Wednesday, March 16, 2011


One of the songs on JJ Heller's new CD "What Love Really Means" is called Control. I recently read an article about her inspiration for that song, which she credits to a friend who battled with cutting. And it stopped me in my tracks.

I have only talked about this maybe three or four times in my life, but I battled briefly with cutting in high school. High school was hard for me--in addition to the normal questions of "Who am I? What do I believe? What do I want to do with my life?", there was a season in which I had lost a couple of friends. It was very hard. Plenty of adults reached out to me, and I can't tell you how many times I was invited to a grief support group, but I didn't ever go.

Instead, I kept my grades up. I played sports. I participated in extracurricular activities. I was an over-achiever. I hung out with friends. I went to church. I was fine. Except for sometimes, late at night, when I wasn't.

I was kind of lonely. And sad. And I hated most things about how I looked physically. And I was mad at myself for getting a B- in Physics, or missing the time goal that I set for myself in Crew. Or for not being picked for first place at a photography show. Let me be clear here and say that the expectation for perfection did NOT come from my parents. Not at all. They were kind, loving, supportive, and encouraging. They were not overbearing, nor did they put pressure on me to be the best. From the time I was little, I remember my parents saying that it was okay for us not to get A's, so long as we were doing our best. But somewhere along the line, I decided all by myself that giving my best wasn't enough. I wanted to be the best. At everything. To be in complete control. But, of course, I wasn't.

One day when I was feeling particularly down on myself, I remember overhearing a teacher pulling aside a student who had visible cut marks on her arms. I don't remember exactly what the teacher said, but it was something to the effect of asking the student why she was doing that to herself. I remember exactly what the student said. She said, "It's the only time I'm totally in control." And I remember thinking, 'Control? I want THAT.' And so later that night, I grabbed a pair of cuticle scissors and scraped and scratched at my arm until it bled. And I remember liking how it felt, so I continued to do it for several more months.

Then, by happenstance, I rented the movie Secretary, in which the main character is a cutter. It scared me. At that point, I was still scraping and scratching, but I knew how easily it could escalate to more, and so I decided that I was done. Thank goodness, I was.

Because my cutting only lasted several months and it wasn't very severe, I didn't really think that I was a real cutter. For a long time, I didn't tell even my closest friends about it...I felt like it would be begging for attention for something that wasn't really that big of a deal. But you know what? I still have a scar from it. I still don't keep cuticle scissors in my house because I'm worried that I might fall back into it again. No, it wasn't as severe as some of the other girls I knew who did it. But it wasn't nothing either. So, I'm talking about it. Even though it's really uncomfortable for me {people I know in real life read this blog--will they think differently of me?!}...but it's part of a larger issue that I think many women struggle with, which I think can manifest in a variety of different ways from eating disorders, to cutting, to promiscuity, to obsessive exercise, to obsessive cleaning.

Oh, control. It's time, time to let you go
-JJ Heller, Control

Ultimately, JJ Heller's song and my experience with cutting come down to a desire for control and perfection. Wanting to have control and be in control is something that I battle with along with plenty of other women--that battle didn't stop when I stopped cutting. This past year has been an incredible learning experience for me in terms of not always being in control. It's been an incredible learning experience for me in terms of my faith--my faith calls me to LET GO of my desire to control and to simply trust in God. But that wasn't something that I was doing with any regularity. If I couldn't handle it on my own, then maybe I'd go to God about it. When really, if I'm adhering to the tenants of my faith, I'm called to give it to God first. To let Him be the one in control, not me.

It's still a battle for me to relinquish control and to feel like it's okay to admit that I'm not perfect. But I'm starting to learn that when I can do it, it's such a blessing.

PS- If you think someone in your life is a cutter, please check out this website:


  1. what a powerful post and reminder that we aren't in control - and we should be leaving a lot more things to Him instead of to ourselves.

  2. As someone who struggled with eating disorders in high school, I totally relate. It's all a method of control, and though I feel like I totally get that God is in control, even now, I still struggle with that high-school girl struggling to regain control when it was never hers to begin with.

  3. I think this is a beautiful post and shows how strong you are. Thanks for your honesty.

  4. Thank you for sharing this Meredith.

  5. I know you in real life and this definitely does not change my idea of you as a person. If anything I am more impressed than ever that you were patient enough to be my roommate! ;)

    I am also proud that you were able to write about this. Other people that have similar struggles need to know they're not alone and that it's okay to talk about it. Love you Mere.

  6. Wow. My sister was a cutter. I think she still does when she feels out of control. I was away at college when she started, and when she told me I was immediately disgusted and drawn to it. I started scratching and picking sort of like you. Never actually cutting. The desire for control is so huge. I have abandoned the scratching mostly because my husband would ask about it whenever I did it. And your post has confirmed a whispering in my heart that I have transferred that control issue to eating. I want so badly to have control over my body and my life. But you and JJ Heller is right- I just have to let go. If only it wasn't so difficult. Thanks Meredith.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made me think of my time in high school and my struggles with an eating disorder. Like you, it was never as bad as it could have been. And luckily at 17 I had a realization that I was heading down a dangerous and unhealthy path and I needed to make the necessary changes to stop. I still struggle with my weight. I have to battle with myself to eat, to eat healthy, to not go to the bathroom after meals, to not become addicted to weighing myself multiple times a day or killing myself exercising. And still being a fairly newlywed, I have learned so much about myself, my weaknesses, and most importantly my faith.

    This post also reminds me of a girl I met while volunteering at a women's refuge in England the year after college graduation. She was the first person I'd ever met who I knew was a cutter. She was beautiful and funny. She was also terribly scared. Her arms, hands, legs, stomach, even behind her ears. She had been abandoned by her mother as a child and bounced around the foster care system her entire life. She was a believer, but was never able to let go and give the control she so desperately craved to God. I often think about her praying that she will someday be healed and be happy.

    Growing up is tough, especially as a girl. Some of us are lucky to make it through with faith, family and friends. But others aren't so lucky and that breaks my heart.

    Thanks again for sharing...and for letting me share.

  8. Beautiful post and I'm so glad you had the courage to share.

  9. I know you in real life, and still love you just the same :) I'm so glad Jesse dragged me to the bowling alley to meet you and Justin way back when ;)

  10. Thank you for sharing this Meredith!

  11. Wow, this is powerful. What an incredible reminder of who IS in control, and how blessed we are when we give it to Him.

  12. Thanks for writing about this. Mad props for putting such personal stuff on the interwebs, where perhaps it can help others.


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