Tagged: anxiety

How Therapy Saved My Relationship

Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/gvoEfH)

Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/gvoEfH)

I first want to preface this post by explaining that I am a firm believer that God is the one who truly transforms hearts. No amount of therapy could compare to the life-changing work that my Savior has done in my life. Even still, I know that God has blessed me through my willingness to undergo weekly therapy for the past ten months.

Prior to seeing Tanya, my amazing counselor who I refer to throughout this post, I did not believe that counseling could be effective in my case. I believed that what I was battling — sadness, hopelessness, apathy, anger at others — were solely versions of spiritual attack. I believed that resorting to seeing a therapist was synonymous with not believing in God’s ability to heal me and fight for me. To some, this belief is understandable. To others, it sounds silly. Regardless of which party you fall into, I want you to know that I did not want to begin therapy when I did. I was doubtful of its ability to help me and I only went because my mom asked me to (and I now thank God that she did). I hope this piece of knowledge helps shed even more light on what I’m about to share about the effect therapy has had on my life and my relationship with Grant over the past year.

I also want to note that I interchange the word therapy for counseling quite frequently because they are one and the same. One word sounds more clinical while the other sounds more comfortable. I use both because I want to express how therapy is both clinical and comfortable at the same time. It’s not cold and frightening, but it’s also not solely filled with warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s a place where a professional can help you see the effects of the things going on inside your mind (such as emotions, fears, and memories) while also providing guidance and counsel on how to work through and even thrive with them.

How Therapy Saved My Relationship

Rewind to November 2014. My first counseling session. I was intimidated and afraid of judgment while also slightly excited. I didn’t want to be labeled as sick or depressed, yet I still had hope that this woman might have the answers that God seemed to be withholding from me. If prayer wasn’t working, maybe pills would, I told myself.

Of course, I was very mistaken in my perception of therapy. Just because you go to a professional doesn’t mean you should expect to be diagnosed with an illness and thus prescribed some medication. I ended up finding healing without medication. God used therapy to heal my soul so that my body and mind could be made well, too. This does not mean that I am better than those who do take medication. It simply means that God can now use me to bring hope to those afraid of counseling just as he uses others to bring hope to those afraid of medication. We all have different journeys of healing, thus we all have different roles to play.

After my first few sessions with Tanya, I was diagnosed with DSM-IV 309.28, which is a fancy way of saying I had “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood.” I was later re-diagnosed as having DSM-IV 300.02, which is “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Long story short, the focus of many of my sessions with Tanya have centered around the role that anxiety has played in my life. After becoming engaged to Grant in December 2014, we began to zero in on the role that anxiety has played and would continue to play in my relationship with Grant.

At the time of getting engaged, Grant and I were fighting all the time. That’s not something most people expect or want to hear. As I have assumed about others, people most likely assumed that Grant and I got engaged because we were so head over heels in love and terribly happy. The being in love part was true, but the being terribly happy part was not. We had been together for a year and we had reached a point where all our cards were laid out on the table. Our cards were not the hand we would have liked to be dealt. While my cards consisted of control issues, bitterness, and fear, his consisted of passivity and carelessness.

I want to say this once and for all for everyone who has even just one of these cards in their own hand: YOU are NOT your card. You have what many like to call “baggage” or “issues.” But they are not the true you, the person you were designed to be. You may think otherwise because these things are coming out of you, but these are things that have most likely been thrust upon you and nurtured in you from some past experience, maybe as far back as your early childhood.

You have baggage, my dear friend. But you are not defined by it. You are just lugging it around and need some help unloading it all.

What Tanya did for me was help me unload my baggage. It was a long and hard process. And I will tell you that for the first few months, I did not see much change in my life. She would remind me of the progress that I was making at every session, but I felt too defeated too many times to even believe her. This, of course, led to frustration and even more hopelessness as Grant and I continued to move closer to our wedding date with little resolution in sight. If this sounds terrifying to you, let me tell you that it most definitely was. And with every decision about the wedding that was made came more anxiety as I began to feel increasingly trapped. No one wants to be the runaway bride, but neither does anyone want to be the unhappy wife.

