On April 9, 1999, I
had penned these words, ““I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I
feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but
I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to
hold. But where is it, at least in me?”
Though I had been already battling depression for over five years at
that point, that month was one of the lowest for me. I had few, if any, friends, and I felt those
closest to me could not relate with the emotional anguish and sickness that I
was going through. School was very stressful
for me, as I endured a difficult class with an even more difficult teacher, who
was verbally abusive to me and others.
Thankfully, God, in His mercy and grace, met me where I was at, a little
over a year later, and did not allow me to give up on myself or on life.
I continued struggling through depression through my college
years, and even still struggle occasionally now. However, I can attest that
things have been much better now than they were that April day, twenty years
ago! In the deep darkness of my battle,
I have learned so much that has enabled me to help encourage others who may
feel that they are in the deep pit of despair and hopelessness and who are
close to the end of their ropes. Here
are some of the lessons that I learned along this journey from the darkness to
give up! There is always hope when you are alive. Always! —I have wanted
to give up more times than I could count, but God, in His sovereignty and love,
never let me get that far. I remember
having symptoms of depression since I was ten years old. When you are battling something that seems
chronic or suffering for a long time, it is very tempting to give up on life
and on God. However, perseverance is always worth it in the end. For instance, when I was the most depressed,
I thought no one would understand or even care about what I was going through.
I hid the pain and the fears of having been bullied and rejected by some peers
when I was growing up, and thought if I just tried to forget about it, the pain
would eventually go away. However, when it manifested in increasing discouragement
and an insatiable hunger for the desire to be accepted and love, and deep
despair when my desires were not met, I thought more and more about ending my
life. Thankfully, God eventually took a
hold of my life, and I began to see the purpose of my life. I also began to be
increasingly motivated to spread God’s love to others. Never would have thought then, that I would
be surrounded by so many loving and supportive family and friends that I have
today. I am truly blessed. Had I taken
my own life then, I would have never saw the light God had prepared for me
compassionate and caring to those who are in pain, either and both physical and emotional. —I wish the people in my
life now were there when I was struggling to see my value in this world and if
there was any hope left in my life. I
find that when I am able and willing to even speak a word of encouragement to
those who are stressed out at work, that their countenance begins to spark and
brings them hope. When you see someone visibly upset and in pain, never stare
judgmentally at them, but try to comfort them and offer them words of
encouragement. Nothing irritates me more
than those judgmental, cold stares and comments from people when I am upset! I’m
sure that upsets others in pain as well. When you take the time to care for and
encourage those in pain, you bring them the hope and love that they have needed
all along. Yes, sometimes caring for people is hard work, but you can possibly
save a life when you take the time and effort for them. It is also so worth it!
that there was a purpose to my pain. — I have to admit—I have an
intense phobia of suffering. Not only do I hate when I suffer, but I also
detest when my loved ones and friends have to suffer as well. However, when I am able to see the big
picture of why God allowed me to go through the struggles and battles of
depression and anxiety, I see that He was shaping my purpose to be able to help
others who needed hope as well. Had I
not struggled with depression, I would not be able to relate to, on more than a
superficial level, with the intense struggles that the people around me have
had to go through. This truth is also emphasized in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (KJV),
where it says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able
to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves
are comforted of God.” So, when we go through trials, God will comfort us, both
so we can endure the trial successfully, and for us to be able to then comfort
So, as I continue to apply and review the
lessons that I learned in the dark and afterwards, I taste and see that the
Lord is good. Because God did not allow
me to give up, I am able to see the bountiful blessings that He has given me,
the opportunities He has given me to care for others who are in need of hope,
and I learned that I have a calling in life that required me to go through some
pain in order to be able to fulfill it.
Do you feel aimless or in despair?
There is purpose to your life, and God can use you to help others in
their pain if you don’t give up. There
is always hope when you are alive— and my journey to the Light is a testament
to that fact!
As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a
memoir about things that I have had to overcome to be who I am now. One of the toughest parts to write so far has
been a period in my life where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the
tunnel, and when I felt like I had little hope or future in my life. Those were
my middle school years—when I was about 12-14 years old. Sometimes, I wish I knew all that I know now,
back then, so that I wouldn’t have been so miserable and hopeless. However, if I didn’t go through what I did
back then, I would have never become the person I am today either. If I could go back and mentor my middle
school self, this is what I would advise her:
God will always bring good out of suffering.–If I knew that all the pain, heartache, and hopelessness that I felt when I was in middle (J.R. high school) school was going to amount to something even half-good, I would have not felt as miserable as I did. The fact is because of the bullying and the pain I experienced in middle school, I am better equipped to help others who are struggling similarly. Because God and others helped me overcome the pain I endured before, my story can give others hope that, they, too can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. In fact, if you are struggling right now, or have struggled, and you don’t know if these challenges are going to add up to anything good, know that your story can one day give others who are struggling, hope, if you don’t give up now. Many times during that dark period in my life I wanted to commit suicide, but God, in His sovereign wisdom did not allow me. Thank God He didn’t, or else I wouldn’t be here sharing this!
