Interview With S.
S. was very kind to talk with me about her self-injurious behaviours. She began cutting herself when she was around 15 years old, and stopped when she was about 17 or 18. Below, we talk about images of God, the concept of sin, and the compassionate presence of the Transcendent.
Amy: How would you describe your religious/spiritual upbringing (including the beliefs and practices of your family)?
S: Christian. Presbyterian denomination upbringing rooted in Korean culture. I was part of the Pentecostal Church during my teenage years.
A: Thank you for sharing. In what ways have various people shaped your religious/spiritual identity whether positively or negatively throughout your life?
S: Negative: Church context Brought to the forefront the issue of belonging. Some confusion around why we do the things the way we do things in church. Culture, custom, tradition, etc.
Positive: Sense of purpose, theology of suffering that facilitated meaning, hope in darkness that promotes resilience, ironically, the gift of community, communion with triune God, doctrine and theology. My father was one of the positive influence and has had much impact on my spiritual formation. His positive view on having only two daughters and never referring to us as the lesser sex. Empowered my sister and I which created a positive image of God as the father. My Christian friends during my stormy teenage years that reminded me of God’s love.
A: How would you describe your religion/spirituality currently?
S: Christian. Follower of Jesus. Trying to live out my faith and embodying the love of God. Allowing that to manifest in the very fabric of my life. Seeing the sacredness in ALL of life in others, in creation, in relationship and even in me.
A: Thank you. Would you mind telling me a little about your self-injury as a young person? When did it begin? What self-injurious behaviours did you use? (Like cutting or burning yourself?). Please only share what you are comfortable sharing with me.
S: Ok. It began in my mid-teens 15 or so. I was a very angry teenager and I think that had to do with a lot of vented up anger rooted in much pain from my childhood. Form I used my often was broken glass. I’d release my anger my smashing it and then take a price to cut myself mostly on my wrist area where the folds were so that it could easy be hidden. I liked the way it felt and seeing the blood always seemed to calm me down. Helped me separate from the overwhelming emotions that threatens to consume me.
Often I was so angry and overwhelmed, I felt like I was being choked. Self-injury was a way for me to escape that. I wasn’t what you’d call a regular cutter but I often resorted to it when it got really bad. I was also afraid that I would need to do this all the time and I didn’t like something having that much control over me so I didn’t use it until my emotions got really out of control. This continued for about 2-3 years. And then it came to a halt when I went through sexual trauma. I went into survival mode cutting off all emotions. Not the healthiest way to stop cutting but that’s what happened for me
A: Thank you very much for sharing. How do you think that religion/spirituality affected your self-injurious behaviours?
S: Guilt. I felt bad. Like I was sinning. That’s why I hid it. And then often wouldn’t go to church. Felt like everyone had this honkydory life. And here I was a crazy deviant messed up kid. Drive me further away. Didn’t feel like there was room to be authentic or embraced.
A: How would you have described God then? Can you tell me some adjectives?
S: Absent. Apathetic. Angry/judging.
A: And how would you describe God now?
S: Emmanuel - God with us. Present. Compassion. God who steps into our darkness willingly. God of grace. God who weeps at our pain.
A: Is there anything else you would like to share regarding any of the areas we have discussed (like religion/spirituality or self-injury)?
S: Not at the moment but I’ll let you know if anything else comes up.
A: Thank you very much for sharing your story with me.