I grew up in a Christian home where my family loved Jesus and preached the gospel. They were really encouraging and supportive, but I became really afraid to let them down. I compared myself to my brother and sister and didn’t feel like I measured up. I tried to earn my dad’s acceptance through my performance. I learned that there was a perfect way to do everything, even a perfect way to follow God. I started to develop legalistic rules by which to live my life. My perception of my dad and what he wanted from me really impacted my view of God and the legalism that stemmed from that. Very early on, I learned that what was on the outside was more important than what was on the inside. By the age of eight, I had really begun to hate my own humanity and the things that made up my identity. This manifested as depression, withdrawal, and defiance. I was diagnosed with depression at the age of ten and started on what would be a long journey of prescription medications. Because I was dependent on these medications, I believed that there was something inherently wrong with me. Around this time I began dieting because I thought that if I could just be perfect on the outside, I would be loved. But I didn’t find love there and the depression only got worse. I developed a distorted body image and was engaging in eating disorder behaviors. I hardly ate, and I was mentally torturing myself any time I did eat. I began to use self-harm as an outlet for all of the emotional pain I felt. My anxiety and the pressure to perform became so bad that I basically ceased to function. I grew numb to avoid fear and pain. I attempted suicide and lived really recklessly, always putting myself in unsafe situations. I began using alcohol as an escape from my own mind. The combination of anorexia and alcohol was horrific, and my health was in the gutter. I was going further physically with boys than I should have been, and I allowed lines to be crossed in relationships that damaged me inside. I carried a lot of guilt and shame from this. I just wanted to make everyone else happy, even if it meant I was unhappy. I didn’t feel deserving or worthy of happiness. I constructed an image of what I thought everyone wanted me to be, or expected me to be.

My mom had given me a book by Mercy Founder and President Nancy Alcorn, and I decided to look into the program. I knew that the lifestyle I was living was not working. I wasn’t functioning, and I couldn’t do it on my own. When I got to Mercy, I was very emotionally unstable and immature. I was on so much medication for anxiety that I was basically tranquilized and numb. My emotions were so close to the surface and everything set me off.

A lot of my life I thought that things weren’t that bad, that my life was kind of okay. But at Mercy I realized that things were so much worse than I thought and my self-perception was way off. I became really close to one of the other girls in the program, and I believe that was a huge part of my healing process. I also experienced unconditional love from the staff.

At Mercy, I spent a lot of time getting brutally honest with myself. I learned how to let people see my imperfections and be able to receive their love. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m not too much for God to handle, and I don’t need to be ashamed in His presence. I’ve learned how to hear from Him and how to recognize and follow His voice. God has healed a lot of pain I carried from experiences and taught me a lot of truth about Him and the way He sees me. I learned complete dependence on God. I also learned that “the real me” has value and she’s actually really cool and incredibly loved.

After Mercy, I plan on going back home to live with my parents. I’ll be working part time, saving for school, and working towards financial independence. Eventually, I want to design clothes or work in fashion journalism. I feel passionate about changing beauty industry standards. I want to help young girls see their true value.

To the Mercy donors, thank you for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. Thank you for teaching me that I am worth fighting for. Thank you for investing your time and your money into a program that has helped me to completely change the direction my life was going in.