For the longest time, the idea of taking care of myself was an anathema to me.
I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do something nice for me – and I found it acutely painful when someone reached out with an act of care or words of comfort.
I just didn’t feel I deserved it.
I didn’t feel I deserved to be liked – and I certainly didn’t deserve the luxury of eating or taking care of myself.
The hatred I had towards myself and my body was unlike I’d ever experienced – it was visceral and violent. And the only way I could manage the intense feelings was by cutting myself or making myself sick.
Both the self-harm and eating disorder served the same function – to manage the unmanageable – to make the mysterious emotional pain, tangible.
I used to wonder, as I watched the scars heal, whether something inside me could be healing in tandem.
It was a bundle of contradictions, even then.
I was consumed with shame – but the only way I knew how to deal with the shame was to hurt myself.
I believed God forgives sins – but I couldn’t count myself among the forgiven.
And then, still in the depths of self-destruction, I went to Bible College.
Before I went, I made a strange decision to be myself. I decided I wasn’t going to hide behind a facade – but be honest about who I was and how I was feeling. I fully expected to be hated and disliked. I’d convinced myself that those who loved me did so out of duty.
The problem was, people welcomed me, they became my closest friends.
It turned my worldview on its head.
And yet I still lived under my own tyranny.
Until eventually, I began to loosen my grip on my self-destruction and cereal eating.
With the support and encouragement of my friends, I began to take care of myself.
Small ways at first; making sure I got out in the fresh air once a day, eating more in small increments.
The small increments grew; I started to eat more healthily, exercise gently.
It took a long time to get anywhere near something which looks like recovery, the thoughts have remained, but life became a better option than death.
Quite simply, I let the community around me love me back to life.
As they cared for me; drying my tears and encouraging my faltering steps, I began to take care of myself.
I glimpsed something of a God who cared more than I could imagine through the acts of care I received from my friends.
And so I want to encourage you, reading these words, to take care of those around you who are struggling.
And to those of you who are struggling – hold on – and let those who love you take care of you.
For more information on self harm and where to get help – check out www.selfharm.co.uk
Rachael Newham is the Founding Director of ThinkTwice which offers mental health awareness, training and consultancy. For more information head to www.thinktwiceinfo.org.
Twitter @RachaelNewham90 @ThinkTwiceInfo