Keep Fighting for Joy

Evangeline Stanton

This was not easy to write, and it’s not easy to share. But now that I have experienced a little bit of healing, I felt like it was time:

This is my first time telling the virtual world about the mental health struggle I have been battling for years… and I have to admit I’m a little scared. It’s hard to put yourself out there…. To let the world see what’s on the inside. I share because I am thankful for this struggle. (If you’re thinking, “How could she be thankful?” I’ll explain more later.)

In high school, right before I left for college, depression slowly crept into my life and I had NO idea what it was or how to label it or really even why I struggled with it. What I did know is that it was crippling. Growing up, I never felt like it was okay to struggle or to be unhappy because I was a Christian. I thought Christians were supposed to have it all together because we have Jesus, who is the source of all joy and satisfaction. I thought maybe I just wasn’t spiritual enough…. Maybe I’m not reading my Bible enough…or praying enough, doing enough. So I kept trying to do more… pray more…read more…serve more. But it didn’t get better. I felt so guilty, all of the time. I wanted to be happy and filled with joy more than anything, but I just couldn’t be.

Freshman and sophomore year of college I battled with it, but I just did what I always did…”fake it till you make it.” Looking back, with each day that passed by more of the happy girl I once knew faded a little bit.

Fast forward to my senior year of college where I was at the lowest I have ever been. This is the part that is scary to share. At this point, my depression was so crippling, that if I wasn’t in class or at a volleyball practice, I was in the room with my lights off.  I thought that somehow the darkness would shut out what was going on in my life and I could get away from it somehow. I knew that reading my bible and getting encouragement from the Psalms would be so good for my heart and speak life into, but with everything going on I couldn’t even concentrate—not when I was reading or writing a paper or anything. I listened to Shane and Shane’s Psalms albums on repeat to bring hope to my hurting heart.

The girl that used to be a social butterfly and the “sunshine girl” as her family called her, had turned into what felt like a corpse. I felt like I was in a prison…. I was angry, hurt, sad, helpless, and I felt completely and utterly alone. No one seemed to understand what I was going through. My family and fiancé were very concerned about me, and I’m sure it was hard on them that they couldn’t be physically present very often since I lived 5 hours away. I finally got the guts to share with the people I saw every day about my depression struggle, but that blew up in my face days later when a huge part of why I was struggling was thrown in my face, leaving me in the worst state I have ever been in. I called my fiancé Isaac (now husband) after, and I’m surprised he could even understand a word I was saying through my whimpers and sobs. I told him that at this point I would rather run my car off of the road then live another day in my reality. There. I said it. I would rather not wake up then continue to feel the way I felt. I remember my mom coming down to Starkville to be with me for a few days after that due to concerns of some people who cared about me and understood my situation. I was so embarrassed that I needed my mom as a 21-year-old woman who was about to get married, but I was ever so thankful.

Aside from a few people, I felt like no one cared or believed that I was actually struggling or that my depression was a serious thing. People kept saying “keep your head up” and “just smile and be happy” and “happiness is a choice.” I wanted to smile and be myself. I wanted to be happy so badly I ached.  Towards the end of the semester a trusted friend gave me names of counselors, and I swallowed my pride and went to see one. It was one of the only times I felt validated.

28 days later, after my volleyball career ended I had my degree in hand, I got married, moved to a different city, and started a job. WHOA. SO much change in so little time really made my head spin. I had to figure out who I even was anymore now that the thing I dedicated so much time to was now over.

You may be asking, “Where is God in all of this??” because I know I was for a while.

Remember when I said that I was THANKFUL for all of this?? Well, let me tell you why.

God taught me so much about trust and faith through that time. I grew in my relationship with the Lord in the deepest ways…and I realized that the trials and struggles were the reason I grew so very much and that it was the only way to show me complete and utter dependence on Him. I did question the Lord at times, I am not going to lie, but the Lord always brought to mind that he LOVES me and has a sovereign plan for my life. That brought me peace because I knew that a God that loves me won’t forsake me and will work all things for my good.

I still battle with this, but God has been so faithful to sustain me each day. I have a lot of really good days, and then it will hit me like a ton of bricks. But I’ll say it again; HE IS FAITHFUL—Even when I am not. That is such a beautiful thing. I don’t deserve His grace yet He constantly pours it on me. I will never stop fighting for joy! (And it can only be found in Him, not anything/anyone in this world!)

I hid this about my life for so long… just faking it all of the time, but I began to realize that as believers, we HAVE to share our struggles. When we struggle it shows our need for our perfect Savior. We have to throw our pride away. Anything good in us is just because of the mighty work of the Lord. God never promised that this life would be easy, and it’s so so important to remember that. We must fight the good fight and finish the course. If you’re reading this and you are in the depths of despair, don’t lose hope, friend. Keep fighting for Joy. God. Is. Faithful. No matter what

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