If you have not heard the song “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle, please take a moment to go listen to it. It’s an amazing song that has so much meaning. The chorus says “I am sweetly broken, wholly surrendered”. To me, this means that I am taking my broken, earthly self and surrendering my life to Jesus. Something about the phrase “Sweetly Broken” just makes so much sense to me as I reflect on my life. I am going to be painfully honest about my emotional struggles over the last few years because I believe that in order for God to use my story to change lives I need to tell the complete truth.
On August 16, 2011 I lost both of my parents and everything I ever knew changed drastically. My dad went to heaven, and my mom was wrongfully accused of being involved in his murder and was sent to prison. I am going to save the details of this part of my life story for a different day because it isn’t the main focus of my post.
For two years I would wake up in the morning and have thirty seconds of peace. Thirty seconds where I would be under the misinterpretation that everything was okay. Then it would hit me that the life I was waking up to was not the one I wanted, and I would be filled with such an intense sadness that I can’t even find the words to explain it. I was the queen of fake smiles. My counselor always tells me I need to take off my mask, but after a while pretending becomes normal. I know without a doubt that I am not the only one who feels this way. Making everything seem okay is much easier than telling people what’s wrong when they can’t understand what you’re going through.
As ninth grade was coming to an end I started to realize that I needed help. I couldn’t deal with my feelings on my own. I wasn’t really feeling like myself anymore. I finally worked up the courage to ask my grandma if I could get medication to help with what I was feeling. We scheduled me a doctor’s appointment for the middle of June. I got progressively worse in the weeks leading up to it. It was like I was living on the outside looking in. I stopped smiling and laughing altogether, and even my best friend started to notice. I kept saying that everything was going to be okay once I went to the doctor. Finally the day of my appointment came and I remember breaking down crying in the waiting room because I was just so relieved to have help so close. When my pediatrician told me that the best she could do was refer me to a psychiatrist, I was overcome with disappointment. Another two weeks of waiting. Then my appointment with the psychiatrist came and relief had arrived. She diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, and PTSD and put me on Zoloft. She also advised me to write down everything I was feeling whether it was good or bad. I started my medication the weekend before my fifteenth birthday. For three days I was so extremely happy. The dark clouds had been lifted and I was just so full of life and hope. I can still remember the feeling of being on cloud 9. Then the rush had ended and I returned to a more numb version of the person I was before. The depression was still there, I was just numb to the feeling of sadness. It made me very lethargic and I would spend my afternoons napping. I was starting to become even less like myself. I listened to what the psychiatrist said and I wrote my thoughts down each night. They were awful, but it did actually make me feel better to get them out on paper. Sometimes at night I would hold all of the pills in the palm of my hand and imagine myself swallowing them all and ending the pain. Then I hit rock bottom. It was the night of July 26, 2014. I was laying in bed when I started to get these bad thoughts. The next thing I know I got the scissors out of the drawer of my nightstand. As I stood underneath the light of my closet I cut my left arm thirteen times. I remember thinking that it didn’t hurt enough so I rubbed my arm with lotion so I could feel some sort of pain. The next morning I went to church and I didn’t even try to hide it. I was crying out for help. My little brother was the only one who noticed. He asked me “what’s up with your arm?” I replied with, “nothing”. That afternoon we went to my cousin’s birthday party so I wore a long sleeve shirt just in case. The featured picture of this blog post is the picture my cousin and me at her party. I look perfectly happy, right? You would never guess why I was wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of summer. That right there my friends is an example of how good I perfected my act. That night I decided I had to tell my best friend because I knew she would find out when she saw. So I went into her room and told her I needed to talk to her out front (by the way my best friend is also my neighbor). I rolled up my sleeve and showed her my arm and right away she told me we needed to tell my grandma. She took me back over to my house and I showed my grandma. She was an emotional wreck. She took all the scissors out of my room and just hugged me. I was so numb that I didn’t completely understand what I had done. We then went to my psychiatrist and she changed my prescription to Prozac. It still wasn’t working the way I had wanted it to. I would daydream about checking myself into a psychiatric hospital because I just wanted a break. I started researching the one in Loma Linda to see what it would be like. One night I was laying in the grass out front and my best friend asked me what I was thinking about. I asked her if her and her family would come visit me if I checked myself in. After confiding in her dad, he told me that I did not belong in a place like that. He made sure that I got back in counseling with a psychologist not psychiatrist, and he helped me sign up for Comfort Zone which is a camp for kids who have lost a parent. I decided to quit taking my medication cold turkey because I didn’t like the person it was turning me into. I began counseling once a week which helped a lot. I slowly started to feel a little better as the weeks went on. My depression would still come back in waves, but it wasn’t constant anymore. Twelfth grade is when it returned with a vengeance. I could tell that it was coming back but I really didn’t want to go back on medication so I just tried to distract myself with school and work. I prayed for it to go away and it eventually did. Of course I feel an intense sadness from time to time, but as I learned in psychology there’s a big difference between feeling very sad for a few days and being clinically depressed.
Sunday July 9, 2017 is when I found the answer I had been looking for. My friends, do you know what was missing from my life in that time of depression? The answer is Jesus. Yes I went to church, but I did not have a relationship with our Savior. In fact, it wasn’t until this past month that I truly gave my whole entire life to God. This past year I started to get my relationship with Him back on track, but I still hadn’t fully released the reigns yet. For the month of July I am reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. I was actually reading chapter eight on July 9th because I was a day behind. I was sitting in a chair at the nail shop when I read these verses: Proverbs 8:35-36 “Those who find me find life… but those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death”. A light bulb went off in my head right then and there. I had failed to find the Lord and I ended up harming myself. My friends, it says right there clear as day that those who find Him find life. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. All the sadness and pain ends when you find Jesus because those are worldly feelings, and He is not of this world. Of course we will still feel the not-so-joyful emotions such as anger, grief, and sorrow because we are human, but we find hope in Jesus. We find life in Jesus. And if I had realized this three years ago around this time then I would have saved myself a lot of pain, but then I also wouldn’t have this amazing story to tell. I feel as if I was sweetly broken in order to change not only my life, but the lives of those around me. In fact, I want to get “Sweetly Broken” tattooed on my left arm as a reminder that because of Jesus I am whole again. Friends, my heart has never been so full of love and joy than it is right now and that is all because of Him. I want to shout from the rooftops that Jesus loves YOU. No matter how awful life may seem right now, He will make it better. I hit rock bottom and made it back because of Him, and you can too. On Sunday at church my Uncle Chris said, “There is no heart He can’t heal. There is no life that Jesus cannot restore. It’s what He does. Your job is to surrender and invite Him into every area of your life.” My friends, we’ve all been sweetly broken, now let’s work on that wholly surrendered part. As we celebrate my cousin again this Friday I will be able to re-create this picture, and this time when I smile it will be a real smile.