If people don’t accept you for you, don’t try to please them or let them rent space in your life.—In middle school, I struggled to gain the acceptance and the close friendship of my peers. All in all, though I may have appeared happy, I was really dying inside. I tried to learn from them sometimes in an attempt to mimic their behaviors, so I would be more “acceptable,” but it never seemed like it was enough. The same people I wanted to impress probably saw through me, and, in the end, I was still in the same spot I was in the first place—lonely and unacceptable to my peers. Now, I have learned that if people want me to change things that are part of how God made me, like how I look on the outside (like my ethnicity), or don’t want to accept that I am an INFJ on the spectrum, that I should not put stock in trying to please them. In fact, I have had to let go of several people in the past ten years that haven’t really accepted me for who God made me to be. It really is better to be hated for who you are, then “loved” for who you are not, as people will find out the Real You anyway. Be authentic to yourself and others.
Grades aren’t everything.—I was so fixated on grades, that when I did poorly, I was deathly afraid that I would make my dad livid and more so, that I would flunk out of school. Even though I tried my best to do well in school, and had decent grades, they had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me find the job I have now! Some teachers may say to a student who is struggling that if they don’t improve, they will end up working at “McDonalds.” What these teachers don’t understand is that one could make decent grades and graduate from a half-way decent college, and STILL work at McDonalds! Also, someone could graduate with a “C” average in school, but end up making millions of dollars in acting or even starting their own business if they know what they are doing. I would still advise my middle school self to work diligently in school, but not get too anxious if I failed one test!
Having convictions and drive will make you more successful in life than if you are just “getting by.”—Although I worked hard in school, I only did so to make my parents happy and for fear of failure. However, I have discovered in the past few years that my attitude back then is similar to how many people view their jobs, as just a way to “get by”. Yes, we should make sure we are making enough money in our jobs to make ends meet, but it shouldn’t be about just that. Although I don’t make even close to a million dollars a year at my job, I still strive to go above and beyond and do the best I can every single day. Why? Because I want to glorify God and show people that working diligently can be a more satisfying and enriching learning experience if you approach your job as a calling, and not only to make money. Because I am convinced God has placed me in my job to impact a certain group of people for a reason, I am more motivated to do my best, even when I may not get a raise for years. If I approached my school as a calling, rather than just trying to gain the acceptance of love of people who were already set in their opinion of me, I think I would have been a lot happier.
I am convinced that if I had learned these lessons in middle
school, I would not have struggled as much back then. However, I am glad that I
did eventually learn these lessons, though, sometimes, like other things I have
learned, sometimes I need to go back and review them. I am glad for these lessons, because without
them, I would have never grown into the person I am today. And I am glad for the God that helped me
The s-word. It carries more judgment, stigma, and
heartache than any other word in the English language. Yet it affects more people than we care to
realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it. According to the National Institute of Mental
Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious
thoughts about wanting to commit suicide.
I can relate to those 9.8 million people. Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide. However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation.
Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an
adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a
support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The
good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and
people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got
through Jesus and my support system as well.
I would also like to share some things that my support of family and
friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I
feel like life is just too much:
You are a survivor!
Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed
and abused you. But, then, Jesus will
give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life
are never enough, and that you always fall short. Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength
you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,”
but more importantly, how He sees
success. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for
you, or really knows you. But, then,
Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong. So, keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you
don’t belong anywhere. Then, Jesus will
provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact
their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!
Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I
almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I
never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!
I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school:
“I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being
physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could
only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it,
at least in me?” I had no hope. I was
fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside.
I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life. Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one
year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come
out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I
had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere,
even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that
I thought were forever shattered. Hope
has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure.
Hope was, and always is, Jesus.
Hope has given me purpose to live. Before I became a follower of Christ, I was
living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never
really thought about blessing others with it.
I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more
difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent.
With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger
than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and
hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the
drudgery that life often brings.
Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still
struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God
will bring good out of even that. I have
hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive
episode. I have hope because God has
surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.
Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had
never known before. Since I found Hope,
He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back
and who care for one another. This
support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of
my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.
Hope has provided me with my current job and some great
managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new
things. I want to give a shout out to my
now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to
be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well. I want to give a shout out to my now former
manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me.
Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always
believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to
accomplish His great will in my life.
Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have
put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on.
Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given
me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past.
Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday that traditionally is slated by non-profit organizations to encourage charitable giving. Indeed, many people all around the world need hope—from the poor and needy, those in prison, those starving for love and affection, those struggling with a mental or physical illness, and many others. Today, I want to celebrate hope-givers and encourage all of us, me included, to be hope-givers ourselves, and, in so doing, give a bright future to the people in our world.
As you may already know, I have had about a twenty-five year struggle with depression. However, even in my darkest pit, God always provided people to give me hope that I could come out of the pit, more victorious and alive than ever before. By listing these people, I have the hope that in your own struggles, that you will be encouraged that there are people in your own life that will also give you the hope you need at the right time. I also want these people to know that they are important and that they have made a difference in my life. Here are some of the following people that gave me hope when I needed it the most and how they provided it for me:
My parents and brother: They were there for me during my toughest times, and did their best to support me through it all. They always encouraged me to never give up, even when I wanted to. Because of their persistence and love, I was able to come out the other side of depression a stronger person.
My mentor J: She always encouraged me that I was not the stupid, not-good-enough, failure I had imagined myself to be. She always saw the best in me, and encouraged me to never put myself down, especially for things beyond my control.
My friend Veronica*: Once when I was having intense suicidal thoughts and was visibly upset, she was able to convince and encourage me to see hope and joy again in my life. Also, because she has so much joy and hope in her own life, while still being real about her struggles, I have been inspired to follow suit.
My friend Holly*: Holly has always given me hope that I am not alone in my struggles, and she always has words of validation and encouragement, even when she herself was experiencing very difficult things in her life. Her unselfishness, along with her uplifting words, helped me to know during the tough times, that there was always hope for me.
My friends Anna* and Karen*: Karen and Anna have always been there for me as good online friends, who have encouraged me through the tough times, and shared with me the good. Their honesty about their own struggles in life and how they have persevered through them, have given me hope that I, too, could come out victorious over my depression and other issues in life.
My manager Elizabeth*: My current manager always gave me hope that even when I mess up or feel insecure, she has my back, and she believes in my abilities as an associate and as a person.
My manager Chris*: Chris was the one that gave me the opportunity to work at my current job in the first place. He also has believed in my abilities as an associate and as a person, and has encouraged me to work diligently and wisely.
My friend Laura*: Laura has encouraged me to see me how God sees me. She gave me hope that even in the dark throes of depression, that she was willing to be there for me when I needed her the most. One time, when I was particularly struggling with self-hatred, she had sent me a most precious forward about the beauty she saw in my heart with her caption “This is you.” I will never forget that.
My pastor John*: My pastor was instrumental in helping me redeem a work relationship that I thought was past redeeming. God used him to do a work in my heart, and the relationship I had at work was reconciled.
How To Give Hope
Giving hope is not only about giving encouragement, though it sure may be a very important element in it. Giving hope is about looking at someone and seeing the golden nuggets in their soul, like most of my hope-givers have done for me. Hope-givers see what those who have despaired or lost hope are blind to—the beauty in their soul and the hope in their futures. For example, I have several friends who are unable to work. The world may see them as lazy or useless, but I see them as those who still can give others encouragement and perseverant, as they wake up each day fighting the illnesses that try to defeat them.
Giving hope is about being a shining light into someone’s life, when he or she feels alone or forlorn by others. Sometimes, I have felt that way during certain situations, but my friends Veronica and Holly have always encouraged me by making me feel less alone. All my hope-givers have helped me find the light in my soul and helped it to shine. We, too, can be the shining light into someone else’s life that desperately needs it. We can do this by being there for them whenever possible, by helping them through their pain, and by speaking words of hope and positivity into their lives. Saying things like, “I’m sorry you are struggling so much today, but I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are not alone, “can make a whole world of difference in a person’s life.
Giving hope is also about being hope in their lives. For instance, my manager Chris, not knowing me as a person yet, took the chance and gave me the opportunity to work at my current job. Had he not given me the chance to work where I am now, I don’t know where I would be today. He gave me hope of a new opportunity to shine. Also, my mentor J, gave me hope by helping me find work and giving me the tools that I needed in order to get out of my rut of depression and hopelessness that I had felt for years. I try to give hope myself by sharing my love for others through my writings and also helping them feel valued and encouraged through thanking them when I see the positive difference they have made in others’ lives, including mine.
When we give hope, we give life to others. Who around you is dying for love and hope today? Maybe be there for them and give them the encouragement that they are still valued and needed, because being a hope-giver for them could save their lives.
*=Names have been changed for privacy of the individuals mentioned.