Scratching the Surface


(written by Blake 2011 – letter to her scars about her transition)

            I remember you – And you – And you.  I remember all of you.  The “healing” you gave me, and the “strength” to survive this world.  I remember when I let you in –  The day I gave up looking under my bed.  I realized the real monster was inside me, filling my head with unspoken thoughts, and broken promises.

                        When I wake, I see you.  I see the pale canvas, with a written scream. The quietest of all, and most misunderstood. “Who have I become?” I ask.

                        My tears fall like razor blades, slowly slicing me in the place all can see.  When my only bracelet is a smile.  How long can I pretend that I’m “just tired”, and how long can I pretend that you weren’t intended?

                        You are my urge, my strange addiction.  You are a beautiful cherry blossom, in the winter snow of my soul.  Without you, I have been forced to endure my pain, and my thoughts.  I want to say I’m over you.  But once again I’d be lying.  No high is like yours, and no low can compare.

                        I can’t tell if it’s you that I’m afraid of, or myself.

I can no longer see the difference between a laugh, and a cry, a smile or a tear.  Thanks to you, everything is a blur.  Everything is numb.  Are you finished yet?  Or do you still insist on lingering into my thoughts?

            To me, you were a cry for help – then a scream for non-existence. Now you are an anchor to drown me.  You keep me from changing, and that’s what I loved about you.

But now, I have realized – people change so you can learn to let them go. I’ve changed; I’m letting you go. You’ve scratched the surface, replacing my pain with your own.  My last cut, is cutting myself free. –

My daughter cut herself.  As strange as it has been to say these words these past few years, it is even stranger to see them in writing.  My daughter CUT herself.  There it is again.  Words that someone else should be writing – a discovery that some other mother should have made – a story that someone else should author.

If I told you that it makes sense or that I understand, I would be lying.   How can anyone comprehend what it takes to make someone want to harm herself – to draw blood – to feel physical pain?

I’ve read books, talked to psychologists, and had heart to hearts with my baby girl.  Still, there is no personal realization that this act could give someone release.  It’s all there in the textbooks; therefore, I know she wasn’t alone.  And I share this story, because I know, we are not alone.

What do you do?  What do you say?  Well in my case it went something like, “Oh my God what happened to your arms?”  Instinctively I knew in my head immediately what my heart could not process and my stomach lurched with the dread of what we were about to face.  The answer is not something for which you can prepare yourself.  “I cut, but I didn’t want you to know.  I didn’t want you to think it had anything to do with you.”  As I white knuckle the steering wheel, I manage, “For how long?”  “Months,” is the answer.  “Why?” Silence – but silence won’t do.

“Just like Pagliacci did 
I try to keep my surface hid. 
Smiling in the crowd I try, but in a lonely room I cry -
The tears of a clown.”

And so it was for my “funny” girl.   She had spent months feeling sad, but in public she joked, and acted like my silly, goofy girl.  She’d even told me that she was sad.  I watched, and I kept her close.  Still, passing off the sadness to hormones and puberty.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” – how ridiculous!   In 7th grade, Blake was deeply emotionally wounded by a friend. I watched her shut down in many aspects.  I guess I expected her to shake it off, but she shattered like a broken mirror.    We spent the next few months helping her build back her trust.  The summer ended on a positive note.    8th Grade was off to a great start, but after a few weeks a boy from her class resurfaced the previous year’s rumor and texted Blake that she should kill herself -that’s when the cutting began.

“Sometimes what we are looking for – is exactly what we see…”  Larson

I was oblivious to the long sleeves.  I bought her loads of really cool wide bracelets encouraging her new fashion trend.  I concealed her secret never realizing my role as accomplice –  until the unveiling that is.

It was four months later at a Sunday basketball game following a weekend of Disciples Now at our church where Blake had participated.  I was keeping scorebook as usual and was so wrapped up in the game that my thoughts were more on “how much” time Blake would spend on the court and how angry I was going to be with the coach afterwards.   I can’t remember if we won or lost.  I just remember going over to Blake after the game to say, “let’s go.”  It was then I saw the marks.  Slices were from her wrists and up her inner arms.  I felt dizzy – heart sick.  I pulled her aside and asked, “What happened to your arms.”  At first she shrugged it off and told me that our puppy had scratched her, but I knew that was a lie.  I waited to get her into the truck before I demanded the truth.

And then, it was out there – Raw, burning, gut wrenching and out there.  I had no idea what to do with it.  I looked at the clock and realized that my husband would have already taken off on his flight to England.  Oh dear Lord – I needed someone, but who do you talk to about something like this?

