Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Heart Response

I met a young girl today who cuts herself. She just blurted it out, not that I needed her to explain the dozen or so slash marks lined perfectly up her forearm. I would have spotted them a mile away. #1: I'm a nurse. #2: I'm a former "cutter" myself.Ihad treated her before and knew some vague history, mostly what amounted to small town gossip. Bad home life, promiscuity, rebellious behavior. She is me. The me that I was 15 years ago. At the time I was struggling with a bad home, rebelling more against life and God than anyone. When she admitted the cutting to me a miraculous thing happened that normally is not so miraculous, my mouth began to speak without permission. Call it professional instinct, diarrhea of the mouth, or stupidity... I call it divine intervention. I heard myself say: You're a cutter? I was a cutter. She stops talking to her cousin and we stare at each other quite a long minute before she says: Did your parents think you were crazy too? Without hesitation I answer: Yes but that didn't mean that they didn't love me, it just meant that they weren't going to be able to walk with me through the healing. Her lip trembles and tears form in her eyes. I know that I have reached a deep place in her that no one has touched in a long time. Suddenly it's as if someone has given this wilted flower a long draught of clean water. She has found a kindred, she is safe here. I don't ask why she cuts. That is really of no importance to me. No matter how the pain was inflicted, cutting always comes from pain. Deep, unresolved, festering pain. We talk while I do my job, she asking questions most people never ask. Where did you cut? What did you use to cut with? Did you see a shrink? Finally she asks the question that I know she's been circling around. How did you get past wanting to cut? Knowing how gently I needed to treat her at this juncture,I simply said that I laid it down. She fidgets momentarily before asking me how I can just lay down the need to cut. I tenderly answer this way: I didn't mean lay down the cutting...I meant I had to lay down the pain and hatred I carried. I had to forgive. This child takes a second to absorb what I've just said and then dissolves. She is in so much pain that she cannot possibly wrap her brain around the possibility of not feeling the pain anymore. My heart becomes a gooey mess inside my chest. I want to wrap her, this little girl in a big body, in a blanket and rock her while she cries. I know I cannot fix her life, I cannot make the pain go away, but in this moment I can do one extraordinary thing. I can love her.It is something that she needs right now that no one seems willing to give. She needs my love right now more than she needs a shrink, a new prescription, and more than the bloodwork I just drew. For her, Love is better than Morphine. I break nursing protocol for a moment and wrap my arms around her and give her the freedom to lose control of her self for a minute. Stroking her hair and rocking side to side like my years of motherhood have taught me to do, I let her cry. Several minutes later she regains her composure. The cousin that came with her is dumbstruck. What just happened?, she says to me. I let the girl wipe her face and then say to the cousin, Did you see what I just did? You need to do that as often as she needs it. All you did was let her cry, she says-still confused. Exactly, I respond, I let her cry without making her feel like there was anything wrong with it. Do that for her if you love her. She left today smiling. I may never she this girl again, but this much I am sure of, I will never forget that smile.


Kristina said...

Melanie, you are amazing. Thank you for being so open and honest!!!

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