This post is going to be a little different. Today I want to share with you a bit of my own testimony dealing with mental health and how I’ve found a balance when using my faith to heal.
I started feeling depressed when I was 10 years old. Fourth grade felt like a huge year of change for me. Everywhere I looked, nothing seemed to be constant. I started becoming increasingly aware of my own insecurities and honestly lost sight of hope. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with moderate-severe clinical depression until I was 19. Those nine years in between took me on a rollercoaster. I had a lot of moments that were my lowest points, and I developed issues with eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm. I was completely devoid of any hope and excitement towards life. It’s scary to think about now, but there really was a time where I couldn’t see my life past age 15.
During these lowest points, I turned completely away from God. I was fully in denial that an all loving God would let His creation suffer. I didn’t understand why I was the one that had to struggle so much. It wasn’t until I went on a retreat when I was 17 that I experienced the Lord’s love and gravity first hand. In that moment, with God’s incredible love fully on me, I thought I was healed. So I used faith as a crutch. I hobbled along through Mass and theology classes with the notion that if I participate, I will stay fixed. This was sustainable for a while, till I started truly practicing my faith.
I got to college and found an incredible student community of young, faithful Catholics. They taught me more about my faith than any private school had taught me. Just as I was excited to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ, I grew very self-conscious and started comparing myself to others. I was convinced that I wasn’t a “good enough Catholic” for the community I was in. So, I became very self-serving and performative to at least seem like I was putting into my faith. I became convinced that my friends wouldn’t like me anymore if they saw I wasn’t a good Catholic. So again I used my faith, this time as a mask to appear different than who I was.
Getting diagnosed helped my understanding, but not my faith. A year after being diagnosed and medicated, I grew exhausted of the mood swings and constant battle to start my day. I found myself trying to do what everyone else was doing during Mass or adoration just to feel something. Maybe even just to feel like I’m doing something. I would tell my friends, “I know this is my cross to bear, but hasn’t it been long enough?!” Needless to say I was fed up, and I wanted God to fix me NOW!
In all my efforts to feel better and be truly fine, I didn’t give God the space in my heart or mind to just be God! He can do all things, so He can work in me no matter how broken or far gone I am. I never let him work in me and change me. I thought I had to make myself good enough for Him to approve of me and for my peers to accept me. It’s through here that I discovered what healing really is.
I figured out why a faith life is so important. I also realized that just as we gain something from having a relationship with Christ, we need to also give back to the Lord. When we do that, we earn graces that help us grow closer to the Lord, which encourages us to put into our relationship with Him. This cycle is where I saw faith as a healthy crutch. I would participate in my faith because I wanted to, and in turn would earn graces that helped me battle my mental health. Instead of only turning to faith when I needed fixing, I was turning to my faith to glorify God and He was helping me battle my mental health. I don’t consider myself “fixed.” In fact, I don’t believe that my mental health can completely be fixed. However, I have built a support system for myself, and I am extremely confident that the Lord is in my corner rooting for me to keep going.
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