She couldn’t breathe.
She was under a haunted past that choked her every day.
Moving almost every year cost her every friend she ever had. The pressure to conform to cliques led her to lash out at classmates and eat lunch alone. Bullying hacked away at her usually cheerful soul, and school became a place of fear – not education.
She was an outsider.
She was constantly a casualty of good intentions that resulted in a harsh impact. Her family was blind to the consequences it had when they placed her in online school. It stripped her of a social life beside the comforting one she found on a computer screen.
Depression was a confusing phenomenon, one that immobilized her. She was once eager to jump out of bed in the morning, but she started to wish that her bed was just another appendage. Seemingly endless pools of joy became stagnant puddles. She found her heart hollow and foul in spirit. Conversations with concerned souls evoked defiant behavior, radically different from her once playful demeanor. Her pain was unexplainable. She herself did not know what was wrong.
But something was terribly off.
On an especially turbulent day, only the pounding Oregon downpour outside of their vehicle could have shrouded the obscenities she screamed at her mother. Shocked by her actions, she became achingly aware of her deep sorrow.
She knew she needed to find a solution.
The various churches and youth groups she had gone to, no matter how staggered her attendance, always claimed that “Jesus was the only answer.”
So, she decided to give Jesus a try.
Her timid prayer and hesitant Scripture reading led her to realize God had an abundance of love and grace for her. The Holy Spirit filled her hollowness. He fought her lingering downheartedness – and He won. He took her hand and began to lead.
She thought college would be a fresh start. Real friends. A clean reputation. New challenges. And it actually was – a very fresh and verdant start.
But, one by one, the stitches containing her tormented sadness tore open again. She felt the numbness that she tried desperately to escape. She clawed at anything that might distract her, so she surrounded herself with friends and schoolwork and activities. Distraction only added to the panic she felt in her heart. She had never opened up to people outside of her family, but she felt trusting new friends might be the only option she had. A mention of free counseling interested her – maybe an educated person knew of a way out of this painful cycle.
Counseling did a number on her emotional health. Vulnerability led to processing emotional trauma she never knew she suffered from. She lamented on journal pages to squeeze out all the illness and bacteria from her mind. Her emotions took control, she got honest and angry with God, and academics sat on the backburner. She struggled to come to terms with the truth for fear of over-dramatizing her feelings. But her patient counselor guided her to a place of healing. And she began to understand herself and her pain. She found answers and clarity.
But, as she came to terms with her experiences, underneath the reason and science, the hurt still remained.
To refocus her mind on Jesus, her Comforter, she found herself serving at a summer camp. She had hoped it to be an escape, but it only brought in new hardships. She hid the darkness with big smiles and silly skits. No matter how hard she tried, it came out in deep conversations and stressful situations.
She was back at square one. Just masking her pain and pushing through it. This cycle of hurt had to stop. In a moment of despair and panic, she sought refuge in the only One who could deliver her.
“God,” she sobbed. “I cannot do this alone.”
Her strappy sandal feet halted on the crunchy gravel path. Ducks floated near the lake’s shore and quacked at one another. Bugs chirped and buzzed in the warm summer air.
“If you care,” she said, as she stretched her arms up toward His painted afternoon sky, “show up and let me feel Your presence.”
Tears pricked her eyes and her throat tightened. Little, sorrowful tears rolled down her cheeks. A sob escaped from her lips. The wind riffled through the evergreen trees and past her ears and carried with it a small, still voice.
“Everything will work out perfectly,” He said.
And I could breathe again.
published in October of 2018 for Corban University’s newspaper