The youngest in my family, I was born in Kent in 1992 where my sister and I grew up. Our Christian parents were actively involved in church – my dad as a worship leader and tech guru, my mum as a prophet and women’s group leader – so church was familiar and routine for us.
Through most of my childhood, I was sure of who I was and found confidence and self-worth in my identity in Jesus. The knowledge of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness shaped me deeply, and guarded my innocence. I’m really grateful to my parents for this amazing start in life.
We moved to Herefordshire when I was 7 and already showing an aptitude for singing and performance. I began singing at Ross Baptist Church when I was baptised ten years later, during a dark time of rebellion and anger.
Around this time, I battled with anorexia and depression. These are troubling conditions to write and read about, but I think it’s important I tell this story because you can only truly witness the victory of God when you compare it to the dark, desperate state I was in when I was ill.
Fuelled by jealousy, the pressure to be beautiful and perfect, the desire to prove my independence and a deteriorating relationship with my mum, I was seduced by what felt like a way to feel powerful and in control of all these things. What I didn’t notice was the uncharacteristic self-hatred that had begun trickling through the cracks in this naive plan.
I stopped eating completely for the first three weeks, then I would eat an apple or a piece of toast a day for the months that followed. It was incredibly addictive, and the buzz I got from feeling successful and secretive became like a drug.
I decided eating was weak and I wanted to be better than everyone else. I got a kind of adrenaline rush from it; some days it felt like I could fly. Other days, the faintness and exhaustion were justice, like I deserved it. Whichever kind of day it was, I was constantly thinking about anorexia.
I lied to everyone. I lied to my parents daily, producing excuses to avoid meals and explain the weight loss. I loved it when people told me they were worried about me, or when teachers asked me if I was alright. I would delight in finding new ways to lie to them about it. It was so introspective, so selfish, and consequently very isolating.
Very slowly over the months that followed, what began as something I felt I had control of subtly slipped out of my grasp and became an oppression. I remember being extremely distressed – almost hysterical – alone in my room in front of my mirror. I found myself hideous and undisciplined, and could almost hear voices telling me this. I would look in the mirror and I was just bombarded by hatred.
Only now can I see what a disgusting, abhorrent, ego-centric illness anorexia is. It was so obviously an idol, looking back, but at the time I never even realised I was ill. I didn’t realise what I was doing was part of an illness so common that one in three girls and one in ten boys will find themselves pulled into it at some point in their lives.
Reaching Breaking Point
It reached breaking point about a year later, when I started gaining weight as a side effect of medication I was on. I gained stone upon stone, so the self-hatred and rejection began spiralling out of control.
A lot of people made comments about my weight – they might even have been telling me how healthy I looked now, but it was all backwards with anorexia – I was horrified at the thought of looking ‘healthy’ because in my ego-centric world, ‘healthy’ people were ‘fat’. Some people even told me they thought I looked better when I was skinny.
It was crushing, and just added fuel to the conflict inside my head. As a result the tension at home with my mum grew and arguments got worse. I hated how I looked so I stopped going out and became very isolated. Depression sneaked in; every evening for three months I cried myself to sleep.
Power in the Name of Jesus
One day, during a routine check up, the doctor callously told me that I was obese. It was the worst thing I could have heard at that point, and I broke down in front of her. She prescribed diet and exercise.
With mum waiting to take me home, I had no time or energy left to make up an excuse for my tear-stained appearance, and I finally explained everything. She was incredibly gracious. She cried with me, and said that she had suspected something like this. She asked if I would be willing to have prayer for healing, and I said yes.
That’s how I met her friend Samsara. A tall, gentle lady with an amazing testimony and prayer ministry, we talked and prayed for most of an evening in her coffee shop the following week. She spoke to annorexia and depression, and with calm authority commanded them to leave me in the name of Jesus.
My life changed that night.
The next day, I found myself stood in front of a drinks machine on a hot May morning when I suddenly realised I had a choice. When I was ill, I would only ever drink Coke Zero or Diet Coke, because I knew they had 0 calories. But that day, I fancied a Fanta. I put my money in. I pressed the Fanta button. And I had a Fanta.
I have never felt any compulsion towards anorexia since then. My life was literally turned 180° in just a few hours of prayer. It took me a while to realise, but the crying at night had stopped then too – I was so far from those dark feelings that this simply didn’t occur to me until months later.
To this day I am in awe of what Jesus did for me that evening. I thank him for it when I can’t think of anything else to be thankful for – I thank him for saving my life.
This experience has shaped my attitude towards life, faith, mental health and so many other things, and spills out into many of my songs. ‘Invincible God‘ and ‘Perfection’ are especially influenced by this experience of healing.
I know that illness is not God’s perfect plan for us. Towards the end of anorexia, I kept coming back to Bible verses that talked about freedom and living life to the full.
It’s uncomfortable to think that I could have been living this full, free life, but I allowed jealousy, selfish ambition and arrogance to control me instead; I gave the devil a foothold and he took it.
What if God had awesome plans for me that year, but I was too busy chasing the distraction the devil laid out for me? What if God has an awesome plan to use you to do amazing things this year? What distractions or obstacles could be stealing your focus away from achieving your true potential?
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.
Just a little note urging anyone reading this who is struggling with an eating disorder to tell somebody if you haven’t already, and start making your way back to freedom. There are charities like B-EAT to help you if you don’t know where to start, or your GP may know of services like counselling available in your area.