A few months ago, V2H took on a new intern, Nathan Smoker. Nathan is from Montrose, PA and is 18 years old. His family and I have some great history sharing time together at Temple Baptist Church in Morehead City, NC. His dad was my youth pastor and and his mom was like my surrogate mom in so many ways.
I met Nathan a few years ago as his family and I reconnected through Youtube of all things. After our reconnection, we decided for Nathan to come and spend a few weeks with me since he was into videography and we were hosting a day camp where he could help us out. We had a great time having him and all seemed great as he returned home from his two weeks of mission and service experiences.
But when Nathan got back home after that summer his life began a downward spiral into depression and loneliness. School, friends and even church seemed to offer no real answers for him. The silent depression flooded his soul and his family quickly lost touch with him as he settled into some hidden habits of cutting and self harm. He did some drugs and inhalants but found his greatest satisfaction in cutting himself.
Through some miraculous events and intervention by God, family and friends, Nathan is doing much better now and is using his story to bring hope to others like him. Here is a conversation about cutting and more of his story.
GL: When did you first start cutting?
NS: The first time I cut was towards the beginning of my 10th grade year in high school. It was a late night and I was dealing with my depression and I just didn’t know how else to cope with all the chaotic feelings. I had scratched my arms before but it just wasn’t working for me and I wanted to take it a step further so I took a sewing needle and used it to cut.
GL: Why did you cut?
NS: There are a few reasons why but the biggest reason is that I really wanted to see blood. I remember thinking things like “I hate myself and I deserve to bleed” That’s how it started out… but it didn’t take long until those thoughts started turning into “I need to cut to feel better. I need to see blood to feel better.”
GL: What were some of the things you used to cut and inflict harm on yourself?
NS: I mostly used a sewing needle that I would tuck into the side of my shoe but I’ve also used razors, a screw driver, and a pair of scissors.
GL: What circumstances or situations lead you to become a cutter?
NS: I had been dealing with depression all year and I was feeling very alone. I would walk the halls and wonder how it was possible to pass dozens of students and teachers and yet none of them could see the pain I was in. I felt so alone.
GL: How would you describe the sensation from cutting? What is it about cutting that seems to make it addictive?
NS: It’s such an amazing adrenaline experience. The pain is one thing but the best part for me is getting to see the blood run down my arm. The sight of all the blood just gives you a rush that can’t really be described to people who have never cut.
GL: As a recovering cutter, what do you do to deal with your problems now that are more constructive?
NS: To be honest, there is nothing as good as cutting so it can be really hard sometimes. Music is one of my favorite ways to cope because music can describe such a wide range of emotions and feelings. Also just talking to friends is good too because it helps me feel like I’m not alone.
GL: What advice can you give to other cutters that can give them hope?
NS: It’s not easy, but I can promise that life beyond cutting is a life worth fighting for. You’ll probably fall and give in from time to time but just focus on moving forward. It’s so easy to get discouraged when you mess up but you just have to face forward and never give up. Eventually you’ll start to see progress and soon it will get easier.
GL: How do you see God using your past to help others?
NS: I can relate! That’s the biggest thing. When people talk to me about their experiences with cutting, it’s almost like I’m talking back to myself when I was caught up in it. I remember how frustrating it was when nobody could understand how I felt or why I couldn’t stop or why I needed it so badly. Being able to relate helps immensely.
GL: Do you feel that cutting is growing as a form of coping?
NS: Without a doubt. It’s already very common but I can just see it growing and statistics show that.
GL: What types of people cut? Who are the kinds of people that you feel inflict self-harm?
NS: Cutting does not apply to ‘certain types of people’. Many would stereotype that it’s ‘emos’ or ‘goths’ but the truth is that it can happen with anyone. Black and white, christian and aetheist, poor and rich.
GL: What can churches and schools do to educate people about cutting and self-harm?
NS: Schools and churches should share the stories of people who have cut and aware people of the danger that self harm could cause, but I think education can only go so far. Education is great but I think more importantly we should try to focus on getting people help and support.