Angie’s Story – The Road Less Travelled
‘The sickness isn’t the scary part; the healing is.’
To commit to healing means that I will lose my safety net, my coping strategies that
allow me to tune out the truth and turn a blind eye to the things staring at me in the
face, breathing down my neck and trying to get my attention. It means not
retreating to the comfortable and familiar sadness.
‘Choosing to heal is not easy, but it’s an amazing opportunity,
disguised in what seems like a huge challenge, which will set me free.’
These are the words that I wrote in my journal in 2016, at the airport, coming home from a trip to Indonesia with Compassion. They have been imprinted in my head ever since.
I was 16 at the time. This was the season in my life where I was facing trauma from my past that had previously not been acknowledged or dealt with. I was already struggling with depression and anxiety and what I saw in Indonesia caused a tsunami of emotions. Anger, fear, shame, guilt, doubt, uncontrollable sadness… the list goes on. When my mind played over a series of events that I had previously tried to forget, I knew I could not run from those memories and emotions any longer.
I sensed that God had put me on this trip for this reason, to unpack something so big that I had kept it hidden all my life. I knew that I needed to talk to someone, to change my mind set, and the way that I was living, but I didn’t know how or where to start. For most of my life I had lived with darkness, sadness and depression. I didn’t recognise myself without them. Feeling joy, happiness and hope was unfamiliar territory. I remember praying to God to save me but so often it didn’t feel like my prayers were answered. The next few years were painful. There were times when I was in such a dark place that I didn’t feel like life was worth it, and I wished pain upon myself because I thought it was all I deserved. I defined my worth on how I had been mistreated rather than how my loved ones supported me. I made bad choices, lots of them, I felt trapped in a cycle of pain, sadness and fear.
There is a community of people on the coast from different churches who get together
weekly to worship by the beach until nightfall. We called it fire night. It was a gathering of
people who would share stories, pray and worship for hours and then eat together. I found that each time I had gone over the last few years there was something that impacted
me in some way. I believe that this was God’s way of showing his love through those who
shared stories that gave me so much hope and insight. I also found hope in the thing’s
that others believed were possible in my life. I was able to talk about trauma, depression,
suicide, and was even taught about the power of simple gratitude. I felt God’s presence
each time I went but I also felt a stronger battle with the enemy. The experience eventually
felt so overwhelming that I stopped going for almost a year. I missed the community and
the way people shared hope with me, but I didn’t want to get better. I was too afraid of a different life.
In September 2019, I hit rock bottom. I felt so hopeless. I said to my psychologist,
‘I wish something really bad would happen to me
just so I could feel like it’s okay to feel this depressed.’
A week later, a very close friend of mine died. The day I found out about his death, was the day my life changed forever. That loss gave me the perspective and clarity that I had been looking for. My thoughts that had been so dark and all-consuming became lighter and freer. A few weeks later I felt like I needed to go to fire night. To be with the community, worship, pray and cry if I needed to. I knew it was a safe space. When I got there and we watched the sun slowly set over the river, my vision was so clear. It felt so light. Everything was so light. I didn’t feel the heaviness that I had in the past. I felt relaxed and at peace. It almost felt weird and as I was praying, asking God what this was about I clearly remember opening my eyes, looking into the fire and hearing the words, ‘You’ve been set free from darkness’. I didn’t know what to think of that. I remember coming home unsure of how to even share the news. I was so excited to share but also apprehensive. The next few weeks I had conversations, sharing my fear of believing it because I was expecting to go back to the way things were, the familiar sadness and pain. But I started to believe it because I could see it. No more pain or dark thoughts. Next month will be a year since those chains have been broken.
A year clean from self-harm.
A year free from suicidal ideation.
A year falling more in love with life every day.
Four years on from 2016 and I am now no longer living in a toxic environment, free from depression. I used to say I had absolutely nothing to lose because I felt I had already lost myself. Now I say to myself I have too much to lose and there is no going back. I am now a first-year nursing student on a career path I believe God has placed me in. I believe there will be opportunity to speak into people’s lives in their most vulnerable spaces, just as nurses, my psychologist and loved ones have been able to do for me in the dark spaces I was once in. Every day I ask myself if the choices I’m making are life giving. I challenge myself each day with my thoughts and feelings. I have learnt that God doesn’t always tell us what to do, sometimes you just need to take action and ask for his guidance. Choosing the path to healing is never going to be easy, but I know it leads to freedom.
“I will exalt you Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down the pit.”