under Secret Stories, Written on June 13, 2011

I met Matt Harmon last week.

I am proud of both he and Kara Ericson.

They are brave and courageous and I resepect them greatly.

Here is Matt’s art and story…

I was raised in church from very young, but for the longest time I didn’t understand much about  Church, Christianity, the bible and Jesus. But I what I did know was just all head knowledge. My family was also the kind who would attend for a season, stop for a season, and return for another season of attendance. I didn’t know much about what it really meant to be a Christian and what it meant to believe. So when I found myself in a time of great struggle for the first time I didn’t have anything to place any trust or faith.

I also didn’t have much to find value in myself. I grew up poor, with fighting between parents a lot, my sister getting pregnant in high school, and feeling judged by church people.

When I was 16 I became really depressed. There was no single cause for it. I got bullied a little in school and wasn’t happy with the drama at home. I didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t popular or athletic, was more quiet and introverted. I had friends but most of the time I didn’t feel like I fit in. They were just the group I sort of fell into, and I didn’t react well when I wasn’t invited to events or was the butt of jokes. From school and work I just didn’t feel loved or worthy.

 Being depressed just seemed to make things worse. None of my friends would understand if I was upset and if I expressed myself I was kind of tormented or criticized. That’s kind of how I started cutting. I had tried to take my own life at one point. I’d cut because I had so many confused and bottled up emotions, it felt like a release to cut. I think it started from purposely hurting myself out of frustration and anger and it lead to cutting. This lasted for about a year.

When I went through all that my parents had once sought help from our pastor at the time. He shrugged it all off as normal adolescence confusion and it was just a phase. The pastor didn’t have much to offer me for hope. I couldn’t relate to much he said and he didn’t seem to be very caring. It didn’t help either that the church seemed judgmental of our family. If it was true or not, it felt very much that way.

Somewhere in the middle of the struggling I made friends who had similar struggles but they weren’t very good influences. At times I’d attend other churches. I was growing spiritually curio us I guess you could say. Now that I look back I see God was drawing me closer. A while later just shortly before returning to school as a senior I happened to be invited by a few people on Facebook to a hog roast a church in the next town was hosting. I don’t really remember if it was the music or something the youth pastor said when speaking, but I do remember feeling hopeful of a better future. God had pricked my heart just enough to break the hardness of my heart. Before, I had wanted nothing to do with God or anybody that claimed to be Christians.

I was hurt by them but that day God showed me otherwise.

Fast forward a bit, I gained a friendship with the youth pastor, started going to youth group, made some new friends at the church and started attending regularly. This whole time God slowly changed my heart but I was experiencing a lot of mixed emotions, I was so ashamed of my sin and there were other parts of my life and anticipated future I didn’t want to change because of my faith. Off and on I’d get depressed thinking about it all and I’d cut at times but it wasn’t ad often or as much as a hold on me as before.

 I soon wanted to pursue youth ministry because of the influence I had from my church leaders and because I so wanted to help kids who had similar struggles. I knew the several times I had tried to end my life God had saved me for a reason, He delivered me from my own destruction and I knew he had a plan for me. But I still struggled thinking about my future. I was about to attend art school. I had wanted to make a career out out of my art for the longest time but God put this new desire in my heart and I felt called toward ministry.

 The depression continued off and on because of these struggles and later adjusting to college at art school and trying to fit in. I left later to study youth ministry. Sadly this was where I had my biggest struggles with depression and cutting. Again I had the trouble of not feeling like I fit in, trouble from home, and feeling unliked. My biggest problem was I sought to find my value in what other people thought of me instead of God. My shame from sin also grew much more and I began to hate myself more than ever.

I didn’t feel worthy to live and all the anger, sadness, and frustration I had from all this I took out on myself in cutting. I was angry at myself for not living up to high expectations and admiration from others. I thought there was something wrong with me I couldn’t fix.

 Later I told some friends about my struggles. At first these friends were very supportive and helpful. In the coming months though some friends became the reason for me cutting more. They became tired of me and ridiculed me, calling me horrible names and falsely accusing me of sins or character flaws. It hurt so much to be feel tortured by people who used to be my friends and were Christians.

Very few of my friends cared about what I was going through. It just grew worse to see them have compassion for other but not me, support To Write Love On Her Arms but yet ridicule or bully me, focus more on me sinning by cutting, or saying I was sinning by being depressed. Faculty and staff added to some of the pain as well. It all became too much to bear emotionally and spiritually that I was cutting several times a week for almost a year, cutting until I felt the slightest bit of emotional relief which made it more dangerous for myself.

 I didn’t begin to stop until I finally had to go to the emergency room after one night. I hid it all to well after I got to the hospital. My youth pastor knew I was struggling with it and I ended up calling him to help me go to the hospital while walking out of the house still hiding it from my family. But the did find out later that night.

This was the biggest test of my faith to date to feel so alone in a struggle very feel understood and to have to endure so much ridicule from Christian believers. I grew angry and bitter but I didn’t lose faith in God, just his people. Again God saved me from destroying myself. The months following was a lot of healing. I left school and went back home. The bitterness towards believers continued bu God taught me a great deal about forgiveness, I felt his presence evermore and sense He wasn’t giving up on me.

God also revealed to me my problem of finding my value in others and Jesus beam more of a friend than ever before and I was being shown how to find my value in Christ alone.

One of the hardest parts about all this was the healing. People find it so hard to believe I can heal from all that and a little over half a year after last cutting be fine. All I can say is it was a miracle. I didn’t go through counseling, sometimes they made it worse. It was just God working in my life and it wasn’t by anything I had done, for him to work in me. I wasn’t being religious in my bible reading or church attendance, just continually crying out to God from being hurt, honestly seeking answers and healing, and wanting to terribly to know love and to feel it.

Homelife is still hard and my emotions can still get the best of me. There have been times even the past month I have wanted to cut, or have had nightmares reliving the moments I cut, but it hasn’t had a strong grasp on me like it did before. I know now more than ever God is going to use my story to change my character for the better and to help youth with similar struggles. I feel so honored to be able to use my past as a means to glorify God and share how great He is.