Whither Shall I Go From Your Spirit?* – Second Place

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Toward the end of my seventh grade year, I developed depression. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, and I was isolating myself from my friends because I knew that they wouldn’t understand or be able to help me.

In eighth grade, I indulged in self-harm. I didn’t want to kill myself — not yet. But I thought that by hurting myself, I could be in control of something, or that physical pain would distract me from the emotional pain I was feeling.

I started seeing a counselor in September. It was December before my mom found out, and she threatened me with admittance to a psychiatric hospital. I started going to therapy the summer before my freshman year and was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety.

My feelings had transitioned from sadness to emptiness, and I often thought about suicide. Sometimes when I lay down at night, I would pray, “Lord, please strike me down as I sleep, because I’m tired of this miserable existence.” I stopped playing the piano in church because I was anxious about making mistakes. I ruined relationships because I was insecure.

I lost interest in everything I used to love, including God. I wouldn’t even socialize with my own family because I preferred being alone, even if the thoughts I experienced while alone were self-destructive.

But God never answered my prayers; day after day, I woke up. Psalm 3:5 became an important part of my spiritual journey: “I can lie down and go to sleep. And I will wake up again because the Lord protects me” (ICB). I started praying for strength instead.

During my sophomore year, I was sent to a local behavioral center to be assessed for suicide risk prevention. They didn’t admit me, but that event was critical to my healing process.

I don’t think we realize just how much control God has over our lives until we notice all the gifts He has given us. Granted, He lets us make decisions and suffer the consequences, but He also puts good, supportive people in our lives when we need them the most.

My battles aren’t without reward. After fighting depression and anxiety for years, I’ve concluded that God allows you to struggle because He knows that it will only make you stronger, and that you can use your experiences to aid others who are going through something similar.

After fighting my condition for years, God has revealed my purpose in this life. Although sometimes I struggle with the idea that my future is not set in stone (this is where my anxiety comes in), I find solace in the fact that He knows what He wants for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m getting to a point where I love being alive, and I owe it all to my heavenly Father.

* Title is taken from Psalm 139:7 (KJV).

Scriptures quoted from the International Children’s Bible®, copyright ©1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson. Used by permission.

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Shelby Harris was born and raised in the Church and baptized at the ripe age of 12. Since age 13, sheÕs been a crew member at Vacation Bible School and often volunteers at the Bread of Life during the summer. She plans on attending John Brown University for creative writing and film studies. Shelby is a published author and turtle mom.