To the girl who battles anger,
I get you. I know that we like to throw that phrase around a lot “I understand” or “I know how you feel”, when sometimes it just isn’t true. So, I get that maybe you feel a bit skeptical. That’s okay.
I may not get your specific situation. But I know what it feels like to be so angry that you feel like a prisoner in your own body or like you have lost control of your mind. I’ve thrown things and punched walls (mind you it really hurt my hand. . . lesson learned), and I have yelled in desperation for God to just make it stop. I have yelled at Him. I’ve yelled at myself. I’ve felt stupid and alone and stuck. Maybe you get that?
I didn’t always feel this way. If you were to ask my friends and family, angry would not be a word they would use to describe my personality. This is mostly because I haven’t been angry for very long, and because for the time that I have been, I have done a really good job of keeping it away from mostly everyone. I laugh a lot. I use humour probably to a fault. I have a lot in my life that makes me happy. But that didn’t stop the unexpected from happening. . .
Just over a year ago, a dark cloud hovered over my life and it has yet to leave. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. I know the postpartum bit might not mean a whole lot to you, but those awful and heavy words, depression and anxiety? You might just get those.
In my case, my anger is always the aftermath of a depressive episode or a panic attack. For example . . .I get asked to go to a social event. I start to get ready. I can’t find the clothes I’m looking for. My heart starts beating faster. I can’t remember where I put my hair brush. Did I take my medication? Who is going to be there? What if I start to feel sick? Where is that stupid hair brush? It’s not a big deal. Breathe. Calm down. You’ll go and you’ll have fun. You’ll be okay. Except - I can’t. I won't. My chest is starting to hurt. I’m feeling trapped. I want to break something. What is wrong with me? I’m not going. How am I going to explain why I’m not coming? People will think I’m faking. I’ll lose my friendships. They won’t get it. This is just stupid. I am stupid. My head hurts. I start yelling. I throw something. I crawl into bed. I stare off into space. I cry. . . That’s my process. That’s the conversation with myself that has happened more times than I am comfortable admitting over the past year.
I hate that the little things seem so big. That what used to never bother me, now acts as a barrier for me living my life like I used to. I laugh less. I’m irritated a lot more. It’s hard for me to look at social media and not feel resentful towards people who seem to have a normal life. Like they don’t have that cloud hanging over them. Like they breeze through the things that seem to keep me trapped.
I’ve asked myself and God a lot of questions this past year. Why did this happen to me? Is there some kind of lesson in it? I don’t want it. Give me something else. So often, I don’t want it. Sometimes, I just want everything to go away. I want the world to pause and I want to lay in my bed and disappear into a deep sleep until I wake up better. Until whatever this is passes.
I’m a Pastor. I feel like that’s worth mentioning. I pray. I read my bible. I help other people. I’ve even counselled teenagers through their anxiety and depression. Ironic right? So why me? Why did God let this happen to me? I don’t know. I’ve stopped asking that question. Instead I’ve just started living and adapting to my ‘new normal’. I look for the breaks of sun through the clouds and I’m thankful for every one of them. I don’t know the answer to the why, but I have learned a few things along the way that have helped me need it less.
First, it isn’t your fault that this is your fight. We are sick. As in there is something going on in our bodies and our minds that we didn’t cause. If you have depression or anxiety, It isn’t because you don’t pray enough, or trust enough, or recycle enough. It isn’t about what you do. It isn’t about who you are. Nobody says that cancer or diabetes or a broken arm is because that person isn’t “Christian” enough. They also wouldn’t tell them to not take their insulin or chemo, or a cast. Likewise, the battle of mental health? It’s the same deal. Or at least it should be. Counselling, medication, it is all part of getting well. My genetics, family background, life circumstances, my hormones etc. All of these are factors in why I find myself where I am today. Did God allow it? Sure, but is it because He’s some cruel psycho ruler who wants to watch me suffer? Of course not.
Second, our world is far from perfect. We know this. It hasn’t been perfect since Adam and Eve decided to take things into their own hands and eat that stupid fruit. Since then, there is a lot of broken going around. We are part of that broken. For those of us who have chosen to accept and follow Christ? That broken is being mended every day, but we’re not there yet.
Third, I find comfort in the fact that we are given so many examples in the Bible of people who have experienced anger and depression. David in the Psalms, Job, Jeremiah (15:10), Paul (Galatians 2:20), just to name a few. Here is what I know about their stories. God loved every single one of those people. David was called a “man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet he cried out to God more times than I have, begging him to lift the cloud over his life. God used those people to change the course of history, to build his Church, to bring His Kingdom here on earth.
What does this mean for us? Maybe read this part out loud to yourself:
“I am insanely loved. I am not 'less than'. I am not disqualified from living a life FULL of purpose. I have such great hope that this is going to end. The cloud will lift. I don’t know the timeline of it. I don’t even know whether it will be in this life or the next, but it WILL lift. This is my promise from a God who has always been faithful to me. He has always taken the broken and the messy and the difficult and has carried me through to something better and deeper and more full and worthwhile than I had known before.”
This is the great adventure that I signed up for when I chose to “take up my cross” and follow Christ. It is worthwhile, I promise you that. I hope you’ll stay the course. I hope you’ll live under the cloud for the hope of the sun. I hope you'll keep talking to God and that you'll be honest with Him. He isn’t afraid or put off by your anger.
I hope you’ll keep dreaming big dreams and that you’ll pursue them in spite of what you believe you are capable of right now. I hope you’ll let people love you and support you, even if they can’t quite get what it has been like to be you. I hope that you’ll laugh when you can and that you’ll continue to love the people around you the best that you can. They and you will be better for it. Most importantly, I hope you won’t quit. Don’t let it be an option. Our world needs you and it is so much better with you in it, I promise.
We don’t know each other, but you can be confident that I am cheering you on. I believe in your ability to overcome, to adapt, and to jump in the puddles on the really rainy days, making the most of your beautiful and honest life. It takes great courage to love your life no matter the circumstance. I love mine, and I truly hope you can begin to love yours.
Fighting with you,
Kathleen VanEngen has worked with youth and young adults for the past 10 years. She is currently the #powerhouse director of 'Tattered Tiaras' - an outreach to teen girls, empowering them to live abundant and purposeful lives! She is also a wife and mom of 2 (soon to be 3!), and a lover of coffee, cheesy movies and laughter.
Check out Tattered Tiaras website here!