For four months straight, Finding Who We Are has been a project dedicated to sharing other’s stories and giving them a place to feel at home. Today marks our four month anniversary and our guest author is Caroline Schools!
Caroline and I went to school with each other for a few years up until I graduated. She has a sweet heart, loves the Lord, and has had her own unique experience with Depression and Anxiety.
We hope you are encouraged by her story!
I am glad I have this opportunity to share part of my story with those who read this, but I ultimately want to give God the glory through it because my life is not about me. However, I will share what has been on my heart for a long time.
If you know me, this may come as a shock to you, but when I was little, I was very outgoing and loved to talk to people. I was free to be myself and didn’t care what others thought of me (probably what most children think, right?). Well, come Kindergarten, I tried to be my usual, crazy self around my classmates.
Looking back, I noticed something: I had trouble making friends.
I think for some reason the rest of the kids thought I was weird. Even though I did manage to make friends after kindergarten all the way to high school, most of them did not stay in my life for very long. I have had this struggle throughout my whole life.
Do you remember me mentioning that I was an outgoing little girl? Well, that soon faded when I got close to my teenage years. From then on, I thought it would have been better if I kept my mouth shut because it didn’t really matter if I tried to talk to people or even make friends: in my mind, no one wanted to listen to me or be my friend. To this day, I have struggled with thinking that I would bother someone if I started talking to them because I have had it set in my mind that I would be an annoyance to someone if I started to talk to them or an inconvenience if I needed them. I thought that they already have people in their lives and they don’t need anyone else.
To this day, it still scares me to death sometimes to talk to people I don’t normally talk to in casual environments. I hate initiating conversation and I freak out over a situation if it arises to talk to someone. It even comes to the point when it’s hard to me to make eye contact with people (which is something I have improved at times and am still working on) when I talk to them because I have so little confidence in myself.
I believe this is because I have been affected by my past when this was the case, which is why I suffer from social anxiety.
You see, I am an overly sensitive person and have been that way my whole life. Unlike most people, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don’t mind telling people how I feel, especially when I can express myself through writing.
When I was little, if I would do something wrong to displease someone, such as an authority, I would cry. To be honest, I still do this to some extent, except I don’t cry over situations like that; I mostly just feel depressed and hurt and just laugh it off. I find that over the years, I just laugh at things that actually hurt me as a defense mechanism.
Whether it may seem like it or not, I am a very empathetic person and feel very deeply for other people whose life stories I have heard. When I know about something a person has gone through, I feel for them to the point that I actually feel like I am the one who went through the situation. I believe that God has given this ability to me as a gift, even though it hurts a lot. But it is very hard to talk to people and understand them because I suffer from social anxiety. I should not let this problem I have prevent me from talking to people, but most of the time, I let it control me.
When I came to college in Fall of 2013, I had to make myself talk to people because I didn’t really know anybody at the time, despite my social anxiety. I ended up making friends, for which I am thankful. Some have come and gone, others have stayed but have gotten busy with other things with life and school, and a few of my friends are not on campus because they either graduated or left campus. I have an amazing boyfriend that I love being with, but I get lonely sometimes because it feels as though I am left alone by others since I have a boyfriend. At times, I appear that I want to be left alone. However, this is simply not the case. Even though I am afraid to admit it (and don’t really know how to admit it verbally), I need community in my life. I am an introvert, but introverts need people in their lives, even though they may not always admit it.
It is hard for me to initiate friendships with other people because I have been letting fear control my life. However, this is not the only struggle I have.
There have been times throughout my life when I felt like I wasn’t enough or that I could never measure up to what people wanted me to be. I thought that if I wasn’t different in certain ways, then people would like me better.
Back in my middle school and high school years and even in my early college years, I was very insecure, like everybody is at that age in one way or another. I struggled with what others thought of me and wanted to impress people who didn’t even care about me in the first place. I wanted to be accepted so much. Now, I didn’t go so far to be accepted by compromising my moral standards.
But one thing that I really wanted was to be a lead in a performance, whether it was singing a solo or acting, especially in high school. I wanted to be the center of attention, but I hardly showed it because of my quiet and timid personality, as well as my social anxiety. Long story short, I never made it to the top according to my standards, so I became bitter. During this time in my life, I started to become depressed. I started to think thoughts like, “How would people react if I was gone?” or “Why am I even here? Do I really have a purpose?”
Although I never attempted anything, I played with suicidal thoughts in my head and eventually broke down and told somebody what was going on. I got better for the next few years, but these thoughts returned my sophomore year of college. I found myself alone a lot of the time, which motivated me to get myself stuck in my head, thinking that I wasn’t actually worth anything. I would get angry when trivial circumstances happened, provoking me to believe that I wasn’t important to anyone. Sometimes, my anger would get so extreme that I would have those same thoughts that I had had during high school, along with some new thoughts of cutting myself. (To the glory of God, I have not to this day ever attempted to cut myself, nor to take my own life, and I pray that I never will.)
I told a few of my close friends what was going on in my head, and they were encouraging and helped me out. I am a senior in college now, and since my sophomore year, I cannot recall a time that I thought of cutting myself, and I praise God for that. However, I do still struggle with negative thoughts about myself. I struggle with my worth in God’s eyes (as I know we all do in one way or another) because I am a quiet and shy person who lacks confidence at times.
But something I have learned in my struggles with bad thoughts is this: I get stuck in my head way too often, and it is a scary and unhealthy place to be. I focus too much on myself and not enough on God and other people. I have let my self-centered fear drive me for too long. But with God’s power, social anxiety and depression is not something that has to control me.
I have heard it said that fear is the opposite of love. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
I have learned that since I have been living in fear, I have had a lack of love for God and other people, and this is something I desperately want to change. I can’t change without God’s help because He is love, and I can love only because He first loved me. I have found that focusing on someone else and seeing what I can do to make them happy helps me to get attention off myself.
Focusing on myself is not the answer. I’m not saying that depression and social anxiety can be cured just like or that struggling with those things isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal.
The truth is that we are all cursed by sin, and both depression and social anxiety are results of sin’s effect on our physical bodies. Struggles will happen from time to time for the rest of our lives. However, that does not mean that we have to let our fears or sadness control us.
When we personally know Christ, He will help us to overcome our struggles every day with His strength. Jesus says in John 16:33,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Trust in the Lord, and He will help you to get through each day no matter what bouts of depression or social anxiety or whatever you struggle with may come. In the end, He is bigger than these things and has already won the victory in our lives.
Thank you, Caroline, for sharing your story!! I was personally encouraged as I endured my final flight back home. Hopefully, you were too!
In reference to our four month anniversary, in order to continue producing these articles, I need your story! Willing to share with our community? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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