This post was originally published by Laura at www.messiahnetwork.org.
I moved many times as a child. Five times, in fact, I started over in a new town, at a new school, and with new friends. I remember steeling myself for the inevitable. I donned the fake smile, assessed the new sea of faces, and quietly tried to blend into the crowd. I learned to wear a mask and be a stealth chameleon, adapting to each environment.
I was safe behind my chameleon skin. I said the right things, and prided myself in excellence and achievement. When bad feelings started to threaten my world, I stuffed them down and moved on to the next thing. I fooled myself into thinking I could erase the pain, sadness, anger, and fear by embracing a lovely mask.
For 37 years I lived this way, with my beautiful mask and over-achieving, perfectionist ways. For all intents and purposes, I lived the American dream. I had two beautiful daughters, a dedicated husband, and a successful corporate career, traveling the world.
In time, my desire for a more flexible schedule and God’s timing collided in a transition to work for Messiah as Director of Communications. I had it all…until I didn’t.
There are trade-offs to living an anesthetized life. I kept people at arms-length, even my closest family members. I favored to-do lists over relationships. I thought emotions (the messy ones) were dark and weak. I avoided them at all costs. As a result, I simultaneously dulled the good emotions, and jumped from one achievement to the next to help me avoid the deeply buried fear that I just wasn’t enough.
Essentially, I was a fraud. If you knew me then, you probably thought I was one of those perfect Pinterest people. I was so good at wearing my beautiful mask, I even had myself fooled.
And then 18 months ago, in a season of heavy stress, my carefully constructed façade began to crack under years of pressure. Like an earthquake shifting plates deep below the surface, my body and my mind began to fissure. I began having panic attacks, stomach aches, and could not sleep. The more I tried to figure it out with doctors and research, the worse it became. I took a “leave of absence” around this time. It was more than a leave, it was a crumbling, a shattering of my protective bubble. For the first time in my life, I had to admit I didn’t know what to do. I fell to my knees. I cried to God, and whispered the words that changed my life.
I can’t do this on my own, Lord. I need help.
I wish I could share that God sent an angel from heaven to help me see the error of my ways and make me whole. It didn’t happen that way at all. It has been a scary, messy, zig-zag of a journey. I’m as stubborn as they come! It took a long time (and lots of therapy) to realize that the kingdom I had built was never mine. I had to learn to allow myself to feel the pain and fear of the past, to sift my memories and view them through the loving eyes of my Savior Jesus rather than through the world’s judgmental stare. I had to unlearn the building of walls and control. I had to confront the truth of the idols in my life and trust Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
The more I learned (or actually unlearned) the more freedom and joy I felt. I came to a point when I realized these lessons might be helpful to others. During the month of October, I shared a 31 day series about my journey through anxiety and depression. Never, did I imagine how God would use my story to remind me of three powerful truths…View Part II.