I can’t remember a time when I haven’t believed in God but it’s only in the last two years that I’ve actually had a relationship with Him and started to realise what being a Christian means.
I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful childhood. The turning point in what I would honestly call an almost-perfect life came when I was studying for my A-levels and a boy in my Maths class committed suicide. I didn’t know the boy well but it changed my life. I couldn’t understand it and I started to realise that the world wasn’t quite what I thought.
I was still very sheltered and my life seemed to be on a smooth path. In 2009, I started studying at Cambridge University. I have never felt as unhappy, lonely and helpless as when I was there. I left after six weeks knowing that my health and happiness were at serious risk if I stayed. I look back and know that it was the right decision but at the time I felt a failure.
A year later, I started studying at Durham University, where I was much happier. I enjoyed my first year. But in my second year, I developed an eating disorder. I lost five stone in less than a year and no counsellor or psychiatrist could find the root of the problem. Some thought it was my way of trying to get control back in my life after Cambridge. Although I was miserable, depressed and ill, all that mattered was that I was thin. I cried, constantly, over my unhappiness and the hurt I knew I was causing my family but I didn’t have the strength to stop. My calorie-counting was so severe that I weighed out grams of tomato ketchup so that I could record the exact number of calories I was eating. My university tutor said I should take a year out but my parents were so worried that my Mum gave up her teaching job and made plans to move to Durham to be with me.
At the end of that second year, I joined the college Christian Union (C.U.) because, if I’m honest, I felt lonely and friendless. It was a place where I thought I might meet some nice people. On my first visit I was struck by how amazingly friendly, loving and caring everyone was. I wondered what made these people so incredible. I soon realised that God was working in each of them and they were all living to glorify Him!
Throughout my third year, I went to the C.U. meetings almost every week. It was there that I met Clare, Caroline and Catherine, who will be my bridesmaids next year. They are fantastic examples of how to live a Christian life. Caroline invited me to her church where I joined a small group. Through church services, small group meetings and Christian Union meetings I began to hear the gospel and discover God’s love for me.
The university held a 24/7 prayer week and I knew one of the C.U. leaders was doing one of the early-morning shifts. At around 2.00am that morning, I woke up, felt very awake, and had a sudden desire to go and join her. I put my running gear on and ran into town. That morning we spent four hours praying, talking and reading God’s word. I wasn’t a Christian at that point but I know it was God who woke me up so that I’d go and experience how amazing people can be when they devote their life to God. I became a Christian a few months after this when I was twenty-one.
I joined WBC after I graduated last year. In December, I was invited to join a small group. I really look forward to our meetings and value the friendships I’ve made with everyone. They’ve all been brilliant in helping my faith develop. My eating disorder unfortunately hadn’t gone away, although it had taken a U-turn and had become a binge-eating disorder. I began hating my body again and was obsessed with food. I remember several occasions when I couldn’t stop myself from eating, despite the tears streaming down my face and the self-punishment it caused. I felt so guilty - I was a Christian and yet my life was ruled by food and self-image.
On Thursday 24 April this year, I couldn’t sleep. I felt a sudden desire to go into an empty room and just write. I took a notebook and started writing. That night, God was with me and He changed my heart. When I went back to bed, I felt absolutely fantastic!
Over the last few months, my battle with eating has become a great deal easier. I feel so much closer to God after that night and I talk to Him all the time. I thank Him for how He has healed me. It’s strange that my desire to have control over my life was what perhaps led to my eating disorder but handing over that control to God was what started the journey of getting me out of it. I’ve got a very long way to go before I’ll be the sort of Christian that I want to be - that my friends, small group and you as my church, inspire me to be - but I do know that I love Jesus and that’s a start.
Finally, I didn’t think I’d ever share what I’d written in my diaries or note books but here is some of what I wrote on that night in April - the night I realised I wanted to be baptised!
God loves me whatever size I am and I can spend my life doing much better things than comparing myself to others and trying to be someone I’m not. Maybe through my struggle with eating disorders and depression, I can help people who face similar troubles. Or, I can just show that with the help of God anything can be overcome and you do not have to think that change is impossible.
The absolute most important thing in life is people and love. I am so lucky to have so many people in my life that I love and who love me. I’ve caused a lot of those people hurt and worry through my illnesses and those are not the feelings I want to cause in the people who mean so much to me.
God knows that my path towards peace won’t be easy but I’m sure He knows I can get there, with His help. I pray that I can put my trust ingot, properly, and that I can really start to live for Him, not myself. God is perfect and I am nowhere near but by getting to know God better I can become a better person and make a positive contribution to this world. Tonight, I feel more hopeful than I have in a very long time. With God’s help I know I can change my life for the better and become lovely Charlie again.
I don’t really know God’s plan for me but what I do know is it doesn’t involve being obsessed over my weight. Until I get rid of that, I won’t be able to live the life God intended for me.
I have been blessed with incredible parents, a wonderful sister, an amazing fiancé and fantastic friends and wider family. I am fortunate to live in a house I love, have good qualifications and live in a society where I am free to express my beliefs and opinions. I am so lucky and I need to remember that. I am so blessed and I need to start being a blessing to others.
It was three years ago that my eating problems started and now it is time to say goodbye to that obsession and say hello to a new focus: my life as a Christian and someone who gives more than she takes.
Life is full of beauty and I need to recognise that beauty and not dwell on my problems. Enjoy walking, enjoy reading, enjoy listening to music. Enjoy God’s world and do my absolute best to help others to enjoy it too . Everyone deserves joy, peace, comfort, love and happiness (including me) and if I can spend my life promoting these things, in a Christian way, that will be a life well spent.
Thank you God for reminding me tonight of what’s important and I pray that I can continue to remember, so that I live my life in a way that pleases you. I love you God and I am so grateful that you love me. Let me now prove it by the way I live my life.