My story is not a pretty one.
When I was 14, I moved to the UK to a prestigious boarding school to complete my GCSEs. I did complete them, and got A’s and A*’s across the board – with only one B. I continued to my first year of IB, but then the pressure of being in a boarding school far away from home, in a school with teenage girls who are not nice at the best of times, and after bottling up all of the racial biases and experiences of being an African girl in a 98% white British all girls boarding school were immense.
I did not want to tell my parents how I was really feeling, so, I kept it all inside. I had no one to confide in. No one who cared. I was in a batch environment, just girl number 13 in dorm 1. All the other girls called home every night and talked in detail about their day, or had family living close enough to go home for the weekend. I did not have either of those things. And after the first two years, I didn’t have friends in the dorms either because they all moved.
One day, I remember just asking to be excused from class, and breaking down in an empty classroom. I could not take it anymore. The next few weeks and days were a haze, but as soon as my parents found out how I was really feeling, they took me home. I felt that I had failed. I felt that I was at the top of the clouds and was just shot back down into the dirt lower then when I had left moving from the UK back to Ethiopia. I felt like it was a devastating fall from grace from which I would never recover, and I am still recovering today 5 years later.
After all that pressure, I got to meet with the top Psychologists in Kenya and started anti-depressant medication. However, once back, although in a new school with a fresh start, I just was not ready to put in the same kind of effort I had put in back in the UK. I found it to be too painful, like a kind of residual trauma to academic performance.
So, when I simply could not perform academically, although I was intellectually capable and sometimes found the material to be easy, it was incredibly frustrating. I fell into first severe social anxiety, then a deep depression, and eventually started experiencing multiple symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
And as an atheist at the time, when the one thing I used to define my self-worth, my grades, fell through, I started smoking weed, partying every weekend, drinking heavily, and being incredibly promiscuous alongside trying progressively more and more potent drugs. I have slept or had sexual encounters with I estimate around 20-30 men, most of which I do not remember from those 5 years. With multiple pregnancy scares and multiple STD and STI checks, although somehow, I never got any, all by the age of 18-21.
The yearning for a love to fix me, and the never finding the kind of love I was looking for – which I know now can only come from Jesus, I fell into an even deeper depression and became suicidal. I had deep feelings of loneliness, emptiness, shame, regret, despair – I felt I had no hope. I had 5-10 attempts over the course of 1-2 years. I swallowed an entire bottle of pills, I drank bleach, I cut the mains electricity wire with a knife, I tried to hang myself – but for some reason I just would not die.
I remember crying out to God “Why won’t you let me die?” even though I did not believe in Him at the time. I would have never admitted it, even to myself, but I used to wish that I could believe, so that I could be like my family members and have a sense of an anchor in my life, direction and guidance that worked, but for the life of me at all the Bible studies and fellowship meetings it all just seemed like senseless nonsense.
My social skills plummeted, and most of the people I thought were my friends paradoxically turned away from me in the moment I needed them most, quoting my unfairness to them for not letting them know I was suicidal sooner. I was admitted to several low-grade psychiatric facilities which were terrifying experiences. I was medicated without my consent, and when I told my parents they swiftly took me out as quickly as possible. A few months later there was a shooting at that very same hospital when a patient being checked-in shot and killed several attendants. Somehow, the patient had been allowed in with a gun, which only goes to show their safety standards.
Then me and my family moved to Canada. It was a new start, but the loneliness of a new country, and the trauma of a country that is very similar to the UK in a myriad of interconnected ways only served to make me fell more isolated. So, I resolved to get into a long-term relationship. I figured, if I found the right person, who loved me enough, who cared enough to fix me and walk by me, I would be okay.
So, I used dating applications like Tinder to meet men. Most of those meetups ended up in one-night stands or simply did not go anywhere – until I met, let’s call him M. M was also atheist, and enjoyed philosophy, one of the subjects that I had gotten an award for in High school many times. We had a few interests in common, but more than that, it was the fact that we were incredibly different – but still somehow enjoyed spending time together despite that.
We lived together for a few months, and then that is when I met Jesus. I was very, very high one day (I know) but when I get high, I never suffer from hallucinations. This was something I had never experienced before. I was feeling ashamed of the fact that I needed to get high in order to cope and function, and although M. (my boyfriend at the time) cared, he was not exactly the encouraging type, so I was in the other room. When he walked in to talk to me, when I looked up at his face, it was not his face. There was someone else’s face there, but it was bright. Iridescent, shining from within. He was smiling and I instantly knew who it was.
I was speechless, I vividly remember saying
laughing in disbelief and He was just smiling, and I was confused because I was thinking, this is THE Jesus Christ, the one whose death our entire method of counting years centers around. What on Earth was this man doing in a room with me. I was in shock, but more than that, I was elated. I bowed many times and I cried and wept, and I knew M. was having a jolly good time thinking I was excited to see him.
In that one moment, looking at Him, all the cares in my life that I had ever had. Every worry, every heartache it all seemed as small as a single grain of salt in the entire Atlantic Ocean. I experienced a kind of peace and freedom that surpasses all human understanding, and nothing was ever the same.
The next few days or so I announced to my family on Facebook to their elation and great anticipation (they had prayed for it for years) that I had found Christ. Once I was saved, I tried to save M. which I quickly found was an exercise in futility. Trying to evangelize through a relationship of all the things I have done is one of the things which I wish I had left sooner. That is a bridge EVERYONE should refrain from crossing at every point in time.
That was about one year ago now, and early this year on March 21st, 2021, I was baptized in Jesus name. Since that day I was instantly freed of my alcohol and weed addictions, and I have just recently conquered sexual temptation in the form of pornography and fornication! I am now looking forward to renewing my childhood commitment to Christ of purity until marriage or Heaven (both sound good to me!). PRAISE GOD! He is real! And He is good!
Other than that there’s one experience I had months ago, long before I met M. which I never understood or really thought about until recently. I was smoking one night, and was looking out into the garden at night, must have been around midnight – I thought my eyes we’re playing on me, but out there levitating I kind of saw a plane into a different place, kind of like a portal that was open, but in the portal was a single small candle, flickering, gentle, and dim.
I looked at it for a long time, trying to understand what it was, and debating whether I should go and try to touch it – it took about a year for God to reveal to me what had happened. I was singing a worship song one day “Way Maker”, and when the lyric came up “Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness”, I finally realized what happened. I don’t know if it was Jesus, an angel, or God himself – but at the very least I can say it was a sign of the change He was about to perform in my life long before I even thought of God or becoming a Christian in my wildest dreams and imaginations.