TW: self-harm and eating disorders.
I was 18 and in my second to last month of aftercare when it happened. Although I’d grown up in a stable home with loving Christian parents, I was an anxious child, and started having counselling aged 7 to help suppress some of the stress I was entangled in. The crux of my misery hit me at thirteen and my life spiralled in to a 24/7 battle to lose weight. If I couldn't be good enough at anything, one thing I could control was this. Food became my enemy; I strived to perfection in a desperate hope to find some sense of achievement and purpose. A diagnosis of anorexia nervosa after a battle with my parents to seek help only made me more determined to prove to myself that I was in control, and no one could stop me. Little did I realise at the time, I was not in control. I was being controlled and had spiralled so far downwards that I was a slave to deception. The next five years, although there were some vaguely better periods than others, were nothing but a deathly mix of perfectionism, self-destruction, depression, frustration and deep, deep self-loathing. God was out there…somewhere, but I didn't want to know him anymore, and certainly didn't want Him to take control. I spent a long spell of 14 months in a specialised inpatient unit in London when I was 16, another 8 months in a care placement. Amidst this, there was self-harming, sectioning, nasogastric feeding, kicking, screaming, restraining, competitiveness, outbursts of anger and sadness, abuse, restricting, binging, purging, pills…pain. My addiction to self-destruction somehow helped me numb this pain, and gave me a twisted sense of comfort. I didn't want anyone, or anything, to stop me. My core beliefs valued me as worthless and hopeless, and I believed that.
I was in my bedroom on the top floor of this old, three story house in the early hours of a Monday morning. The rest of the house was asleep, but I had been self-harming until I'd passed out on the floor temporarily. Things were really frightening. I'd never felt out of control until this point; I always thought I knew what I was doing to myself. But in this moment it felt as if the darkness had overcome me and I was not in control, but something was wrestling within me, holding my heart and soul bound in chains to self-hatred. I wanted to die.
I remember so clearly waking up and finding myself lying on the floor at 2am in a foggy daze. Something brought my attention to the song playing through my headphones which I must have had on repeat without fully noticing, and suddenly I heard audibly the words “I dare you to get up off the floor”, not just through the lyric, but through a voice that was so loud and clear and powerful it could not be mistaken. It was talking to me. In that instant I shot up and looked around, but I was alone, sodden in my own blood, shivering. I can't describe the despair as I screamed aloud at God, furious at my own reality and crying in pain at what I had come to. “I'll take my life now, if you don't do something God.” I promised. The desolation and hopelessness were like nothing I'd experienced in my life. I was a wretch and a mess. I had nothing left. Nothing was important anymore, not even the academics I had pushed myself towards. But in that moment, I somehow admitted something I'd never admitted before. “God, I have a problem. God, this needs to change.”
What happened next is almost indescribable. I’ve not yet founds the words to express the sensation of rapture as I felt something almost like a heavy rope inside my chest suddenly snap in two and something shifted. I felt warmth, as if I was being wrapped in a huge hug, and my heart felt enlivened, elated, like it had been release from the icy darkness and in to the light. Joy. I felt joy. Everywhere, my whole body felt joy. And for the first time, I felt truly loved. “Salvation is here,” He spoke to me.
So many professionals I worked with told me that the eating disorder would never really go away; I would just develop ways to live with it in the background. The enemy used this as a weapon to convince me that there was no hope, no grace, no healing for people like me. Just as the lies that I am unlovable, unworthy, hopeless and goof-for-nothing had controlled and kept my life in chains for so long, the denial of God’s power to heal a mental illness is also a lie. Jesus healed me, from the inside out; completely, wonderfully, immediately, intimately, miraculously. Jesus tells us in John 8v36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This is the truth I will base my life upon. My Saviour died for me to be set free, and truly free. Jesus doesn't always heal individuals in the same way; we are all made unique in his image and we may all have a unique journey. But when we enter into relationship with Him, He promises to be with us through it all, for now and eternity. God was with me all along, even when I rejected Him. He never gives up on any one of His lost sheep.
God has taken me on a whirlwind of discovery since that night. He has led me in to the wildest of opportunities and places to share His healing in my life to thee vulnerable and has anointed my life with joy. I am excited that He has led me to Oxford and into an even deeper relationship with Him through his revelations and words of truth. I’d be lying if I said that life has been a smooth ride since then, but Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). I am loved with an everlasting love, I was bought for a price, I am a daughter of the King, created for a purpose, and my God performs miracles.