I can remember walking down the hall of my highschool trying hard to keep the smile on my face and pretend that everything was okay, that I had everything under control. I fear that people can see right through me—can they see how depressed and lonely I feel inside, how completely helpless and overwhelmed I am, how anxious my every thought is. You see for all of my life up to that point I felt that I had to be perfect to be accepted—by myself, by others, and even by God. And up until my final year of high school I was pretty good at achieving that standard of perfection. I always made great grades in school and was at the top of my class. I was one of the best players on all my sports teams and was usually the captain. I was a leader in student government and sought to make everyone else around me happy.
But it was a lot of pressure; it was stressful. And the summer before my final year of high school it became too much. On top of all my regular academic, athletic and leadership responsibilites, I would also be applying to top universities and scholarships. I felt completely overwhelmed—there was no way that I could do all that perfectly. So I shut down. I became very depressed, I couldn’t function—I couldn’t think clearly, I couldn’t sleep well, didn’t have an appetite—the world felt hopeless. I felt lonely, I looked around at all my friends who seemed to be managing senior year fine and I compared myself to them, which only made me feel worse. I felt inadequate, stupid, like no one liked me—after all I wasn’t perfect anymore.
Then one day while sitting alone in my room, trying unsuccessfully to focus my foggy brain and study, I pulled out my Bible. I’m not really sure why—I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God anymore–but the passage I turned to said this: “My [Jesus’] grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesses.” I’d heard this verse before, but for some reason this time it struck a new chord in me. For the first time in my life, I felt weak. But I realized that Jesus had never asked me to be perfect, to be strong, but in fact accepted me and loved me just for who I was- not for whether I was the perfect student, athlete or everyone’s favorite person. When I finally grasped that, it changed me. I felt close to God, I felt free, I felt accepted and loved by Him. I felt the weight of performing in school and sports fall off. I began to be more vulnerable in my friendships, revealing my weaknesses and struggles, and as a result, developed much closer relationships with both friends and family.
That’s not to say that I then lived happily ever after without another anxious thought or lonely moment. In fact, I continued to struggle with anxiety through university and occasionally still do to this day. But the difference is now I know who I really am, and I know that who I am doesn’t depend on what I do. Granted, I’m always tempted to return to defining myself by my performance, and when I do, anxiety kicks in. But each time God gently reminds me of my true identity in Him, and his love and acceptance of me. It’s there that I find freedom.
If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety and depression, please know that God loves you so very much and longs to bring healing and hope to your life. I’d love to chat with you if you’re interested, so feel free to send me a message. Or if you have any questions about my story, please contact me, I’d love to share more with you!
If you want to contact Katelyn, please visit this website.