What’s a girl to do when she’s accepted a proposal with hope and excitement only to be hit with the reality of just how hard having a successful marriage really is? Some would say to give up and run away. In fact, I will not deny that there were friends who warned me somewhere along this journey that I did not seem to be ready for this commitment I was making. They asked me to consider delaying the wedding so that I could be absolutely certain that Grant and I should be moving forward. I will also add to this disclosure that I fortunately have had an extremely supportive family who have been able to speak truth into my life, as well. If it weren’t for them, I might actually have listened to those few friends and would not be getting ready to marry the love of my life less than two months from now.

Just a word of advice: if your twenty-year-old unmarried friends are saying something different than your forty-year-old married parents and sixty-year old married grandparents, you might want to consider what wise counsel in this situation really means. Just think about it.

Some of the things that Tanya and I discovered about myself in our sessions together shed a huge light on what was causing so many of the fights and unhappiness between Grant and I. However, when those things were first uncovered, I was not mature enough to actually implement any resolution. This, I realize now, is normal. With any major wounds, healing takes time and also continual treatment. You don’t just identify it, slap on a bandage, and expect it to go away. You have to change out the bandages and continue applying the right ointments. Otherwise, it might never properly heal. Likewise, you can’t expect your baggage to go away just because you can now identify it and want to slap a bandage on it. You have to continue to work towards healing and resolution. This is why I believe that if you go to a therapist for a couple of months and don’t think that you’re any better, I suggest that you consider sticking with it unless there is a compatibility issue between you and the therapist.

I now am at the point where I am implementing resolutions and seeing real results in both my personal life and my relationship with Grant. If I had given up on therapy this past spring because it had been six months since my first session and I was still at Grant’s throat, I would have been an absolute idiot.

I would have missed out on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me: actual healing and transformation, true happiness and peace with my soon-to-be-husband.

. . . . .

For eight months, I saw Tanya every week. Now I see her every other week. This is because Grant and I are also seeing a professional marriage counselor together. I was skeptical when we first began seeing Jason, our marriage counselor, because I was so used to being with Tanya. In fact, I cried the entire car ride home after our first session with Jason because it was just so difficult to imagine him actually helping us. What could this man possibly do for Grant and I? I’m already knee-deep in therapy with Tanya. Now I need this stranger pointing out all the things I’m still failing at?

I now enjoy seeing Jason with Grant because he has proven himself to be a helpful source of guidance in our relationship. Tanya was right when she first suggested that we see him; there are some things that need to be worked out as a team. Despite the progress I was making with her, Grant was missing out on the experience. He would sometimes come to my sessions, but we were only able to scratch the surface there. Seeing Jason gives him more opportunities to unload his own baggage. If you ask Grant, he would say that he has learned a lot about himself since our first session together. And this newfound knowledge he has enables him to better love me as he works through his own issues and I continue working through mine.

Today Grant and I are thriving more than ever before. We are happier than we were when we first began dating. He loves me more deeply than I thought he could ever love me, and I can also say the same about myself. We have been humbled in a major way. For the first time in my life, I am able to both forgive and apologize freely; the desire for control and perfection no longer dominates me. For the first time in his life, Grant is able to be sacrificial in the way he loves and run full force in his pursuit of me; passivity no longer holds him back. This summer has been the best summer I have ever had because all of the hard work we put into this relationship and our continual pursuit of healing have finally paid off. We are not perfect and we never will be, but we are infinitely more ready for this marriage than we ever thought we could be.

I don’t want you to miss this or take this lightly: Grant and I owe so much to therapy.

Tears stream down my face when I think about where we were when we first signed up for this marriage thing and where we are now. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Tanya and Jason have played a vital role in our relationship. It needed to happen. And the best part is that it doesn’t stop there. Yes, therapy has done so much for us, but we now see when we look back that it’s been Jesus doing the work all along. Tanya and Jason were equipped by him to supply us with the wisdom and hope that we needed to keep going. And Grant and I have been equipped by him to put in the hard work and love each other despite our difficulties. Jesus has healed and softened both of our hearts, and he used counseling in a big way to do it. An instant fix wouldn’t have been as praise-worthy in this situation. I know this to be true because God has given me instant fixes before and I continually forget them and neglect to thank him for them.

