I shared this with my social club tonight. I hope you are blessed by reading it and seeing how God is working in me.
I want to tell you guys a story. It's a story of hope and forgiveness, redemption and love. Many of you have heard bits and pieces of my story or at least know that I struggle with depression but I want to give you a look at the bigger picture.
My first depressive episode began when I was 11 years old. It was the summer before I started middle school. I felt a rebellion sink into my heart and began to turn from God out of shame and confusion. I saw myself as a bad person who didn't deserve forgiveness or salvation. At this age I began to push others away and build walls around my heart. I didn't know that the deep sadness and hopelessness I was experiencing was most likely depression. Out of shame I kept all inside and didn't tell anyone what I really felt.
When I was 13 I tried to kill myself, and it is only by God's gracious hand that I am here before you today. When I was 20 I got a tattoo that says "I have been forgiven" in Hebrew because the God of the old testament is the same loving God who has forgiven me for my greatest sins.
From age 11 to 18 I went through short periods of happiness and long periods of despair and depression without telling anyone. I was living a life of lies and it was killing me. I felt alone and unworthy of love.
After finally telling a few close college friends about my struggles I decided to talk to my parents a couple years ago. It was a hard conversation but my parents couldn't have been more loving and supportive. After that conversation I was ready to get help for my depression and anxiety. I began medication and therapy.
Since that day I have seen 5 different therapists and counselors, and have tried several different medications. Last semester I took the semester off and spent a few weeks at a residential treatment center in Illinois after my depression took a very intense turn for the worse in March. Over the summer, after lots of treatment I felt like I could try to come back to school. I started summer school and still struggled a lot even though I was doing all the things you are supposed to do when you have depression. Nothing seemed to be working.
Now comes the good part of the story. At my most hopeless moment God brought me hope. At a time when I felt I had tried everything I decided to try one more counselor. And I'd like to read you an email I sent to my counselor two weeks ago about how our awesome God has been working in me. This is the best part of the story.
Here's what the email says:
I haven't been to church in almost 6 months and haven't picked up a bible except maybe twice for counseling assignments. I pray very often but my prayers have been mostly selfish prayers, begging God to take my life or something cowardly like that.
In many ways I had given up hope for my life. I have always had this sense that I will lose the battle of depression and either intentionally kill myself or unintentionally through some type of destructive behavior. The bottom line is I felt that darkness was simply in my DNA and sadness and chronic unhappiness intertwined with every cell in my body.
Living a life with no hope seems pointless. People constantly tell me to think of all the good things in my life. I do. I know I am insanely blessed and am extremely thankful for it. But happiness and joy haven't come with those blessings for some reason and people don't understand that. I've been stuck in a cycle of apathy and numbness. Until this weekend.
My prayers have started to change. I try to pray for others more than myself. God has spoken to me this weekend in ways I can't really explain and what I've learned is that there is no such thing as a truly hopeless situation. There would be if humans were in control but I thank God that he is in control rather than us. I've spent 11 years in darkness for a reason- a reason I don't understand or claim to know but he is molding me. I may never be happy in the worldly sense of the word but there is still hope for me. Because there is more to this life than me and my little situation. God is painting on a canvas bigger than me and my life.
I went to church Sunday morning and held back tears the entire time. We sang the song "how he loves us" and it really meant something to me for the first time. I just felt like God was calling me to come back to him and give up all of my burdens and the control I've been trying to hold onto. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I know exactly what God is saying to me, and it's a message of hope and redemption, forgiveness and love.