I was fortunate to grow up in a Christian home, and regularly attended church and clubs. I was shy and believed that only my best behavior and a smile were tolerated at church - that the Christian God was unspeaking and impersonal.
As I moved through my teen years, I realized my shyness was actually anxiety and inwardly believed that feelings like these were not to be admitted. As high school graduation approached, my anxiety worsened regarding my future plans.
The following summer, I experienced my first panic attack, by throwing up in public at a community breakfast, thus beginning a long downward spiral. Soon, the mere thought of food triggered a panic attack. It escalated to the point that I could barely eat all, even when alone.
As anxiety moved into depression, I was encouraged to make an appointment with a doctor who was taking new patients. At the time, she diagnosed me with Social Anxiety Disorder and Bi-polar Depression, and prescribed an antidepressant. Through the haze of trying to find a medication that worked, dealing with side effects, and withdrawals, I was a mess for years. During this time, the only way I found to experience a brief release of inner pain was to sit on the floor and hit my head against the wall.
I felt completely alone, beyond hopeless, and a total failure.
After several years of barely eating, and trying many medications with little relief, I found the courage to begin meeting with a mental health worker. It was nice to have someone to talk to, even though I was unable to be truly vulnerable. Even so, she did help me to be able to eat again. It was a miracle! However, by then I had developed crippling Obsessive-compulsive Disorder. With each new label I sank deeper into darkness. Even though I attended countless support groups, met with psychiatrists and various doctors, no one was able to help me.
About this time, I started praying for a good friend, and God answered my prayer! I met a woman, Michelle, who would completely change my life. We were best friends for 6 years before she passed away due to Ovarian Cancer. During the six months after her death, three more people in my life passed away.
The days that followed were brutal for me. I was heartbroken, seemingly beyond repair. I had no idea how to cope with grief, and although I was still seeing my therapist, I was unable to truly share what was going on in my heart. I hid in my basement suite where tears of grief poured down my face for hours. I was furious at God. How could He allow this? There was no way that He loved me. It was too painful to let myself love others if they were just going to be taken from me, so I put up a wall around my heart to protect me. I just wanted to die. I spiraled down into becoming suicidal, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone.
Even though I was at rock bottom, I knew God was with me and He would provide. He was starting to show me that He IS the Rock at the bottom. Like Hosea 2:14-15 says, God had taken me into the desert so He could bring me back to Him. He was transforming my Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. Psalm 116:3-4 says “Death wrapped it’s ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord; ‘Please, Lord, save me!’” And that is what I did! I called out to Him.
As a result, I got a job that would change my life. The owner wasn’t actually hiring, but when she heard about me, she knew God wanted her to hire me. The owner shone Jesus to me, talked about what God was doing in her life and how He was speaking to her. Being drawn to this joy, I decided to fully give my life to Jesus. I started volunteering at church and going to after-service prayer. I learned about devotions, journaling, and spiritual warfare. I also learned how to hear God’s voice. I was finally getting to know this God I’d claimed to follow my whole life.
Through God’s speaking to me through His Word, I decided to write out special verses and quotes and put them on my wall. It is my “Wall of Truth,” and its verses are proof that the enemy is a liar, and that God DOES speak. After four years of adding to this wall, I still use it to hear God’s truth when the enemy tells me lies.
Over the next few months, with approval from my doctor, I was able to go off three of my five medications. During this time, Psalm 91:2-6 really spoke to me: “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust in Him. For He will rescue from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, not the disaster that strikes at midday.”
God showed me that I don’t have to fear depression and anxiety anymore! In fact, I could learn to be thankful for them. He started showing me some of the benefits of having these diseases: 1) they make me more dependent on Jesus, 2) because of my weaknesses, I can see His power more clearly, 3) my mental health issues keep me humble, 4) having to go to God many times a day is a good thing! 5) my struggles give me compassion for others who struggle, 6) experiencing peace, calm, hope, and joy wouldn’t be the same if I experienced them all the time. God was healing my attitude and the way I saw my struggles.
With what I believed was God’s prompting, and with my doctor’s help, I decreased the dosage of my last medication, believing that if God had healed me, I wouldn’t need it anymore. However, this wasn’t the case. My life began to be terrifying again, and the suicidal desires were back. A month later, feeling like my testimony was a lie, I increased my dosage to its original amount. But a friend of mine said, “Whether or not you are on medication is not the testimony – your trust, reliance and love for our Father is!” I knew she was right!
After another dosage increase, one night I read Psalm 23:3-4: “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.” These words made me angry. “God, where are You? Where are You when all I want to do is to take all my pills and end it all? I am so afraid!” He showed me then that He was sitting beside my dresser as He held all my pills in His hands. He was protecting me from taking them. I was safe! I wept as I realized that I had not failed God, and that He had been with me ALL the time, protecting me and loving me just as I am!
Exodus 9:16 says that God spared me for a purpose – to show His power and fame everywhere. I’d always wondered about the point of my painful existence, but this promise gave my life meaning and purpose.
I continue to suffer the highs and lows of bipolar, anxiety, panic attacks, and occasionally OCD. I’m now very thankful for my medication and am at peace with it. The labels of my mental health diseases don’t define me; God defines me! God has shown me repeatedly that He will be able to use me more effectively for His Kingdom if I continue to struggle. And His ways are always better than mine!
About the Author:
Ingrid loves nature and the way it reflects God’s power and creativity. She is the proud owner of goats, birds, mice, rats fish, and rabbits, which she breeds to raise money for missions. She also enjoys spending time with friends, volunteering at church, and memorizing scripture. And like any self-respecting woman, she loves chocolate!
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