Sophie Mei Lan struggled with self-hatred for years after her ordeal, which opened her up to further abuse. She finally started loving herself – and has recently found someone who loves her unconditionally too
I first started self-harming after I was sexually assaulted as a child. I wasn’t allowed counselling until the court cases were over, which took two years. My family was incredible but they too were grieving and processing the childhood I had lost when the male stranger invaded my body.
Instead of hating men, I blamed myself. I felt so much shame when my case went to court, and the only way I could demonstrate the emotional torture was to start secretly putting a blade into my skin. This gave me a few moments of relief as well as showing the world that I hated myself more than anyone could hate or hurt me. I fantasised about disappearing from the earth.
Trying to step free from shame
Guilt is when we regret our actions but shame is when we lose our sense of self-worth. My shame consumed me and led to self-hatred, so I let men continue to abuse me. Inside I was craving to be loved by anyone, no matter how toxic the results were.
After eventually undergoing counselling and finding faith gradually, I began to explore more positive ways of expressing myself through dance, fitness and writing. While it helped me to feel unconditionally loved by God, I still wasn’t immune to the dangerous wrath of abusive men.
I had been date-raped, harassed and violated on many occasions.
As a new Christian, I thought that peace and forgiveness meant keeping quiet about wrongdoings done against me. By then I had found a loving church who felt like a family to me, but I convinced myself that if they found out about my past (and present) dating ‘mishaps’ they would disown me.
In fact, these were much more than ‘dating mishaps’; I had been date-raped, harassed and violated on many occasions. I felt so dirty and ashamed until I ‘confessed’ to the vicar’s wife. Far from blaming me, as I did myself, she slowly loved me back to life, teaching me to love myself as I loved my neighbour. She also taught me that being a Christian doesn’t mean you can’t stand up against injustice.
I decided to try dating Christian men online, as I assumed they would have the same values as me. Sadly I naively fell into several vulnerable situations where men targeted certain websites, assuming they could easily exploit ‘a good little Christian girl’. After help from the police and church, the hardest lesson I began to learn was to “guard my heart” (see Proverbs 4:23). I also had to forgive myself.
I discovered how important it was to think carefully about the things I ‘consume’, and looked at everything I was allowing to fill my time – and mind: from podcasts to media to friendships and relationships. I realised the huge impact each one had on me. My main drive for doing this was my two daughters; I wanted them to feel strong and respect themselves, so I had to be that role model.
When I was hospitalised during the pandemic for gut health issues, I was isolated and became even more sensitive to external influences. While this was heartbreaking as I was separated from my children, through prayer, the hospital chapel and positive podcasts I focused on my vows to protect my heart in order to truly heal.
While I liked the idea of finding a partner and having a family with him, I began to accept this wasn’t to be. I bought a puppy, resigning myself to life on my own with my kids and a dog.
But then, out of nowhere, I bumped into my soul mate. I had been interviewing him for a newspaper I worked for, as, like me, he is a YouTuber. Ironically he talks about takeaways, whereas I have a published book on my eating disorder recovery. He later interviewed me on his radio show about my mental health YouTube channel. We quickly became the best of friends…and inseparable.
My heart is finally healing
Meeting Danny has changed my life, as he chooses to love me unconditionally. He is as flamboyant as me and loves me just as I am, perfectly imperfect. He too has known trauma and been thrown into the depths of despair, which is why I think we both appreciate one another so much and love one another so fiercely. We enjoy having fun and living each day to the maximum.
Within a month of being in the most fun-loving relationship I have ever had, we are now engaged and planning our forever together. Before God – and then Danny – came into my life I was feeling lost, but now I have hope and happiness. I can open my heart while still having the strength to protect it from negative influences. I would go so far as to say this is a new book of my life, not just my next chapter.
My heart is finally healing. I am no longer just working to survive; I feel alive and thriving.