I started to experiment with self-injury after sixth grade. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t have a clear idea on why it should be done. I just wanted to feel something. It was not even a monthly practice. I felt numb. I couldn’t find my body, and I couldn’t let out anything I felt inside. I was deeply convinced that I was wrong, bad, and dirty, at my very core. I couldn’t explain why, but I believed it.
The church was an escape at first. The summer after seventh grade, I went to church camp with my youth group. During one of the concerts, I joined the groups walking upstage to accept Christ. I had accepted Christ in the youth room at church, but I only did that so I could keep coming back to church. I’d been going for a little less than a year at this point.
I needed direction. I wanted someone who knew what they were doing. I was willing to dedicate everything in order to have a plan to follow. My parents didn’t seem to have much of a clue. The Bible was full of what to do, what not to do, and how it should or shouldn’t be done. God, the vicarious Bible author, was apparently way into having me follow Him. I was told how God loved me, and wanted to be a safe, providing Father for his children. It sounded too good to be true.
The church became my everything. God became my everything. I didn’t hold much about what other people thought, because I was stacking my treasure in Heaven. My mom could think whatever she wanted; she was a lost soul and didn’t know the light. Kids at school might disagree or think I was stupid, but I told myself I was enlightened. I spent time before school and after school reading the Bible. I prayed constantly. I invited everyone I knew (and people I didn’t know) to church. Over the years, I helped lead the youth group, I worked on a F.A.I.T.H. team doing door-to-door evangelism, took wife training classes, and I did one-on-one discipling with a few younger girls, among other things.
The Bible, as most people know, can be open to interpretation. The more I read, the more I saw what I wanted to see, unconsciously. “If you love me, you will obey me” became a mantra to help me steer from unholy actions. “I will spit you out of my mouth” made me stay away from being lukewarm, and kept me burning passion anew. As I went on, I found myself seeking more of the consequences, the punishments.
One day in his office, where I hung out frequently, Pastor Stan told me that Jesus Christ was murdered by me. That if I’d been alone on the Earth, and only had one tiny sin, he still would’ve been killed because of me. This was meant to inspire love, gratitude, and awe in a deity that would give me so much. Instead, I pandered to the unspoken voice inside me, telling me that I knew I was a bad person all along. And I’d killed Jesus, the best guy ever and God’s only son. I am guilty. It’s still etched into my brain.
Things at home continued to crumble, slowly. My mother loved Jack’s money, and was working to remodel the whole house with granite, a new bathroom, and a skylight in her bedroom. I had everything material I could’ve wanted while Jack lived with us. Money was not able to patch the cracks in our home. My brother started to get into drugs, and specifically, some gangs. My sister was transferring schools, and had trouble with the kids being assholes to her. None of us kids liked Jack, and we were all afraid most of the time he was around.
I started cutting. I was using a kitchen knife that was serrated. I was already known for taking bubble baths for hours with my book and/or CD player. I’d soak in the hot water until my skin was pink, and it wasn’t a far push to bring the red out. Small swirls would curl up from my breasts. I cut over stretch marks on my breasts and hips. I hated the parts of my body that grew and changed and earned me unwanted attention. I hated the way I looked, felt, spoke, existed.
The release I found through a blade was like breathing. I felt like I could exhale fully, for the first time.
I told my Aunt Janet, who told my mother, who confronted me. We were in the backyard, standing by the pool, under the lattice where the grapes were dying in the sun. She was crying. “I can’t believe you would do that to yourself, Brittany.” I told her I didn’t do it. That I’d done it once, forever ago, and Aunt Janet was making more of it than need be. Then I stopped changing in dressing rooms with her, or letting her see my body naked. I could wear a swimsuit, especially if I wore shorts, too. No one noticed.
God would’ve wanted this, I told myself. God knew, if anyone did, how awful I was. God knew what a dirty, bad person I had been, and knew I should suffer. Besides, any suffering I faced was less than what Christ endured for me.
I quietly injured myself for about seven years, until I was admitted to an inpatient mental health program.