• Tanya Farrugia

Darkness to Light - My Story

Updated: May 16, 2020


I grew up mostly in the West country, the oldest of three children. My Mum was 18 and had just moved from Canada when she married my Dad, who was 10 years older. They were both very different - Dad was gentle, quiet and calm, more in the background and Mum was energetic and exuberant but up and down emotionally. At home she often seemed angry and stressed and I felt insecure as long as I can remember. I was very sensitive to her moods. Gradually I developed a deep sense of rejection and believing that there was something wrong with me. Of course I didn’t know that my Mum’s experience of rejection and abuse in the past meant that she struggled to receive and give love herself. Because of my Mum’s flighty nature and dissatisfaction we would regularly sell up and move house  - I went to 5 primary schools and 3 secondary schools. I enjoyed the adventure of moving but I lacked a sense of belonging - everything was temporary in my life.

If you struggle to receive love because of your past, it is hard to give love. When you know how much you are loved, you are free to love. Joyce Meyer (see www.joycemeyer.org) often says ‘hurting people hurt people’. This was not intentional on my mum’s part but a result of her brokenness.

When I was 9, and my sister and brother were 7 and 5, my Mum met a man, who moved in to our house meaning my Dad had to move out. My parent’s divorce and the arrival of my Stepfather, who was very different from my Dad, strengthened that sense of rejection in me. My Stepdad’s own father was from a military background, which I think influenced his approach to discipline - he had very different ideas than my Dad. We were also expected to work hard so my mum could have a break and we were forced to be ‘a family’ - this made me angry. My Mum was in love with this man, laughing, acting differently. I continued my quest for identity and meaning. I was quite adventurous and would go out with friends, pretending to be detectives, making dens, exploring and following people, living from our imaginations. I was also interested in the supernatural and would experiment with things like ouija boards and visiting a ‘haunted house’. My stepsister shared this interest and we would often watch horror films. I started having nightmares around this time. I remember coming to Mum in the kitchen for affection but didn’t know how so I would just ask, “Do you love me?” and she would just get cross. But she was loving and friendly to my stepdad’s children, who lived with us at weekends and I felt jealous.

Rejection - can cause all kinds of actions and problems. You reject others before they reject you.You can be desperate for that connection but then just drop someone to avoid pain. You make decisions that you will never let anyone hurt you and you harden your heart. And when you have a feeling of rejection you are always looking and finding confirmation that seals the belief that you are not good enough.


One day I found a letter from my Mum to my Stepdad saying how they wished they could just be together 'without the children', which, to me, confirmed that I was unloved and that we were seen as a ‘problem’. One day they told us it was time the three of us went to live with my Dad who was now remarried to my Stepmum who had 5 children. My Mum and Stepdad had decided that my Dad needed to ‘face his responsibilities’. We were taken and left there a week later, without being able to tell friends and with very little notice for my Dad and Stepmum.  

They kindly took us in and welcomed us as part of the family. By now I was 14 and one way I coped with the moving and feelings of rejection was to reinvent myself - I wanted to say goodbye to the ‘old me’, be a better, more confident me so that I would fit in and be popular. About a year later there was a court case where we were asked to choose who we wanted to live with. That day my brother and sister, who felt loyalty for Mum moved back to be with her and my Stepdad, who were now both alcoholics and in an abusive situation, and I chose to stay with my Dad because we had more freedom and peace. I also didn't want to go back after my mum had rejected me. My Dad was working in the Middle East for most of this time so my Stepmum was the one who cared for us. She was kind, warm and always available to chat. I enjoyed the family atmosphere but nothing could shake the deep sense of rejection (some anger and un-forgiveness had crept in too by then). Various things happened which ‘confirmed’ that rejection. One day I got very drunk when visiting my Mum at a family event and I behaved badly. When I returned to my Dad’s she wrote a letter saying I was no longer part of the family. I started drinking at 14 and I was looking for affection in other relationships. I was building a new identity to find acceptance. I started smoking at about 16 and soon became a heavy smoker. I decided I wanted to be different, find myself, create some life stories to make me more interesting. ‘Normal’ was a bad word to me and I said I never wanted to get married and have children. I wanted to be free! I also was desperate for love and truth to fill that emptiness.  The rejection I felt led to me making some bad decisions.

You can search here and there but nothing will make you full except the love of JESUS. God has set eternity in our hearts. 


