by Melanie Valdivieso
Christ has set my soul free – Hallelujah! This truth shall forevermore stand. But on this earth and in this body, I have a mental illness: anxiety, plus a dash of depression. An invisible enemy, stigmatized as either lunacy or mental weakness – it has stolen my personality and threatens me with doubt. I fret over the future and plan for crises that never happen. My chest grows heavy, my vision blurs, and my head spins. My time is consumed with regulating breathing and my heartbeat. All I want is to get out from under the blanket that suppresses who I really am
Ironically, I held a very stressful job that I LOVED; I was a high school English teacher. Indeed, I was going to teach for the rest of my life – with the help of meds of course. Oh, that glorious moment during my second year of teaching when I realized that I was free to be myself because I had found the right medication. Then the rollercoaster ride of bodily changes started: my brain would grow accustomed to the medication and quit responding to it, or my body would grow a brand new human being or two. Every few years I needed to readjust or change my prescription, the challenges and rewards of teaching captivated me again, and on I persevered.
Then the 2015 school year started, and I experienced my worst episode of anxiety. Logic takes a flying leap when you can’t breathe, focus your eyesight, or stand in a crowd of people, so it didn’t occur to me that I needed to see the doctor about changing my prescription. By the time logic did manage to squeak through the cracks of my troubled mind, it was too late. My love of teaching had deserted me, and the best I could muster was babysitting the students. After nine years of teaching, I was so tired of having to fight my body and my mind to do my job, so I quit at the end of October.
As you can well imagine, the lies of the enemy nagged at me everyday during this season of transition, and I allowed them a seat in my heart. Specifically, the master lie that took the throne was that I had failed. My husband’s denial of my mental illness heaped upon the guilt and shame of quitting a career to which I devoted myself left me floundering for purpose. I had failed miserably to pick myself up through strength of will and support my family financially.
However, the Lord of the Universe says that I am not a failure. He states it over and over again in Scripture.
2 Corinthians 6:18 – “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
I am a daughter of the King. Anxiety and depression are physical problems, albeit they manifest as emotional symptoms, but that doesn’t change me being a princess. I had lots of fun teaching as God’s daughter, and now He is humbling me for other services.
Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”
First and foremost, since Jesus doesn’t condemn me, I shouldn’t presume to condemn myself. Secondly, mental illness is NOT a sin. Finally, the choice to quit was a healthy choice, and God definitely supports health!
Isaiah 54:5 – “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”
How to react to my husband when in moments of anger he says deprecating things to me? Now I know; my Maker is my eternal Husband. I will listen to what He has to say about these trying times by respecting His commands to be Christlike.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Psalm 115:3 – “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”
This is God’s sovereignty! I have faith that either God allowed this ordeal to occur so that I can focus on a new ministry, or He is just so powerful that He turned something horrible into something that glorifies Him. Either way, I give my injury to Him and He transforms it into beauty.
After coming through as a whole person, I praise God for His mercies, which don’t depend upon my feelings. God’s Word is the truth that stands forevermore, and through each episode of anxiety in my life, the truth is internalized more and more.
About Melanie Valdivieso
I taught high school English for close to 10 years before quitting due to anxiety. I was so confused about this drastic change in my temperament. Shouldn’t I be set as who I am for the rest of my life now that I’m 34? Apparently not, and you now what? I like the author God is creating in me, and I couldn’t be my true self without first having taught English for so many years.