Beyond Survival

Not too long ago, I found myself in a group of people who we do not share as mutual acquaintances. As I sat in the small, glass-walled room, I noticed the gorgeous view of green and orange leaves in a forest of trees. The foliage went on as far as I could see. Though wanting to stay focused on the view, I was fighting deep emotions, and became distracted by the conversations occurring in pockets around me. I was exhausted, but interested in what was being said. I moved to a sofa close by the window…alone…but was still included in conversations and as one faded I became engaged in another. Being in student ministry and loving students, I was so interested in the first girl I met. She was 19, a college student, and new away from home facing a lot of new pressures. Right after the semester began, her boyfriend of 2 years abruptly broke up with her. Overwhelmed by this broken relationship, she became depressed and turned to bulimia. She was lonely in her new situation and the bulimia was a temporary distraction. She was afraid of not fitting in. What if she couldn’t?

A quiet girl with long blond hair sat alone. She was young and responsive toward others comments, but that was all. She made no verbal connection unless directly spoken to and, at that, her answers were short ....tired. She lived at home with her mom and sister, and right after high school she began working full-time at a nursing home. Her days were long. She told me she just couldn’t leave an elderly friend in a wet or dirty bed, so she stayed daily until she felt her job was done. She was a sweet girl who had trouble saying no and had the integrity to complete her daily tasks at minimal pay. She became exhausted and overworked.

A little, red-headed, Greek lady, very well-spoken and sophisticated, made her way over to sit next to me. She was spunky and funny. Her voice carried throughout the little glass room, but she was confident and didn’t mind. She was a high school principal...a proud grandma. Her joy? She claimed it came from Jesus. Unspoken life disappointment had taken a toll on her, nevertheless, and pills for depression had become too many… too frequent.

A young man, humble and unassuming, around 22, walked up. He was supposed to be graduating from college and on the way to medical school, but his family’s expectations to follow previous generations of doctors in the family were too much. He was disappointed in himself for failing at this tradition, and he believed others were too, others he cared about so deeply. Depression and overwhelming fears of failure put him into a dark hole mentally.

The last person I came to know, perhaps the best, was intimidating to me. She was guarded and missing her little girls and her husband who she barely got to kiss good bye, many days ago it seemed. Although outwardly engaged in the group, she was hurting deeply and her mind was relentless with shameful thoughts. Her body was weak; her hollow face was striving to show the desire to live, but not as life was currently. Joyous occasions coupled with hard knocks, which began long before marriage, had been tolerable until now. Outgoing melted to not going, and agreement with the negative thoughts from the enemy, when she made a mistake, was a given. Praying Scriptures and recalling God’s promises were prominent in her life, yet the fog of oppression would not lift. In this new environment, she felt safe, understood, helped.

The way our bodies function and the way our minds work is very delicate. My mind actually stopped producing enough serotonin, and I got sick. Depression, anxiety, and chemical imbalances are real. The last person I describe above... was me. I became exhausted from being a grown up well before my youth was to end. I kept trying to run ahead of the things I needed to let God heal but I couldn’t run anymore, and I became sick enough to be placed in the ICU unit of a mental hospital. I didn’t eat by myself, go to the restroom by myself, or rest alone during my stay. My pretty shoes that I was checked into the hospital with were now without their laces and were instead held closed by black tape so that I wouldn’t use the laces to hurt myself. Each time I looked down, I saw the tape and I felt scared of myself, but I was alive, and this was where I needed to be. I wanted so much to just hold my redheaded girls and be a Godly mom. I desperately wanted to be the minister’s wife who had it all together, or at least something together, like those I served with. But I wasn’t. I felt old and used up and discouraged that I had to be so good in that little glass room for enough days to even earn my razor back to shave the legs that had finally stopped running.

Although extreme cases were in this hospital, I was mostly surrounded by people like you and like me. They were precious, and they were fighters or they perhaps wouldn’t have made it to the hospital. All of my life I have been a “pleaser” and a “peacemaker.” I have cared deeply, and I have loved deeply. I have struggled deeply, and I have served God deeply, but I have also been suicidal because my mind hurt, and I thought I was failing those around me, from my view…deeply.

But I’m seeing little by little this wasn’t God’s view, and since He has loved me since before I was even “Stacee”, He knows just how to heal me deeply. This melts me! Here’s the truth - I am not an isolated case. These days of isolation were part of me coming to the point where I would begin to say, "I’m afraid and I need Your help, Jesus!" In my weakness and brokenness, He ushered in His strength and compassion, and I can see that now. He will so do the same for you! You are not alone right where you are in life. Please know that Jesus sees you, and He loves you, and He has a plan that far surpasses survival for YOU.

Please read these words today: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14