Depression and anxiety were unexpected, but healthcare, faith, and Christian friends were blessings.
Starting college, there were many things that I expected to experience. Some of these included late nights studying, making new friends, and gaining independence.
I also had experiences that were different from those of a typical college student. I didn’t leave my bed for over 36 hours on multiple weekends. I lied to my professors that I overslept when I couldn’t bring myself to attend classes. If I thought about answering a question in class, I would start to shake. I wondered why I was struggling so much while all of my peers seemed to eat, sleep, and attend class with no problem. Five months ago, I learned I was struggling with mental illness and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
When I was first told about this, I was in denial. I was a straight A, highly involved student. How could I have a mental illness if I was defined as successful by society? I later came to accept that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
But I also learned that many individuals do not understand how debilitating mental illness truly is. Depression is like having weights tied to your limbs and around your neck. At first, they don’t seem very heavy. Eventually, the weights become heavier, and you struggle to stay upright. You can feel yourself hunching over but need to keep walking.
Struggling with mental illness as a college student can lead you to ask many questions. What if I can’t finish my degree? Will my professors understand when I can’t come to class or finish my assignments? Will my friends be supportive when I tell them I can’t handle going out tonight? Thankfully, my friends and professors have been very understanding of my mental illnesses.
Mental illness will never be easy as a full-time student, but being a Christian has led me to ask more difficult questions about dealing with a mental illness.
Growing up, I learned that God doesn’t make mistakes and has a plan for everything.
I was told to pray in times of trouble because God would answer me. But when I was questioning the point of my existence, hearing “just pray” discouraged me. I felt guilty going to church and ended up not going all together. I wondered why God would create me to have a mental illness. I thought that if I reached out for help that others would look down on me for not trusting in God.
What I forgot is that God gives us many blessings, even in times of trouble.
God has given two large blessings to support me as I struggle with mental illness: healthcare providers and the church. It has been five months since I started seeing a counselor and three since I started taking medication for my depression and anxiety. After suffering quietly for almost ten years, I am so thankful to have a support system that consists of people who constantly encourage me in my studies and my faith. You don’t have to be an expert on mental illness to help someone. Asking how you can help is more than enough.
Prayer is powerful, but sometimes you can’t just pray away illnesses. We need to support our friends and neighbors in times of trouble. They have supported me. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Andi Franklin, a junior at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is a member at St. Paul, North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
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Author: Andi Franklin
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017
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