Our God is really, really good.
That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I sit down to write about this, because God has shown me his goodness and grace over and over again through this trial.
I hesitated a little when writing this post. I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say, how much I should share, if I’m mature enough to write about things like this, or if people would even read this or care about what I have to say (evidence of my tendency towards worry!). But I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, and I think God wants me to share this, so here I am.
First, I’m going to give a broad overview of what’s been going on with my mental health over the past six months or so, then end with what God has been teaching me through this trial.
Throughout the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, I started to suspect that I had some mental health problems, but I couldn’t quite pin down the issues or even decide for sure that there were issues at all. Looking back, I now know I was starting to struggle with anxiety and depression.
Over the year and through the summer, I continued to wonder, but it didn’t become a real issue until school started in August.
My schedule was absolutely ridiculous. I was taking full-time college classes, playing volleyball 3-6 days a week, and working part-time. I knew my schedule was crazy, but I pushed through, never having experienced burnout before.
During August through October, I slowly started to realize that my commitments were burning me out. My new job was taking up more time and energy than I expected, and it was taking a huge toll on me. I didn’t enjoy my job at all and often felt like crying and quitting while I was at work.
I also started to notice I was developing an unhealthy obsession with school and grades. I was unsatisfied with anything but the best work and my worst fear was (and still is!) bad grades. I started to not like school as much, which is weird for me because I normally love learning. I was so incredibly stressed and burnt out.
I finally quit my job and the volleyball season ended. By the end of my 8-week classes in mid-October, I was stressed and exhausted, but hopeful that my lighter schedule would allow me to rest and hopefully not feel burnt out anymore.
After a very short break, my next classes started back. Remembering how I had become too attached to school and making good grades, I tried not to overwork myself in the first week of my classes and tried to rest a little. I felt pretty good that week, hoping that these classes would be easier and less stressful than my previous ones.
And then I failed the first test of the class, and that was the spark that started the wildfire.
The next few weeks were without a doubt the worst of my entire life. School became my worst enemy. I despised anything having to do with school (or any of my responsibilities, for that matter). It felt like torture to do my schoolwork, and I was so anxious and down that I often just stopped working and cried. I was terrified of school, and wouldn’t even sit at my desk in my room because it reminded me of how horrible I felt and how much I hated my classes. All of a sudden, I felt like a different person. Before, I loved school. I had no trouble motivating myself to get things done. Now, school terrified me, and I could find no motivation or reason to do anything useful. I even considered dropping my classes, something I never would have done before.
It sounds ridiculous to get so upset about basically nothing, but at the time it felt like torture. It was such a horrible time and I never, ever want to go back to those few weeks.
I was counting down the days until Christmas break, scared that nothing would ever make me feel normal again. I hoped that my break would help, but I really didn’t know, and that scared me.
Thankfully, rest did help. My exhausted mind and heart needed a good, long break, and I enjoyed it. I was still scared that once school started back, it would all happen again. I would be starting classes at a new college, and I was scared that I would hate it.
School has started back now, and so far I’ve been so much better than I was a few months ago. I actually really like my new classes, despite what I thought might happen. When I look back, almost everything I was worried about ended up going better than I expected them to, even if it didn’t necessarily go my way. Everything worked out, despite what I had feared.
Right now, I’m doing pretty well. The anxiety and depression come and go, but overall I’m so much better than I was. I still struggle, though. I don’t know if this will continue or if it was temporary, but for now, I’m past the worst of it, by God’s grace.
What God is Teaching Me
There are so many things I could say here, so many things I’m learning. I hope to share much more about this in the future. So, I’ll end this post with some points that will hopefully give a broad overview.
God uses our suffering. God is glorified in our suffering, and we are brought closer to him and made more like Christ through it. Christians hear this over and over again, but it doesn’t really mean anything until you’ve really suffered. Now, I have a taste of how God can use the worst situations to glorify him the most. I’ve grown so much over the past few months. I value Christ more than ever before. When my mind lies to me, and my feelings make it seem like Christ isn’t there, I have to trust in him. I have to recognize that my feelings are liars, and God’s Word is always true, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Everything really will be okay. We know that “okay” doesn’t mean everything will go our way. Maybe that bad thing will happen (though I’ve been training myself not to think that way because chances are it probably won’t happen). But even if it did, God would still be good and he would still be working for my good. Not my comfort, my good–which ultimately means seeing Christ better. I hate not knowing what’s going to happen. I like being prepared, I like things going according to plan. I tend to worry about every possible bad scenario, even completely illogical ones. This whole situation has been a major test of my trust in God. I was convinced that nothing was okay, and that I would never feel okay again. But I’m learning that even though things are hard sometimes, it really is okay. In fact, not only am I okay, but I am blessed.
God is so gracious. God gives us so many incredible blessings in life, infinitely more than we deserve. It’s easy to forget that God is being gracious to even allow us to exist. It would be gracious to spare even one human life, because we don’t deserve it. But God gives us so much more than just life. He gives us salvation and a relationship with him through Jesus, he gives us a family, friends, the Church, health, laughter, and countless earthly possessions. My pride makes me think I deserve everything to go my way. I’m bitter when things go wrong because I forget that I don’t deserve anything to go right. When I step back and think about what I’m so upset about, I see that I still have everything I need. Even in our trials, God is gracious.
When you really think about it, giving us trials is one of the most gracious things God can do. Through suffering, we gain the most valuable thing in the world: a deeper understanding of and a closer relationship with Christ.
It is only because of God’s grace that anything good happens. And it is by God’s grace that he gives us trials so that we can be shaped to be more like Christ, and so that others can look at us in our suffering and see how great our God is.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 corinthians 12:9-10 esv
Jesus Christ is the only thing worth living for. A large portion of my anxiety and depression is based on school. School is a huge deal to me. I put too much of my identity in my performance. But after going through all this, it seems so silly to care so much about something so temporary. Jesus Christ should be our one and only focus, 100 percent of the time. Our goals and our wants are secondary, which means they cannot take top priority when it comes to our time, money, or behavior. This may sound scary, but it’s actually incredibly freeing. I feel most secure, most content, and most hopeful when I focus all my attention on him.
I could go on. Again, I hope to share more about this in the near future. But in the meantime, I hope this post was encouraging. If you’re going through something similar, rest in the fact that God knows you’re suffering and he is going to use it. And feel free to message me on Instagram or comment on a post or email me. I’m not an expert, but I would love to listen and help if I can.
We really do have an amazing God. I love you all. ❤️
Your sister in Christ,