Friday, January 15, 2016

My Demons by TreAnna B.

            It’s so hard when you struggle with a set of issues that you feel like no one can relate to. That was me last year. I felt like I was apart from God. Like He didn’t care about me. I couldn’t feel His presence. I couldn’t feel anything at all.

Imagine Dragons is one of those bands I never expected to like. When my youngest sister showed me their song Demons, I became ensnared. Throughout college my best friend, Morgan, and I would take numerous road trips—mostly to Target or Broadstreet. Once, as we drove, Bleeding Out by the same band came on. A few lyrics in, Morgan turned to me. “This song reminds me of you.” For whatever reason, I felt a tug in my soul. That song reminded me of me too.  

Bible verses such as Jeremiah 29:11 didn’t hold as much hope as they once did. They seemed like such meaningless dribble. It took so much out of me to just hang on to any of the hope God had promised in His word.

            When the sky turns grey/ And everything is screaming/ I will reach inside/ Just to find my heart is beating.”
            To someone who doesn't suffer from anxiety, the disease can seem rather foolish. The idea most people get when a person says they have anxiety is, “Oh, they worry a lot.” Anxiety brings so much more with it than just worry. I learned this lesson sophomore year of college.
            Throughout high school, I always had trouble with what my parents dubbed “worrying.” I “worried” about grades, money, extracurriculars, etc. Never once did I ever think it was anything more than me having a faith problem. Until college.

            In His word God does say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philllipians 4: 6-7) Anxiety, in itself, doesn’t go against this. Anxiety results when the body thinks the situation is dangerous to the individual. My brain would tell me something awful was going to happen soon, so my body automatically would go into “flight” mode. My breathing deepens; I get jittery. Overall it isn’t a great feeling. Luckily, God also states in 1 Peter, “Cast all your anxiety on God for He cares for you.”

            Sophomore year brought a lot more than harder classes and new friends. I also had new worries and stresses to add to the old ones. After a few weeks of dealing with me, my roommate, Hannah, suggested I see the counselor. I was hesitant. Counselors equaled psychologists which equaled crazy, right? After being nagged and coaxed, I finally agreed. I saw a counselor for the entire year. Throughout the course of our discussions, she diagnosed me with anxiety. This was a great relief to me—to know what I had wasn't just “worrying.” It was an actual condition. Relief was short lived, however, as I began the journey of learning how to live with anxiety.

            In Matthew it’s written, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Only for me, each day seemed to have many of “its own trouble.”

            To people who have never experienced high levels of anxiety before, it's hard to explain. My mind travels in over a million directions—usually topics I would rather not think about. There are so many analogies used to try and explain what it's like to live with something like anxiety, but unless you have experienced it, I don't think anyone really understands it. One quote I found states, “Anxiety is like living with a voice that follows you around. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point where it's the loudest voice in the room. The only one you can hear.” This is one of the most accurate descriptions I have yet found.

            This voice is also one of the many reason I felt so separate from God. Too often, I would let this voice dictate everything that was wrong with me, and I would lose sight of who I really was: A child of God. All of the Bible verses that told me not to be anxious, only made me feel more so because I felt this disease was ultimately my fault. I felt I wasn’t trying hard enough to rely on God. I knew as it stated in Matthew that by being anxious I couldn’t do anything to alter the situation, but my body and mind weren’t in sync.

            Physically during one of my moments of high anxiety, my heart races (for it to reach over 100 beats a minute is not uncommon), I get light-headed, there is tension in my shoulders and neck, I'm jittery—basically during a panic attack or a moment of high anxiety, it is extremely hard for me to function. Once you add the emotional and mental side to the physical, you have a formula of pure misery.

            When the hour is nigh/ And hopelessness is sinking in/ When the wolves all cry/ To fill the night with hollering/ When your eyes are red/ And emptiness is all you know/ With the darkness fed/ I will be your scarecrow.”
            The type of anxiety I have is so high that it can bottom out into periods of depression. My counselor picked up on this, but I brushed it off. I was diagnosed with depression once before in the eighth grade. To me, it seemed like depression was a mere annoyance I had to put up with. It didn't really affect my day to day life. Circumstances just were. There was nothing I could do to change them.  So in eighth grade, I dealt with it.
            However, as sophomore year wore on, it became clear I wasn't going to be able to just deal with it this time. My entire disposition changed. I secluded myself in my room and avoided leaving except for class or work study. Hannah and Morgan noticed the change and questioned me about it. With their help I was able to work through many of my emotions, but depression doesn't go away that easily.

