When I left home for my first year of college I was met head-on with crippling social anxiety and depression.
I was all alone at an out-of-state school and in my loneliness and isolation, I began shopping to fill the void. I loaded up on new clothes, food, and things for my dorm room, hoping all of it would make me feel better. I overdrafted my bank account time and time again. I slowly retreated from my school community, burrowing myself deep in a cave of sadness and debt. For the next ten years, my depression and overspending went everywhere, hand in hand, with me.
I moved back home after my freshman year and for the next few years, I bounced around between jobs and schools. I lacked direction and motivation.
My anxiety made it difficult for me to participate in anything wholeheartedly.
I failed most of my classes because I couldn’t bring myself to interact with classmates or professors, that is if I even showed up in the first place. I got engaged during that time, but kept the truth about my struggles from my future husband. I continued to cope with my depression by shopping. I maxed out credit cards, overdrafted my checking account and misspent funds allotted for school or wedding expenses.
I led everyone to believe that I had graduated before my wedding. The fear of admitting my failure outweighed even the fear my anxiety had induced. I risked my marriage for it. I risked my relationship with my parents and family for it. I mistakenly put everything I cared about on the line, just to save face. I can blame a lot of things on my mental health, but the choice to cover my issues with lies was mine and mine alone.
Once I got on medication for my depression and anxiety, I felt like my mental battle was finally under control. But, the spiritual warfare in my heart still raged. I was so much farther from God than I cared to admit.
I had tried to fix my depression and anxiety on my own and when I couldn’t fix it, I tried to cover my tracks. I had saved face well, but I hadn’t trusted God. Instead, I was a year into my marriage and hadn’t told a soul that I failed college. I lived in constant fear of being found out. I avoided prayer. I refused to give it to God because I knew He would convict me to come forward and admit the truth. I feared I would lose my husband. He knew I was broken, but he didn’t know what lengths I’d gone to to pretend I was something I wasn’t.
One day I picked up a book called TrueFaced: Trust God and Others With Who You Really Are by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch.
Every single word brought me closer to my knees until I couldn’t bear the weight of my sin anymore.
I was led to Psalm 40:12-13. I still have it marked in my Bible. “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.” I wrote a simple prayer in the margin that day: Lord save me from myself.
By the grace of God I pulled off the mask and mustered the courage to confess my lies about my college failure to a trusted friend. She listened, she held my tears, and she empowered me to tell my husband. The next few weeks were terrifying. I came clean with my husband and with my parents. Then I started seeing a therapist.
I got the help I needed and the forgiveness I didn’t deserve.
I had to earn trust back with the people I valued most. Over time I repaid my parents for the college expenses I wasted. More than medicine, what I needed was God. He used books, friends, my family, my husband, and a good therapist to show me how truly dependent I need to be on Him. I learned to trust Him with every piece of me, even the pieces I was so deeply ashamed of.
It’s been years since I’ve felt depressed and even longer since I’ve experienced anxiety in any social situation. God has claimed victory over my mental health, but even better, over my fear. By God’s ridiculous grace I have been completely debt-free for two years, thanks to the conviction and accountability I’ve found in His Word and the crazy generosity of others. I am the most financially healthy and stable I’ve ever been. I’m also finishing my college degree. At the age of 39, God is redeeming what I counted as lost. He is so very good.
The truth sets us free.
It’s never too late to turn ourselves around, repent, and face the consequences of our actions! Those consequences, however severe, are nothing compared to the prison we hold ourselves in when we keep our sin hidden away. Trust God with your failures. He will respond with forgiveness every time.
If you want to learn more about Anne’s story, she has a blog called Glory In the Grind: Giving God Glory in the Daily Grind of Life which can be found on her website at www.gloryinthegrind.com.