This journey of healing between Grant and I that has required so much time, so much effort, so much heartache and praying and desperation is worth more than anything I’ve ever been given apart from salvation. 

. . . . .

So to answer the question that many people have in the back of their minds but are either too skeptical or afraid to ask: Yes, therapy is worth every penny and minute of your day. Especially when you have a personal relationship with Jesus and he is guiding you the whole way.

If you are a Christian and have areas in your life that require healing, I implore you to begin praying that God gives you clarity on whether therapy is the next step for you to take. And if you aren’t seeming to get an answer, I then ask you to have faith, be brave, and try it anyway. When I first began counseling, I did not want to go. I did not believe it could fix me. And I was right. It didn’t fix me. God just used it as a tool to heal me. And he can do the same for you.

Both Tanya and Jason are believers. This has proven to be tremendously helpful because a lot of healing that needed to occur in my life was very much, if not entirely, related to my spiritual life. I suggest that you find somebody whose faith aligns with yours. I don’t know if it is absolutely essential, but I know it is most likely important. God can use anybody, but the journey to healing is probably easier when you’re being counseled by somebody who has similar values and beliefs as you.

The last thing and maybe the most important thing I want to mention about therapy is the financial cost. When I talk to my friends about seeing a therapist, the biggest reason they give me for not going is money-related. They say that they just can’t afford it. And they might be right. In that case, they might benefit from finding a therapist who works with their insurance or, if they’re a college student, seeing a professional who provides free services at their school. There are also most likely programs or ministries at their church that offer similar services, although they might not be offered by trained, licensed professionals. There is nothing wrong with receiving help from these sources versus receiving help from trained, licensed professionals if they are able to give the necessary amount of support.

To give you a picture of what my therapy has cost my family, I will tell you that every session of therapy I go to is $100. If it was compatible with my insurance, it would be less, but it’s not. Because I see Tanya by myself twice a month and also go with Grant to see Jason twice a month, my mom and dad pay $400 for therapy each month. At one point, my parents were also going to therapy, as well. You can imagine how expensive our cumulative therapy bill was.

You probably think that that is an absurd amount to be spending, and I respect that opinion because I know that different people place different worth on different things. I, however, would have been willing to pay even more than $400 if I knew that God was going to do this work in my life. If my mom were to tell me that she couldn’t help me pay for therapy any longer, I would’ve gotten a second job. I would’ve given up my nicest clothes, date nights with Grant, Starbucks coffee, textbooks, manicures, unlimited data plans, and vacations. I would have found a way to keep going. Thankfully, I am at the point where I feel comfortable with not seeing Tanya or Jason every week and I could see them less if money needed to be conserved. This could not have been the case just a few months ago. At the beginning of summer, Grant and I were on the brink of revelation, of uncovering this amazing place of peace we are now living in. If we had quit too early in order to conserve time, energy, or money, it would’ve been a true shame. It’s true that God could have continued healing us anyway, but what we’ve gained through therapy is just too valuable to imagine giving back.

If you are on the fence about whether or not to begin seeing a counselor because you are afraid of it being expensive, my words of advice are to find a way. If you are serious about your healing, you should take the time to assess how money can be allocated towards it rather than being allocated towards non-essentials. Going out with friends every week is a non-essential. Buying nice, new clothes is a non-essential. Using your gas to go to Atlanta every weekend for fun is non-essential. Manicures and tans are non-essential. The latest pieces of technology are non-essentials. And in many cases, proving your independence by refusing to ask your family for support in affording something that is good and perhaps vital for your health is non-essential.

I cannot stress this enough: your wellbeing is far too important for you to delay doing something about it.

It might not be so important to you right now, but I know it is very important to God. He has entrusted you with this beautiful life. And if you are not living as you are called to live because baggage or wounds or illness is holding you back, you are doing both yourself and God a disservice. Some might argue I am being too harsh; I argue that people are not harsh enough.

