"Depression is no surprise to God and it does not cancel His purpose for your life. You may be struggling, but you are not your struggle. You still are who God says you are. And this does not make you less of a person. You're just as valuable and your story is not over."
I'm a twenty year old extrovert who has an outgoing personality with a rambunctious laugh and crazy corny jokes to match. Looking at where I am today, you would never imagine the darkness I felt two years ago. You would never imagine the loneliness, emptiness, and hopelessness that I felt. You would have never imagined the battle I was fighting behind my super loud laugh and cheesy smile. But you see, that's what I was doing. I was fighting a battle, a battle with Satan, a battle with my mind and a battle with myself. A battle by the name of depression. If you've never experienced depression let me try my best to explain a little bit of it to you. It can be the stereotypical dark cloud following you around that you hear about in the movies and TV shows but it's bigger than that. Much bigger. It's the inability to be completely happy because you feel a constant heaviness in your heart and a lump in your throat. It's the anxiety you feel in your chest when someone asks you how you're doing but you don't want to be a bother so you smile and shake it off. It's the dreadfulness you feel whenever a person you love and enjoy being around asks you to do something and you make up every excuse you can think of not to go. It's the loss of interest of things and people that you once loved and enjoyed. It's the breaking down into tears searching for reasons and answers to why you feel so alone and empty. It's the feeling of coming up for air when you're fighting to keep your head above the water. It's many different things for many different people. It's a constant battle.
You see, no one really knew about my battle. No one really knew about how during my first year of college, instead of enjoying my freshmen year, I was spending nights alone in my bedroom weeping uncontrollably, trying to figure out why my heart never felt okay. No one really knew how my heart longed and cried out for a God that I felt so incredibly far away from. No one really knew how the emptiness I felt swallowed me whole. No one really knew how my heart would tremble in fear whenever I was alone because my darkest and ugliest thoughts would consume my every being. No one really knew how I was living and breathing but I was drowning. No one really knew that I questioned my value, my purpose, and my self worth. No one knew that my heart and mind felt like a giant, broken puzzle piece and I was struggling to make the pieces fit. I was a Christian. I can't be depressed, right? It's a sin to feel this way right? No one knew about any of these things because I didn't talk about. No one was talking about it but one day, I decided to talk about it. And once I started to talk about it, though the journey of opening up and healing process was a long and painful one, I started to see God working.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Psalms 40:1-3
I started to see that through every ounce of darkness I was walking through, God was right there by my side. During those moments when I was afraid of myself whenever I was alone, He was the reason I made it out. During those moments when I sobbing into my pillow crying out to Him, He was holding my tears in His hands. During those moments when I felt that I was drowning and struggling to breathe, He was providing the air in my lungs. In every ounce of darkness, He was still a light even when I struggled to find it.
If you would have told me that I would be able to look back at the lowest point of my life and see the way that God was working in it, I wouldn't have believed you. But He was. Oh, how He was and still is. I didn't know that during those months of feeling trapped in the darkness that He was the one picking me up, dusting me off, and putting me back on my feet each and every time I fell. I didn't know that after fighting such a long, hard, and ugly battle that God would help me find my smile again and He can help you, too. If you are a Christian who has struggles or currently struggles with depression or another mental illness, I want to remind you of a few things.
"I'm here. I love you. I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay up with you. There's nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you do, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than depression and I am braver than loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust Me."- God
You are NOT alone. If the Church was truly honest, you would find that as a child of God, there are brothers and sisters all around you who feel or have felt the way that you do. It's easy to think that you're the only person fighting this scary battle, but rest assured that there are others who hurt just as deeply as you do. Invest in the people around you who love you and will help you fight this fight with Christ's love and biblical truths.
With that being said, reach out to others when you feel that hurt. There is no shame in this battle that you are fighting. It is not a sin and you are not any less of a Christian because you have depression. You may feel scared to ask for help with the fear of what your loved ones will think, but I can promise you that your loved ones will shower you with love and support. They'd much rather get you the help that you need rather than not having you here at all.
You are loved. You are valued. You have a purpose. These are three things to always remind yourself during and after the battle. Whenever you are drowning in the darkness and you lose sight of everything that you've ever believed about who you are and Who you belong to, always remember that you are a child of God. He created you with a purpose and He loves you beyond comprehension. These are all things that you may forget at the lowest points of your battle, but trying your hardest to keep these truths close to your heart will encourage your heart in the moments when you feel like your suffocating in the sadness. Always remember that in the midst of your depression, God's love never fades.
Friends, I am praying for each and every single one of you who may be fighting this battle personally. I know it feels long and scary and you wonder if you're ever going to feel like yourself again. I know that your heart feels discouraged and you're afraid. But, I'm here to remind you that there's still a light in the midst of your darkness and that light is Jesus. He's the hope in the middle of your hopelessness. He's the love when your heart is feeling undeserving. He's the healer of the hurt that you are feeling. He is greater than your loneliness. He is greater than your hopelessness and unworthiness. And He is greater than your depression. You can do this friend. Just keep fighting. I'm so thankful for a heavenly Father who never once threw the towel in on me when so many times I wanted to give up on Him.