            The depression also made it extremely difficult to talk to God because it works as a barrier. It would separate me from school, work, friends, even the things I loved to do the most like writing. I once told my friend how I felt about the depression getting between me and my writing and me and God and she responded, “If depression can form a barrier between you and the Maker of the World, then it is perfectly sensible to note it will form a barrier between you and every other aspect of your life. But you should also remember Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

            Science has proven that depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. I do not disagree or pretend to know more about medicine than the doctors who stated such. I do know to live with depression is hard. My depression most often manifests itself in the loss of emotion. I feel numb—even when everything in my life is good. There isn't an on/off switch. There isn't a fix-it-all cure. There is medication, but to get the right dosage is complicated and can take many attempts. Finally, I think I’ve reached it.
            Since I have anxiety and depression, my emotions usually ride a roller coaster. My depression makes me want to stay in bed. It's like a monster who constantly sits on my shoulders and pulls me down. However, my anxiety is the exact opposite. Its monster grabs me by the hand and shows me all the things I have yet to do. Most days, as much as I would like to stay in bed, I drag myself out and attempt to face life.
            God’s promise of being there for me, my friends promises of helping me through…These were good. Some days were better than others. Some days I just wanted to crawl into my bed and never move. Once I was told, you need to believe that God is still there for you, even though you can’t feel Him. So that’s what I did. But even that wasn’t even to get rid of the exhaustion and the  pain.

            Depression also brings along with it a fatigue that is felt in the very depths of your soul. The term “bone weary” doesn't even properly encompass it. There's physical, mental, emotional, and even a spiritual exhaustion which forms deep inside and takes root. The numbness I feel, I believe, results because I don't have the energy to feel anything at those points.

            “I'm bleeding out/ So if the last thing that I do/ Is bring you down/ I'll bleed out for you/ So I bare my skin/ And I count my sins/ And I close my eyes/ And I take it in/ I'm bleeding out/ Bleeding out for you.”
            Many times people equate depression with self-harm. “It's only a side effect.” That isn't necessarily true. I've struggled with self-hate so strong, I would want to self-harm. Depression may make life look hopeless, but when you are also battling other demons as well, you just want someone else to notice. Marking it on your skin is one of the best visual representations there is.

            Of course, it was also a larger spiritual struggle. I knew that my body is God’s temple. I knew that if I were to harm it, I would harm his temple. Verses like 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20, “
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,” helped me on the worst days.

            For months, I struggled with the idea of self-harming. Late night talks with Hannah and road trips with Morgan kept the monster at bay. I was still in control. I didn't cut. As much as I wanted to some times, I didn't dare break skin. Because I knew the moment I did, I had lost.

            I continued to feel like I was distanced from God, but I took my friends’ advice and believed that He was still there for me. I didn’t pray as much as I should have. And eventually I reached the point where I believed that God was done listening.

            In September 2015, the monster finally won. I cut myself for the first time. Nothing deep. The wounds were superficial and healed completely within a week's time. I thought no scars would remain visible; however now I am left with a permeant reminder of a time I would rather forget.

            Matthew 26: 41 states, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I don’t think I ever felt weaker than the time I first cut. I was ashamed. (Some days I still am.) I hurt God’s temple. I hurt my friends, my family. An action that I thought would only hurt me, would help me did so much more damage than I could ever realize.

            When someone mentions self-harm, people normally think it equals suicide. That is not always the case. As with me, you can only keep so much inside—can only endure so much—before it must manifest itself visibly. When my demons come out to play, and I try to ignore them, they pull harder. They tug, they tear until they force me to see them. To hear them. The battle begins again.
            “You tell me to hold on/ Oh you tell me to hold on/ But innocence is gone/ And what was right is wrong.”
            I will never be able to return to the person I was before anxiety and depression became so prominent in my life, if that person ever existed at all. In some ways, I mourn her loss. In others, she seems like a distant stranger I never got the chance to know. As much as I hate what these diseases do to me at times, how they make me feel, they have made me into the person I am today.

            God was faithful to me even when I wasn’t faithful to Him. In the midst of my darkness, I lost sight of His light, but His grace and mercy, I found were stronger than anything I went through.

 This journey has not been easy, nor do I expect it to get any easier, but I do believe it is a journey worth taking.


Liana.H said...

Thank you for posting. As cliché as it sounds, it's like reading what has been a big part of my life. But as you said; it's a journey worth taking

Anonymous said...

Hey girl, although I don't know you personally, this has been extremely eye opening for me to read and I really appreciate you opening up about this. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for you, especially this Christian walk which is already very difficult. I pray and know that God's grace will be mighty in your life so that through his power you can overcome all the challenges you face. I also pray that you never lose hope no matter how hard things get and that you are constantly surrounded by helpful, loving and understanding Godly people who will help get you through whatever you need to get through because "iron sharpens iron". No matter what girl, you have already won the victory because of Christ and you WILL continue to overcome through Christ's mighty name amd the glory you will give to God will be even greater in Jesus' name. As your sister in Christ, I wish you all the best and will keep you in my prayers.

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