From my first interaction with Beth I knew she was awesome. She is kind, she is brave, she is my friend and this is her story…
To avoid a very scripted introduction, I will stick with basics: My name is Bethany, I am 20 years old, and I have an experience that likely resonates with most. Whether it be your personal journey, or the life of someone close to you, I pray that what I am about to discuss is of some benefit, wherever you are at. Let’s have a conversation.
In 2014 I was diagnosed with severe depression and extremely severe anxiety. I had only just graduated high school and, after 12 years of routine, no longer had anywhere to be. I didn’t have to wake up at 6am, so I slept. I didn’t have to do assessments, so my brain was never engaged. My behaviour slowly dissipated and became unpredictable. I wouldn’t sleep at night because that was a waste of time, but sleeping throughout the day gave me an excuse to avoid interacting with the people around me. I lost 10kg over the space of one month, because the thought of getting out of bed and preparing a meal was overwhelming. My face and skin were pallor in appearance. My hair was thin and began falling out. My body was not healthy and longed for even the slightest touch of the sun; a healthy meal; an established diet. I began to question things that had been secure in my life for so long. Do my friends really like me? Am I a burden to my family? Will my boyfriend get sick of this? These thoughts continued on until I finally realised things weren’t normal. It was Christmas morning when I woke up absolutely deprived of energy or emotion. My mother asked me what was wrong, and all I could say was “I don’t know, but I feel nothing.” I imagine my parents could tell things weren’t right, but waited for me to come to this on my own terms. I am grateful for that and was supported from the onset.
I started therapy and was initially seeing a Christian psychologist. While this was not a positive experience for a number of reasons, I came to understand the severity of my condition. I taught myself how to cope. My safe place became my bedroom, and art became an outlet. Mind you, I wasn’t good at art — but art was good for me. It was a distraction and meant I didn’t have to deal with things right away. I started on anti-depressants, eventually went on a higher dose, and continued on medication for about 2 years. It cleared the fog and I found a therapist who really did help me, and continues to. My brain was balanced and I could think rationally and address the issues I had. I still can’t understand how some believe that antidepressants are incompatible with the Christian faith. The ability to see and feel God, even for the shortest time, was the most comforting thing throughout this time, and this was only possible with the corrections my medication had made. I treasured those moments — thanks to my newfound clear mind.
I started university at the start of 2015 and my structure was back. I had a place to be, I had a purpose, and my brain was being engaged. Things were better, but they still weren’t good. Why was my emotional stability placed in earthly routine? It was a false dawn, and I began to slip again. The biggest unfamiliarity was that I was no longer in control (not that I ever was). God liked to remind me of this, which was painful and confronting. I did all the things that people said had helped them. It was of no benefit as the issue was that I had tried to control the condition I was facing, rather than relying on God’s grace and trusting that He knew what would eventuate. The less I tried to control things, the better they became. It was okay to have a bad day. It was okay to spend some time on my own. I allowed myself time to heal and rest.
I went off medication at the end of 2016. I didn’t want to do this, and it was uncomfortable for me. What I had constructed as my safety net for the past 2 years was about to be taken away, yet I knew it was the right decision after much prayer. My fiancé (who has continued to love me and trust God throughout this season) and I are now apart of a church community who have accepted us as family. I have implemented healthy boundaries and routines. I still have depression and anxiety, but know how to manage these conditions. Therapy continues to be important. Trusting in God’s plan gives me peace.
My therapist has taught me one lesson that has never left me: if a tiger is not physically waiting to attack you at this very moment, then you are safe. Nothing or no one can ever take God away from you. People can say and do awful things. However, there is security in God. No one can make God love you less, or alter His plan for you, or love you better than He does. Regardless of what happens, so long as there are no tigers, you are safe in this very moment. You are held so tightly and safely within his righteous right hand. Anxiety tells me that nothing is secure. Depression tells me that there is no hope. Jesus tells me that I am safe in Him. God may choose to heal me completely, or He may not. His timing is always perfect and His ways are good. I am so thankful for suffering as it has shown me more of my Lord’s character, and I yearn for more knowledge of Him. His ways have been revealed to me through my pain and my hurt.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Depression and anxiety are both battles I come up against daily, allowing me to help others who struggle with similar issues. God has not caused me to suffer and then abandoned me, but rather He has allowed my suffering to glorify His name. Mental health is a very predominant struggle for so many Christians today — more common than most tend to think. It is not a measure of the quality of your faith. It is not an issue of salvation. It means you are a human, born into sin. Today, I thank Jesus for promising me eternal life with Him. Until then, my chemicals might be a little unbalanced, yet His word will continue, steady and unshaken.