I have yet to discuss anything relating to religion and spirituality, but it’s time to because I believe it has been an essential part of my life. I’ve struggled in my faith for years, specifically through my struggles with anxiety and depression. I’ve found myself regularly asking God why; why do I struggle in a way that seems to bring me farther from you? Yet each time I found myself at a crossroad or breaking point, God sent me a sign to help guide me. I am an imperfect Christian, but I do believe in God’s plan for me and trust in him entirely.
My very first notable encounter with God came one year before I experienced my first panic attack. Reflecting on this moment, God entered my life in a small way but served as a huge indicator that my life was about to change, which it gradually did. My sign was sent down in the form of a lifelong friendship that would lead me back to God. My faith had drifted, and I didn’t see the significance of it in my life. Yet, I had so many questions on why I had gone through so much pain in my early life. My best friend brought me back to God in a time where I was mad at him for allowing suffering into my life, especially as a little girl who did nothing wrong. It was a lesson learned that God does not cause pain, nor does he prevent it. However, God uses that hurt to enter into our soul to heal, and by letting him in, even though we feel betrayed, our faith is strengthened.
About a year later, when I started to struggle with my mental health in different aspects of my life, I felt shame to be failing God because I couldn’t trust in him enough to ease my anxiety, as the Bible says. These were the times I was struggling with depression and felt like I was losing myself. Along with that, I had a dying desire for perfection in school; I let my grades define myself. So when I was a 14-year-old girl in the middle of puberty who is also struggling with depression but doesn’t know it, you can see where the imbalance comes in. You can probably imagine the terror in my brain when I experienced my first panic attack but didn’t know what was happening. I always feel guilty talking about the roots of my mental health story because I know it makes my family feel guilty because they put pressure on me to succeed academically. The truth is that no one caused my anxiety; the chemical imbalances in my brain caused my anxiety. Nonetheless, It was a time of disconnect from God, which left me lost and helpless.
I was disconnected from my faith for years and still struggling with my mental health without having the words to ask for help. The issue was so stigmatized that it made me believe that I was too happy to be depressed. Honestly, I still feel stigmatized by saying that I struggled with depression because it was during a time when I wasn’t getting help. God led me to that deep healing I needed and pulled me out of that dark part of my life. I still didn’t understand my faith, but God was still at work in my life.
Each of these encounters, I did not recognize them as signs from God until a moment that occurred earlier this year, a moment where I finally understood my faith. It took me five years to find the healing that God has been trying to give me from the beginning. I do go to a Christian college, but it isn’t pushed onto students in any way. I attended our Wednesday chapel services most weeks but had definitely missed a few because I wanted to sleep in. The night before this particular Wednesday, my volleyball team had a long bus ride home from our game and did not get back to campus until late. I was at a breaking point and spent most of that 3-hour bus ride questioning everything. However, something kept me from sleeping in that morning and made me roll out of bed to go to chapel.
I sat on the balcony of our chapel as the guest preacher was announced, and she began her sermon. That was the moment I realized that it was God that brought me to that service to hear this sermon. If you can imagine, I had to hold back all my emotions as she began preaching about healing. No one around me realized that I was crying, but that was the day that I finally felt the power of prayer. I broke down in front of my coach during our weekly meeting later that day but finally opened up about the relapse in depression that I have been experiencing. The past month of suffering started coming out, and God was able to lead me through my healing because I finally let him in. However, there is more healing to be done on my part, which I trust that God will lead me through as well.