We’re all hardwired with an innate craving for purpose. It’s a question that we all face at one time or another: What is my purpose?
Today’s guest author, John Caleb Ahern, attends the University that I work at, and he is a great friend of mine. We have been able to connect with our mutual struggles with depression. He’s a great writer, a compassionate friend, and someone who’s struggled to find their meaning in life.
We hope you’re encouraged by his story!
I never knew what was wrong, and I don’t know if I’m alright. Most people have a death, a betrayal, a trauma, or some other trigger that they can use to attribute to the symptoms of a condition we call depression. I don’t know what happened. It seemed that the older I got, the more tired and fatigued I became. The thing is, though, I’m only 19.
I can go as far back as my freshman year in High School when I noticed something was off. The sadness and fatigue were too persistent to be a normal human function.
I went to a small Christian school from seventh to twelfth grade. I never really fit in with the club. I wasn’t a “bad kid” I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t have many friends. They were the kind that were nice, but they were also the kind that couldn’t understand what was going on. They would ask, “How are you doing?” and I would reply “Good” not realizing that it was a lie. I couldn’t really connect with anyone. Needless to say, I was ready to graduate and move on.
I couldn’t seem to feel much of anything at all. I didn’t know what to do; I was just tired, so I went to bed. I could sleep for 13 hours and still be dead exhausted. I was sad all the time and never really knew why. All that I knew was that I hated my existence, and I wanted it to end. There were countless times that I wanted to kill myself, but that pesky survival instinct kept me up in my bed late at night pondering my misery. I was all alone.
I didn’t know what to say or how to describe my symptoms. I didn’t want to be judged. I was a man. I’m supposed to be strong, and emotions aren’t supposed to affect me too much. Most of the time my Christian friends would tell me to cheer up or that they were praying for me. I had one close friend tell me over and over again to “rely on Christ” or to “realize your identity in Christ”.
Yes, I knew those things, I believe(d) those truths. I never really wavered in my faith to Christ. I appreciated my friend’s effort, but that was the last thing I needed. They were empty words coming from people who would talk a lot without doing anything.
I became mentally ill and erratic. I went for an entire summer eating just enough to survive, and dropping down to 125 lb. (extremely underweight in my case). I still thought I was ugly and gross. I slept for hours each night, and always was tired when I woke up. It’s as if I was floating in a stream with no purpose and no meaning.
I tried medicating myself in all sorts of ways from food and more sleep to exotic porn and extreme habitual masturbation. In the end, I felt ashamed, useless, worthless, mindless, and about every other “less” you can think of. Even then, I always managed to pull out a smile or a laugh. Maybe answer the emptiest question in our modern history, “How are you doing?” while nodding “Good!”
After a while, it got pretty hard to keep the act up. I got tired of acting, and I was sick of living. My mom started hearing me saying things about killing myself, and ask me what I meant by them. That was when she signed me up for a doctor’s appointment, and I was able to get medicine for my depression.
When I was taking the medicine, my whole world opened up. I saw the same things and felt things like they were completely new, but most of all I realized that I had gone an entire day without thinking about killing myself! Mom told me that I was a completely different person. I wasn’t “cured”, so to speak, but I could get on with my life and not have my depression weighing me down. I was able to get up and go, something I never thought that I would be able to do.
It hasn’t been an easy road for me, but my God is strong and I am stronger now. Jesus has been with me the entire time, and His intent is always to train his servants for holiness. This trial has taught me how to endure and get my focus off of myself and put it on others. Life means so much more to me now. I’m in a race running towards the prize, the high calling of my Lord Jesus Christ. I may not know what I’m doing, but I know where I’m going! I may not know what to do with my life, but I know who I can live for!
I live in a new city now, working at an outstanding University. I have the best friends that I have ever had. I love my new squad. They don’t let me get away with anything! I truly don’t deserve them or their loyalty.
I still struggle with depression, but it doesn’t control me anymore. The struggle is real and life may seem perplexing at times, but everything always comes down to this: Love God, love people, and keep His commandments.
Every week of this series continues to amaze me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share your stories. Thank you, John, for stepping out and being used to spread hope.
Would you want to contribute to “Finding Who We Are?” Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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