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

She told me she had been cutting with a utility knife.  Oh Dear Lord!!!  Please let me “let go” so I can let God.  This was too big for me to tackle.  As Beth Moore had recently said in one of her lessons, “Lord I do not have a file for this one!”    Where did I begin?

I began with phone calls.  I call the Church Youth Director, the School Counselor, a Psychologist, the Family Doctor.  I needed to know what drives this, what books to read, with whom do I make appointments?  Could she have a blood infection, what is her diagnosis, can this be cured???

I clear her room of all sharp objects, but I insist that she sleep with me.  I will be her watchtower for months.  I’ll be against the door as she shaves her legs.  I’ll inspect her body to make sure she isn’t cutting.  I’ll cry, I’ll beg, “Please don’t cut yourself.”    I’ll do one better, “You are God’s temple.  Please don’t abuse His house.”

(Blake’s favorite quote)

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?

Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Blake has always been wonderful, but never easy.   To say she marches to the tune of her own drummer would be an understatement.  I love her wit, her passion and her unwillingness to conform to please the masses.   Still, there is a frustration when you’re the parent of the “messy” girl in the class.  You know the one whose desk you can identify by all the papers sticking out of it.   Parents and teachers alike would be amazed at her verbal and reasoning skills, yet on tests she very often just did okay.  I would know that she knew the material.  It just didn’t make sense.  Once when filing papers the children had written about their favorite things, I noticed that all of the girls in the class had listed their favorite stores as The Limited Too, Claire’s or Justice.  Not my girl – her favorite store was Dick’s Sporting Goods.  That one made me smile.

Yes, our Blake has always been a little different.  She has always been creative, kind and bright, but also, disorganized, inattentive, and uncontrolled.   I had often assumed that she had ADHD, but she lacked the same intensity of the condition that I had seen with other children.  She wasn’t unruly or disruptive.

I found myself googling the words ADHD in teenage girls.  I know that it was God nudging me with His discerning spirit, because I’m just not that smart on my own.  And there it was – a plethora of information.  It was Blake in black and white (if that were possible), and one of the first things on the list was DEPRESSION!!!   Thank you Jesus – we had a real place to start.

Psalm 143:1 
O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

One, two, three…the gun went off and the testing began.  The results:  ADHD inattentive type, Severe Depression and Anxiety Disorder.   Wow – it was a lot to digest! Praise God for these answers, and now there were more questions!

Blake had already started taking mild anti-depressants but it was evident that the dosage wasn’t strong enough.  Once the depression was under control, we could focus on the ADHD.  Her heart tests determined that she should be able to take the recommended ADHD medication for adolescents, but the actual result was a major fail.   Blake’s reaction, to the drugs, was body shakes and heart palpitations.  She nearly collapsed after three days and we chose to stop treatment and look for other options.

“Teenage pain cannot be pacified with a gluten free muffin” Larson

The treatment journey was a path of enlightenment.  Loads of books, Naturopathic medicine and major prayer was the chosen course.  Blake began a gluten/casein free diet, which had proven effective for children with ADHD and Autism.   She remained steadfast in her faith in God and she would be the first to tell you that “Everything happens for a reason.”   She did not; however, remain steadfast on her new diet.  Food became a constant fight, and meals the war zone.  It became evident that Blake’s emotional voids were much more than a substitute for “bread and milk” could fill.

“The defects of the mind are like the wounds of the body. Whatever care we take to heal them the scars ever remain, and there is always danger of their reopening.”
François de la Rochefoucauld

And reopen they did…

Time and time again we faced (and continue to face) challenges.  Through it all, God has remained faithful and has given us His sufficient grace.

I often hear people say that God wants us to be happy.  I say, “I’m not sure how concerned He is with “happy”, but I’m sure that He’s concerned with saved.”  There is so much more to this life than having it all.  No one wanted the straight A’s, athletic accolades and homecoming queen crown more for their daughter than I wanted it for mine.   But more than that, I wanted her to KNOW God.  I wanted her life to be a testimony of his work in motion.  I didn’t need a perfect daughter and she didn’t need a perfect mom – we just needed a perfect Savior.

I’ve changed; I’m letting you go. You’ve scratched the surface, replacing my pain with your own.  My last cut, is cutting myself free. – Blake

Jesus’ scars remained after resurrection.  The only man given thing in heaven are his scars, and so, I respect the scars.  At one time, I just wanted them to be gone – to pretend that they never existed.  I wanted to ignore the pain that caused them and bury the burdens of a troubled soul that dwelled so closely to my own.  But I’ve learned to value those lines – those tiny markings that only scratched the surface of a much deeper cry.