My friend Nicole Cain shared this blog post with me a few days ago, and while for the most part the blog is shut down for the summer, I thought this was way too rich to not share with our readers. Nicole has just graduated from High School, and shares rather vulnerably from her own faith journey below.
After being in pain for so long, the idea of being loved seems to become more and more far fetched as the days pass on.
At first, you think to yourself: “that guy at the gas station didn’t return my hello… he must hate me.” Your boss at work awards a promotion to a different employee, “They must not trust me.” Then you text message some friends to make plans to hang out, and they tell you they’re busy; you’re brain translates that to: “No one wants to be around me. I don’t have any friends.” You call up your parents, and they answer from the table at your favorite eat-in restaurant, and you can’t help but believe you are truly unlovable. You begin to question why God would leave you like this; you begin to ask yourself: “does God love me?”
Living with mental illness from the time I was fourteen years old, the feeling of being “unlovable” has been one that I have come to know all too well as the years have come and gone. Time and time again, I have been let down by those who are supposed to be the light in my darkest hours; my parents believed my diagnoses were nothing but a hoax, my friends couldn’t deal with the fluctuation of my depression, my anxiety prevented me from presenting well at any interview for any jobs, and my PTSD made it nearly impossible for me to let anyone in whom I did not know too well. For the last four years of my life, I have been defined by the burdens of my illnesses; illnesses which make me unlovable.
A direct result of struggling with complex mental illness is often thoughts of suicide. From a mere fourteen years old, to now, I have had more than my fair share of struggles with these thoughts, and the debilitation they put on the mind. For anyone who has never experienced it, being suicidal is like having one of those little monkeys from your childhood, where you would attach it around your neck with velcro. The depression, the anxiety, the PTSD, whatever you are dealing with, it attaches to your neck just like that monkey. With every step you take, you can feel it pounding against your chest, the weight becoming physically debilitating, the itchiness becomes agitating, and you just want it off! But, that’s the thing about mental illness… you can’t just peel it off layer-by-layer to take a break; you just have to keep fighting, or you give up. If you are lucky, you have people in your life who can take a turn holding the monkey for a bit, whether that be a friend, a family member, or even God, it makes living with these struggles just a bit easier.
As someone who has been in the depths of hopelessness and truly felt no presence of someone physically there to help carry the load, I can say it can sometimes be easy to get further lost in one’s journey in faith. We are taught from childhood that the Holy Spirit is always with us - that God will never turn his back on his children in times of need - but, when everything seems to be going opposite to how we desire, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that God finds me to be “unlovable.”
Though I have been constantly reminded by my mental health counselor, and know deep down in my heart that I am loved by God very much, there are times the voice of my illness overpowers His in saying that He does not love me or that I am unworthy of His love; and, in a way, that voice is right. I am very much unworthy of His love. I have kept secrets; I have made mistakes; I have lied; I have lost all faith that life could, and would, get better. I have had doubts, but they were not in Christ, they were in myself.
I have struggled so much with accepting the idea that God does indeed love me. I would spend hours asking myself: “how could He?” How could he love me even though I’ve spent years wanting to end the life he so carefully planned for me? How could he embrace me with so matter-of-factly knowing the degree of hurt carried within my soul? How could he forgive me if I had not yet found the courage to forgive myself? How could he love me if I can’t find the courage to stand firmly in my faith?
To this day, all this questioning still makes me uneasy. There are still days I feel unworthy to be worshiping his name on a Sunday morning when I had spent the night before crying and praying to him to end the pain - to let me die. Some days, I sit in the back, and others I don’t even make it inside; or, I hide out in the bathroom. But, I do go. I go and sing and pray and listen to His word; because, somewhere deep inside, underneath the illness that makes it hard to believe, I know that God is always and truly there.
It has not been an easy journey, but I am beginning to believe that maybe hiding is the thing God would least like to see from me. I am his child, and I am tarnished by the sin I have committed, but he has made me clean. I am beginning to believe I can be a Christian and mentally ill; and maybe one day I could be loved for who I am. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, let us love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin.” So, maybe I can be honest about who I am without a fear of judgement. Maybe, one day, I can honestly say that I know God loves me, even with all the baggage I carry.
Until then, I’m remaining hopeful. I’m remaining hopeful that I will sit through a whole service. I remain hopeful that I will find courage to ask the important questions of my faith as someone who faces challenges with mental health and suicidality on a daily basis. I am hopeful I will begin to trust in him as I face recovery. I remain hopeful that I can be a face of hope to the others who hide in the back, resisting His embrace in fear of insufficiency to deserve His love and forgiveness. I am hopeful that this life gets easier with the help of God’s grace.
Church is not an easy place for me to go. Not because it’s early in the morning, or because I have too many other commitments making it hard to fit into my schedule; it is hard because when you truly believe you are unlovable, the idea that you may be loved beyond comprehension is mentally challenging to grasp. If you feel this way, I want you to know it can, and it will, get easier. Remember the child-like faith you had before life’s struggles made you hard. Remember that love you have for Jesus, and for the feeling you have when you truly feel him working in and through you. Remember those moments - those truly awful moments - where he never left your side.
Breathe, and know your God has and will always be there. Whether it be grief, illness, hopelessness, you are never too far gone - let Him unlatch those velcro monkeys from your neck and help to carry all the burdens life has thrown your way. It may not always feel like it, but you are worthy and you are loved, always.blog comments powered by Disqus