God Only Knows (What I’ve Been Through)


From the moment I watched this video, I knew I had to write something about it. It really hit home with me on various aspects of dealing with depression and anxiety.

When I started writing this I intended to talk more in depth about the video, but I ended up just writing out my story. The video basically just served as inspiration.


The Beginning

I could try to go all the way back to the beginning, but that’s a very long (yet important) story, so I will go back , but I’ll try to keep it brief. The short of it is this: All through my life I’ve struggled with making friends, it’s never really come natural to me. The friends I did have in middle/high school were basically only ‘church friends’, — as in I never spent any time with them or spoke to them outside of church (for the most part) — and I am definitely to blame for that. The problem really arose (but I didn’t notice it for a long while after) early-mid freshman year when I had lost all motivation to go to church, so I didn’t attend, one of my friends had already left at that point and the one I did have left… well, we completely drifted apart after I didn’t show up for about six months, and unfortunately we were never able to reconnect quite the same way. The remainder of that school year and my sophomore year were kind of a mess in the wake of that, plus I’ll just be completely honest I had some of the worst Sunday school teachers possible during those years as well. During all this time, I had been burying these issues by sitting at home and gaming all day, and I didn’t even realize it at the time. I was home schooled my entire life so I didn’t mind sitting in my house all day, and spending time with all the ‘friends’ I had online, they were all long distance, most of which I never even met in person. Just as quickly as I made those ‘friends’, I had lost them, and going into my junior year I really wanted to make a change. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a Sunday school social that was planned a few months into my junior year, my class was mostly made up of this one huge group of friends (about 10 or more people that all went to school together) that I had been surrounded by since fifth grade, so they made up the bulk of the social. So going in I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I had been trying to get into this group in some capacity for a few years with no luck, but I wanted to give it a shot. I walked into the leader’s house and immediately felt crushed, I tried to walk up to a small group that was already having conversation and was shut out instantly, so I went and sat to the side alone as more people arrived. I tried a few more times to talk to the people there, but hardly got further than a greeting with anyone, my Sunday school teachers included. So long story short, I sat there for the whole three or four hours hating every moment, but never building up the courage to leave early. Eventually everyone else left (they had basically all driven themselves or each other) and I had to wait around for a ride, trying to hide the fact that I now despised everyone involved. No one noticed. My mom arrived a little while later and I forced a smile as I walked out the door, got into my car, and broke down crying immediately. Here’s the first point I think the video hits on really well. As the title of the song states, 1. For many of us, only God knows what we’ve been going through. Because we try our best to hide our pain. I was in that boat too, in that moment it was so sudden that I couldn’t possibly hold it in, I couldn’t bring myself to lie or cover it up, the fear hadn’t taken hold yet. But from there, I learned how to hide it really quickly.


Senior year

Coming off the back of this situation at the social/party/whatever you want to call it, I switched classes to get away from that group/teacher, and for the remainder of my junior year I was much happier in that new class. Fast forward to my senior year, it was really hard overall, but there were glimpses of hope. The hard part being my Sunday school teachers abandoned my class pretty early on, so I stopped going to the high school ministry on Sunday mornings entirely. Fairly early on in my senior year, my mom was attending a bible study at another church and met this lady that had a son my age with a similar issue, so we were kind of forced together and ended up becoming really good friends through our time together. That was the one glimmer of hope I had. In January of my senior year (2017), I learned through some unfortunate circumstances that he would be moving away a few months later, we were both upset by it but it was unavoidable, so we tried to make the best of it. We did so much in our time together that it felt like we had been friends forever, but in reality it was only about 10 months. That was all the time we had together in person, and now it’s been a bit over a year since he moved, we still talk from time to time, but it’s hard to keep up with two busy lives now in different time zones. In any case, that news was crushing. I still remember my reaction to hearing the news from my mom for the first time: “I don’t even care anymore.” It’s not that I didn’t care about my best friend at the time, and my only true friend through all of high school anymore, it was just that I had gotten so used to losing my friends at that point. My best friend of about ten years had basically dropped me over night, any of my neighbors I tried to make friends with either treated me poorly or moved, I drifted away from any other long distance friends I had, all the friends I had online earlier on had gotten sick of the game we bonded over in the first place so we had nothing left… it was really hard to lose another, especially when it was going so well. Part in our efforts to try and make the most of the time we had left, I invited him to Beach Camp, it was our last shot to go as students and neither of us had been (we didn’t even attend the same church), and it was freshly revamped. To sum that up quickly, the reasons I initially went for didn’t quite work out. We went together, roomed together, but hardly saw each other. He split off from me with others in our room, or went off solo (I’m not even really sure). I could tell right from the start that the week wouldn’t be what I had hoped, whether it was true or not, in a room full of people that should have (or could have) been friends, and one that I specifically brought along with me, anxiety got the best of me and I felt completely alone, so I tried to leave the first night. I was literally in contact with my mom (when I shouldn’t have had my phone at all, whoops), and I was seriously considering trying to leave some time the next day and abandoning the week altogether. Fortunately, I decided to stay. The only saving grace was not participating in the camp outside of the worship services and carrying my camera around with me the whole time. That was honestly all that kept me there for the week. During the services though, I learned some valuable things, the first major one being how to take notes. That seems simple, but it was something I had never really tried to practiced at that point, but I still have that note book with all the lessons I learned from that week, that helped me a lot more after this week was done. It was also at camp that I found my love for worship, especially with so many other voices echoing through the room, it was so powerful, I’m still in awe of the beauty I first experienced there every time I step into a worship service to this day, and that is not changing any time soon.

