I remember driving with my Mom to church a few Sundays ago and while we were riding, Kirk Franklin’s “Hold Me Now” came on. Instantly so many memories came flooding back as I recalled how many times I played that song over and over again as a preteen. I remember writing all of the words to that song in numerous journals. I clung to its words.

As a child I was teased and mistreated for a number of different reasons. Some of it was the run-of-the-mill “kids will be kids” teasing but some of it was malicious too. I’ve always been a bit sensitive so as you can imagine, it was very difficult for me to deal with a lot of it. Much of it I internalized as well so as I got older, there were some insecurities that I had that did not seem to be logical to others. After all, I came from a great home with loving and affirming parents and a great support system and yet I struggled throughout my teenage years and early adulthood with depression.

My parents did the best they could to support me with the limited knowledge they had about how deep and dark my feelings could get. What they could see, as evidenced through my mood swings and sometimes sullen disposition, they handled with as much as grace as they could. Yet no one could understand how dark and alone I felt for many years.

For years I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just pick myself up out of this recurring cycle. I would share with a few what I was experiencing but in between them not understanding or not being patient as I worked through things, I learned to be ashamed of these feelings, many of which I felt like I had limited control over. I learned to embrace my introverted nature because it was rough enough that I didn’t understand myself; I couldn’t bear others misunderstanding me too. I remember praying to God that He would help me to like myself or that He would help me feel better or that He would change things so that I could be happy but many days it felt like those prayers fell upon deaf ears.

I believe in the power of prayer but I also believe in the use of practical wisdom. If I was physically sick, I’d pray for healing AND go to the doctor. I understand the tension between faith and science but I decided that it wouldn’t be a sin for me to get some help. The first time I went to a therapist, I went by myself and no one knew. I was a sophomore in college and I was tired. I didn’t even tell my parents until after I graduated from Penn State that I had gone to counseling. After they found out, my parents encouraged me to go back…to fight for better. And though I have utilized counseling off and on for the past few years, the shame and helplessness I felt behind my decision to do so has gone away. I believe that I can trust in God to help me be and feel better and I can recognize my need to use different avenues in order to achieve this. I can be strong enough to admit that I’m not feeling OK without letting that become who I am. I could admit my weaknesses in order to discover my strengths.

I share this for a number of reasons. A couple of weeks ago, a 22 year old bright and innovative young woman named Karyn Washington took her life. I didn’t know her personally but I had heard of her work through her uplifting movements, For Dark Girls and the Red Lips Project. This young woman, who seemingly had taken the pain that she had experienced in life and was always able to find the positives, let her life go before it truly began. And I cried when I read it because I knew that she very well could have been me.

We look at people and we assume so many things about their lives. We let the limited lenses of social media color people’s struggles or lack thereof in a certain light. But there are so many people who are hurting and the hurts are layered in between the filtered smiles on Instagram posts, the prolific 140 character tweets, and the encouraging Facebook posts. The hurt is in spite of the new job, the achieved promotion, or the boom of an entrepreneurial enterprise. The development of these personas have us losing the young, the old, the preachers, the atheists, the optimists, and the pessimists alike because sometimes life feels too heavy to handle, no matter how strong your emotional shoulders are.

That’s why I’m passionate about helping people, about reaching my goal of being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Someone took the time to walk me through my hurt, wasn’t afraid of the walls I put up, and wasn’t so busy trying to get me past what I was experiencing that they truly weren’t listening to me. And I am grateful that I reached out and didn’t succumb to the lie that this was all there was to life and that I was alone.

God is more than willing to walk along with us in life and I am assured of this more through the love and understanding of others and people helping me to recall who He has made me to be when I haven’t been able to do so myself. If you are struggling and are hurting, please reach out. There are so many resources out here and there are people who care. If someone takes the time to come to you with the frailty of their pain, please handle with care. Life moves fast and moves a lot and you’ll never know when you’ll need to receive such grace.

I’ve learned that God holding on to me rarely looks exactly like I imagine but it has always looked how i needed it to look.  He held me close and I didn’t always feel it.  However, I am glad for the tangible presence of those who acted as God’s hands and feet to walk with me through all the struggles.  If He did it for me, He can and will do it for you.  “Don’t you worry God is faithful and He cares about the tears you drop and the pain you feel; He’s there. When you are weak that’s when He’s strong even though you don’t know how – GOD CAN AND HE WILL HOLD YOU NOW…”

If you are feeling overwhelmed and alone, one resource that is always readily available is 1-800-273-TALK (24/7 hotline).

2 Comments

  1. I am so proud of you. You recognized that you had a problem and sought out help for it before you did something that you may have regretted and now you are sharing your experiences in the hope of helping someone else. One of the things that we as African Americans need to stop putting a stigma on mental health. This is something that we don’t want to talk about we think that if we don’t talk about it or pray about it all the problems will go away. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of prayer and that God can heal all things however, God did give Doctor’s the knowledge, skills and abilities to heal. So many of our young people are taking their lives and I think that if we reach out to people that are struggling and try to encourage them to get the help that they need maybe the suicide rate for our young people will go down.
    I am so glad that you have found your voice and are speaking out on some of the things that you have endured. I believe that you have to dig down through all the layers of hurt and pain then the healing can begin. I am so sorry that you have gone through so much. Just know that you can always come to me. I may not always understand but will always support you.

  2. I am so proud of you for speaking out Ashley. I wish you and Kasey could meet. She suffers from bi polar disorder and at times experiences the depression you describe. Things got so bad in February that she attempted suicide..but God! Keep letting people know that the God we serve has equipped us with the gift of discernment so that we can pray and beleive in Him AND seek help from those he has blessed with the gift of healing. Love you

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