My Hero, My Friend

You are a gift from the great God

Your sunshine grows more every day

As I see the light in your heart

Even when miles pull us apart

 

Your service has protected me

From many dangers and despair

I’m so sorry I couldn’t see

The great hero in front of me

 

But now I see your gallant love

For your country and fellow man

Your great compassion from above

And the great beauty in your soul

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Precious

-written 11/4/2018

I have seen you struggle all your life

Among others you have had much strife

People treating you like just a toy

For them to just use and then destroy

 

But they don’t know the light in your soul

The light that makes you awesome and whole

They don’t know the joy you brought to me

Or how precious you will always be

 

Don’t let their dark extinguish your light

Remember your value in my sight

Because you’re unique and set apart

And that I love you with my whole heart

My Journey Out of Darkness

*=all names have been changed for privacy reasons

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2016, approximately 16.2 million adults have suffered from depression, and approximately 3.1 million teens suffered from depression in the same year (1). In 2016, though I still struggled with depression, at times, I was much better than I was in the past.  In fact, depression is something that I have struggled with since I was about ten years old.  If you struggle today or have struggled in the past with depression, you are not alone.

As I said earlier, my depression started in my childhood. Though I may have appeared to most people to be the traditional, happy, go-lucky child, I constantly struggled with making lasting friendships with my peers, and because of certain quirks I had, some of my peers would even bully me relentlessly and  mock me by pretending to be my friend, before I knew of their real intentions.  Because of this, as I got older, I trusted people less.  However, as attested by a fellow classmate, I was very difficult to get along with, probably because of my rigidity and selfishness.  I wanted things done right and my way, but because I didn’t really know how to accommodate or listen to other people’s views, no one wanted to really pay attention or work with me. As a result of this rigid personality, combined with my peers’ bullying and lack of understanding, I often felt lonely, bored, and depressed. I desperately wanted to “fit in,” but I didn’t know exactly how to go about this.

Then, I grew up. I no longer was as rigid and self-centered, but the years of being bullied and teased had taken its toll.  I had grown so paranoid of people that in my senior year of high school, I was dubbed “most paranoid.”  I still struggled to make close friends, as people had already settled in their cliques by then, and I felt like I really didn’t belong anywhere.   Also, during this time, in addition to my depression, which had gotten a bit worse at this time, I also struggled with other mental health issues that almost sent me to the hospital! I wanted to be a successful person, both academically, and eventually financially, but I felt it was never good enough for either myself, my parents, or anyone else.

In March through mid April 1999, I suffered verbal abuse at the hands of one of my instructors. This instructor basically had said, in so many words, that I would not amount to much in my life, and sadly, for many years, I believed him.  In fact, I had so unconsciously internalized his searing words of condemnation that this had resulted in me contemplating, more than once, ending my life. In fact, on April 7, 1999, I had written in my diary, “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?”

A few months later, God gave me His answer by rescuing me from some of my self-destruction, and I finally found hope in Him. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  Slowly, but surely, with God’s help, I would climb out of the pit of darkness and despair.

I didn’t get out the pit immediately, though. In fact, it took awhile. However, by the time I started college, I was beginning to open up to people and develop closer relationships, which, most of them unfortunately have faded. However, I will never forget their kindness and understanding to me during the years I was there.  I changed my major from biology to writing and publishing (one major) and Spanish (my second major).  However, even though I graduated with honors from the college, I had an incredibly tough time finding a job in my field, and I was beginning to fear that my instructor from high school was right–that I wouldn’t amount to much in this life.

It was during this time that I really searched for my specific purpose and call in this life. I tried many jobs and volunteer opportunities that I thought I could do, but most of the jobs weren’t the right fit for me. I was beginning to get discouraged again, until I met my mentor J. After meeting J, about several months later, I started trying to find jobs that were better suited to my abilities and interests.  After about six months, I found the first job that suited me well.  However, after almost three years, I felt God leading me to somewhere else. 

I had applied at a bookstore that was opening about twenty five minutes from where I lived.  I was ecstatic about finally getting an interview after applying the second time. However, the day of the interview came, and I quickly found out that I wasn’t a good fit for that job.  My worst fears were confirmed after they hadn’t called me back after several days and later told me that they had moved on to other candidates.  I became discouraged again, but didn’t give up finding a job. 

