My father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 13 months old. Because of his job as a pastor, we had to keep it a secret, but my father’s illness ruled our house. My mother tried her hardest to keep us shielded from the dysfunction within our house, but it was an impossible task. I experienced verbal, emotional and physical abuse, and our home did not feel stable. We moved several times and had many foster children through our home. Because of the constant crisis, I felt the only way to get attention was to be hurting in some way. The majority of my childhood memories have been hijacked by trauma. I remember very little, mostly the arguments and silent tension. I developed anxiety attacks by age 12 and had chronic nightmares. I remember getting depressed and wondering what was wrong with me. My peers said I was strange and even my friends thought my behavior was odd. I loved my dad and tried to make him happy. When he didn’t respond I hated myself even more. My mother’s faith is what kept my childhood as intact as it was. I became a Christian at a very young age and loved the Lord sincerely. My best friend confided in me of how she had been molested and of her self-harm and suicide attempts. My heart broke for her but also for myself. I went to summer camp that year with a plan in my mind: to get attention and the help that I really needed. When I did not get the attention I was seeking, I engaged in self- harm and eating disorder behaviors for the first time. I continued to engage in the harmful behaviors, all the while hiding it from my family. I began several co-dependent relationships in an attempt to fill the aching emptiness inside. When I was 14, my dad attempted suicide. This wrecked my world, and I became an adult literally overnight. My health began to deteriorate, and I developed several stress- induced illnesses. I finished high school at age 16 and went as a missionary to Costa Rica. My family grew farther apart, and I didn’t feel like I could move on with my life. Eventually I began attending a small Bible college. I thought my life was beginning and soon my problems would be finally behind me, but I could not figure out how to function. During my college years, I was involved in dysfunctional relationships and slipped further into a pit of anxiety and depression. An internship experience at a well-respected ministry further cemented lies about God, in addition to wounding me deeply. My life continued to spiral out of control.

In my last semester of college, my roommate found out that I was self-harming. She encouraged me to tell the school, or she would. When I told my school, they graciously allowed me to finish out the year, provided that I meet with an accountability partner. On my first visit with my accountability partner, she sat me down and told me about Mercy. She was a Mercy graduate and a graduate of my college. I knew then that I was supposed to come to Mercy, because I needed help and couldn’t afford to pay for it. When I came in I was very frightened and had anxiety and nightmares all of the time. I was very quiet and reserved. I couldn’t receive the teachings into my heart or apply them.

A major turning point in my journey was being confronted by a few key staff members about my attitude. I realized then that there was a mask I had been wearing since my early teenage years. It was a sullen, angry, quiet mask. It was as if, in my self-hatred, I was trying to become someone else. I realized that God was asking me to take off the mask and really be myself. With His help, I did.

Learning to hear the voice of God has brought so much of my healing. His truth began replacing all the lies that I believed for so long. My journey at Mercy was so unexpected, but God showed me that my process was unique and that I was right on time. All through my childhood, I felt ashamed of who I was because of the lies I believed. I learned that the way to overcome self-hatred is a process – a process of seeing yourself through God’s eyes and courageously choosing to accept and love yourself. Jesus showed me that I am seen. He will never forget me or my pain, because it is written on His hands. The scars He bears, He received so that He never has to look away from me. I also learned that I am an adult and can choose to make good decisions for myself. I have become free from nightmares, and my anxiety and depression have decreased exponentially. I am well on my way to healing from the shame and trauma of my past.

After Mercy, my plans are to return home and save up money for a car and for college. I hope to eventually receive a PhD in theology and have my own family. I am excited to continue my healing process and continue to hear from Jesus.

To all the Mercy supporters, thank you! Before coming to Mercy I had no hope for healing. Because of you I was able to come and receive the help and love I needed to begin to truly live for the first time. This would not have been possible without your help. You have made an impact in my life!