I never grew up knowing about God, but life as I knew it seemed to be pretty good. I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, but what I do remember began at the age of 9, when I was sexually abused by a family member. This left me feeling very shameful and is really when the root of self-hatred began in my life. I didn’t want to acknowledge what had happened or the pain and shame in my heart, so I pretended like nothing was happening and tried to be the happy little girl that everyone saw me be.

This lasted until my parents got divorced. Their divorce left me completely heartbroken and began a new chaotic way of living for me. I constantly moved up through my high school years and never experienced much consistency. In middle school, I was bullied a lot for being overweight and being a new kid. I didn’t understand how people could be so hateful towards someone they don’t even know, so I began to believe that something must be wrong with me. I took on the belief that I was created for bad things, and I was a bad thing.

Before high school, a girl in my class invited me to church, and I accepted Christ into my heart. As a new believer, I was so excited about the idea that God created me and loves me, but I had built up walls around my heart that I did not allow truth to be spoken into. I was consumed by definitions of myself that others had said that it felt impossible to take those labels off.

As the bullying continued, I struggled with self-hatred and developed an eating disorder, which continued for the next seven years. Family dysfunction and a manipulative relationship led to alcohol dependency and self-harm. For the first time in my life, I genuinely wanted to die, which actually scared me because a family member of mine had tried to commit suicide, so I knew how devastating that was and that it wasn’t the answer. So even though I wanted so badly to be out of my skin, I hoped that God might have created me for more than I was settling for. I began researching treatment programs, and everything was so expensive and really wasn’t giving me peace. I had just given up and prayed, “God, if you want me to live, you’re going to have to show me where to go.”

Two weeks later, a mentor of mine messaged me out of the blue and sent me the link to Mercy. As I opened that link, I immediately began crying and knew that was an answer from God.

As an answer to prayer, I walked through the doors of Mercy.

When I first got here, a few of the residents kept telling me that “God will meet you right where you are,” and that’s exactly what He did. My journey here at Mercy has been a bit of a roller coaster. I struggled a lot at the beginning of my time here, debating if freedom was possible for me and struggled with giving up those unhealthy ways of coping that I thought were a part of my identity. Throughout my time here, God has not only showed me but has spoken to my heart that my identity comes from Him-  that it is His nature that dwells in me. He told me that the eating disorder, self-harm, and the dependencies were not ever created to be a part of me.  He did not make me for bad things, or even as a bad thing, but He spoke to me about the truth in His word that I am a good thing that He created, and that He loves me, and He delights to take care of me.

Something that helped me throughout the process of renewing my mind was believing God’s truth and forgiveness. The Lord showed me that I was holding myself back from the life that He had for me by hanging on to unforgiveness. Healing in my heart began when I acknowledged the pain in my heart and what had happened to me, but also surrendered everything to Him and began forgiving those who had hurt me.

Throughout my process here at Mercy, God has restored a love for myself that I never thought was possible. He’s deepened my love for Him and His Word and has redeemed me from the darkness that I thought I was created for. He has proven to me that He is loving, He is trustworthy, and that freedom is actually for me, too.

After Mercy, I plan to start attending a church, get a job, and just learn to live life free as the Michaela God created me to be.