Forward by Megan Jessop
With issues such as bullying and lack of self love seemingly on the rise in our generation, Lauren's story is one with which many can identify. She shares her own difficult experiences about how she sought out love in relationships that were dangerously unhealthy before God in His mercy used her own vices to lead her to Him where she found what love really looked like, through His Son Jesus.
I could honestly write pages about my life before I knew Christ. But we can save most of those stories for another time. It was hard for me to write this and say everything that I wanted without writing an entire novel and without sounding rushed but this is my story:
I didn’t know God until I was seventeen. Seventeen years that left me with scars, both physically and emotionally. I experienced vast amounts of heartbreak and self-loathing.
I grew up going to church on Sundays, Christmas and Easter. I went on Sundays for several reasons. First of all, because my parents made me. Second of all, Newport Covenant made some amazing cinnamon rolls. All you had to do was put a dollar in the offering basket and boom, you were the proud owner of a cinnamon roll. I also went on Christmas because again, my parents made me and I always had the hope that I would finally be able to hold one of those candles while singing “Silent Night”. I went on Easter because duh… the egg hunt! I never really knew Jesus as a child. I knew of Him, but I wasn’t interested in anything more. Soon enough, travel league sports got in the way, and my family tapered off from attending church.
My elementary school days were filled with the normal tomboy activities, mixed with some girly things here and there. It wasn’t until about 5th grade that I started to notice I was different. Different in the fact that I outweighed all the girls by 40 pounds or so. Not only did I start to notice, but so did my classmates. Along with that attention came the bullying which followed me into my middle school days. Boys would stand in front of my locker, refusing to move, calling me fat behind my back, laughing when I ate in the cafeteria.
I still remember being at a friend’s bat mitzvah, dancing and having a good time when I started to get attacked by m&m’s being thrown across the room by the boys (who later told me it was because it was time for my feeding). The girls were even worse.
Freshman year I acquired my first real boyfriend. We were so kindly called “the fat couple” by some unmentionable football players. He was sweet and kind to me, but just like most high school romances, it didn’t last. A lot of drama stemmed from that breakup. I lost the people who I thought were my two best friends at the time, leaving me pretty much blindsided and alone. Around that same time, I got diagnosed with ADHD. Which lead me to start taking ADHD medicine. I lost 30 pounds from that medication, became incredibly depressed, almost to the point of suicide, and had to stop taking it. But, what would you know, with that weight loss came a shift in manly attention.
I started getting attention from guys, older guys, and much older guys. I had never had that before.
This is where my story really begins to spiral.
I began feeding my need for attention and desire to be wanted with sex. I won’t go too much into it, but for two years, that’s what I did. I would party, have sex, and “live my life”. I started seeing a guy two years older than me even after people had warned me about him. It was incredibly abusive, emotionally and sometimes physically. But I kept getting told by him that he was doing me a favor by dating me; that he was the best I was ever going to do. Sadly, I believed him.
We dated on and off for 5 or 6 months. I was living a life that I never thought was going to be mine. I never thought that I would find myself in a relationship being taken advantage of and dehumanized. But I did. During this time, I also tore my ACL/Meniscus playing volleyball (take note of this, it comes into play later). He never came to visit me once. This hit me like a sack of potatoes to the face because it made me realize how much he didn’t care.
But you know what ladies (and gentlemen)? I got out of it. If you’re reading this and you are in the position that I was in, there is so much hope for you.
It took me time after time to actually end the relationship. Each time I tried, I would be guilted back into it. One night that still sits vividly in my memory is when we got into a huge fight while we were driving in his mustang. I was so emotionally exhausted that when he finally agreed to drop me off at my house, I couldn’t even walk up my driveway. I laid sobbing on the concrete until my parents came out and carried me inside. While I didn’t have a relationship with God, I truly believe that He gave me the courage to finally break things off, once and for all.
After I got out of that relationship, I still continued to sleep around and find my worth in being devalued and sexualized. Up until the middle of my senior year, I thought of myself as worthless, finding only that I could feel “good” about myself when men wanted me. I lusted after men constantly. I didn’t see men as humans, but as objects that could potentially make me stop hurting so badly inside.
November of 2014 I met a guy and things were different this time. He looked at me as a person, and I looked at him as one. I didn’t seek validation or try to just hook-up, I wanted more. He asked me to come to his youth group and naturally, if a cute boy asks you to go, you go. I began to wonder and feel like there was something more to my life than I had been living. I still get chills every time I think about standing in the sanctuary, raising my hands in worship for the first time, and feeling a hand on my shoulder. This was my first Divine encounter with God. There was no visible hand, yet I knew it was Him. I began going to church, committing myself to God on February 13th, 2014 in the middle of a Youth Pastor’s living room. That’s how I met God.
My life didn’t change overnight, nor is this where my testimony ends; It is constantly growing and changing. I lost a lot of friends because I no longer found value in the lifestyle that we had once shared, instead I found it in Christ. Even then, I continued to struggle with lust, in the form of pornography and temptations with guys. I continued to struggle with self worth and body image. I continued to struggle with mental illness. All of which I still struggle with today.
So here I am. I still struggle. I still have hurt and pain. But it is no match for the love that God can give to me and is giving me every day. He is real and He works miracles.
Jesus Christ saved my life. Not just by redeeming me from my past and gifting me with eternal salvation (both of which are the coolest by the way) but He physically saved me.
Last January was a particularly trying period for my faith, physical and mental health. The doctors told me that I would need surgery to repair that same ACL/Meniscus again (see, I told you it would come back) after a skiing accident the winter before. The depression I faced daily mixed with the large (almost excessive) amounts of narcotics led me to the darkest place that I’ve been. There was one day that I just couldn’t do it anymore, and came so dangerously close to ending it all. I wholeheartedly believe that God, our Father, gave me the strength to fight that night.
Shortly after,I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder; both of which are a huge part of my story. Mental illness is something that has affected me my entire life; yet it was something that had flown under the radar until about a year ago. After that scary night, I sought help. Being labeled with these illnesses was at first, embarrassing and something that I never wanted to shed light on. Yet here I am, sharing it for the world, day after day because I want to use my story to show others what is possible and how much healing can come from a relationship with our God. As I continue my journey as a writer and as a Christ follower, being encouraged by my friends, my incredible boyfriend, and my insanely cool God, I will continue to spread the word about mental illness, normalizing it and creating acceptance inside and out of the church.
This isn’t my whole story, word for word. We would be here for ages if I tried to write it all on here. There is so much that I am excited to share with ya’ll, but I can’t let you in on everything just yet…What fun would that be?
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