But it's difficult. And more so than I expected.
Throughout the course of my thirty-two years on this earth, there have been very few periods of time during which I would say that I have "suffered" -- no major illnesses, sudden catastrophes or unexpected loss of a loved one. Life has progressed pretty much in the way in which I had always prayed it would -- with the exception of some minor bumps in the road, of course -- and I am quite certain that the majority of people who know me would say the same about my years. Most of them would be surprised to know that there have been days when just getting out of bed seemed like an unbearable task.0
You see, there is something about me that I struggle with at some point just about every single day and few people know about it. I have been diagnosed with, treated for and fought against depression for the last fifteen years of my life. And this has been my thorn. This has been my greatest suffering.
For those of you who have experienced true depression, you know what I am talking about: the daily struggle to keep your head above water, the constant feeling of worthlessness, helplessness and frustration that you just can't live your life "like everybody else", the complete lack of interest and motivation in anything and everything. It's more than just a "bad day" -- it's a state of mind that most oftentimes does not present itself as a choice, but rather is the result of biological make-up, brain chemistry, hormones, inherited traits or traumatic life events (source: Mayo Clinic Causes of Depression).
After dealing with some emotional challenges throughout my last years of grade school and into my first years of high school, my mom and I decided that it was time to figure out what was really going on. After meeting with several counselors and psychiatrists, it was quite clear that I was clinically depressed. We all know that hormones and mood swings are typical of many teenage girls but what I was feeling was different: during some of my really low moments, I would find myself wishing that I could simply slip away somewhere...Somewhere that no one could find me or ask me to explain to them what was wrong or -- worse yet -- tell me to just "be happy and smile", as if it were that simple.
It's taken a long time but between medication, a higher sense of self-awareness and many conversations with God, I think I have finally accepted that this is the "thorn in my flesh" which the Lord has seen fit to give me. And as long and difficult as some of the days may be, I can actually say that I thank God for my suffering.
Wait...did I just say that?
I have prayed many, many times for God to take this illness from me -- for when I am in the pit of it all I have never felt so helpless and alone. But yet He hasn't. Instead, He has used this suffering to mold my character, to help me grow into the person that He wants me to be. Without having suffered through some of these darkest times, I would never have developed such empathy for other people. Having the knowledge of what it feels like to constantly appear to everyone else as stable and steady when my world on the inside feels as though it is falling apart has instilled such a deep concern and true compassion for other people. I also would have never learned how to fulling rely on God as I have during those times. There is a danger in being "too blessed": we can so easily get caught up in our world and what is going right that we forget just who gave us those blessings and the fleeting nature of them. If it weren't for these times spent in the pit of depression, I may have become too self-reliant and placed too much trust and hope in the things of this world.
No matter how lost I feel, I am never without hope. For happiness is not the same as joy. As Christians, we can be assured that no matter how difficult life here on earth may be or how much we are suffering, we can always be filled with the joy that comes from knowing Christ as our Savior and that our heavenly home awaits.
*If you feel that you may be suffering from depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness, it is important that you talk to someone, whether it be a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. If you would like to seek professional treatment, there are many qualified counselors available through Christian Family Counseling. You can reach them at 800.438.1772.