Just after my 17th birthday I left home to move up to London to work, meet new people, be free and ‘find myself’. I started in Camden living with an aunt, who my my Mum hadn’t heard from for 15 years. I wasn’t allowed to tell my parents her address because she didn’t trust people. One night I came back late and she locked me out and I ended up sleeping in a hostel in Kings Cross with a stranger I met on the street. Quite soon after that I met a 24 year old and moved in with him 6 months later. This turned out to be an abusive relationship. I didn’t recognise it at the time because he didn’t hit me and I thought it was because I was a strong personality, but the psychological abuse, using control and manipulation can be very damaging in different ways. After 6 months I needed to leave so effectively became homeless. A friend helped me find a shared room in a girl’s hostel in Hampstead. I was enamoured by all the people I was meeting who were actors, models, writers, creative people. I was a cleaner and a nanny but I felt a connection with these people. I enjoyed a kind of acceptance and continued smoking and drinking, also some travelling. I was building stories to add to my identity, for example one night I hitchhiked with my stepbrother and spent a night in Manchester with complete strangers. I would often leave my job and travel abroad, either with a friend or alone. Mostly I was very sociable and enjoyed being with people. But I thrived on reassurance from others.

One day in a bar in Greece I was dancing and chatting, having fun, and a man I didn’t know looked straight at me and said, “you will never love anyone”. It cut me to the heart. I was so shaken by this I went back to where I was staying. I believed it readily because I was aware of my selfishness, always looking for love for myself. How would I ever love anyone else!? Although there was some truth in what he said, this was like a curse that I received.

The words we choose to speak and listen to have a very powerful shaping effect on our lives, both positive and negative.


I was 21, back in London in another relationship with someone I had met abroad and I was looking for a home. A friend of a friend introduced me to some squatters. It was a big house in 3 separate flats in Hampstead. Seemed like an attractive option, no rent, no responsibility, nobody to tell me what to do, an interesting experience. Before I moved in there someone had died of a drug overdose and not been found for a good few days. A past squatter had made a joke of this and drawn around a body shape on the floor. I had decided that best friends were people who let each other do whatever they want. Be free, accept everything, don’t confront, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong'. This seemed attractive to me at the time - no absolutes, no accountability. Everything goes! Sometimes this backfired because one person claiming rights to freedom can impact the freedom of others. This is darkness not freedom. The people I lived with were not necessarily poor, rather they, like me, had chosen that way of life, maybe more as a statement of rebellion.  

One of my squat mates was a painter and he had a studio there. I had always loved drawing and creativity and wanted to be an artist too. I read books on artists, set my alarm for 3am and painted to Vivaldi and

Beethoven. I felt a freedom doing this but my paintings were disturbing me. My time here was spent socialising, working, cycling, studying art and travelling intermittently.

I was also searching and considering religions such as Islam, Buddhism, eastern philosophies. I believed there was something out there, something bigger than me, unlike my Mum, who was an atheist. My boyfriend actively supported me in this and paid for me to do an intensive ‘enlightenment’ course. People used to say ‘You’re such a nice person’ which made me feel misunderstood and think “but they don’t know who I really am". I had low self esteem. I felt my life was spinning out of control. I was having nightmares. I even went to the doctor to ask for help, but I never pursued counselling. It was normal to say words like I’m depressed’ when chatting to a friend, not realising I probably was. I was empty inside. Lost.

You might think you are free, doing whatever you want with no rules but this is an empty way of life. In the bible it says that God has set the boundary lines for us in pleasant places. These boundaries and restrictions are because He loves us and He disciplines those He loves.


I lived in the squat for 3 years (which I would boast was the longest I had lived anywhere). During this time my Mum and Stepdad had become ‘born again Christians’. They had seen a miracle and a series of events that had changed their lives. One miracle was that my Mum’s sister was very sick and told she would die that night. My Mum prayed, “if there is a God please do a miracle and I will look into you”. When my Mum arrived at the hospital to take my aunt’s children to say goodbye, there was a commotion - the doctors and nurses were amazed - my aunt had recovered!  It shocked me that my Mum, who had always been a resolute atheist and wouldn’t even allow a book of Jesus in the house, was now talking about Jesus as if He were a real person. At first I thought it was another ‘phase’ and I used to joke about it with my friends about Mum being ‘religious’ as if she had ‘gone mad’ but in other ways I was really intrigued. My Mum and Stepdad had stopped drinking and my Mum would send me letters urging me to turn to Jesus and be ‘saved'. That Jesus is the only way. One day she came to visit and when she talked about Jesus I would mysteriously feel overwhelmed with emotion. But when she asked me if I wanted to ‘give my life’ to Jesus, that’s where I retreated because I believed that my friends would reject me and I had travel plans. Then my Mum and Stepdad moved to China where they taught in a university and worked in an orphanage. Mum said she was leaving us in God’s hands and praying we would know Him. Mum prayed protection over me there in my room.  