Then, several weeks later, on February 25, 2016, I was at my current workplace, and wanted to check the status of my resume, since they hadn’t contacted me for several days.  So, I talked to the HR coordinator, and she then scheduled an interview for me at 1 pm. Since I don’t live that close to my current job, I had no time to change into better “interview” clothes,  and then I went back at about that time and was interviewed by Chris* who later became my manager too.  I did not know it at the time, but the fact that Chris was willing to hire me partly helped me to recover from the depressive funk that I had suffered from for so many years!

During the next six months, many changes happened to my family and me. My brother moved out to go to school in another part of the country, where he has been living ever since.  I also felt called to move to a different church. I began to take my blog that I had started in December 2015 more seriously.  These changes, which may have left many people frazzled and/or depressed, actually brought me joy and opportunities that I may never have had if these changes did not occur.

I also faced a big change at work.  I was talking to another manager, Hope*, one September in 2016, when she and I discussed about the possibility of me being full time at my company. She agreed that I should be full-time, and then she changed my status to be full time on September 9, 2016. That was one of the happiest days of my life! Even people that knew me well didn’t think I’d ever be able to be full-time, so I was surprised, but also grateful for this opportunity.

Now, more than two years later, I continue to learn and grow. Yes, there are still times when I feel depressed and stressed, but these episodes are much shorter and less severe than ever before.  I have finally found people, both at my current job and at my church, who I believe value and love me as I am.  As I look ahead to my future, I would like to show as many people as possible the love and joy I have found through God and others in my life, and give them hope, that they, too, can conquer their demons and live in abundant joy.

Source: 1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/

Godsend

written on 10/3/2018

— To everyone in my life who has believed in me

 

I felt alone for so long

I felt no one really loved me

Years of pain and hurt inside

I didn’t let anyone see

 

I was so torn and broken

I thought no one would love me

But my heart you would open

Healing the deep pain inside

 

You showed me abundant love

And gave me the strength to stand

Because you believed in me

And who I was meant to be

Healing

Author’s note: This poem illustrates how God has saved me from darkness and depression and has given me love, joy, and peace. This poem also illustrates how I aim to love others who are going through suffering and trials. Many interpretations are possible. I hope this poem gives you hope if you are going through a trial right now. 

poem written: 8/29/2018

The same things every day

You are tired of the drudgery

And of all of the hurt and pain

Hoping that you still stay sane

 

To the world you wear a smile

But inside your heart is breaking

From all the agony and guile

Of the people surrounding you

 

You ache for something true and real

You want an end to all this pain

You want to taste joy and love

You want peace from up above

 

I will hold your hurting soul

When you feel broken inside

I will heal your hurt and pain

So again you can be whole

 

I will give you all of my love

I will sacrifice myself for you

So you will know true, real joy

And the peace from up above

 

 

How Suffering Can Build Character

Ever since I was an infant, I have always hated suffering.  I don’t only hate going through suffering and trials, but I hate to see other people I love in pain. Violence on television sometimes makes me cringe.  However, in the past few years, I have learned over and over again, had it not been for certain bouts of suffering in my life, I would have never been the kind of person I am now.  I am still far from perfect. However, I can attest that most, if not, all the trials in my life have served to strengthen and better me as a person.  Here is what I learned about how certain areas that I experienced suffering in my life have helped build my character.

Suffering physically/health-wise

For regular readers of this blog, you have probably read the story about when I almost died in June 2014.  To make a long story short, I started having more and more pain in my side area of my body. I thought it may have been from heavy lifting, until I started throwing up blood. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses found the source of the problem: my gallbladder, which was twice the size it should have been, inflamed, and had at least several gall stones in it.  Then, the next day, the gallbladder was taken out before it could have burst—just in time.  During and after this ordeal, I learned many things.  First of all, I learned not to take life for granted, especially the time spent with loved ones, because you never know when your time is up on this earth.  Secondly, I learned how lonely and depressing being sick and/or bed-bound can be. I only experienced this for about several days, and already I was depressed and had cabin fever.  I could only imagine how people who cannot get out of bed for weeks and months at a time must feel! Thus, this incident has caused me to pray more for people in my congregation who are sick and have more compassion for those that cannot get out of bed.  One of my pastors told the congregation about how people in our church who have been battling cancer do not come to the pastors first, but to other people who have been through the same thing they have, and thus would have more experience and compassion in how to best deal with their situation.

