“Depression: a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you think, feel and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating and working.” – Mayo Clinic
Looking back, I can see symptoms of depression in myself as a child. I used to have such severe dysphoria that I would “disappear” in a sensation of floating above my body, unable to connect with others or even myself. I would pinch myself, hoping pain would connect me back to myself so that I could engage in life. Later, this would progress to cutting, burning and hitting myself to try to feel something as I became increasingly numb.
At fourteen I started therapy, ultimately working with five different professionals and methods. At fifteen I was prescribed medication, building to a higher and higher dosage over the next two years in an attempt to lift what had become a cloud encapsulating my entire life and hindering my relationships, education and even my safety from myself.
When I was sixteen I decided to recover. I wanted my life back. I wanted to pursue my dream of speaking six languages and being a writer. I accepted all the help I could get and I improved; I went for months at a time without cutting. I had been told my depression was a chronic state of chemical imbalance, but I could hope to control it and live a normal if sporadically melancholy life.
I was on the mend.
So my suicide attempt surprised even me. One day in Summer 2015 something in me very quietly snapped. I remember walking to buy paracetamol, willing someone on the street to stop me and tell me to go home, but unable to control my robotic movements. I took enough to kill a large man and went to bed.
At 2 a.m I was thrown out of bed by the convulsing pain in my belly. Lying in the hall, unable to speak, surrounded by my confused family, I prayed. Silently I cried out “God, I don’t want to die! Help!” and immediately threw up everything I’d taken.
After I came out of hospital I lapsed in and out of suicidal feelings, but I could never forget that moment of calling on God and literally being saved from death.
I went back to school and kept trying, but it wasn’t long before I fell apart again. I lost control. I was self harming in the toilet, crying in class. The drama culminated in my mother being called to take me home because I was crying too hard to talk, my overwrought teachers unsure of what to do with me.
We walked home. I remember that I cried all the way – not softly. I was sobbing. My body ached from the convulsive sobs. People stared. It was humiliating.
I had fallen apart again. I was losing everything: my friends, education, my dreams. And it wasn’t just my life that was unravelling around me; I myself had come apart inside so completely that there was nothing I could do to fight back the cloud that had now shrouded me so totally that I had lost all sight of the future.
I accepted defeat and left school.
Then a series of strange circumstances led me to Amsterdam. I applied to a Discipleship Training School, a course about “knowing God and making Him known”. I experienced, through layers of pain and bitterness, the presence of a kind, loving God who heals us inside. I began to hear His voice in my heart as I received His love. I stopped taking medication as I began to believe that I could be fully healed instead of just surviving. I was changing.
As a school we traveled to Asia to meet people, learn more and share what we knew of God’s love, but I crashed again in Bangkok. I remember sitting alone, holding onto the couch as mosquitoes feasted on my ankles. I held on because two floors higher there was a roof with a low wall and the familiar suicidal pull scared me.
After a while something prompted me to find my friends. And something amazing happened. Surrounded by people praying for my healing, the cloud lifted. In my mind’s eye I saw it go – not thinning or moved by a sunny day or a kind word – rising and shrinking out of sight. I haven’t seen it since.
A new world has been opened to me. I laugh every day; on the rare occasions when there’s nothing to laugh at, I laugh at nothing. I have a hope and a future.
Every morning I wake up and choose to get up and live fully the life I’ve been given: a life that’s painfully flawed but gloriously beautiful. And I pray again a prayer I’ve prayed several times in the past months. I pray for myself and for every beautiful soul I get to meet the prayer that another person who was transformed by God’s love prayed for a group of people he loved: “That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” – Ephesians 4:17-21
I contemplate the vastness of that love and its power to change and redeem any life. And I dive in.