April Shipton is a Christian singer/songwriter (you can hear some of her music on UCB 1). She recently visited us here at UCB and shared the story of her struggle with anorexia and the hope she found in Jesus, and how that led her to discover her passion for leading others in worship.
I was so blessed to have Christian parents and a Christian upbringing, but when I went to college, I was struggling with a tricky relationship with my mum, which triggered a lot of anger and rebellion. I never lost my faith, and I’m grateful to God for that, but I really went off His path and started trying to control things myself. I think I allowed the devil a foothold, if I’m honest.
At college, I tried to be perfect and beautiful, and to be the girl everyone wanted to be. I don’t think that magazines or the media were affecting me, I didn’t want to look like someone in a magazine. But I think the effect that those role models had on my friends did impact me. I wanted to change, and so I just decided to stop eating. I thought I was doing this brilliant idea to lose weight. I thought ‘Why has no one else thought of this? This is amazing!’
It wasn’t until someone told me what I was doing was called anorexia that I realised it was wrong. They told me, ‘This is an illness. You’re ill, April.’ Then things like depression started to seep in, because once the devil’s got an inch, he takes a mile. When I first realised I had an illness, I was disappointed because I thought I was doing something special and unique to me – something no one else knew about and that I had complete control over. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. By the time I realised that I was, anorexia had become my way of feeling acceptable and coping with the turmoil at home, and I didn’t want to let go of it.
I became more isolated, as I kept thinking I wasn’t good enough, and I suddenly found it exhausting to be energetic and social. But anorexia doesn’t fix those thoughts. It makes you feel worse about yourself. An increasing dissatisfaction with my appearance was growing alongside this new isolation and lack of energy, and gradually I found myself in a really dark place of anorexia and depression. But God had other plans. It was at that time that someone prayed for me in the name of Jesus, and it was the prayer that broke through. That day marked the change of my life.
The next day everything was different. I was eating anything I wanted to. I was drinking anything I wanted to. That very first morning after I was prayed for, I went to a vending machine to get a drink. Up until that point I would only ever have zero calorie drinks, so my options were diet drinks or water. But that day I just fancied a Fanta, so I just put my money in and had one. I always say it was the most significant Fanta of my life, because it marked this change.
My faith and understanding of Jesus has developed so much since those dark days. The experience of healing through His powerful, matchless name has shaped my view of life, spiritual stuff, everything. Two years later, God started calling me.
Everywhere I looked, the same words started bombarding me: ‘talents’ and ‘passions’. God was asking me so clearly, ‘April, are you using your talents and passions?’ And I wasn’t. So I had to go and explore: ‘What am I good at? What do I love?’ After a long time searching and coming to terms with it, I realised it was singing. Then I had to face a lot of self-rejection and self-condemnation, as we do when we say to ourselves, ‘Am I good enough with this?’ But if God says you are, then you’re good enough, and He can do the rest.
Submitting my music to UCB was terrifying, to be honest! The theme of a lot of my songs on the UCB playlist at the moment is not feeling good enough, but just going for it anyway, because when God tells you to go, you have to get up and go. You know when it’s a call on you, and you can’t shift it. You just have to roll with it. UCB was already a family to me, and I knew that was the next step. I had to just submit it and do it.
The story of my life is: Jesus saved me. He saved my life. When I had anorexia, I know it wanted to destroy me, but Jesus overcame it.
As a Christian, you often don’t think things can get you like that, but anorexia did get me. When you find yourself in a battle, know that God is on your side. And if God is for you, who on earth can be against you? God always wins.