My prayer for everybody reading this post is that you take the time to pray and think through the decision of going to therapy. Some people reading this truly just don’t need it or are already receiving it, and I think that is great. Other people reading this probably do need it and are holding themselves back, and I think that is sad. I don’t want anybody to hold themselves back from what God has in store for them. And if you are not allowing yourself to receive help in your process of healing, or if you are not even striving towards healing, that’s exactly what you are doing. Counseling is not for everybody; sometimes prayer and continual pursuit of God is enough. But sometimes in your pursuit of God, you are led to other sources of help. Don’t do yourself a disservice by resisting them.

Believe that God has trained up an army of counselors and helpers who are designed to love you, counsel you, and encourage you in your darkest times of need. Therapy is far from worthless or a waste of money. You can ask Grant and I after years of marriage and even ask our future children down the road if we are glad that we made the decision to receive help. I am positive that we will give you a resounding yes.

Are you that positive that you won’t look back on your life and wish you did the same sooner?

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Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

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There were a lot of things people didn’t warn me about prior to getting engaged, such as how being engaged doesn’t look anything like it does on social media. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in this idea that the season of engagement is supposed to be purely blissful and filled with photos, presents, and romance. For the benefit of those who are currently engaged or going to someday be engaged, I’ve put together a list of things that I have learned over the past four months on what planning a wedding, preparing for a marriage, and being engaged is really like.

. . . . .

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

1. You will feel somewhat guilty for every decision you make pertaining to your wedding when your parents’ money is involved.

Very few of us have the privilege of coming from a well-off family that has thirty grand to spend on their daughter’s special day. I am not one of those few. My mom gave me a budget and at first, her number sounded too high. As time is passing by, however, I’m realizing that it’s pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have your dream wedding without costing your mom and dad a couple (and by couple, I mean TEN) of thousands of dollars.

2. You will wonder if your flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you knew you had faults before, you will certainly realize the gravity of them when you get engaged. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that someone is COMMITTING THEIR LIFE TO YOUR CRAZY, MESSED-UP SELF. And you’ll wonder if you’ll be the one to ruin it all. As a result, you will go into self-improvement overdrive. When that doesn’t work, you’ll think that maybe you should just do them a favor and break the whole thing off.

3. You will wonder if YOUR PARTNER’S flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you thought you were critical before, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. There’s something about the idea of “wow, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person” that sends you into obsessive, crazy mode. You will nitpick every single thing they do, and become familiar with the phrase, “you better not do that when we’re married.” When fixing your partner’s problems doesn’t work, you may even think that you should just do yourself a favor and break the whole thing off.

4. You will mentally size up anyone and everyone’s engagement/wedding rings.

No matter how breathtakingly beautiful your ring is, there will be someone whose diamond is brighter and whose band is more intricate. And even though you’ll claim that you don’t care about the size of your diamond and you think your ring is perfect, you will start to wonder if people are judging you based off of yours just like you’re judging them. But of course you won’t vocalize these thoughts because 1) you would break the heart of the man who spent all that money on it, and 2) who wants to be that woman who isn’t satisfied with the ring she is supposedly in love with? By the way, having these thoughts, I’ve realized, is not dissatisfaction. It’s insecurity. There is a difference.

5. You will feel like you’re already married, which only makes things more difficult.

I’m going to be frank with you: there’s nothing worse than having to say goodnight and retreat to separate beds when you know that in just a couple of months you’ll be in the same bed every night. When you get engaged, sleeping with the love of your life (and no, I do not just mean sexually) is no longer just a dream or fantasy to you; it’s soon-to-be reality. But just because it WILL be true doesn’t mean it is just yet. And waking up to that fact isn’t fun at all. You will not only hate climbing into bed alone, but you will even hate brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, and going grocery shopping alone. You will be so fixated on the future in which you and your partner will finally be in the same home that you will begin to loathe your separate lives. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. Maybe people danced around it and said things to me like, “oh, you will want a short engagement.” BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX AND NOW I KNOW IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND IT SUCKS.

