Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Cutting, eating disorders, selfdestructive behaviours


This is a very touchy subject for me because I’m very embarrassed about the things I did, the way I acted, but I feel like a lot of others have the same problems and struggles and I figured I’d tell them they’re not the only ones.

Body, femininity and body image are things which fundamentalists focus on in their own, special way. I know of many many girls who struggle in some way with their own bodies and their femininity and end up having an eating disorder of some sort because of that. I feel for all the girls and women who have been at that point or are still. I was lucky that I never developed this very serious and deadly disease.

I had a completely different one. When people talk about self-destructive behaviour or inflicting pain to your own body, cutting is usually the first thing on their minds. Whenever I heard the word “cutting”, I thought those people needed God and didn’t have a connection to him and that they could be saved from their inner demons. I was great at ignoring the fact that I had the very same problem. I never cut myself, that seemed absurd to me. Why would you hurt the healthy body God gave you like that? Visible for everyone. The method I used was much easier to practice, much less visible, but as I later found out is quite common among the self-destructive behaviour types.

My parents, who followed to Pearl’s advice, spanked in this very Pearl-esque way, where the children are talked to prior to the spanking, told that the parents hate to hurt them but they have no other choice. That it hurts them more than it would hurt me. This particular sentence inflicted tons of guilt on me. I hated to be spanked or hit, obviously, but I loved it at the same time. I needed it. I hated myself so much, so deeply, that I sometimes wished my Dad would really hurt me, really beat me, in order to be free of that guilt. It’s very hard to explain how I felt.

I started this self-destructive behaviour around the age of 8 or 9. I remember that my mother cried a lot because she felt overwhelmed by all the kids. She cried even more when there was a spanking, and they were daily business at our house. My Dad would hit me and I still hated myself for doing this to them. Once the spanking was over, I was given some quiet time to calm down and freshen up. I went to the bathroom and cried endlessly, not that much because of the spanking but because I felt my mistake wasnt punished properly. I felt the need to feel more pain, and I didn’t want to burden my parents with spanking me. I decided to do it myself. I looked for some sort of thing, a hard thing, to cause myself more pain and to remove the guilt I felt. It could be anything really, like a hairbrush, a stick, a wooden spoon, whatever was at hand. At first I started hitting myself on the legs and thighs until it really hurt. For some time, it was enough to do this three or four times to remove the guilt, but as I grew older, more and more pain was needed to calm my conflicts.

Sometimes I didn’t do it for weeks, then I did it every day, then stopped it for some weeks again. It really depended on my emotional situation. I never felt like I was doing something wrong. After all, I wasnt cutting myself, so I was much better than those people. What I did was right. It was the holy spirit leading me to do this. How else could I feel so much relief in it?

Time passed and my self punishments on my legs grew harder, more severe, more painful. One day my mother saw my bruised legs after a really tough session and asked me what that was all about. I told her I fell really bad playing outside in the garden and didn’t realize I was so bruised up.

I had to hide it much better, find a better way to do it. More pain, less bruises. It took me just a few days to figure out a part of my body where nobody could see my bruises. My head. All the bruises and bumps would be hidden under my long hair. I felt like I had found the holy grail. It was the perfect plan. But it didn’t last long. The pain inflicted by my hands beating on my head was really severe, and I was 12 or 13 at that point. But this pain wasnt enough. I went back to anything hard to increase the pain level. And when that wasnt enough anymore, I really hated myself. I hated myself for having no way of causing such severe pain as to fulfill my need for feeling really repentant. This anger caused me to be even harder on myself, try it any way I could. I went on for minutes, hitting myself on the head with a hairbrush and crying, and it wasnt enough pain. I started tearing my hair out and screaming at myself, the most vicious things I could imagine, using words which would set me up for another spanking if my parents heard me say them.

