My Personal Testimony Part 1
Sometimes you can look back on something in your life and realize - it was that moment that everything changed. How you view the world will never be the same. One of those moments for me was in December of 2016.
It was my first semester in graduate school at Andrews University in Michigan. In fact, it was the day before finals week was to begin, and I had a ton of projects I needed to complete. All three of my classes each had 20+ page research papers due around the same time, I was working three part time jobs, and it was snowing heavily outside.
I had just gotten off of work from one of my jobs, and when I got home, I realized something felt off. I decided to take a nap and hope the weird feeling would go away. However, when I woke up, I felt even worse. My heart was racing, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my stomach was tightened into a knot.
My first thought was that I was having an allergic reaction to my new asthma medication since the symptoms were kind of similar to taking a puff of a strong inhaler. I called my husband, Jonny, in to help me try and figure out what was wrong. After a few hours without any sign of getting better, we called my mom who is a nurse. She said, “It sounds like you’re having a panic attack.”
Hmm. This was something I had never considered, and honestly didn’t think were real. Nevertheless, I heeded her advice to breathe into a paper bag to try and slow my breathing and prevent hyperventilation. It helped a little, but I still felt terrible.
An ER visit in the midst of a snowstorm and visits to my primary care doctor and a counselor later, and I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, put on antidepressants, and advised to figure out what had caused such a nervous breakdown.
But at the time, I was still in the midst of it. I became extremely depressed and anxious. I was afraid to sleep. I couldn’t eat anything because I constantly had a painful, sinking feeling in my stomach that made me sick at even the thought of food. Food tasted bland anyway. I would just lay on the couch all day, with no energy to do anything but stare out the window. I refused to leave the house. I’m an extrovert, but being around people made me miserable. Even showering took an enormous amount of energy and effort.
I thought that I was staring at what the rest of my life would be like. I couldn’t imagine living in this miserable state forever. I didn’t care about anything, and was afraid of everything at the same time.
I think the most difficult thing was that I couldn’t trust myself anymore. I’m the type of person that always likes to have a plan and be in control. Sure, I had experienced bad stuff before, but I could always rely on myself to figure things out. This was different. I no longer could trust my own emotions or thoughts. It was like I was trapped in my own mind.
In my past, I had always turned to God whenever anything difficult had appeared because that’s just what good Christians do! I read the Bible with my head without taking anything to heart. I didn’t really need him since I had everything under control. I was talking to God out of obligation.
But this experience changed my perspective because I wasn’t in control of my thoughts or emotions anymore. Every day during that spring semester I would stare at myself in the bathroom mirror and try to convince myself to take a shower, get dressed, and go to class. Psalm 73:26 became my mantra. “Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
I don’t know what life changing moments you’ve experienced. I can’t even begin to guess what you have lived through or are still living through. But let me tell you one thing. You are strong. You are a warrior fighting a battle. But, you will not win by yourself.
Let me leave you with three points.
It’s ok to not be ok. You can’t see what other people are going through when they put on a happy face. But I guarantee if they haven’t gone through something in the past, they are right now or they will in the future. God loves you just the way you are. Look at the people in the Bible. They were a mess and God met them where they were.
You may be in the midst of despair and it feels like there is no way out. It will pass. It may take a day, it may take a year, it may take a lifetime of therapy but that cloud will lift and you will see the sun. Don’t give up at night when morning is coming. You just have to wait for it.
It may not be easy.There is no easy button for depression, anxiety, grief, anger, etc. I’m still on antidepressants and maybe I will be for the rest of my life. And even so, I still have bad days. But I’ve learned not to depend on myself. I learned to place my trust in someone unchanging. There is Someone who will help you fight your battles. There is Someone who will hold you when you’re too broken to fight at all.
So my plea to you more than anything else is don’t give up. Don’t give up on yourself. And don’t give up on him.
Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is a teacher at Burton Adventist Academy.