I’m smilin’ in everyone’s face
I’m cryin’ whenever they leave the room
They don’t know the battle I face
They don’t understand what I’m going through
‘I’ll find you’ by Lecrae

Back to the video for a moment, a part I think they portrayed really really well was her interactions with others, 2. Many of us put on a smile face to face, but as soon as we turn away we go blank. This isn’t just an outward thing either, we can be laughing and smiling with friends, hanging out in public, in private, one on one or in a group, we may feel like we’re on top of the world while we’re hanging out, but we may still walk away empty afterwards. We put on this mask of functioning perfectly like everyone else when others are watching, but as soon as the audience is gone we go dark again. And sometimes it’s not even intentional, I’ve written out dozens of instances (maybe more) where I went to church, worshiped, did my job, hung out with people, got home and felt defeated. Why? I can’t give a straight answer, all I can boil it down to is: fear and anxiety make us want to question and run away from everything, even the good things. There were nights when everything went right, and I still felt empty. There were nights that never even got started, and these feelings tore down all the potential for good in my life before it even started. Either way I always felt the same: Empty, isolated, alone, worthless, forgotten.


Progress

My worst nightmare coming out of my senior year was that nothing would get better. I wanted to come out determined to change (again), but the fear of failure, and more than anything — all my work being for nothing — scared me off for a bit longer. The summer was long, so very long. I had little work to do since most everything I did was tied to the school year, my only friend had moved away a couple months earlier, I had nothing to distract me. I really struggled during this time and had zero outlet, that’s the short of it. August comes around and and lot of stuff is changing up, about a month into the Sunday school switch (which happens the first week of August), after some convincing from the one person I did have — a mentor of mine — I bit the bullet and dropped out of the media ministry. I realized that my situation was at least partially due to social isolation, I loved serving with the media ministry but everyone there was significantly older than me, and I was on a camera at the time so I sat alone in a corner of the main worship center during service when I could’ve been getting plugged into the college ministry and trying to fix the issues I had, so I dropped out of media and started doing just that — investing in the college ministry. It wasn’t easy at first, I still had a hard time for a while, but around November something finally clicked and it started to get better. I had a few wins professionally just before, and began to finally feel like I was making legitimate progress elsewhere, so my mood was a bit better than it had been for a long while, and I began to open up more and enjoy the whole experience a lot more. Around that same time, Wednesday nights were becoming more and more of a struggle, there were a few nights in the fall semester that I didn’t shoot anything because I just felt so sick to my stomach walking in the building (something that began in my senior year when my Sunday school classes were less than perfect. again.), surrounded by so many people that “knew” me, but didn’t “know” me.

Loneliness can happen in a very crowded room
Especially when they know who you are but do not know you
‘Orion’ by nobigdyl

In September of last year, I walked in to the high school service on a Wednesday night and the message was on ‘community’, and toward the end our pastor has a couple students volunteer to come up and share their stories with everyone, and just as I walked in this girl I sort of knew was sharing, and in all honesty it really spoke to me. Similarly to the video that prompted me to write this whole thing, I can’t (and won’t) claim to have gone through all the same exact steps as her, I never reached the point of self harm or suicide (but who knows how far down the road that was in reality?), but I think the point still stands. Since the clip is public anyway, I’ll link it here if you want to watch.

