I used to self-harm and feel depressed and suicidal. But God healed that!
In my early life I went to church and Sunday school. Then we moved to Ipswich and stopped going, although I did go once a month when I was a Brownie and a Guide. But this church was very formal and traditional and I never enjoyed it. Because of that, God was never exciting.
I was never very happy with who I was from the minute I started high school. I had serious confidence issues and I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I had a lot of problems with friends also. We often fell out and they often bullied me and left me out of things such as shopping trips and parties, but I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t know how to change things and I didn’t really see the point. I began to feel a failure. School work became my top priority, and my family became even more important to me because of my friendship situation. I became a perfectionist. I wanted to prove myself desperately with my school work.
When I was 14, my parents divorced. I found this really hard to cope with. I wanted to protect my mum and my younger sister, and I hated my dad for leaving us. I began to feel really empty, lost and miserable at this point, and questioned why I was alive. It felt like something was missing but I didn’t really know what. Also, the relationship with my dad got worse. I was never that close to him. He never really raised me, he was never really there. But after the divorce, we ended up only ever seeing him about once a year at Christmas. For a 14 year old, this is hard to accept. I remember feeling like he didn’t love me and I began to feel quite worthless. I wondered why I had such an awful relationship with my dad. I sunk further into darkness and felt really quite depressed and suicidal at times, because the situation with my friends was getting worse. I felt so alone, but I suppressed the emotions and didn’t talk about it to anyone because I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone. The emotions built up. I began to develop a deep hatred of myself, and I felt angry at everyone, including myself. It felt like my school work was all I had at this point.
I can’t really remember the next two years between the divorce and me finishing my GCSEs in 2006. After I left high school though, I lost contact with my high school friends. I had expected it but this didn’t make it any easy. I had one friend, one good friend who is still my best friend, but that didn’t really make me feel any better. I fell into darkness again. I really hated who I was. I felt incredibly lonely and alone but I was far too embarrassed and ashamed to talk to anyone about how I felt. I felt stupid for having very few friends, but I didn’t think anyone would really help me. So I just pretended that everything was OK on the outside, even though on the inside I was crying. I felt really depressed, and I just couldn’t see how life could get better.
I started sixth form the September after I finished high school. I was pretty much a mess by now. I was deeply depressed and angry an awful lot and I felt so alone. I began to feel like I couldn’t cope with anything. I struggled to see any way out, and I planned to take my life a couple of times. I turned to self-harm in order to stop myself taking my life, and in order to feel like I could cope. I was also trying to come to terms with the fact that my dad was getting remarried, just a couple of years after the divorce. I couldn’t understand why he wanted to get remarried. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this either. I didn’t want to talk to my mum, after she had to get over the divorce. I didn’t want to give her anymore pain. I also wanted to protect my younger sister, so I made sure that she was OK. We were both quite stressed that year. I was still a perfectionist at school. I had huge expectations for myself.
Basically, if I didn’t get A grades, I was a failure. I wasn’t always getting A grades, so I felt like a failure. Not just in my school work, but life in general. I did really hate myself, and I couldn’t see how life could get any better. I also think I really struggled with loneliness. I used to try and comfort myself by watching Friends constantly to make it seem like I had a large group of friends. I was seriously jealous of people who had huge social lives, but I never did anything to change my situation.
There is a bit of a blur between around December 2006 and summer 2007, when my father did remarry. It was during October 2007, randomly one week that God came into my life. I say randomly, because that’s how it felt at the time. I had been to church with the Brownies (where I was a young leader) one Sunday, and God popped into my head. Once he was there, he didn’t budge! I had never really thought about him before and it confused me, so I just said to him: “God, are you there? If you are, could you take these problems away for me?” He seemed to say “Yes”, because I read John’s Gospel and he softened my cold heart, because I remember feeling so overwhelmed at God’s love for me. I also ended up turning the Bible to Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I cried at this point. I remember sobbing like mad. I could not understand how God, the Creator of the universe, could love me so much, especially when I felt so bad about myself and it felt like the world was against me. Something clicked, what I had been searching for was found. I gave my life to Jesus, believing that from that moment on things would be OK. Well, they were for a time. Finally I felt at peace with the world, and I was calm and I had joy in having Jesus in my life. I went to church and read the Bible and prayed. My social life didn’t improve, but I seemed to have so much joy in Jesus that it didn’t bother me that much.
I started university in September 2008. I had stupidly high expectations of both study and social life. Here I was, at university. My whole future depended on these next three years. I wasn’t having an easy time with God, because I made university number one in my life and sort of pushed him to the side. I had returned to the thought that if I didn’t get a decent degree, my life was over. I also thought my life would be over if I didn’t get good new friends. I wanted both. I didn’t trust God with anything, but worried constantly. The dark feelings returned and I began to really feel depressed. The suicidal desires returned. It felt like my emotions were out of control, to the extent that I scared myself. I thought I would explode. I felt so angry all the time. I felt like a bad person. I began to self-harm again, to feel in control and to release the tension and to stop myself committing suicide. Self-harm helped me to pretend that everything was OK, when I was a mess. This time, my self-harm got worse. I sometimes didn’t feel comfortable unless I hurt myself in the morning and the evening.
