I grew up in a very stable environment. Life was pretty standard from the outside: My parents loved me, I lived in a nice leafy suburb, church was something we did almost every Sunday and I had good grades in school but when I got to my teenage years it felt like a struggle to be genuinely happy.
There was always something about me that I felt didn’t quite measure up. I was told frequently throughout primary school up until the end of grade 8 by others that I was ugly, too dark-skinned, stupid, and not good enough. I was told a lot that no one wanted to be around me and that I was just the hanger-on that people kept around because they felt sorry for me. Even after the words stopped what stuck in my subconscious for years was that life would be better if I wasn’t me or if I wasn’t here at all.
When I was 13 I started cutting myself and by the time grade 9 rolled around I had tried to end my life. But about a third of the way into high school I decided I didn’t want to deal with that anymore so I made up a Dambisa that wasn’t hurting, depressed or insecure. She had a shell that covered up what was really inside, appealed to everyone and lived to please the crowd. I hated myself.
Later in high school I got heavy into going out drinking and clubbing and that quickly became a very welcome escape. Everybody loved me after a few drinks and the more I delved into that scene, the more I thought I liked that Dambisa too. I would have the time of my life the night before but wake up the next morning and still not be able to look at myself in the mirror for too long before I would start reciting the words I actually believed about myself. I wanted to say every hurtful thing I thought others believed about me before they got the chance to.
Because of how I grew up church was always something I valued and deemed necessary as part of my weekly routine even though, if I was honest, I didn’t know much about the God I claimed to serve. He felt so far away. But when I got to varsity I still wanted to find a church to settle in and do what I thought to be my Sunday Christian duty.
“There was always something about me
I felt didn’t quite measure up.”
About 5 months into my first year the church that I go to now, hosted a worship night on campus that I went to but left early to go out with friends. The next morning was no different from any other morning after a night out, the pain I felt was more overwhelming than it had been for a while. All I wanted was that feeling I had early the night before in worship when for the first time in years, I felt peace. I find it funny now but I remember crying because I was so fed up with crying.
I was so desperate for another moment of peace so I started to pray for it. I didn’t know what I was doing because I had never spoken to God like that before but I knew I couldn’t deal with how broken I felt, so in that moment I gave that brokenness to Him.
At first I didn’t realise it but after that He started to show me how wrong I was about myself. I didn’t want to believe anyone could truly love me and He showed me love that would find me wherever I was. He told me in His word time and time again how beautiful I am and from the moment I let Him in, He started to put me back together.
I started having date days with Jesus where I would take time out with my notebook and bible and exchange whatever I had felt about myself that week for His truth. I began to fine tune my ear to His voice and away from the noise I had given all my attention to for so many years. Getting past years of self-loathing and buried hurt from bad relationships was incredibly messy but I got to do it with The One who promised to always carry me through it.
“He told me in His word time and time again how beautiful
I am and from the moment I let Him in,
He started to put me back together.”
I look up sometimes and I’m in awe of what God managed to bring me out of. Sometimes the struggles we face can feel like a deep dark hole and no matter how hard you try to fight your way out of it, you stay stuck at the bottom with no lifeline.
My healing came when I realised the battle out of that hole wasn’t mine to fight.