Two weeks ago as I sat with my husband, waiting to be called into the Doctor's exam room, the door opened and out walked a teenage girl.
At first glance she seemed quite normal, the very picture of teenage smugness written on her face. (ah yes, the know it all years). I started to look away, but then something caught my eye as she slipped her hand into her jackets sleeve. It wasn't the brightly painted nails, displaying a riot of colors I could never dream of wearing in public, nor was it the wristful of bangle bracelets playing a musical medley as they were pushed through the jackets tight sleeve. No, what caught my eye and held me in a moment of awestruck dumbfoundedness were the neat little rows of cuts lined up in painstakingly perfect formation on her upper arm. She did nothing to hide her self-mutilation, instead she seemed almost proud of these bright red slivers sliced into her delicate flesh.
As I looked around at my fellow gawkers, staring at this young girl in obvious disgust, I couldn't help but caress my own arm, searching for the scars that are no longer noticable on the outside, yet felt deeply within. Although I had an overwhelming urge to smile at this child in silent commiseration, I tamped it down, knowing she wouldn't understand, not yet.
What is it she wouldn't understand? Simply put, the fact that the grown woman staring at her mangled mess of an arm gets it.
Oh yes, I know what it's like to want so badly to feel something, anything, that even a moment of pain is better than complete emptiness. I grasp completely, without question that the feeling of life, even at it's most painful is keeping her from taking the plunge into an abyss of darkness.
If she had looked at me in that moment of my own self reflection, made eye contact and read the smile in my eyes, she would have been confused as to why it was there, probably responding with a sneer of disgust directed at me. But, just in case she (or the other "shes" out there) ever reads this I want her to know that those little soldiers lined up in perfect little formations on her battle field of delicate flesh represent a need for life, for something other than the dark emptiness she is in right now.
To want to feel is to want to live, and that need for life is a testimony to a greater power, a God waiting to pour those missing feelings of love back into you. I know because after 40 years, I finally have them myself.
For anyone who reads this, please remember that not everything is always as it seems. That angry face a child/teenager sends your way may be masking a deeper need, a cry for help hidden in the depths of angry, ugly, painful words. React with love, pour into them what they so desperately need.