6. You will secretly (or vocally) loathe purchases that your partner makes with his money.

Because soon his money will become your money. And there’s no way you want to see all of your money going towards comic books, iTunes, and computer speakers. You want that money to go towards the nail salon instead. Did I mention that you’ll discover your fiancé’s abhorrence of credit cards is an actual PHOBIA that he will USE AGAINST YOU EVERY TIME HE SEES THOSE STUPID CARDS IN YOUR WALLET??? Just don’t get them if you think they might be an issue, folks. Dave Ramsay was right; money fights are real.

7. You will realize that you no longer like some of your ideas of being a thrifty bride.

Like when you look at wedding dresses in thrift stores and on Craigslist. Buying someone’s used wedding dress might be pragmatic, but it certainly is not all that romantic. The first time you try on a brand new wedding dress in an actual wedding dress store, you most likely won’t check another thrift store or Craigslist post again. You will also realize that just having a chili bar at your wedding, though cute for the Fall season, is not going to fill the stomachs of your family members and friends who drove eight hours or stood in line at an airport to see you get married.

8. People will make you feel like all you are is a bride.

Never-mind the fact that you have a ministry and personal goals and school and a blog. When people see you, the first thing they’ll talk to you about is the fact that you’re getting married… and then the conversation will end.

9. You will find the perfect wedding dress, purchase it, take it home, and then spend the rest of the time leading up to the wedding thinking about whether you should return it.

Is it really the most flattering one? Are you sure it doesn’t make my waist too large? But is it too fancy? Too big? Too plain? You will begin to doubt everything about that dress sitting in your closet, even though you felt like a beautiful princess when you first tried it on and all of your family members cried when they saw you in it. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) will take over in ways you never realized it could.

10. You will realize who your real cheerleaders are.

You will find out whether or not your parents are really all that fond of your significant other. If they actually are (and thank God this is the case for me), they will shower you with more love than you ever anticipated. You’ll begin to freak out and think that maybe they just want to get rid of you. Why else would they be throwing so much money, advice, and free furniture at you? It might be shocking to see just how supportive your family is (and if they’re not, it could be equally as shocking to see just how indifferent or insensitive they are). You will also begin to realize which of your friends are cheering you on and which ones could care less as long as they get a seat on your big day.

11. You will accidentally turn into a Brideszilla in front of your fiancé.

Your fiancé will pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to wedding planning, and this will only piss you off. You will start to rant about how hard you’re working to make this day perfect while all he does is ask stupid questions and make dumb suggestions. “NO. JUST NO. STOP IT. I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK THE COLORS ARE CORAL AND NAVY. DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAY?!” will actually come out of your mouth in a very loud decibel. You won’t realize just how obsessive you are until it’s your wedding day on the line.

12. People will assume they are invited to the wedding when they actually aren’t.

I’ve never seen this happen in movies and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that this has occurred with them, but trust me — it happens. All of a sudden, the people you haven’t talked to since high school start commenting on your photos and asking questions about when they’re getting an invite to the wedding. This is highly uncomfortable, and besides just pretending I didn’t see these comments, I haven’t figured out a polite way to handle them so far.

13. You will fear coming across as narcissistic or self-centered when you talk about getting married on any form of social media.

You’re excited and kind of want to brag! Not in an “OOO, LOOK AT ME” kind of way, but in a “wow, can you believe that this guy picked me and we get to have a future together?” kind of way. Even though you will see many forms of “spotlight” statuses on Facebook (i.e. getting a new job or making the Dean’s List), you will become paranoid that everyone hates everything you post on social media relating to relationships, love, being engaged, or marriage. You know that saying, “you hate me cuz you ain’t me?” You will think this is actually relevant to you now. You will also think that you being engaged and posting about it is the only reason people are unfollowing you on Instagram.

14. You will consider running away and eloping just to spare yourself from any more wedding stress, not to mention the torture of the wait.