Not only did this story resonate with me on multiple levels in the moment, but it stuck in my mind for weeks and I went back to listen to this message (and the stories at the end) multiple times afterwards. It felt like God reached down and said in this moment “You are not alone in this, and I’ll prove it to you.” I suppose this leads into my next point again, as shown in the video: 3. Do not underestimate the power of reaching out and/or sharing. This works both ways, if you are in a great spot in life but know someone that is (or might be struggling), please reach out. Through everything I experienced, all the months (or years) of struggling, the fear and doubt crippling any attempt for me to express it, no one legitimately sat me down and asked how I was — actually. Not the greeting “how are you?”, that doesn’t actually mean the same thing. — I got so good at hiding it that no one noticed. No one knew I was that close to leaving camp, no one knew I wanted out of that party, no one knew I felt alone, no one knew I developed trust issues, no one knew I hated where I was but was at a loss for how to change it. Reach out. And again, this goes both ways, if you are struggling, please tell someone. You cannot do it on your own, I didn’t feel significantly better until after I let it all out. I can’t promise you will be exactly the same and everything will be fine from there like it was for me, but just tell someone. A friend, your pastor, your parents, a peer, a teacher, a mentor. Not everyone will understand, unfortunately not everyone will try to help, and some may not even take you seriously, but if you run into that do not give up. I wouldn’t tell a soul until I felt like I was sort of “past it” because I doubted the legitimacy of every feeling I had. I questioned whether or not it was “fair” that I felt this way with all the opportunities I had, with all the stuff, with all the support I had from certain people. Was I allowed to feel nothing when I got a compliment? Was I allowed to feel like I have nothing when I have so many material things? Was I just being childish? Selfish? Ungrateful? These are actual questions that I asked myself for months until they about ate me alive. It is legitimate, you do matter. Tell someone. More than anything else, rest in the fact that even if you don’t believe you matter to any one that surrounds you here, you cannot escape the everlasting love of God. He loves you no matter what, whether you believe it or not, it’ll always be there when you turn around again.


Growth

Through all of it, I’ve found that God has grown me an incredible amount. When I shared this story (or collection of stories) with the high school pastor I work with a few months ago I think his jaw about hit the floor. He had also been completely in the dark about all this mess until quite a while after I made it through everything. His perspective on this whole situation was really interesting, he has really emphasized the growth that’s come from all this suffering, and I can’t help but also do the same. How I am now compared to even a few months ago when I was in the middle of this storm, I’m completely different. I honestly think that if I last spoke to someone a year or so ago, and reconnected with them now, they might hardly recognize me. Outwardly, I feel completely different, I found a lot more confidence, I want to hang out with people more often, I want to meet new people, I want to get out of the house and be doing something all the time, I want to keep this growth moving. These are not things I could say before. Inwardly I feel completely different too, I had a very weak faith going into all this, which certainly didn’t do me any favors at first, but God used this as the foundation of my faith. I truly believe I found Him in the midst of all of this mess, I’ve been actively reading my bible, praying regularly, trying to fill myself up with His word as much as I can, and since then I’ve felt called to pour out. I believe this is one of my outlets, but I have many more — some I haven’t even gotten a glimpse of quite yet. God has used this suffering in so many incredible ways, I could not be more grateful.

Romans 8:18 (NIV)
I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed within us.

I chose this verse to be my life verse, because when I found it months ago, it really resonated with me similarly to the story I mentioned before. I felt it was a near exact reflection of my perspective on my situation. I can say in full honesty: So far, the suffering has not nearly compared to the glory revealed within me, and the best part is, this is just the beginning. I don’t believe I will ever completely be ‘better’, not on this side of heaven, I can’t completely brush it off and move on. But I am confident that it will get easier moving forward, I’ve found a great hope beyond all understanding, and I now know — and truly believe — this does not have to define me.


Closing

If you made it all the way through this, thank you for taking the time. I’ve had this calling to share my story in some way for a while now, and this video (yes, I’m still talking about it) really inspired me, I just had to talk about it… and it led to all this. I apologize for being so long winded, but I can’t help it when I really get to writing, I hope you at least found it interesting if not helpful. If you or someone you know could be helped by this article, please share it, whether that’s a link or just your take away from the stories here. If you have any comments, or a story of your own to share, I would absolutely love to hear it, feel free to send it my way on Instagram or Twitter: @editorbryan and @bryanedits respectively.

No matter where you are, you are so loved.

Thank you for reading, God bless.