Being bullied in school and elsewhere

Some people I have met in the past few years would probably not believe that when I was growing up, I struggled a lot with making friends and was getting picked on regularly by my peers, because my life is so different now. However, I remember, especially in middle school and my first year of high school, people mocking me for everything from my ethnicity to the clothing I wore.  To make matters worse, most of the teachers were either unaware of what was happening or partly blamed me for being victimized by my own peers and thought I should try to “fit in” better.  (NOTE: Abuse and bullying is NE VER the victim’s fault!)  Also, some people pitied me and tried/pretended to be my friend, but they never stuck around long.  Even though these years were some of my most miserable and depressing, these events also served to strengthen my moral character. Out of these events, God developed in me a heart of care for all those who have ever been abused and/or bullied by others before. To this day, I have a strong urgency to do something to help those who have experienced abuse, bullying, or any other type of injustice. I do not want other people to experience the loneliness, desolation, and depression that I had experienced during some of those years in school.  I also don’t want people to think that they are unimportant or insignificant to this world, because every single person can make a positive contribution to this world. (Yes, this includes you!) If I had never been bullied in school, I would probably be extremely narcissistic and self-centered, as I was before this experience.  Even though I would not wish these experiences on anyone, I am thankful that I learned how to not treat people and thus, by default, know to treat others the way I would want to be treated.  I learned the high value of all people, even the ones that don’t stand out as much in this world.

Being unemployed or underemployed

There are many people I know that assume that most people can find a job in several weeks, and if they take longer that they are either “lazy” or “incompetent” in some way. I used to be one of those people when I was growing up.  However, during the times when I was looking for a job, I realized how arduous and discouraging the task can be, especially if you struggle with a disability or are somehow labeled as “different” from the normative idea of an “employable” person.  The interview itself can be very nerve-wracking. Something as insignificant as clothing choice or perfume smell can negatively impact an interview and also the chances of the applicant getting the job. This trial helped me in at least two ways: 1) I have more compassion for people who have a difficult time finding a job, but who still try, or even those that cannot work at all, no matter how hard they try.  2) I appreciate the job that I now have more because of the work and time it took me to get to where I am even now.  I work harder because I relish the joy of being able to be productive and make a difference in other’s lives.  I don’t take my job for granted, but have passion in what I am doing.

General suffering

In general, going through the trials I have has made me be able to comfort others who are going through similar things that I have gone through before. I am able to relate to them on a deeper, more intimate level, than if I couldn’t relate to them at all.  I have been able to develop more compassion for those who are suffering.  Also, I have hope, that, through the most difficult things that I experienced, that future trials will a.) Either not be as bad or b.) I will be able to overcome them with the help of God and of the people that will come into my life to help me through it.  Finally, through all the pain and hurt I have been through and witnessed others go through, I have realized both the value of people and time.  Because of this realization, I have been able to let certain irritants go  and just focus on making the best of my time with the people that love and care for me.

5 Destiny Encounters That Changed My Life

We all have those moments where just one person, one situation, or one moment can have an enormous impact on our lives. When I was growing up, I do not remember many, if any, such moments, even though I’m sure I had some. However, in the past ten years (mostly in the past five), I’ve had several such moments, that, as far as I know, will be forever seared in the memory of my heart. Of course, I know some of us may have destiny encounters that impact our lives in a negative way, but that is not my focus. All of these following encounters from my life have changed me for the better and have happened within the past ten years (with four out of the five happening within the past five!). In chronological order, these are my destiny encounters that have changed my life:

