Shelley Perry is the Clinical Director of the Breathe Eating Disorder Service. We’re thrilled she’s taken time out of her jam-packed schedule to explain to you why we think she is absolutely, a Dangerous Woman!
Who am I and what do I do?
Well, I am a woman of God, a widow, a single mum and a
daughter, and recently a girlfriend too, to a lovely Christian man!
I love dancing, spending time with family and friends, reading, theatre and I love learning
new things. Life excites me as I feel it is full of opportunity!
I am passionate about most things I do especially combining works with faith and love
through Jesus. I have a heart for the broken and wounded, the hurting people that society
writes off because of addiction, abuse and trauma.
I have been on my own journey and by the age of 18 felt like I has seen and done things
most people wouldn’t experience in a lifetime. I believe that God was equipping me for
mission with him.
I am passionate about seeing people healed healing and believe I am blessed with a gift of
healing and compassion, in particular for those with an eating disorder.
Having had an eating disorder myself and the experience of low self worth I even
questioned the point in continuing with life but I received complete healing through God’s
love and acceptance. I want to share that with others.
I trained as a mental health nurse and specialised eventually in treatment of eating
disorders. I then founded the charity S.E.E.D followed by the treatment service Breathe,
after God gave me a vision for these services/mission.
A typical day for me?
The day begins by staying in bed longer than I should before eating
breakfast with my daughter as we navigate the plans for the day ahead.
After the school run I head to work for an hours ‘protected time’ where I can catch up with
any emails and outstanding work before my team walk in the door.
Then, in between meetings clinicians come and discuss their concerns about individual
clients and we plan how to manage that.
Of course there’s always the welcome distraction of one of our volunteers, Michael, who
has Aspergers. He pops in periodically to tell me the time, what’s happening in the world of
sport and what that means in three different languages.He is easily forgiven though as he
tends to come armed with a cup of tea!
The work day continues with client meetings and paperwork – before realising even more
paperwork hasn’t been done! I maybe have time to paste something to our facebook page
before realising it’s 8.30pm and time to pick madam up from gymnastics.
We go home and eat tea together and talk over the day. Note to self, must get dishwasher!
Madam retires to her room to do homework and Chris (that lovely Christian man I was
telling you about), then turns up and we have an hour or so putting the world to rites
and talking about our respective days before praying together and off he goes. Then it’s
How did you end up in this kind of ministry?
Well the honest answer is that it must have been God because I WAS going to be a
journalist. However, by the age of 16 I had it on my heart to be a counsellor and sought
training for various counselling courses. Then at 17 I tried to get on a Social Work course
but was too young. God needed to take me on my own journey first. He’s still working on
my humility and patience as I have a tendency to learn the hard way!
By the time I was 19, after working in a hospital with people who had mental health and
learning difficulties, and then some time in a secure unit, I had got as high as I could
without training and qualifying as a nurse.
My mum was a nurse and I said I would never do, it but this felt different. I applied and
was advised to apply for Mental Health Nursing, which was a real eye opener. I adapted
working with extremely damaged, broken and dangerous (to self and/or others) people
became my specialism.
Again, I saw pain and found myself experiencing pain with and for people, but in a way
that I could harness to show compassion, empathy, patience, tolerance and love for. I
found it much easier to relate to men though. Actually I didn’t really understand women.
What I came to realise was that while my dad was emotionally expressive, my mum
and grandma hadn’t been. I didn’t really understand them and more importantly, I didn’t
understand myself. God began showing me my own pain and speaking to me about how
I needed to open my heart and receive His compassion, empathy, patience, love and
Without understanding and accepting myself I could only go so far with this work.
It’s only really now, after 21 years as a Christian, that I am starting to accept who I am as
a woman and that it REALLY is ok to be me, with all my complexities, vulnerabilities and
fears. With God and because of God I can love and accept myself and give myself some
self respect without having to adhere to the superficial demands of this world. I can allow
myself to be vulnerable, gentle, empowered but feminine (not necessarily sexual/sexy). I
believe this is why God has given me this work to do. My work is about self-awareness,
self-acceptance, self-love and healing. He gives me a passion to work with women and
share that. To empower them and be powerful and confident.
What has the journey been like? Have you always been sure of God’s leading?
Since being a Christian I can honestly say I’ve known God loves and forgives me. I haven’t
always listened and I haven’t always heard His voice. I used to get really frustrated that I
couldn’t hear him directly speaking to me and it took me a long time to realise that actually
He gives us His word to direct us, and as long as we are in line with that and our motive is
right before the Lord we cant go too far wrong.
I’ve come to see God as a loving and gentle parent who will allow you to receive the
consequences of your actions – and I’ve been there many a time unfortunately. In my
arrogance I always think I know best. Mmm, maybe not. When things weren’t going well
with my husband I wondered where God was in it all. My husband died, but throughout it
all I knew His presence, His love and His strength.
In saying that, there have been times even as a Christian when I struggled with depression
and after my husband died I was diagnosed with ME. I didn’t tell anyone or even accept it
for ten years. I just struggled on and lost days in bed every week, but throughout all of He
didn’t promise us a smooth path, He promised us His peace and strength in Him and hope
for the future. He is a God who keeps his promises.
How would you define evangelism?
I’ve battled with rules and obedience and had a rocky struggle in my Christian walk and
so my automatic thought when it comes to the word evangelism, with me equating it to the
kind of evangelism where you share with people that all things are amazing in your life and
its’ all good and its’ all God and you should do it too, is that it has felt cheesy and unreal. If
I’m honest that’s irritated me over the years.
However, I believe in being real about faith and perseverance, love, patience and sharing
my journey. All of it – the frustrations, confusion, doubts, fears and celebrations and
breakthroughs. That’s my version of evangelism. God didn’t say it would be easy. He said
He would be with us amidst the storm and He would provide all that we need in the storm.
That he would sustain us.
What barriers have you overcome on your Christian journey in sharing your faith, and
how have you overcome them?
I haven’t always been a great Ambassador for God as at times I’ve made mistakes and
been a hypocrite. I guess thats a part of being a daughter of Adam and Eve and the
consequences of their decisions and my own.
The world likes to look for fault and point the finger – it’s a bit like self-preservation.
My friends didn’t accept my radical change to being a full-on believer, and looked for flaws.
Of course they found plenty of them. They spent years criticising, ridiculing and belittling
me but I carried on sharing God’s love. As it turned out many of those friendships came to
an end but God is already starting to fill those gaps with wholesome relationships where I
can be myself, sharing my faith without judgement or condemnation. I have found that the
older relationships which I still have, are with people who love me and accept me for who I
am but they also respect my faith and will allow me to share my love of Jesus with them.
After many years even my brother, who initially hated the fact I was a Christian, is even
open to some really great conversations. Now that’s a miracle!
What are your thoughts about Christian women being dangerous?
What a great question!
In my opinion, Christian women are more likely to have access, the receptive audience to
them as women, and hopefully the developed emotional and social skills, along with the
powerful combination of the Holy Spirit, and dare I say it, maybe the time, to offer love,
acceptance and healing, build a community and grow and impact the next generation
and the last. What a ministry!
Devil, watch out, these women are on your patch and they are dangerous! 🙂