“Finding Who We Are” Entry #11: Learning to Swim

The ocean is a terrifyingly beautiful place. The depths of its reaches and the creatures that reside can be nightmare inducing. However, the blue waves that come crashing onto the shore and slowly recede back into the abyss calm even the most anxious soul.

Learning how to swim in such a vast entity is a difficult task. As we see this week, swimming through life’s difficulties is not always easy either. Livy Heitman is a close friend and inspires me with her wisdom and love for others.

For our eleventh entry, Livy takes a moment to share the deepest parts of her soul in an encouraging piece. I hope you find peace and hope through her story!

When Matt first asked me to write for his blog, I was honored! I was excited that someone wanted to hear my story, and share it with others.

Then I stopped to think…

I’ve never really shared my story with the world before. I quickly became anxious about it, not because I was worried whether the world was ready to hear my story, but because I was worried I was not ready to share it.

By the Grace of God, I hope to share my story with you; I hope it touches some of you and reminds you that there is always someone who understands.

Even in that first paragraph, you were introduced to my close “friend” (I use the term loosely). Everyone, meet Anxiety, my constant companion for the past year and a half, though our relationship goes years back.

I’ve always been fearful. Afraid to speak to new people, afraid of the dark, afraid of the shadows, afraid of what others think of me, afraid of dying, afraid of going to hell, afraid of eternity, afraid of God… those last three were the big ones in my high school years. For most of my teen years, after being saved, I struggled with doubt.

Did I believe enough? Do I believe that Christ really gave His life to pay for my sinful one? What will happen to me if I’m not actually saved?

It took a long time for me to get over that, but those years of doubt still affected how I handled the biggest change in my life: college.

Now, anyone will tell you, “College is hard; get ready for ‘real life’” (as if our lives before weren’t real) “It’s so different; you’ll always remember your college years, so make them count.” And on, and on… No pressure there, right?

Yet, despite hearing all these things, I was totally unprepared for what God had in store for me.

I began school at Piedmont International University in the Fall of 2015. During this time, I had two other major changes take place in my life: my family decided to move to a different church, and I broke up with my boyfriend of three years. Granted, not all of this happened right at the same time, but close enough together that my first semester at PIU was pretty darn miserable. And here’s where you’re introduced to my other “friend”: Depression.

I was afraid of the change, and because I was afraid, I began drowning in depression. I was being pulled out to sea by a current I couldn’t fight. The waves would beat me down, and I could only manage to struggle out of them long enough to catch a quick breath before being once again pulled under the black waters.

I wanted to die.

It is by God’s grace alone that I never acted on any of these desires, but it would cross my mind daily.

What if I just drove off the side of the road? What if I just slipped here and fell?

This vicious, toxic, deadly cycle lasted through the Fall and into the Spring semester. A couple of days into the spring semester, I hit rock-bottom. I was continuing to shut everyone out and was too weak to go on. I cried out to God, “I’m tired and weak; continuing like this will kill me if You don’t pull me out of this!”

Change in a person is funny. You don’t notice it’s happening to you until it’s almost finished its course. Through the course of that semester, God opened my eyes to all the people that cared about me. I had godly girls reach out to me to show me that they cared and that God could help me overcome the crippling fear and sadness that had been my life. I had peers share their stories and show me I was not alone. I was introduced to the love of my life, the man I’m going to marry in six months!

Through these people, and through God’s Word, my heart began to change. Instead of despair and fear, I began to seek God and to trust Him to work things out. Though it’s still an everyday fight to wake up and choose joy and trust, it’s a fight I’m willing to continue fighting. Looking back on all of this now, I can really see how much God changed me over those five months, though I was oblivious to it.

The water is still black and thick. The waves of depression and anxiety still rage around me and try to pull me under… sometimes they win. I’m still fighting the current. That may sound discouraging to you. She’s still in the sea of depression and anxiety, how is this about overcoming those things? you may think. But here’s the best part:

This is my testimony; this is my battle. I’m still in the sea because God wants me to be able to relate to others who have been there, who are there, who will be there.

God won’t take me out of the sea, but He will teach me how to swim.

Thank you so much, Livy, for being willing to share your heart in an effort to share hope with the world!

If you would like to share your story through “Finding Who We Are”, email me at confessionsmalin@gmail.com!

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