Up until the age of 13 I don’t remember much from my childhood. I was brought up in a leafy suburban town; I went to a lovely small primary school and had everything I needed. I became a Christian at the local church after attending with a friend for a few months. I read the Bible cover to cover within a year. To an outsider it looked like I had the perfect life.
However, behind closed doors my mum was aggressive and from 13 onwards she physically abused me. She was highly critical of me and I felt very scared of her. I started being bullied at high school because I was overweight. The bullying occurred sometimes several times a day. I started self harming and having regular suicidal ideations. I decided that if I lost enough weight the bullying would stop, so I stopped eating. After three days with no food I fainted at school several times and people started worrying about me. I was scared that the teachers would contact home so I decided that I needed a different method to lose weight. I avoided food at all costs, but ate when I needed to, or when I was being watched by other people. I would often just eat a bite of a banana for a meal. I also started taking laxatives, sometimes on a daily basis, because I thought this would help me to lose weight quickly.
I hated school because I felt so embarrassed about being bullied, and the bullies would often joke about me in front of the rest of the class. The more I took laxatives, the more I investigated other pills that might help. So I started taking diet pills and diuretics too. The self harming became more regular; I found a penknife at home and would cut my stomach over and over when I was at home, to escape the pain in my mind.
When I was about 15 I started drinking, and this fuelled my desire to destroy myself. I would drink until I was sick or would pass out, forgetting what I had done that evening. Sometimes I would get cigarettes and burn myself with the lit end. I was tired of hiding my struggles and desired to be alone so I could starve myself freely. There were periods of time where I would not eat anything for up to 10 days when I could get away with it. I rapidly lost weight to the point where people voiced their concerns and I was dragged to see a doctor. I lied about everything and convinced them I was fine.
Things got worse at home and I was living in fear constantly. I remember one day I hid under the bed all day, so scared of my Mum’s anger. I started talking in a chat room online and described what was going on at home. It felt like the only place I could talk about things without people around me finding out. One lady was very worried about me and asked me what school I went to. She rang social services. I was terrified. I had to go and talk to some people at social services. I was so scared that they would contact my parents and that things would get worse. So I lied to them, saying everything was fine. However, they contacted my parents anyway and I was in a lot of trouble. To cope with it all, I turned, as ever to self harm and starving myself. A year later my parents divorced and moved into separate houses. I thought that maybe things would be better for me at home, but soon afterwards my Mum continued abusing me.
At 16 I started going out with a guy. He knew I was a Christian and wanted to save sex for marriage and at first he respected this. However, after 6 months he raped me and took my virginity. I was so lost and confused, and even more certain that because I had no worth I needed to destroy myself further. I experimented with cocaine and other drugs, and started making myself sick. I found making myself sick difficult, so I researched other options and found out about ipecac syrup which is used to induce vomiting in children who have eaten something toxic. It is not used anymore in most countries as it can cause a heart attack the first time it is used. I bought some online and started using that so I could lose weight faster.
At 18 I went to University. I was a mess, and had been unable to share openly with anyone the full story of what was going on. After the purging becoming regular, I started to feel scared because I was feeling so poorly. I decided to go to the doctors and I was referred to an eating disorder clinic. It was terrifying but I persevered and saw a nurse every week. By the end of the first term I had been referred back to a doctor and put onto antidepressants as I was regularly feeling suicidal.
Through Uni I saw countless professionals for help. I was referred to counsellors, doctors, the eating disorder nurse, a dietician, a psychiatric nurse, a psychiatrist and finally a therapist. I made two suicide attempts during my second year of Uni and ended up in hospital both times. I heard about a Christian residential home called Mercy Ministries that helped girls aged 18-28 with the kind of problems I was dealing with. I was desperate to be looked after and to get away from my life. I decided it would be my last attempt to get help. I didn’t think there would be any other options after that anyway. In April 2008 I met a guy called Paul at a Christian camp called Spring Harvest whilst we were both stewarding. He was amazing and was so patient with me when I was so intent on destroying myself. He supported me during the lead up to going to Mercy.
Mercy was amazing but difficult! I went in July 2008 when I was 19 and I spent five months there in recovery. I was required to eat meals three times a day, then sit, watched for an hour afterwards to ensure I didn’t go to the bathroom and purge. All sharp objects were kept in the office, so we were unable to self harm. There were 9 other girls there when I went. We were encouraged to talk to the staff if we were struggling. Some days were extremely difficult but the staff were amazing and I enjoyed spending time with the other girls. At Mercy we were taught to turn to God when we were struggling, and we spent time in worship and in classes learning about God every day. I really enjoyed that aspect of being at Mercy and drew much closer to God whilst I was there. We worked through a counselling programme, and when I was coming towards the end of that I was offered a graduation date. I left Mercy in December 2008, determined not to go back to bulimia and self harm, but sadly I slipped back into both habits by Easter.
I planned to go back to Uni in September to finish my final year in primary education, but by September I was poorly again, purging up to four or five times a day in a desperate attempt to lose weight. I felt very lonely and isolated at Uni, but kept trying to draw near to God. I started having cognitive behavioural therapy towards the end of my final year of Uni, and I finished Uni in June 2010 at 21. After Uni I moved house and city to be closer to my boyfriend, Paul, but continued to come back for CBT. When I moved house I decided that I didn’t want to taint my new home with bulimia or self harm so I tried really hard to stop both habits. With the support of CBT I finally conquered bulimia and have not purged for over a year now! At CBT I worked though the issues that I had never been able to address with past counsellors and finally started to make real progress. In October 2010 my boyfriend proposed to me. I spent six months after finishing Uni focusing on recovery and in January 2011 I started my first teaching job.
Had God not come into my life at the age of 13 I am convinced that I would be dead by now. The only thing that held me back from being more self destructive was knowing that it hurt God to see me destroy myself and fearing that God would hold me accountable when I meet him. All through the difficult times I knew God was present with me and he was my comfort and strength to keep going. God has completely transformed my life. I am free from the abuse of my past, I am free from bulimia, I am free from self harm, I am getting married this year and I am now working full time as a primary school teacher. I am still struggling with depression, but I now have energy and I am able to sleep through the night.
God is amazing and has redeemed me, restored me and has a plan for my future.