  1. Meeting my mentor J (circa February 2011-2012): After having a tough year in 2011-2012, because I was trying to get adjusted to a new pastor and also struggling through several relational issues with people, I needed a wise and caring mentor badly! I was also very frustrated because, although I was ready and eager to work, and had been looking for a job for some time, it seemed no jobs were the right fit for me. So, in February of that year, I met J for the first time. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting her to have that much of an impact on my life. However, over the years, she has helped me not only make peace with various people in my life, but also was instrumental in helping me land one of my first jobs. She, and some other people, also helped me find my current job, which has also made a huge impact on my life.  J has also been a tireless advocate and encourager and the first person to truly believe in my abilities and my potential.  Because of all her help, and some intervention from (I believe) God, I have much more purpose and meaning in my life than I have ever had before! My depression, which had dragged on and off for years, has finally, subsided substantially. Yes, it took a lot of work on my part to get to where I am now, but if it weren’t for J’s encouragement and help, I would not be where I am today.
  2. Meeting Veronica* (circa 2014-2015): I was at my previous church at an event. I don’t remember if it was some kind of celebration or party, or if it was a young adult bible study for people aged 18-35. I remember there being a crowd of people all around me, not really engaging with me, and seeing this young woman who I had not seen before, finding her way around the crowd and trying to engage with the others. So, wanting to engage with the crowd and especially to know more about this new woman, I went and introduced myself.  As it turns out, this young woman would become one of my closest friends! Veronica* and I are still in contact until this day. She has had an indelible impact on my life because of her infectious smile, general positive attitude about life, her genuineness, and her deep care for others, especially those who are hurting.  For example, one day, when I was having suicidal thoughts and was generally feeling close to hopeless after enduring an especially stressful day at work, her encouraging words and support gave me renewed strength to face the next day. I was no longer suicidal and had renewed hope in life and humanity. Through seeing and hearing about her serving the broken, hurting, and/or even the undeserving, she really opened my eyes to how to best care and encourage others, just as she had for me.
  3. Getting my current job (Feb-March 2016): There is a longer version of this event, here. After being turned down for one of my dream jobs at a bookstore, which turned out to not be a good fit for me anyhow, I was a bit discouraged. However, one wintry morning, when my mom and I happened to have to go to my current workplace, I asked the Home Office Coordinator about the status of my application, since I hadn’t heard back from them yet. When I asked her, she decided that I could interview at 1 pm! Because my workplace was a bit far from my house and my mom and I had other errands to run, I didn’t have time to change into decent interview clothes. When I was being interviewed, I was so nervous that I stumbled and stuttered over my words. I thought for sure I had flunked the interview. To my surprise, about an hour later, they offered me the job! However, I wasn’t sure if this job would be the best fit for me at the time. After seeking wise counsel from my family, I decided to take the job because of the opportunities that it presented.  About six months later, I was discussing wanting to be full time with one of my managers, and because she admired my work ethic and generally positivity, she eagerly changed me from part-time to full-time. And the rest is history!
  4. Deciding to come to my current church (October 2016): Many things were happening at my former church. It seemed like everyone was leaving, and some things were falling apart for me there.  My pastor there, who I admired and wanted to stay many more years, had been called to a different church.  We were being taken over by another church, which didn’t seem to be the right fit for me.  So, despite ten years of mostly good and encouraging memories and building relationships with the people there, I knew God was calling me somewhere else. I first tried attending a church down the road from my old one, but that one didn’t seem a good fit for me. Then, I attended my current church for the first time.  I knew of one person that went there—a friend of a friend. To my surprise, I found another friend who also went there and sang in the choir! I was so happy and surprised to see her and her husband there! Also, everyone was so friendly, but not overly so. People there seemed genuine, and the sermon touched my heart. However, I did not know if this was going to be my church home or not. I went several more times, and was so pleased with both the genuineness of the people there and the great, biblical quality of the sermons, that I decided to become a member less than a year later, in August 2017. The people in this church have deepened my relationship with God and others, a pastor there helped me to be able to study the Bible more effectively, another helped me forgive several people at work, and many people there helped me have not only more passion and love for God, but also for the people that I serve every day.
  5. Meeting my friend Ann* (circa January 2017): One day, when I was sitting in the break room and after praying, I heard a woman sitting with one of my other friends, talking about spiritual issues. I wondered if she was a Christian, because she used many of the same words a believer in Christ would, So, I asked her if she was, and she said something like, “Of course!” Because of our similar beliefs and passion for loving God and others, we began working together to impact our workplace positively with God’s love and kindness. For example, if someone is having a bad day, we try to encourage, or pray for them (if they allow us to). We also strive to demonstrate a hard-working ethic and a positive attitude to be a good role model for the others there.

These encounters all changed my life in ways that are only beginning to manifest themselves. They all gave me purpose and hope in my life where there was lack before. So, I encourage everyone to strive to be encouraging and uplifting to others, especially those that are hurting in some way. Who knows? Like my friend Veronica or my mentor J,  you may leave an indelible impact on someone else’s life.

*=not their real name