When I was ten years old, my dad walked out on us. Part of me still doesn’t understand why we never had a close, happy family or why we weren’t what my dad was looking for, but I do know that he left behind a very hurt and confused little girl.
After he left, my mom and I moved to Mississippi to be with her family. It was a culture shock for me, leaving my comfortable air-conditioned, beach front home in sunny Florida for a poorly insulated trailer in the woods. My mom struggled to make things as normal as she could for me, but it’s hard to fix things when you’re broken yourself.
I had never been outgoing or confident. Before the move, my only friends were from church and I had known them for years. All of a sudden, I was immersed in this new community where the kids grew up together. No one wants to let the insider in. Thankfully, though, I did meet two girls who became like sisters, and to this day, I can still count all my friends on one hand.
I’m not sure when my insecurity started to grow. My mom always made sure that I knew I was loved, no matter what went on between her and my father. I’m sure some doctors would say that my dad’s mental illness and inability to show affection accounts for my self-esteem issues, but who’s to say, really?
Nonetheless, insecurity was my middle name. I “blossomed” earlier than most, and suddenly it was very obvious to my classmates that I had breasts and hips. I was self-conscious everywhere I went and wanted to hide from the world. When I looked in the mirror, even at ten and eleven years old, I saw a chubby, unattractive child that no one would want to love.
When we moved, my mom and I quit going to church. Mostly because we were angry with God, and partly because the only A/G church in the area was full of people she grew up with, and I think she was embarrassed for them to know the direction her life had taken.
My mom is great. She is honestly one of the best women you will ever meet. She’s honest—brutally honest, usually. She’s passionate, which can be intimidating to some. She’s open about her failures and her need for the Lord on a daily basis. During the time following our move, though, she became preoccupied with numbing her own pain. Subsequently, mine was overlooked.
I started cutting in the fifth grade. I don’t remember what happened that day, but I just remember sitting on the floor of my shower, wanting to scream but not being able to. I started hitting my legs over and over and over again until I saw a stepped-on razor ling against the wall. I remembered seeing a girl cut herself on Degrassi, and in that moment, it just made sense. For a while, just cutting once or twice was enough to make me feel better, but that didn’t last long.
In seventh grade, I started purging. My body was still so awkward and my complexion had taken an unfortunate turn for the worse. I was the butt of every joke. I remember every name every person called me. Sometimes I can still hear this boy Cody D. saying, “She felt out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.”
While I was struggling with all the ways I was harming myself and keeping them a secret, I was invited to church with a friend. Honestly, I only went because she was being mean to me and I wanted to flirt with the guy she liked, who happened to go there, too. The funny thing is, they are now both two of my best friends.
I started to feel better, but I was still hurting. No one knew about my pain or about how alone I truly felt. That summer, we went on mission trip with TEAMeffort. Bryant Underwood was the speaker that week, and he talked about the woman at the well, a woman I felt deeply connected to. The last night of camp, the worship leader sang “Love is Here” by Tenth Avenue North. I know that trip was orchestrated by God, and even though there were so many other kids there, I felt like that night was just for me.
I made my first serious commitment for Christ and realized how I was using empty things to fix my pain. I also finally acknowledged my call into missions, which I had tried to ignore for years. It was clear to everyone that I came home a different person.
People noted the change in my demeanor. My choir teacher, who had been teaching me for two years, was the first to notice. I didn’t even have to tell him. He just knew, and he began talking to me more and more about the Lord and helped me become a leader. I had confidence. I smiled and laughed. I talked! I was elected section leader in that choir class and class representative of my grade. Even my English teacher saw something different in me. He gave me Christian books and talked to me about missions.
I could feel my burdens getting lighter, and I came to a place where I almost never cut or purged.
Right before my freshman year, though, my church split up. Things were said and done by the people I respected most and I felt abandoned all over again. I started high school totally and completely lost.
I started cutting again. And it wasn’t just that I started, but it was that I couldn’t stop. I was still uncomfortable with my body, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to wear long pants in the Mississippi humidity or for me to refuse to change in front anyone, even my mom.
Eventually even cutting wasn’t enough. I had stopped purging mostly because I quit eating. I kept a store of matches and would take a walk in the woods, lighting a match and putting it out on my skin. I think people began to take notice that something was different, but no one was quite sure. I felt overwhelmed by my depression, and a part of me wanted someone to see it. That’s why, I suppose, I used straight pins during class, sticking them in my leg over and over again. No one noticed though, which only increased my pain.
An attempt to numb myself, I began taking my grandpa’s oxycodone. I don’t even know how I’m alive today, other than by God’s grace, because I ended up taking almost a whole bottle a day, popping three or four at a time to keep up the high. My life was spiraling out of control and no one even noticed. I still had straight-A’s. We started going to church again. Everyone thought I was this happy, Jesus-loving kid.
Which I was, minus the happy part. A lot of people don’t understand that unless they have gone through it. I never stopped loving God. I never stopped believing in him. I just stopped loving and believing in myself. I believed in His Word and had seen its power come alive in the lives of others, but I didn’t believe that I deserved any of it.
One night at church, our associate pastor came into the youth room just as we were getting ready to close. He said that he felt like God had laid something on his heart, something for a girl in the room. We bowed our heads and closed our eyes as he began praying. He stopped and started to tell my story, almost as if he had written it himself. Things that no one knew, things that this man who I had only spoken to twice couldn’t have known, he somehow knew. There were things that I even tried to lie to myself about, things that I’m still not comfortable mentioning, he knew them. He knew the details of my pain, but didn’t even know who it was he was talking about. Or maybe he did. God has revealed all of that to him, so I believe he probably did know it was me.
I never said anything to him or my youth pastor that night, but I did quit getting high. I flushed my pills. By all means, I should have been addicted and should have gone through withdraws but God broke the chains of bondage that night. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that God was real and that God loved me and that I wasn’t serving a God that made me feel better, I was serving a God that gave me life.
Ever since that night, my life has taken a 180. I still struggle. I still fail. I still battle my reflection and thoughts that I’m not good enough. But I’m not fighting this battle alone. It’s already been won. I am more than a conqueror and my God has overcome the world.