These next few posts are going to be a look into my past, what came before the depression. My life came to a head the day I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. However, my problems had been building my whole life. What I believed was a normal childhood and the way most people felt was erroneous. It wasn’t until my world came crashing down that I saw that my trajectory toward mental illness was not triggered by a singular event, but had been brewing inside of me all along. The Lord was good always good, however, he knew how he created me and refused to let me stay in my anxiety. He used suffering to begin to show me freedom.
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania. I was raised by two loving parents who loved the Lord with their whole heart and encouraged me to do the same. I, also, had an amazing little brother that was four years younger than I. I mothered him right from the start and loved him to pieces. We fought like normal siblings do, but our bond was different than most kids and became stronger the older we got.
I was an overachieving perfectionist from the beginning. When I was three years old, my daycare went to a gymnastics class. I was in love. My parents were kind enough to enroll me in more classes, and I joined competitive team. I loved it. I was practicing twenty hours a week at one point. Traveling on weekends to meets. I was fiercely competitive and loved that it was an individual sport. I worked hard and did well. It was the played perfectly to my strengths. You put in the work and you see results. You slack off and loose focus and you fail. Works based sports, it was my weakness that I could not yet see.
When I was a teenager, I was doing a tumbling pass, when I heard and felt my fingers snap. I had landed with my fingers splayed apart and injured my hands badly. For the first time in my childhood. I stopped gymnastics. I learned that there was a life outside of the gym that I was missing. There were birthday parties, sleepovers, sports, tv, playing outside just for fun. I decided I didn’t want to continue anymore. My parents encouraged me to keep going, we had all invested so much time and energy into the sport. My stubborn side would not listen, and they let me quit. This was a decision that I did later regret, but gave me a chance to experience parts of life I had previously been missing.
I began to spend time in the youth group and went with them to a summer concert festival known as Creation. It is a weeklong Christian Woodstock. You camp in tents, shower in cold water (if you shower), sit in the heat, listen to bands and speakers. As a teen away from home, it is quite the experience. This is where I first found my love and desire to be a missionary. Compassion International set up a booth where you could sponsor a child for a monthly contribution. They had hundreds of pictures of children that were overseas suffering, and there was something I could do to help. I decided to sponsor a child that summer (I still sponsor her today). It has been a joy to communicate with her over the years, and I highly recommend giving to this organization. That same week, I do not remember the night, the Lord spoke to my heart. The speaker gave an invitation to come forward and give your life to Christ. I felt an overwhelming urge to stand up and walk forward. Hundreds of people were doing so, and I couldn’t resist the feeling any longer, I grabbed a friend went to the tent. A pastor prayed with me and I felt tremendous peace.
This was not the first time I accepted Christ. I had as a young child and was baptized at the age of eight. I completely meant it then, but something was changing in me. I felt that the first time, I was acknowledging that Jesus was the son of God. That he came and lived a perfect life as fully God and fully man. Then took on the sin of the world as he died as a sacrifice. His sacrifice was for me and for you. He was buried and raised to life three days later, conquering hell and reigning in Paradise until he returns for me again. This time, though, it changed me. It was not just a head knowledge, my life had begun to change. I expressed to my parents that I wanted to be a missionary. My plan was to become a doctor, never marry, move to Uganda and work with orphans. Oh, how God’s plan for my life would point me on a different path.
I returned home with a renewed faith, but still with a loss of identity. Gymnastics had been such a big part of my life, I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. So, I asked my friends what they thought I should do. As a result, I joined every club, group, and sport they recommended. I was in student government, French Club, Chemistry Club, Competitive Color Guard, Traveling Choir, regular choir, Drama Club and productions, and Field Hockey. I was seeking something that I would never find in perfectionism and trying to fit in. I needed Christ to reveal who I was to me and save me from my overachieving self. It would take almost two decades before God would rewrite my identity. One that wasn’t tied to what I did or how I performed.
I graduated high school and applied to colleges. I planned to go to every college but the one my parents wanted me to go to. I was determined to be independent. In the end, I toured other Universities but settled on Penn State. It was where my parents wanted me to go, and I would do anything to please them. They never asked me to. They accepted me for who I was, but I didn’t. These feelings would plague me in relationships for longer than I could imagine. That constant striving to earn others affections, approval. I didn’t realize that path was paved with heartache. You can’t ever be good enough on your own. Satan follows you like a snake in the weeds. He whispers lies. He did it from the beginning. He told Eve that she wasn’t all she could be. He told her she could be better, if she would just eat the fruit. The lie that she listened to only opened her up to feeling like a greater failure. He took God’s word and twisted it. Just like Eve, I listened. I believed that lie that I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to do more to be complete. That lie would nearly break me.