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5-MicheleMy childhood was a game of survival. I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused by an alcoholic family member. I was cutting myself with sharp objects at age four and started restricting my food intake around my 13th birthday. I was on several medications for depression, and for years, I was shuffled back and forth to weekly counseling.

My father died when I was 18, and I began a five year journey through the deepest and darkest place I have ever known. Full of fear and pain, I stopped functioning, eating and going to school. At one point, I even stopped talking. I saw at least a dozen psychiatrists, twice as many therapists, and I had about 15 different hospital admissions. I went through countless medications and what felt like every form of therapy there was. Nothing helped. Eventually, I wound up behind locked doors, on 24-hour watch by hospital staff, was restricted from sharp objects, and a feeding tube was inserted into my abdomen to keep me alive. I was told I would be in therapy for the rest of my life, if not institutionalized. Then I heard about Mercy.

I arrived at Mercy a broken mess and full of fear. I doubted their ability to help me. No one else had been able to. Why would Mercy? I entered the doors and began to realize that everything about Mercy was different than my past treatment and hospital experiences. Hope overwhelmed me. I found myself in a gorgeous home full of unconditional love and surrounded by people who spoke life into me! While at Mercy, I became a new person with a clear sense of who I am in Christ. When I graduated, I walked out feeling empowered, restored and renewed with a pure joy that overflowed from within. I do not see myself as finished, but I am constantly blown away as God reveals what He sees in me and for my future. God has already done an amazing work in me, but my testimony has only just begun.

I am now happily married and completed my Ph.D. in quantitative psychology. I currently serve as a Senior Research Associate at a faith-based organization that provides specialized mental health care. There, I use applied research to improve mental health services. In November 2014, God answered the deepest desire of my heart and I became a mom to my beautiful daughter. Recently, my husband and I also just bought our first house! Today, I walk in a joy that comes only from being unconditionally loved and completely set free.