As human beings, we all go through experiences that are life changing. They can be wonderful adventures that make us excited to share with other people. The sad truth, however, is: they’re not all so wonderful. Some experiences we endure in life are terrible, the kind that are equally as life changing as the good ones, but lacking the joy which makes us jump off our chairs to share the news. Whether our experiences be good or bad, I think it’s extremely important that we share them with one another. You never know who is desperately hungry to hear your story, just as I was at one point. And sometimes, when we’re willing to share, we may find that in trying to help someone else, we’re also helping ourselves.
So, this is me, timid and unsure of how to share this part of me. I say “a part” because that’s exactly what it is. While depression and anxiety is not something to minimize, it is also not something that defines a person. When I was 19, that perfect age where one should be excited for new experiences, trips, new friends, and opportunities, I was experiencing the weight of anxiety and depression. As far as I had known, my life was going just fine. I had a wonderful tight-knit family, a boyfriend, fun friends, I was in school, and there was much to learn and be excited for. I went to church every weekend, participated in youth programs, sang in the church choir and I knew very well that there was a God that loved me and was there for me in all situations. If you knew me, you’d say that I had every reason to be happy and grateful. Few are blessed with all that I have been provided with.
Still, I had become so anxious that I could no longer accomplish or participate in routine daily activities. Like an unexpected wave, I was hit by a deep depression, as it often goes hand in hand with anxiety. It hit me hard, unexpectedly, and without a reason. I’m not sure which came first, but I can assure you that I was feeling both. These feelings were together scary and embarrassing. I wasn’t comfortable admitting to my mom or my sister that my heart was racing for no particular reason, or that I felt too sad or scared to leave the house that day. I felt so much guilt for bringing the responsibility of taking care of me on my family when I should’ve been perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I felt so much guilt because I was blessed with so much, and somehow I still felt sad. I often thought people would think that I was making it up or just seeking attention. At one point, I was so convinced that I was going crazy that I decided it wouldn’t be good for me to be left alone. I was too scared of facing a panic attack with no one around to help me. I was a mess. It took a toll on every part of me, mentally and physically. I lost weight, had no appetite, had frequent stomach pains, and my malnutrition was just another thing to add to the list. It was so hard to see past an hour, let alone past a day, or even a week. I thought this was the new and permanent me. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As you can imagine, I was desperate for help. As hard as it was to admit to my family that I was anxious and unhappy, a state of being that was a little foreign to us at the time, I desperately wanted to feel normal again. God had placed people in my life whom I never imagined to have experienced anything remotely similar to my situation. But there they were, smiling and telling me with confidence that I was okay even though I didn’t feel okay. I found it easier to share my thoughts and feelings with those who understood what I was going through because they were a living breathing testimony that things do get better. I don’t know if they realize how much I appreciated their stories, as hard as it might have been for them to share them with me. They gave me hope, and painted a picture of what my life could be like: a stronger, more resilient me. I had one friend tell me, as I was sobbing, that she was excited for me. She said she was excited to see me grow and overcome this, and she was excited to see the new person I would become.
Now that I’m able to share my story, I realize in fact how much I’ve grown. So much of what I went through has shaped who I am today. It may sound completely insane, but it was a blessing in disguise. I never really appreciated happiness until I had experienced grief. I never really sought out God until I actually needed Him. Now I realize I need Him daily and with Him, I can get through all my days.
I love the new me. I’m finishing up a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science, I’m part of a running club, I have a job that I love, I’ve recently traveled to and through Europe (bucket list dreams!), and I have the best family and friends who were right by my side through it all. I’m so thankful for my experience and I wouldn’t take it back. I have a new perspective in life and I know it’s meant for me to share with others.
To anyone going through a similar situation, I need you to know that you’re not alone. You will make it through and you are strong enough. Some days you might feel sad or anxious, but you don’t have to be scared of it anymore. You’re also going to have amazing days, days that are filled with charm and beauty. Those are the days that are worth fighting for and those days will be many. Agatha Christie puts it so simply,
“I like living, I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
Photo by Li Yang