In my searching I decided to travel to India, maybe I would find something ‘life changing’. But I lost my nerve on the way, and turned around to go home - I was gone one night and that night the squat had been subject to an arson attack. I called from the airport and I was told nobody was hurt but the place was badly damaged. In fact it was like an angel had protected my room - my squat mates were sleeping in my room as it was the least affected. I treasured this in my heart with an element of hope - recalling my mum’s prayer for protection.

After the failed trip to India and the fire I went to Greece on my own and worked for a while. In the months that followed I began to notice a shift. Despite my judgements towards Mum’s new found ‘religion’, I started to find encouragement listening to gospel tapes from the library and, cycling to work I would find myself singing all the words to ‘Amazing Grace’, which must have been etched on my mind from primary school. I found myself feeling offended at a fancy dress party when someone dressed as a vicar and was ripping pages from the bible. Something was changing


I was now 24 and my Mum and stepfather were over from China visiting people and their church in Southampton. As I was leaving work my boss joked, “you’ll probably become a Christian now” and I laughed it off. Almost as soon as I arrived in Southampton my Mum was telling me all about Jesus. She told me how much He loved orphans and when she showed me pictures of the children I just cried uncontrollably. I identified with them and that feeling of being lost in the world. There was an amazing atmosphere of love in the room. My mum asked me if I was ready to surrender my life to Jesus and follow Him. I said, “yes but I’m scared”.

She prayed for fear to go and instantly I was peaceful. I felt free to finally say ‘yes’. I was tired, I had tried everything else and it hadn’t worked - where else would I go!? I had nothing to lose! I asked God to forgive me for my sins, and I forgave anyone who had hurt me. I decided to lay down my plans and let God take control. Maybe He would do a better job than me! After we prayed I couldn’t stop smiling and felt so much peace, a feeling of ‘coming home’. I asked Mum not to tell anyone, but immediately I went downstairs and told everyone! I wanted to read the bible, I was so hungry. That night I slept soundly for the first time in years, no nightmares, in fact I had an amazing dream that God, who was suddenly so REAL to me, was taking me flying low over all creation - rivers, the Amazon forest and saying “I made all this” - it was a revelation. My eyes were opened, I felt so happy!

The following days I bombarded my Mum with questions and she explained scriptures - it all came alive to me! She gave me books to read. I went back to the squat and told everyone! I spent days reading the bible and talking to God. One night, in my room I felt a presence of evil - the windows were rattling and there was a smell of burning - I called my mum’s friends - they prayed to Jesus and it stopped straight away! This showed me the power of Jesus over everything. After a series of events and being baptised I was introduced to a lovely couple with 3 children from Lifeline Church. The night I met them I moved in with them and I felt so safe, such a sense of wellbeing. I didn’t have to prove anything, I could just be myself. I was filled with light and my spirit became alive!


From the moment I turned to Jesus I knew I had found my place of belonging. I know now that my eternal identity is in Christ and He is transforming my life.

I have discovered so much joy in the understanding that even though God knows me completely - good, bad, past, present and future - He still loves me unconditionally, and I can love others too!

When I surrendered my plans to God, His were so much better. He says that He came to give us life in abundance.

I used to be a heavy smoker (up to 30 a day) and a few years after I started following Jesus someone prayed for me and Jesus completely set me free from the addiction overnight!

I never thought I wanted to get married or that I could give and receive love, but God healed me from the pain which affected those decisions and I started to pray for a husband and family. In 2000 God sent David, who is a kind, gentle, patient, loving man, who loves me unconditionally and has stood with me through all kinds of trials. I love him very much and am so thankful to God for His provision and timing. We got married in 2002 and now have two wonderful boys. God has given us a beautiful home and we want to use it to show acceptance and love to others.

I have always loved art but I used to be disturbed by my own creations. God has turned that creativity into something uplifting which I use to encourage others - in the same way that words can bring hope, so can pictures.

Because of Jesus I know I am accepted. He forgave me when I didn’t deserve it so I am now able to forgive myself and those who have hurt me.

I used to think nothing lasts but now I know that no matter what happens, I have eternal life in Jesus, who promises never to leave us.

I have now been part of Lifeline Church (www.lifelinechurch.co.uk) for 26 years and I am thankful to God that I have found a place of purpose and belonging here.

My Story - Darkness To Light
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