I’ve always felt it. There’s something in me – something bad – that needs to be covered up. I can’t tell you what it is – I don’t know myself. But in the silence – when the TV’s off and I’m in between tasks – it whispers to me. When I wake in the night and it’s dark and the world is asleep, it shouts. It reminds me that if people see it – if they see me – they’ll turn away in disgust.
At different points, it takes different shapes.
When I was at school, I was good at English and terrible at maths. Praise collected in my head and then ran like water off my skin. When I did badly however, the words stuck. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but they left a stain no amount of ticks could erase. Either I was a genius and worth something- or an idiot and worth nothing.
After school I went to uni. At college I was no longer the brightest. But for the first time, I was no longer plain either. In fact, some guys seemed to dig me. Layered in make-up, I put on a good show. ‘You’re really pretty’ they said. But I couldn’t match what they said with how I felt. I made the most of it, but in my heart I knew: it was a matter of time before the lights went on and my flaws were exposed.
I left uni. Broke up with my boyfriend and started going back to church. There, I played a different version of the same game. On the outside I looked pretty good. I was married to a vicar-in-training. I studied at bible college and ran a thriving children’s ministry. I lost weight: a lot of weight. I tried with all my might to starve the voices: you’re worthless. You’re nothing. But they grew louder as I grew less.
Today, it’s having my book published. We’re having a launch and have made up some p0sters. On the front is my picture. There’s a quote from one of the reviewers, talking about recovery from anorexia. But when I read it I feel sick.
I’m not a poster-girl for health and normality. My bowels don’t work and my brain is still bonkers.
I’m not a glorious example of strength and victory. I’m weak and sometimes I find it hard to even face the day, let alone the life.
I’m not a model of faith and trust. I don’t run straight to Jesus when I’m stressed. I panic. Sometimes I clean things. I stockpile groceries. Peanut butter. Lettuce. Toilet rolls. Cheese. I spend money. I panic again.
I look at myself and I hear the word ‘fraud’. I always have and, left to my own devices, I always will. I’ll never be good enough and I’m tired of trying.
But here’s where my life begins.
At the end of my resources, when I’ve nothing left to give.
When the masks are down and the performance stops.
There are many people who have overcome adversity and pulled themselves out of addiction by sheer force of will. They have turned their lives around and found inner strength to defeat all their demons. I admire them, but that’s not me. I’m weak and broken and messed-up and confused. I’m lost and tired and frightened and small.
But my Saviour is not.
He is bold and He is beautiful. He died to stop the voices. He nailed the word ‘fraud’ to the Cross and in Him, I can be myself and not be ashamed. His victory, not mine. That’s the story.