As time goes on, you get more and more fed up with all of these decisions you’re having to make and all of these months you’re having to wait. Who cares about guest lists and catering menus? You’re just ready to seal the deal and get on with it! Let’s elope and just start our lives together NOW! Grandma will forgive us, you frantically tell your fiancé as you grow more and more desperate to escape the engaged life.

15. You will ask Google wedding-related questions on a daily basis.

Such as “how to address Save the Dates”, “who pays for the honeymoon”, “how to tell someone to not bring a plus one” , “can my mother be my Matron of Honor” , “how to pick your bridesmaids” , “how to fake calligraphy” , and “do I wear my engagement ring on my wedding day.” Yes, I have had to Google every single one of these things. The Internet is an amazing place.

16. You will feel like you don’t fit into some of your social circles anymore.

Bible studies for singles or students just don’t seem to be tailored for you anymore, and even hanging out with single friends, even though you swore getting engaged wouldn’t change anything, doesn’t excite you as much as it used to. You will find that you relate to them less and less, and you will cling to the people around you who actually are in long-term relationships because you don’t feel like the odd one out around them. Yes, being engaged can actually be isolating, especially when you’re a twenty-something still in the throes of college.

17. You will be more self-conscious about how in shape you are for your wedding day than you are any other time of the year.

Even though you’re fine with your weight or your size for most of the year, the pressure to have the perfect body becomes way more real when you get engaged. You know that those wedding photos will be around FOREVER and you want to look hella good in them (or at least just have super toned arms since the whole strapless dress thing). As a result, you will fixate on exercising and eating right, which, FYI, DOESN’T MAKE YOU A GODDESS OVERNIGHT. In case you didn’t get the memo (because I sure didn’t), it’s going to take some time to break out of the sedentary lifestyle you’ve been in for the past four or five years. So good luck forcing yourself to run on the treadmill that faces the mirror and shows you just how awkward you look on that treadmill. Who do you think you are — a runner?? 

18. You will forget that God has always provided for you.

If you’re moving out of your parents’ home when you get married, you have both the excitement and fear of being out on your own. You’re imagining all of the things you and your spouse will do together while also worrying about how you’ll pay for those things. You’ll be creating budgets that you don’t know will actually work and you’ll be making financial plans that you don’t know will actually stick. And as you fixate on money and homes and material things, you will begin to see life more out of the lens of an anxious woman than a woman protected and taken care of by the Creator of the universe. You will forget that God has been there with you every time you’ve been alone and confused. You will forget that he has shown up in miraculous ways in your life, that he answers prayer. You will think that you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t.

. . . . .

My lovelies, being engaged can be an intense and anxious time. Besides the constant fantasizing of just how amazing your life will supposedly get when you’re finally married, there’s also the fear of the unplanned, unknown future. Both of these things can stifle your closeness with God if you’re not careful. This is something I’ve been experiencing firsthand and am hoping to encourage other women with if anyone is finding that they, too, are letting this chaotic wedding season take their eyes off the true Prize.

My last conclusion on this whole being engaged thing is that it isn’t as great as it looks in the movies or on Facebook, but that’s perfectly fine, especially when you think about how short of a period this is in the grand scheme.Years down the road, when Grant and I are wrinkly and grey, this season will be remembered as a blur. We will have graduated on to bigger things, like having children, buying a home, having a career, and seeing our family grow. So I’ve decided that while I’m in this “waiting period” called engagement, I’m going to try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can.

Whisper a prayer on my behalf when you think of me, please. I could use it.

And if you’ve learned any lessons from being engaged that you think other women could benefit from, please feel free to comment below! I know that I for one am desperate for more knowledge. I’m already building my long list of questions for our premarital counselor. Lord have mercy on him and on us. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’m ready.

Christianity Didn’t Fix Me

I decided to commit my life to following Christ five years ago.

To set the scene that led up to that decision, I was confused, depressed, and angry and couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out why. This is just the way I am, I would sometimes tell people when asked about my troubled state of mind. Most of the time, I shut everyone out so I could deal with my hurt on my own. Or NOT deal with it, I guess you could say.

