It all started in Grade 7. I was a happy kid when I was younger—I liked painting, knitting and animals. But when I turned 12, things changed. I started having dark thoughts that seemed to come out of nowhere, although I do think social media played a part. The media is constantly saying you need to be thin and look a certain way to be liked, and that definitely had an impact on me. I didn’t like my body or what I looked like. So to deal with it, I self-harmed.

I never knew what a few cuts could do to you. After the first time, it became a habit. I think the worst part is that I didn’t know why I was so sad. I didn’t have any reason to be. I kept it a secret because I didn’t think anyone would understand or that they’d say I was doing it for attention.

A few months later, my parents found out. They took me to counselling and I felt better for a while, but then the thoughts came back and hit me even harder. I just always felt worthless. I started to self-harm again. I thought it wouldn’t get better because it had been going on for about a year.

My parents took me to another counsellor, but it didn’t help. By this time, I didn’t care about anything or how people saw me. I started drinking, smoking and going to parties. The first month of Grade 9 was the worst. I wanted to die almost every day and was put on medication.

Then Emma Wong, a youth leader at The Salvation Army in Kemptville, Ont., invited me to the youth group. I knew who she was, because she’s my best friend’s sister, but we had never officially met.

My mom grew up in a church and I had always believed in God, but my family only went to church at Christmas and Easter. One night, I decided to try the youth group, and I really liked it. Things were still not going well, but at least I was making new friends.

In October, the youth group attended the Change Conference in Toronto. I had heard so many great stories about people who struggled with the same things as me and then found Jesus and it helped them. The whole weekend I was hoping I would have an encounter with God so I could know for sure that he is with me.

At the end of the conference, all the youth pastors started praying over their youth groups. During the prayer, I felt God there. He told me he has been with me through everything and that he cares about me. I was crying tears of joy and it was the most amazing feeling ever.

After the conference, my whole life changed. I started leading worship at the youth group and going to church more often. Being part of the youth group has helped me so much. I’ve made so many friends who are always there for me. I can go to them for advice and get a biblical answer.

I have completely fallen in love with God and I continue to grow spiritually every day. The past few years have been a huge struggle, and I still go through bumps in the road, but now that I have God by my side, life has been so much easier and happier. I know I can count on him to understand and always be with me.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to give everything to God, to let him carry my burdens because he can handle it. “I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

God doesn’t waste pain, and all the crazy things that have happened to me in the past all happened so that something good can come out of it. I can’t wait to see what adventures God takes me on in the future.

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