Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good from the Dark

During my early twenties, my happy-go-lucky, optimistic personality took a sudden dive. For unknown reasons, my brain snagged on germs and I plunged into a nightmare of OCD with an obsession of germs and a compulsion of cleaning. Within a few short months I was almost non-functional, spending hours in the bathroom showering, changing clothes, and cleaning. I freaked out over even the most minor of cross contaminations, tracking anything that touched something that might have brushed against something that was “dirty.” My hands were raw and bleeding from so much washing. Guilt overwhelmed me as I was convinced it was my responsibility to take care of anything around me that might possibly be contaminated. I no longer found any enjoyment in life.

My previously close and supportive family relationships were strained almost to the point of breaking. I knew in my head that the risk of illness from germs was better than the torment I was putting myself and my loved ones through, but I couldn’t escape the obsession. Nothing helped and things were so bad my family was almost considering bringing me to the mental hospital.

On the surface it seemed as though it could have been a spiritual problem, yet it wasn’t—it was very much physical (though that’s not to say all of my emotional outbursts were free of sin). Medical tests showed that my brain chemicals and hormones were severely out of balance. A friend summed up the spiritual aspect well when she told me, “Amy, never let anyone tell you that your anxiety is because of a lack of faith. What those people don’t realize is that it takes us more faith to get through five minutes than most people have to use in a week.”

After being put on a medication, I slowly pulled out of it. Today I am more aware of germs than I was previously, but I am no longer controlled by them. I know I’m blessed to have had anxiety for such a short time—many people struggle with it their whole lives.

I look back on that time as the worst in my life. Hopefully it will remain so. There’s something truly horrible about loosing every bit of your self worth and about a loss of control over your own self. Yet it’s even dark times like that which God refers to in the verse, “In all things, give thanks.” (1 Thes 5:18)

How do I give thanks for a time so damaging to myself and my family? Is that the type of trial James talks about when it says to “count it all joy”? (James 1:2)

I think it is. It’s not that we should be glad for the horrible times, but we can have joy because God has promised that “all things work together for His good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

We may never know what good is being brought out of our trials, but other times God gives us a little glimpse of it. In my case, He’s shown me several ways. I have at least two friends who struggle with agoraphobia. I know I’ve been instrumental in both of their lives in supporting them as they find the courage to step back into society where they, in turn, can be lights. I don’t think I could have had that empathy or been able to give that type of support if I’d never experienced anxiety or depression before.

A few years ago, we discovered that my young niece also has anxiety issues. We believe she has Asperger’s and possibly OCD. I think my family is far better equipped to be able to handle and understand her reactions and behaviors, because of what they’ve been through with me.

God can and does bring good out of even the worst and most hopeless of times. Whatever that valley is for you, hold onto the knowledge that God will still use you—and specifically that experience—to bring glory to Himself and to help others.

In order to truly help and support each other to make it through and find the goodness, it has to be two-sided. If you are in the hard times, you have to be transparent enough to let others help you carry the burden. Likewise, you have to be the type of person who others can trust enough to open up and confide in.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
On the other side of that experience I am even more thankful and aware of the blessing it is to find joy in life. I pray that each of you can also experience the fullness of joy we find in living for Christ our Savior.





sparrowsflight



6 comments:

  1. Beautiful witness, Amy. May it bring encouragement to many.

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  2. WOW, Amy. This is incredibly powerful. And I'm gonna email you about something :) Watch for it :) Love you, girlie!!

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  3. Your transparency and candor are so inspiring and so helpful for others who battle with similar issues. Beautiful post, Amy.

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  4. You are truly an overcomer, Amy, and your willingness to share your experience makes you a powerful vessel in helping others. Way to go! God Bless.

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  5. Powerful testimony! I pray your wiliness to share your journey brings hope to others! Hugs! Love you!

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