I remember a day where I had gotten a spanking and it didn’t satisfy my need to feel real pain. I sat in the bathroom, hitting my head with a hairbrush, not feeling the pain I wanted to feel, shrieking out in shrill screams then cursing at myself. You are a piece of shit, everybody hates you, you are worthless, you can’t do anything, you will go to hell and marry the devil and God will laugh at you, your parents hate you, you’re going to hell anyway so kill yourself right now and release them from this burden, you piece of dirty dog shit. I whispered these things to myself in a snakelike manner so my parents wouldn’t hear, but they certainly heard the screaming. My Dad came knocking on the door, telling me that I needed to stop the screaming or else I’d get another spanking. I hushed up quickly and answered “Yes Dad” as cheerful as I could. I started tearing my hair out, hitting myself with everything that wasnt nailed to the ground, and it didn’t satisfy, so I hit my head against the wall, hoping it will finally start bleeding so I could stop. But it didn’t bleed. It never did. After 15 or 20 minutes, I gave up. I was defeated. I couldn’t cause enough pain. My head was dizzy, spinning and painful, but it still wasnt enough.

Once I was 15 or 16, I realized what I was doing wasn’t normal or appropriate. I stopped myself from doing it, not because I wanted to but because It made me feel even more guilty and worthless. I still felt the need to do it, but I ignored the urge as well as I could. It didn’t always work but it did most of the time.

Only after I turned more rebellious, particularly in my courtship times and after, I started really thinking about it and realized that I shouldn’t have treated myself that way, because it wasn’t my fault. I blamed my parents for not helping me, for making me feel that way and for never even bothering about my emotions. Until this day, I’m really angry at them that they made me so angry at myself. Remembering how much anger and hate I felt towards myself still troubles me.

This sort of behaviour is a serious issue and certainly needed treatment at that time. I thought it was harmless but I was just lucky. I could have severely hurt myself any time, by accident. I’m really glad I could close this chapter of my life and now I can look back at it, though with pain, but also with happiness that I got out of it so easily, without permanent physical damage. I can still understand why I acted like this, but I would never do it again. I hope that, if some people who read this are in the same or a similar situation, they will know that they’re not the only ones and that it’s something you can actually work on and overcome.


25 thoughts on “Cutting, eating disorders, selfdestructive behaviours

  1. “That it hurts them more than it would hurt me.” My parents used to say that when they spanked us too.

    As to the rest: I have no words. That’s HORRIBLE.

  2. I always knew my parents were lying with the “it hurts me more than it hurts you” crap.

    But, I was the cutter. And the one with the eating disorder.

    It was unacceptable to my parents to be fat. Although the definition of fat was anything bigger than a size 8 or so. They would be constantly on us if they thought we were getting fat. Fat was disgusting.

    One day my dad saw a bunch of cuts that were almost healed so there were only little scabs as if I’d been scratched, so I told him the dog had scratched me and he believed it. I tried to reach out to an older woman from church. She didn’t tell my parents, but she did scold me for “slandering” them.

    I also understand your issues with spanking, mine manifested a little differently and it’s still too embarrassing to talk about and most people don’t believe it’s possible anyway, so I learned very quickly to shut the crap up.

    I wish I could talk about such things openly on my blog, but there are far too many gossips who are talking about what I write now. I’ve thought about opening a private blog though under a pseudonym.

  3. I used to wonder why anyone would cut themselves too. But starting around age 17 it began to become a tempting option. I never actually started though, I coped with escapism. But then one day, after dealing with some emotional turmoil for a while, I had accidentally cut myself and suddenly understood the appeal of cutting.

    I was so upset, lonely and ashamed at the time, that the sting of the cut brought a sense of release. It was almost like a way to scream. I didn’t trust my family to respond compassionately to my feelings and there was no way I would let myself be caught screaming for real. And the cut gave me the emotional release I craved.

    I know that there are many different reasons to start cutting, but this was mine. I never let myself actually start cutting, but always keeping my feelings bottled up like I did just fed the temptation when things got bad.

    Self-inflicted pain is a very real issue and it upsets me how people treat it like something only “heathens” have to deal with, when there may be someone in their own family struggling with it.

