Content warning: This testimonial mentions suicide and sexual abuse.
For Selah House alum Heather, it has been a long, winding road toward recovery from anorexia, self-harm, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression. But she’s here and she’s determined to keep going. Provided below is her story.
“I’ve been dealing with my anxiety and depression all my life.”
Heather has dealt with anxiety and depression as far back as she can remember, “I felt that I was like everyone else. Actually, I felt like I was less than everyone else, like I was nothing special, a burden even. I thought this was normal and everyone dealt with these deep emotions. I truly believed that everyone felt this way. I would go to school acting really happy because that’s what I thought everyone else did because they seemed happy.”
Self-harming began young at age 6. She punished herself for every mistake she felt she’d made as though she deserved pain rather than correction and would even blame others’ mistakes on herself. She would often be caught in the middle of her brothers’ daily abusive fighting with each other in an attempt to make them stop. To cope with the pain of the abuse, she self-harmed.
Heather attempted suicide for the first time when she was nine years old, “The fighting was too hard. The abuse hurt too deeply. All the emotions I was carrying were too much for my little 9-year-old self to handle. For two to three years, I didn’t tell my parents. I was ashamed and went back to life as if nothing had happened.”
Coming to Selah House
Heather’s eating disorder began when she was 15 in 2019, the same year she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Shortly after her diagnosis, she was admitted to Selah House for her eating disorder, “I used [my eating disorder] to numb myself and help me keep out all the strong emotions I was feeling. It was, at first, another form of self-harm. I intentionally developed an eating disorder,” she continues, “I went much further than I ever intended. While the eating disorder sounded like a good idea, I didn’t realize what it meant. I didn’t realize the pain it would bring.”
Selah House came about after an intensive outpatient program an hour and a half from where she lived ended up not being a great fit for Heather’s needs. At Selah House, they asked many questions about her eating disorder, but they also taught Heather that she could be loved, “For a while, I felt so unloved and unlovable. The team of recovery care specialists (RCSs) and therapists changed my world. I needed the love and care that Selah brought me.”
Not only was Selah House the perfectly home-like environment she needed to start her recovery journey, but she also found friendship, “I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place to be in my time of need. I actually made some lifelong friends there. I didn’t feel that I deserved to be loved so well. I didn’t understand why these strangers cared for me so much. I felt that I was worthless, a burden, a mistake, but I was deeply cared for. I recognize now it’s because humans deserve to be loved. It’s in our design to love others and be loved. God made me in His image and made me exactly how he wanted me.”
Recovery Isn’t Always Linear
Heather’s time at Selah House helped her discover many things about herself and gave her tools to help her continue her path. But recovery isn’t always linear, and sometimes relapse is part of the journey. Shortly after her time at Selah House, Heather relapsed and tried to hide it from her loved ones, “I wasn’t ready for recovery. I hadn’t worked through my desire to be sick.” After about six months of discharging from Selah, she started healing a bit from her eating disorder and self-harm.
In 2022, Heather attempted suicide a second time and sought help from another behavioral health treatment center. There, she worked through grief over the loss of a friendship and sexual abuse from a boyfriend. During this time, she relapsed with her eating disorder and admitted to Selah House again, “The main trigger for this was because I had been sexually abused by this boyfriend for four months. I blamed myself for the abuse and thought I deserved to be abused.”
She broke up with her boyfriend while she was at Selah House and never heard from him again, “This was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Selah truly saved me. My therapist helped me realize that what this guy was doing was abuse. She helped me see my worth and helped me see that I deserved to be loved and cared for. I didn’t deserve to be abused.”
Ready for Recovery and Hopeful for the Future
After discharging from Selah House, Heather feels ready to take her recovery journey head-on, “I’m tired of my eating disorder. I’m tired of the pain it brought me. I’m tired of it taking from my life. I am now in recovery, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Being in an eating disorder is so hard. So is recovery. I had to think to myself, ‘which “hard” is more worth it?’ and I decided the difficulty of recovery is much better than being sick for the rest of my life. While it’s still a hard journey, it’s worth every step. Selah helped me to heal and realize that I want recovery.”
Heather is now pursuing a degree in counseling psychology so she can one day be a primary therapist at a residential eating disorder treatment center, “I couldn’t have done this without Selah, without God. If God hadn’t put Selah in my path, I really don’t know what my life would look like right now. And I’m thankful I don’t know what it’s like. Selah is a life-changer. I want to change peoples’ lives like Selah changed mine.”