‘He’s Got This’ could not sound more distant to me back in late 2016. As a logical, proof driven and sensible Christian, I have always looked at facts and the trueness of God. I am passionate about the cause and the truth. I would never imagine myself losing faith or questioning the realness of God, but little did I know, I was about to go on a spiritual war.
I work as an analyst, having graduated with a Math degree. I am basically a geek, as the ‘cool’ kids called me. I'm known as a generous and funny person, and generally I'm pretty happy! However, at the end of 2016, my life was about to completely change when I encountered weekly and sometimes daily panic attacks, however at the time I did not know what it was, making me somewhat scared.
These panic attacks came in different shapes and forms. Sometimes I felt sick, like I was being trapped in a room that I couldn't get out of. Other times I felt unloved, unworthy and useless. The worst attack got me contemplating to end my life, so I decided to take a stand even when the phrase‘He’s Got This’ was the last thing on my mind.
Having panic attacks wasn’t just a one-time thing. I have always had them. I had them when I was younger, being bullied in school; in my last year of university, when I was trying so hard to get a 1st class honour, I just never thought too much of it. I have always looked at it as a ‘storm’ in my life. I believe that if I kept myself in church, kept serving the Lord, these things will pass. I kept telling myself I was being silly to ever feel panicked. Every Sunday I was reminded God loves me, Jesus died for me and I should know better than to just let myself feel down and alone. Oh how foolish was I to undermine the persistence of the devil when he decides to take you to war. Not only did he set up a battlefield at my work, but stole the health of a loved one. He was ready to take me down, striping me of my identity and most importantly, my faith. I soon realised that my ‘seasonal storm’ wasn’t just going to pass. The attacks were coming left, right and centre and I was drowning in an ocean where I God seemed invisible.
Every day I battle anxiety.
Mental illness can be a very lonely battle. For months, I was an unhappy, stressed out and tired person who was going through life living with mental attacks but wearing a mask. Planted in a big church, I could easily hide in the crowd. I had spoken to a few friends about how I felt, but never to the full extent of what I was feeling. ‘Fake it till you make it’ was pretty much what I was doing.
As time went on, the attacks weren’t getting any easier. Often I just wanted to stay in bed because I felt sad. The struggles stopped me going to church, seeing friends and looking for support. Consequently I stopped worshipping, stopped reading the word and stopped reaching out for Jesus. Every day I got taken back by the tiniest tasks in life, for example, I panicked because I couldn't make the porridge how I like it, or I didn’t park my car in line. I would sit for hours at home if I could, just going through the why’s and the how’s. Life was on repeat. My faith slipping away from me. All I had time for was to hope I would get through another day.
It was late November. I just had my 26th birthday celebration at the weekend and I enjoyed myself. The next day I was having lunch in the park, I don’t remember what the trigger was, but I was hit by another panic attack. I'd had enough, I came up with the conclusion that if I were to end things now, I would no longer be in such a mess. I prayed to God, to ask for permission so I would stop feeling so overwhelmed. Then I heard Him, a voice I had been longing for for months, the awakening that I have been screaming for, ‘Enough!’
I could not hear it clearer. I wiped my tears, walked back to the office, sat at my desk and googled ‘counselling’. I'm not sure what drove me to do that but I was determined to find someone who would listen to me, someone would will help me, someone professional. Sure enough, another hill stood infant of me. Apparently, winter months are very busy for counselling, most of the counsellors I found couldn't give me an appointment till late 2017, but ‘He’s got this’ - a lady named Gillian called me after I left her a voicemail and she said after she prayed about it, she wanted to know how she could help. I broke down in tears on the phone as soon as she finished her first sentence. This to me is no coincident, out of all the numbers I dialled, a Christian counsellor decided to give me an appointment.
In December 2016, I started my first counselling session. I walked into this lady’s office, not knowing what would happen. I sat on the sofa, in front of complete stranger and emotions just flooded me. I probably spent my whole session crying. I haven’t cried like that since year 7. At the end of that session, Gillian offered to pray for me. Gillian always prayed for the protection of the Holy Spirit over me, she said it is important that I know the Holy Spirit is around me, so subconsciously I know there is nothing to fear about these attacks. Since then, I have learnt more about myself. I learnt how my past shaped who I am and how Jesus was at every step of the way. Sometimes I came out of a session feeling relief, sometimes I feel I am on a mission to get better for the week and sometimes I walked out crying. However, we always prayed at the end of the session. It is in those prayers, I can sense the presence of God, He’s got this, and more importantly He’s got me. All the time, He’s got me. I was just focusing too much on drowning; on the battles ahead of me. I didn’t see He was hurting too when I was fed lies about myself. I didn’t see Him shouting His love for me when I was in bed feeling miserable. But He was always there, I just didn’t see Him.
Now in 2017, I have finished my counselling sessions, not because I am healed but I have found my identity again, and by the grace of God, I found my faith back.
Mental illness is going to be a long season for me; I have accepted that panic attacks and anxiety will be around me for a while. However I am more than equipped to deal with it now, I have learnt how to walk closely with God to manage them. I have learnt how to lean toward my friends even some who didn't know what I was going through so.
I am sorry that it has taken me so long, to be brave enough to tell my story, but if you too find yourself going through something like this, know that this is not forever. You too can walk away from it, and I hope one day you will enjoy this scripture as much as I do now.
‘For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!’ Ephesians 5:18.