    • “It was almost like a way to scream.”
      Yeah exactly… Very hard to imagine for people who aren’t in the same situation. I always told myself that cutting was so terrible and heathenous and felt so much better than them… I guess you’ll deny everything in front of yourself to keep up the picture.

    • exactly like a way to scream! never thought of it that way. It was also a way to exercise some form of control over a life in which i had to choices.

  4. Pingback: More Unexpected Effects of Spanking | Why Not Train A Child?

  5. (((Hugs))) I am so sorry. I don’t have words that are adequate for what you went through. 😦 Thank you for being so courageous and speaking up for others. ❤

  6. I’m planning on writing a post about self-injury sometime too…it seems pretty prevalent in these types of homes!

    My dad said once that people who cut were demon-possessed. That made sure I never talked to him about my SI.

  7. You have no reason to be embarrassed. This is natural behaviour for a human who has been abused and shamed: they turn it inward and harm themselves, turn it outward and abuse others, or self-medicate through drugs or alcohol so they can feel numb. The hard wiring that we need to be social animals is warped and twisted by abuse, especially child abuse. I’m just glad that you were able to overcome the urge to self-harm.

  8. I am amazed at the number of responses talking about self-injury. And, a little relieved that I wasn’t the only one who did it. I was a cutter, and I completely understand why people hurt themselves. When you are unable to express any emotion, particularly anger, you turn it on yourself. I can remember silently screaming into my pillow, trying to hide from my father. I felt like I was going mad, like something inside me was breaking. Strangely, cutting myself brought me back to a reality where I had control, I could feel something (even pain) and it gave me release.

    My mother asked about my scabs once, and I gave a lame excuse. All she said was “you need to stop scratching yourself.” Years later, she told me she knew I was cutting, but that she didn’t know how to fix it without stirring things up too bad. Knowing she knew and left me to hurt myself was very saddening.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, it helps a lot of us in our healing by reading about yours.

    • I don’t know if you’ve looked at it this way either, but perhaps her not saying anything was better than her trying to say something, and coming across condemning? I never cut in visible places, but if I had, and someone in my family noticed, I think I would have rather they not say anything, than try to talk to me about it…especially since my dad was of the opinion that cutters were demon possessed.

      Anyway…maybe that’s another perspective, maybe not. I’m sorry for what happened to you though ❤

      • “I think I would have rather they not say anything, than try to talk to me about it…especially since my dad was of the opinion that cutters were demon possessed.”
        Yes that’s pretty much how I felt. This entire “should the family say something” is very ambivalent. I do think most kids wouldn’t think of it as a helpful act in any way and it certainly would make relating to each other even harder. On the other hand, there must be SOMETHING you can do, even if it’s only changing the way the family works or asking for professional help without the kids knowledge. I imagine that it’s very hard to decide what to do for all parents with cutting kids.

      • This is true- I have thought of that. I was told cutters were crazy people, demon possessed and lost. It is possibly better that it wasn’t addressed, simply because things would have gotten much worse for me.
        BUT- I am angry that a mother could watch her children being broken down, imploding with fear, anger and self hate and STILL stay in a lifestyle with a husband that perpetuated those things.
        Even mother bears will kill anything that threatens their young, then move them to a safer part of the forest. I always felt as though we kids were a byproduct of their dysfunction, and our happiness and health were always sacrificed in order to maintain Dad’s “illusion of perfection.” Not. Okay.

  9. Wow you are incredibly brave Lisa. You really are giving the rest of us the strength to speak. What you said about the snake-like voice, i did that too. I used to stand in the bathroom with the door locked and rage at myself in the mirror. All those same words. I shuddered when reading yours becuase they are so familiar. “You are disgusting. No-one loves you. you are worthless” I dug holes in my skin with my fingernails and pulled out my hair for a long time before i learned about cutting. There was nothing more relieving to me then pain. I still struggle with those inner demons sometimes. I’ve blogged about it a little bit here:
    Its so hard to silence those voices of hatred. Speaking out about it is the first step to healing. Thanks so much for this. ((hugs))

  10. Wow. Didn’t realize others did the whole spanking thing too. Emotional pain can be really damaging, even when we don’t realize what it is. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • I read about it a lot lately and I found out that it’s not even a rare phenomenon but occurs in about 30% of all selfdestructive behaviour cases. I think most people don’t even consider these behaviours selfdestructive because the cutting behaviour is so prominent and outwardly visible.

