Have you ever had a day where you felt like it would never stop? Test after test, friendship and relationship struggles, projects, practices, games… you get the point. I’ve experienced days like that and they are insanely busy, tiring, and just kind of annoying. Often times I wondered, “What if I just ran from all of it?”
To make matters worse I began struggling with even more anxieties, anxieties about: past worries, college decisions, the future, and even my faith. I wrestled with these anxieties for a while and though I have certainly been able to manage them better, this is something that I still struggle with today.
Often I wonder why did this happen? I felt fine in the beginning of the school year. I’ve had worries like this in the past, but nothing that has trapped me as much as these anxieties did. After praying and reflecting on this question a great deal, I strongly believe that this was Jesus telling me to wake up.
When I did speak to some people about depression I was met with a mixed response; well-meaning people said some non-productive things. One friend, who is a faithful Christian, told me that, “It was a spiritual problem and I didn’t need a diagnosis.” I felt even weaker, “He’s right,” I thought, “If I had a better prayer life and closer relationship with God, I wouldn’t feel the way that I do.” Those feelings were what caused me to stay quiet.
I would panic. I didn’t understand what was going on. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, and my body felt like it belonged to another world, but as a little girl all that I could explain to my mom was “that I felt weird.” Throughout my childhood I experienced situations like this. I lived in fear, but not the type of fear that could be silenced by a calm voice or reason. My mind spun, my brain hurt, and I often felt panicked.
Let's imagine that one day in Phys Ed class you're playing volleyball and you twist your ankle while you dive for a save. Everything feels all right, but you wake up the next morning with a giant bruise, a swollen ankle and a lot of pain. What would you do? Most likely you'd go to the doctor's. In fact, if you didn't go, but kept limping around insisting you were all right, your friends would probably drag you there themselves.
We know when it's important to get professional help with our physical ailments. It just makes sense to us. But as a society we have problem seeking professional help with our mental health. We often label people with mental illnesses as 'crazy,' and think that if we can't take care of issues that affect our mental health (like stress, anger, or loss) then we must be weak.
I know the wounds can be deep; trust me, I've been there.
I spent six years of my life terrified to walk into school. I spent six years trying to figure out what to wear, how to act, what to do in order for the bullying to stop. I started hanging out with the 'cool kids,' but it only got worse, so I joined the sport teams and clubs, and that didn't help, so I decided to just give up.
As the new year began, I was still jobless and doubting that it was God's plan for me to make such a big move in just a few months. However, I went to daily Mass one day and found myself begging God to help me understand what He had planned for me. I remember praying over and over, 'Lord, give me the grace to follow you, even unto death.'
The problem with the self-help phenomenon is it can gives us the illusion that we can actually fix ourselves without the help of God. Instead of dealing with our hurt, sin, and deep issues, we learn strategies for coping and hiding. We're just putting band-aids over our gaping, oozing wounds.
In high school, I hid my wounded-ness and deep insecurity behind my list of achievements. With three varsity sports, student council, shiny awards and leadership roles galore, I looked like I had my act together. But inside, I never thought I was enough. I was never pretty enough, smart enough, or funny enough. I believed lies about myself that bound me. I thought the shame and pain I carried inside from past hurts could never mend. So I just coped. I kept pushing through and pretending I was okay when I wasn't.