a story of freedom
I grew up in a pretty ordinary family, in a good area of Stockholm, surrounded by family and friends. I had everything I needed in terms of material things, supporting and loving parents, great friends and lots of activities to throw myself into. From the outside everything appeared happy but on the inside things were different.
From a young age I carried a dark heaviness inside of me. It would come without warning and felt like a tidal wave that swept me off my feet and swallowed me up in a dark hole. On the inside I was hurting and broken, but I didn’t know why and I didn’t know how to make it go away.
In school we played around with reading each other’s palms and foreseeing our futures. One girl said I had a short lifeline and would die young, maybe in an accident or from sickness. That stuck with me and I lived life without really planning for the future, as I knew I was going to die young. This impacted me in so many ways and planted seeds of fear inside of me for the future and what it held.
I remember a day when I was 10 years old and ran home from school, feeling so broken and lost I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stood in the kitchen with a knife in my hand wanting to end everything but being too afraid of death.
Everything inside of me was in turmoil and I felt like I had no control. My way of escape became control; control of food, emotions and everything else that I could control. It was the start of 18 years of starving, binging, pills, exercising, cutting and other forms of self-harm, depression, bad relationships and an intense self-hatred. I allowed people to use me as it made me feel validated, seen and valued. But it always left me feeling empty and with more self-hatred. On the outside I was a happy girl and it probably looked like I lived life to the fullest. On the inside I was just lost and broken.
The deeper I got myself into my eating disorder the deeper the self-hatred became, the more I hurt myself and let people use me. It was a negative spiral that drew me further and further into depression and darkness. I didn’t want to live anymore. I often thought of ways to end my life and make it all stop. I tried once but called for help because the fear of dying was greater than the fear of living in that darkness.
I think I’ve always believed in God. It was a faith filled with questions and doubt but I don’t think I ever questioned that God was real. In my darkest moments I cried out to God to help me. I held on to the little hope I had that life could be different. I didn’t know how, but something inside of me didn’t let go of that small glimmer of hope.
When I was a teenager I met a team of young people from a church. They invited me and my friends to youth activities and I found myself longing for those moments. They had something that I didn’t have. When I was with them something on the inside of me was different, at peace. I came along to church, gave my life to Jesus and that was the start of a long journey to get to know God, trust him and allowing him to do what only he could do. The more I experienced God the more I longed for him. But there was so much baggage and so much in my life that I wasn’t prepared to give up.
I knew I needed to give God everything but the road to being able to let go of it all and surrender my life completely to God took over ten years. Often I cried out to God to help me and just take away everything that was hurting, quickly, but at the same time I held on to it because it was all I knew. It felt as if pain and brokenness was all I was and without it I would be even more lost.
Through incredible God-sent friends and family, God took me on a journey of healing and restoration. I became part of a small group of people planting a church in Stockholm. The pastors took me under their wings and through them believing in me, trusting in me and allowing me to be part of the church even though I felt like a mess, I had a place outside of family where I knew I was loved no matter my circumstances. They showed God’s love for me in such a tangible way that it made it easier for me to see that maybe God could love the broken mess I was too.
Because I was planted in church I had a place where I could grow, encounter God, learn to let go of things and have people around me who spoke life and truth into my life. I learnt to replace lies with God’s truth about who I am and his plans for my life. Slowly but surely the muddy waters I’d felt like I was drowning in gave way for a firm foundation and Jesus became the rock I could place my feet upon. God turned darkness into light and gave my life a future, filled with hope and big dreams.
I started to see the value God placed on me and slowly started to replace self-hatred with self-respect and acceptance. I stopped letting people use me and stepped away from relationships that were not healthy. I had to learn to forgive myself for what I had allowed others to do and I understand that I was valuable enough as I was, without anyone around me having to validate me. It was a long journey but God knew exactly the time I needed, and the road he needed to lead me on, for me to heal and become who he intended me to be.
A couple of years ago I was on a train from Gatwick to London for a conference. I was listening to the song called Oceans and remember praying “God, lead me deeper than I would ever walk by myself, where my faith will be made stronger because I have to trust you with every step I take.” That was the conference where God told me and clearly showed me that he wanted me to move to Dubai. I went 6 months later.
One thing I was still battling with was fear. Fear of the future and fear of dying. Every time I got on a plane I thought the plane would crash, every time I got in my car I prayed that God would protect me from having a fatal crash. I was fearful of being diagnosed with a deadly disease and I was fearful of dreaming about the future, as I was afraid I didn’t have one. I could see danger in everything around me, propelling me towards an early death. As I write this it seems like such an awful way of living life, but at the time that’s what had become my normal way of thinking.
During a small prayer group one evening at the beginning of my time in Dubai one of the ladies said she felt that there was someone in the room who was battling with fear. They prayed for me and something over me broke that evening. It was like a door had been opened and with it a promise that if I walked through it, the grip that fear had held over me would be broken. Nothing has been the same ever since. Gone is the fear of the future and fear of dying. I don’t expect the worst to happen to me anymore, instead I dream of the future and allow myself to live a fearless life.
Three years later my life has become something I could only have dreamed of. I know who I am in God. He’s given me dreams that are bigger than I could ever have come up with myself and given me a joy and an appetite for life that I never thought I could have. God has truly made a way in the desert for me, and let rivers of spring water fill the cracks and dry riverbeds that used to be there. It’s been a journey of me having to trust God, and he really can be trusted. He will never leave you, never stop loving you, never give up on you.