      • In reality, there are a lot of self-destructive behaviors that people don’t realize. Pretty much anything that causes pain to yourself, physical or otherwise.

        Some other physical-type self-injurious behaviors are hair pulling (as some mentioned) and interfering with the healing of wounds.

  11. Hugs to all of you broken daughters. I wish I could take away the pain. 😦

  12. I cut, bruised and burned myself up till I was about twenty three. I always wondered if fundamentalist communities had a highter percentage of self harmers because we are told so much that our female bodies are wrong, evil, worthless. I also belve that sexual abuse is endemic in fundamentalist communities and self harmers often have a history of sexual abuse

    • That would be very interesting to find out but you’d never get reliable numbers. Who in the fundamentalist movement would really talk about that and admit those things? The only ones who do are the leavers and we’re an entirely different case in that perspective as we don’t represent the majority. I think even a lot of the ones who left wouldn’t talk about it…
      I don’t know about you but I personally never met anyone in the fundamentalist community who had visible signs of self destruction. I thought I was the only one who had this weird thing going on and I would’ve prefered death over being found out…

  13. I wasn’t raised in a religious household but my home was all not a safe place to express emotion. I was very depressed as an adolsent and cut a little, but it was more like a scratched myself with sharp things. Try as I might I rarely drew blood. I can only imagine what I might have done had I been in your situation, but it seems like what you did is a pretty predictable consequence of the kind of discipline the Pearls prescribe.

    My mom saw these scratches, and like others she never fully acknowledged it. I think that might of hurt more than anything. (((hugs))) to all.

  14. So sorry you had to deal with this. Hope you’ve recovered or are at least well on your way there.

    Fundamentalism breeds mental illness and death. They’re terrorists as far as I’m concerned. I should know. I was raised by them.

    People really need to stop respecting other peoples’ religions just because religion is supposedly some magical thing that you just CAN’T say anything bad about. For whatever stupid, arbitrary, man-made reason. I say f#$! their religion. The welfare of children is more important than coddling the feelings of a bunch of brainwashed zealots.

    I try not to think about what my life would be like if I was raised by sane atheists . It’s too depressing. An exercise in futility.

    Sometimes I wish I could have a “what-if machine” to look into and see what the world would be like if there was no dogma in the world. Religious or otherwise. I dare say we’d be better off. To blindly follow anything for no reason other than you’re “supposed to” is a recipe for atrocity.

    • “They’re terrorists as far as I’m concerned.” Hah, yes. They say the muslims are all evil terrorists, but the fundamentalist christians are just as bad. Sure, they don’t blow themselves up in supermarkets, they don’t need to. They just raise hordes of “warriors”, terrorize people with different world views, religions and preferences. They terrorize their own children, producing a generation of insane and broken people. It doesn’t matter if we stay in the movements or leave it, there will be scars and we will never be normal. There will always be fears and thoughts we can’t rid ourselves of. They too ruin the lives of many around them, just in a more subtle, more secret way, but just as disgusting and sad.
      When I see and hear how blindly people repeat the ideas of the fundamentalist leaders, like stupid little birds in cages, I wonder to myself “How are you any different from the hateful muslims? You sound just the same. You say the same, you think the same, you just give it a different name.”

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  16. This article is incredibly sad- I found a link to this whilst reading some articles about Michael and Debi Pearl and their belief that hitting a child causes them to grow up happy. Clearly they are deluded and reading this is heartbreaking. It is astounding to me that any parent could truly believe that this is the best way to raise a healthy child- I used to get angry with my father for pressuring me regarding Christianity but looking back on it, he never hit me, he let me stop going to church when I was 13, and he entirely accepts me now as an agnostic. I realise now I have been incredibly lucky, and I hope that all of you are able to heal and escape the scars your parents have left upon you.

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