“Damn, Emily. You should be proud of how far you have come.”
Some days are better than others. I look at where I’ve come from and where I am going and am unbelievably proud of all I have become. I am surrounded by a loving community and get to spend my days working a job I absolutely adore. I get to show Jesus to kids and to some of my closest friends and I fully know that what I do here on Earth, matters.
Other days are not. The sun comes up, the alarm goes off, and the point of me removing myself from the protection of my bed seems nonexistent. Time passes, the clock ticks, but I remain disconnected and distant from the life I am so thankful for.
February 11. This February 11 is the first one in three years that I am not sitting on my counselor’s couch, having some conversation about some new mental illness that is affecting my every move. Some may call this day a victory because there’s no new diagnosis, but for many reasons: it’s just another day.
I’m slowly learning how little control I have over my life. If you would have asked me on the day of my GAD diagnosis in 2015 what these last two years were going to look like, I would have told you anything but what really did come my way. The Lord laughs at my plans and He laughs at my desire to have a complete hold on my journey. If it were up to me: I never would have met some people who I let into my heart, I never would have let myself be seen as easy to walk on, as a burden, as a falsehood of what I stand for. But that’s not how it works and I get it. I am thankful for every dip in my path because it has brought nothing but the confidence and courage to stand up for myself and the desire to tell raw truths and to give only love. I’ve forgiven apologies I’ll never receive, I’ve been (slowly) learning how to fully offer up my sins, and I’ve continually surrendered my life to Lord.
731 days have passed since my anxiety disorder diagnosis. Yes, I still take my medication. Yes, I still have anxiety attacks. Yes, sometimes the walls around me close in and I forget how to breathe and my heart beats as if it’s on its last day of beating. These things have not gone away because they are part of the territory. But I’ve grown. I’m stronger. I can spot the signs and I can fight it and I finally understand that my mental illness is completely real and everything I go through is truly valid, no matter how many times someone tells me I am making it up. I’ve cried, I’ve taken steps backwards, this ride has been every form of messy. The Lord makes really incredible things out of messes, though, and I’ve been watching incredulously what he’s been making out of me. Sometimes, I forget. Sometimes, like a mere day ago, I melt into the sidewalk outside my office in tears, unable to breathe or calm my heart and unsure of how I even ended up there in the first place. But it’s in those moments that I remember my healing is still important and my mental illness is still valid even though yesterday was a harder day than the day before.
In these 731 days, I’ve walked alongside others. I’ve learned to be vulnerable with those around me because in those moments of vulnerability, others overcome fears and doubts. I’ve gone from a college junior who was “lost” in every form of the word to an actual adult (or a child who is really good at playing pretend), two states away from my family and my friends in a place that has provided me with self-growth and growth in my relationship with Jesus.
To answer your questions: I am still battling an anxiety disorder. I am currently waist-deep into seasonal depression – happy favorite month of the year *sarcasm*. But I am no longer letting any of this stop me. I refuse to let my bad days define me. I refuse to let anyone tell me who I am and what I am impacted by. I refuse to let any person, any situation, anything out of my control to steal my joy. There is life in the cracks of my imperfect soul and there is truth in the words that I speak. There is sin in my every move but forgiveness in the name of Jesus that I seek. There is another year behind me and a lot more than that ahead of me. There’s a sun that rises at the beginning of each new day, and there are a whole lot of people surrounding me: far from perfect, but close to the perfect grace we find in the Lord.