I didn’t talk to anyone about my self-harm. I didn’t take it to God, either. Thinking about God only made me feel worse. I didn’t read the Bible and I rarely prayed. I thought God probably hated me. I didn’t feel so great about him, I didn’t understand why he was letting me go through all this. I remember thinking “I’m a Christian. Christians aren’t meant to feel like this, and we are certainly not meant to hurt ourselves and feel suicidal.” I thought that I had to be punished because of how I felt, so I used to justify my self-harm on the fact that I needed to be punished. I had days when I felt so suicidal that I didn’t care for eternal life. The thought of it disgusted me. I wanted nothing more than to just sleep and for the pain to go away. The self-harm became a huge burden I would carry around for a while.
My self-harm became eating problems around January 2009. I became a vegan to cover up my eating problems. I would often starve myself, and I would sometimes binge. I felt so out of control in my life. Restricting my eating allowed me to feel in control, and I thought it was better than hurting myself because I wouldn’t be left with any more scars. But the eating problems were probably more dangerous. I had an unhealthy emotional relationship with food that’s hard to get over. I had a love-hate relationship with it. I didn’t feel so ashamed as I did with my self-harm. I still carried the shame of that with my scars. I would over-exercise. I lost a lot of weight. Then, come around April, I read a verse in 1 Corinthians.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God spoke to me really powerfully through this verse. I knew he was saying to me to stop hurting myself and to care for myself because he loved me so much, and he didn’t want to see me hurting. I began to slowly change my eating habits and the temptations I had to hurt myself began to disappear slowly too. I held onto this verse really tightly. And God, I began to realise, had not let go of me, even though I had nearly forgotten him entirely. He did not hate me either. He cared about me and he was going to get me through this.
I struggled during summer 2009 but I really believe that God was in his last stages of healing me. I struggled with the temptation to self-harm because of the big burden it still was to me. I was carrying the shame of it around under my long sleeves, and I was terrified of getting found out. I was so ashamed of what I had done to myself. I had days when I was suicidal. I still also struggled with food. I often binged and gained a lot of weight. I found comfort eating unhealthy food, especially in large amounts. I still had a poor social life and still felt lonely, although God seemed to keep me really positive. When September came round, I settled better into my second year of university. I had realised that I felt better about myself at least, and the only things holding me back were my shame at self-harm, and the fact that I still had this emotional relationship with food. My faith, however, seemed to make this massive leap. I began to trust in God with everything. It was amazing. I felt real joy at knowing Jesus as my Saviour, for the first time ever. I can’t really explain it properly, but it was a huge jump. All the negativity seemed to have left me. It was just amazing faith that I had not known before. God is now my number one priority in my life. Of course I would like to get a good degree but I trust in God’s amazing plans for me. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get the best degree! Jesus is for eternity, and my degree isn’t. Anyway, my relationship with God began to become amazing. I wanted to pray and read the Bible. I went to church and found a church at my university town, which has been awesome for me in growing in my faith. I have been blessed with some amazing new friends there, and for the first time I’ve had a crazy social life schedule!! I also found getting involved with my Christian Union helpful.
Anyway, I still carried this burden of shame from the self-harm, and I would still binge eat often. The binge eating seemed to stop in October. It was on Tuesday 17th November 2009 that God released me of this massive burden. We were at the student mid-week group at church and discussing gifts of the Spirit and fruits of the Spirit. Healing came up, and for the first time ever, I mentioned that God had healed me from depression, suicidal thought and self-harm. I had never told anyone before; it simply came out of my mouth. We then had a rather intense period of prayer ministry and worship, and God was doing some amazing things to everyone that night. A friend offered to pray for me, and I just knelt to the floor and I cried and cried and cried. God had said to me that I was free of this burden and shame now, it wasn’t mine to carry. It was his to carry. He told me it was OK to cry. I had a lot of pain and shame in me. I also felt so free. It was amazing. I’ve been crying often still, because there still seems to be things to let go of. I also often feel overwhelmed at what God has done for me. I no longer feel the temptation to self-harm. I no longer have eating problems. I no longer feel depressed or suicidal, and I no longer hate myself. I feel so much more positive about everything and I have a real strong faith in God. He taught me so much during this period. He taught me to trust him, to put him first in my life and to lay all my burdens on him. He also taught me that he loves me, so much, and that he does have amazing plans for me, but that I just have to be patient for them! Praise him that he never ever let go of me, even though I was so close to just forgetting him! He is so powerful, and he is a healer, and he loves us, and he is so faithful. He is just amazing.