I was fourteen years old and had been self-harming for several years. Maybe it was due to family problems, a result of perfectionism, or just experimentation… whatever it was, it was destructive. A good friend of mine reached a point where she couldn’t watch me do this to myself any longer. The night I resolved to quit self-harming and pursue a relationship with God was the night she communicated to me that it was getting too hard to be my friend (I really do thank her for that, and we are still friends to this day). The question she asked that I will forever carry with me was, Why can’t you just choose to be happy?

I didn’t have an answer. And at that point I knew that if I was ever going to be happy or escape this numb zombie-like state of being, there would have to be a higher power intervening in my life. I just couldn’t fix myself.

So I turned to God (and Jesus, because I am a Christian and believe that Jesus is the only way to be rescued). And I’ve been loving and following Him ever since.

But the depression that had led me to Him has been trying to tear me away ever since.

I wish I could tell you that I’m not at all like my fourteen-year-old self. I wish I could testify that God has healed me of all my depression and anxiety and desire to harm myself.

But He hasn’t. Not yet, at least.

It’s been five years and I still am an emotional mess. I still have frequent thoughts of self-harm. I still am hurting people by my withdrawal and unexplained sadness. I still am wondering how I’m going to make it through the day and if I should just curl up in a ball and pray for something to come along to kill me.

And I still don’t have answers. I can’t explain where all of this is coming from. I can’t pinpoint some horrid childhood experience that has made me this way. I’m still just as confused and lost.

Truthfully, I get angry at God for letting me be this way.

If you’re so powerful and can do anything, why won’t you heal me? Do you even WANT me healed? Or am I just a pawn in this world that’s supposed to deal with whatever comes to make sure you get the glory? Are you supposed to be glorified in this? Because if so, then I don’t want to glorify you. I don’t want to serve you. If you won’t free me from this, then why do I even bother? 

I love God. I love Him so much.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes. It’s hard to follow Him. Cookie-cutter Christianity might tell you that it’s not hard to follow Jesus if you’re truly desiring to worship Him and surrender to Him. To that, I reply with, “Well, call me selfish, then… because this is the hardest thing in the world.” But don’t think it’s not also the most fulfilling. It is.

I just want you to know the truth. I’m not some phenomenal writer and amazing person who goes and selflessly spends her summer with refugees because she’s such a great follower of Jesus. I’m not the optimist I used to be labeled as in high school. I’m not even the realist/almost-cynic I get labeled as now in college.

I’m just a girl who’s fighting to know what it means to love God while not knowing how to love herself.

I’m not doing the best job at fighting, but I’m working on it and I think that’s worth something.

Of course there are days (many of them, actually) where I tear myself down for still struggling with this depression and these awful thoughts.

If I believe in God so much, why am I not praying more against this? If I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, why am I not standing in faith and rebuking these lies and attacks? If I am hurting so much, why am I not seeking counseling or medication? If I’m so depressed, then why do I still find ways to smile and have friends and do fun things?

But there’s a little part of me that also pats myself on the back. Good job, Jessie! You hate your life but you still carve out time each morning to talk to Jesus. You want to self-harm, but you haven’t in FIVE YEARS. You feel so much and sometimes it makes you numb, but at least you don’t make yourself not feel anything. You still let yourself love and be loved– not perfectly, but you’re making progress. 

There’s much victory to be celebrated in my story. I don’t feel victorious all the time, but I know that God has done some really amazing things in my life. He’s gotten the glory, whether I wanted Him to or not. He’s doing the healing, and I’m letting Him.

I’ve been afraid of losing credibility or being rejected for having these thoughts and struggles, but in all actuality, they make me so RELEVANT. I’m not fixed, and that’s okay. No one is. I’m just one step closer to being free. Five years closer, to be more exact.

By not admitting to these things and not letting you see the real me, I’m just putting shackles around my wrists again.  The shackles that God did away with when He put His Son on a cross.

Christianity didn’t fix me; Christ just frees me.

Frees me from having to pretend my life is together. Frees me from the shame that has kept me silent for far too long.

I want to be brave in this very moment and show people they can be brave, too.

So here I am, sticking out my trembling hand to whoever you are, hoping you’ll take it.