with the struggles of other Christians I know, mine definitely seemed monumental. However, recognize that when we fall into the comparison trap, we are comparing all of our internal sin to the external image people display of themselves. Every human sins and is tempted and feels broken at some point in their life because every human needs the truth of Jesus to transform their lives.

If you’re struggling with self-harm, I encourage you to not walk through it all alone. Pray for God to bring someone safe and understanding into your life that you can tell who would be able to gently and prayerfully check in with how you’re doing periodically. Not everyone is trustworthy of this kind of vulnerable information and opening up can be difficult, but don’t feel like you have to struggle alone. The right people can help you along the way to healing.

You do not have to be “good enough”

So many times, self-harm told me that I would never be a good person because a “good person” would never fail in so many ways. I realized that I could not be the perfect daughter, sister, or friend because I failed each time I attempted to be perfect.

By His wounds we are healed, so we need not try adding to that by punishing ourselves for our failures because He has paid the ultimate price. Click To Tweet

To the struggling Christian, remember that your righteousness and goodness were bought through the sacrifice of Christ. You don’t have to earn anything to be accepted as “good” by God or the Christians in your life. God looks at the perfection of Christ instead of your imperfections and inability to be perfect. By His wounds we are healed, so we need not try adding to that by punishing ourselves for our failures because He has paid the ultimate price.

Your identity is in Christ

Self-harm trapped me in the lie of thinking I would be branded with a label if I opened up to someone. This lie kept me from finding people to talk to because I did not want to seem like the person whose identity was marred under the grip of self-harm forever. What we need to remember as Christians who struggle in this way, is that ultimately, our identity is in the person of Christ and who He is transforming us to be, not in the struggles we face in the fallen world we live in.

We are servants of Christ who are not defined by the trials we have been through, but solely by the person who brought us through these trials and his sacrifice on the cross to redeem our brokenness. Click To Tweet

When you work up the courage to open up, you will be amazed to find other Christians from diverse backgrounds declaring that we have all been through significant battles in our Christian lives. However, the only label we wear is one which says that we are redeemed sons and daughters of the most high king. This label shouts to the world that while we still have challenging days, we are servants of Christ who are not defined by the trials we have been through, but solely by the person who brought us through these trials and his sacrifice on the cross to redeem our brokenness.

Beauty in Redeemed Brokenness

God can take any brokenness we give him and fashion it into beauty, just as he was able to take the pain I carried in my body to transform it into a story which glorifies his name. God often takes broken, helpless sinners and works through them to make others see the beauty of his name.

God has not abandoned you in your time of need. Click To Tweet

So to my struggling reader, God has not abandoned you in your time of need. He understands your brokenness and pain more than any human could. As God himself communicates in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

In this hope, wait for the Lord, call out to him in your darkness and doubt, and he will answer you to use your story of redeemed brokenness to bring glory to his name.


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About the author

Lali Gadde

is a sixteen-year-old homeschooler who loves writing and reading as well as learning about missions, theology, and everything in between. When she's not doing one of those things, she's probably singing with one of her five siblings or using her extroversion to make new friends. Connect with her at her blog or on Instagram where she hopes to write about what it means to live dangerously to the glory of God.

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