GOD MEETS US RIGHT WHERE WE ARE
It was May 1, 2014. I went to my weekly therapy appointment totally desperate and despondent. I was having suicidal thoughts and felt completely out of options. I was hanging on by a thread and knew that something had to change and I knew that there was absolutely no chance of me figuring it out on my own. I had been working with Nancy for a few years and really trusted and respected her. I kept telling myself to just make it to the appointment, knowing that she would provide help.
Nancy’s help caught me by surprise and it wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I had run out of options and I knew I would really be in trouble if I continued on the way I was going. I had come to the absolute end of myself. I needed direction and was willing to follow it. Anything to get better, the pain was too great, I couldn’t go on another day with it.
So when she suggested that I check into a local mental health hospital, I hesitated some but knew in my heart that it was the thing to do. I will be forever grateful to Nancy for her gentle and honest guidance during this time. Her compassionate professionalism led me to help that changed the course of my journey, bringing me to life once again.
You see, I wasn’t really living. I was existing under the heavy and unbearable weights of severe depression and anxiety that was improperly treated. I was misdiagnosed bipolar by a psychiatrist who prescribed many different, very powerful drugs that were making it impossible for me to properly function. I was foggy all the time and my emotions and personality were stifled. I felt like I was trapped inside myself and things just continued to get worse.
When Nancy advised that I check-in to the hospital, I interpreted it as things getting worse. What I didn’t know was that this was the start of a new beginning, the jumping off place that would result in the development of a new existence. Going to the hospital wasn’t the end. It was actually just the opposite. It marked the change in trajectory of my life. I was at the bottom and from there the only way is up. Never in a million years did I think that God would use that hospital stay to totally transform my life.
When I got to the hospital, it was not what I expected at all. It was old, dirty and uninviting. It definitely was not a great way to welcome mental health patients. I was led to a small room without windows off of the main lobby. It was here that I completed my intake forms with a staff member. She asked me what seemed like a thousand questions about my health history, my past experiences and my family. As I was answering all of the inquiries, all I could think of was that my life felt like a statistic and it was no surprise that I ended up here. Abuse, addiction, eating disorder, divorce, dysfunctional childhood and a strong family history of mental health issues; my life felt like a sum total of all of the problems and I felt that is what defined me. Completing those intake forms, out loud with another person, brought to my consciousness everything at once and the burden of my life up to that point was too much for me to carry. I collapsed into the stigmas and shame that I allowed to attach to me and dragged it around with me for about 1.5 years.
But God had opened my eyes and when He makes me aware of something, that is His first step in healing me from it. My healing around this came in January 2016 when I went through a Streams of Freedom session.
(Streams of Freedom is a very gentle, powerful prayer ministry that frees people from bondage in their life. I can’t say enough about Streams, please get in touch with me via a comment below or a confidential email contact if you have any questions at all or want to talk more about this. This ministry has been a huge part of God’s transformation in me.)
Through a deep connection with God during my Streams session, He removed my shame and the stigma that I created for myself. In meditation, the intake forms were ripped into tiny pieces and completely dissolved in a pool of water. God made them disappear and they no longer held me captive.
I was in the hospital for two weeks. I watched a lot of people come and go during that time wondering when it would be my turn. I was so anxious that I was sick to my stomach the entire time I was there. I struggled to eat and lost weight. I realized that my true reliance had been on other people and things to fix me, rather than God. I saw that I was keeping a lot of my life from God and compartmentalized Him to mostly my intellectual understanding. Yes I was saved and had started a relationship with Him, but it was pretty superficial as I had a lot of head knowledge about Him, but was lacking in truly experiencing Him. I was very focused on following the rules to be right with God, I hadn’t allowed grace and intimacy to infiltrate our relationship yet.
It was in the hospital that I began completely opening my life to God, allowing Him into the deepest and darkest places in my life. Reliance on other people, medication and programs was replaced with dependence on the One who could actually save me and provide what I needed. (This is not to say that others, medication and support programs are not helpful. All of these are important parts of my recovery program and I use them to maintain my overall health. The problem for me occurred when I placed my trust and reliance on these things above God.) God became a presence in my life like never before. God transformed from an authoritarian who was watching my every move and keeping score of everything I did into my loving, merciful, gentle and grace-filled father, husband and friend.
While in the hospital, I was pressured to try a certain drug and treatment that I absolutely did not feel comfortable with. God broke through my anxious fog and gave me the conviction to stand firm and refuse these treatments no matter what the doctor said. I also knew that I needed some major support after discharge from the hospital. I had to fight hard to be placed into the intensive out-patient program, which was a huge key in my recovery. I remember wondering who I was becoming. Standing up to doctors, hospitals and insurance companies with strength and courage was not my usual MO, something was happening and I sure wasn’t doing it on my own. God was there, He was meeting me right where I was and providing just what I needed.
Upon discharge I was told to apply for disability because there was a good chance I was not going to be able to work. A year later I was working in a position with a large amount of responsibility, ministering to struggling people using my experiences to help them. Six months after getting that job, I went on a 10 day mission trip to India and shared parts of my story to encourage Christian women there in God’s love, power and faithfulness. It still blows me away that God allowed me to do that.
During one meeting with my doctor at the hospital, he asked me what I hoped my future would hold. I shared that I wanted to encourage others through writing and speaking and hoped to write a book one day. His assessment was that I was filled with grandiose/unrealistic thinking, which he felt confirmed the bipolar diagnosis that I had received. Interesting because today I am doing the writing and speaking that I aspired to at that time with a very possible pathway to writing a book in the future.
In 2014 my kids were 7, 5 and 3. They required a lot of time, attention and energy and in my fragile state I wasn’t sure that I would ever be able to handle them all at once. I started by taking one child at a time, first for a few hours and then overnight. To my surprise and that of my doctor, very soon after returning home I was back to caring for all three kids as usual.
God used my hospital stay to grow my relationship with my parents. We became really close and our bonds have continued to grow. Today, they are two of the most important people to me and I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for them.
While I was at the hospital, I experienced such an outpouring of love and care from family, friends and a nurse who I didn’t know but attended my church at the time. She came and ministered to and prayed with me. She was an angel during a very dark time. The pastor who baptized me came to visit and I will never forget his words, “Shannon, you’re going to make it. I can’t say that to everyone. But you’re going to be alright.” I have held on to his words for the past 4.5 years and they have bolstered me in times of discouragement.
God always meets me right where I am without exception. He met me at the hospital four years ago and continues to show up in my life daily. I just have to keep my eyes open to see and experience Him. Today God knew I needed a little extra dose of Him. I was driving feeling heavy about some things going on in life and a little overwhelmed about writing this post. As my mind started outlining how I was going to structure this article, I noticed a small multi-colored leaf on my dashboard. I never saw it drift in and if it weren’t July, I would have thought it was a fall leaf rather than a summer one. God knows one of my great joys is looking at the leaves in the fall. He used this one to assure me that He is right next to me. He met me right where I was.
Check out other posts in this series God Meets Us Right Where We Are:
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