TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of depression/anxiety/suicidal thoughts and wounded skin images which may cause distress
I have been mentally drafting this ‘year in review’ post for while but wasn’t sure if I could properly articulate the 2019 I had. I read so many beautiful reflective social media posts of the past year/decade on new years eve and it was these words “…God has been too good to me for me to hide it.” that gave me the nudge to share my own experience of His goodness last year most especially.
I feel like it’s sooo cliché to reference how quick the year has flown by but 2019?!?! I feel like I’d been robbed! I remember New Years Eve 2018 like it was just a few months ago. I distinctly remember how numb and unbothered I felt towards the festive season and upcoming new year. For the first time in my life I didn’t even go to church for a crossover service, I stayed at home said a quick halfhearted prayer and went to sleep.
Fast forward to the 2nd half of 2019, when my life literally fell apart, turned upside down, every negative description you can think of…
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NLT
This picture was taken on 1st June 2019. The Vanessa in this pic had no idea what was about to hit her exactly 2 weeks later, Saturday 15th June. I remember waking up that morning feeling SO low and drained. I had plans that day which I eventually cancelled (I thought the feeling would pass and could reschedule plans to later in the day) and ended up spending the rest of the weekend in bed. The following Monday I was due to start in a new department at work and the Friday before everything was good, I felt great. So I had no idea where this feeling came from or what could have triggered it considering it should have been a time of joy and excitement.
Monday came and although I’d had a weird weekend I was raring to finally get settled into my new role which I had my sights set on about a month into joining the company 8 months prior (will touch on this another time). As the days and weeks went by, I noticed that I was experiencing low moods and was still feeling quite drained and tired all the time so I would spend the whole of my weekends in bed. On Saturday 6th July I went to my usual nail and wax appointments and remember feeling a tingling/stinging sensation around my lower left armpit area, later on in the day. I didn’t think much of it and thought it was just the aftermath of getting my wax done.
The following Monday, 8th July, I noticed a small rash like blister on the left side of my chest but again didn’t think much of it. At this point, my mood had really dipped and I remember just battling with very negative thoughts of not being worthy and being a failure (in all areas of my life) on a daily basis. I was also becoming sliiiiiiightly stressed and anxious about how I was doing at work. I felt like I was under performing and not getting the hang of the job fast enough, bear in mind I was now just 3 weeks into the new role🤦🏿 #recoveringperfectionist (word to my sis!). This day at work was ROUGH. For the first time ever I began to have thoughts of no one (family/friends) caring if I wasn’t around anymore along with all the other pessimistic thoughts I was having. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with sadness and could literally feel the tears brewing up inside of me that I had to go the toilet to calm myself down and literally erupted – breaking down in tears. I returned back to my desk low key but it was apparent that I had been crying. You know when you’re really upset and you don’t want anyone to ask: “Are you ok?” Why is it that those 3 words can emotionally push you over the edge?! Whew. The fact of the matter is I really wasn’t, my manager pulled me aside into another room, asked the dreaded question and I literally broke down in tears all over again. I was so distraught because I just didn’t understand why I was feeling the way I was and where it all came from.
A couple days past and I noticed the rash on my chest was becoming more prominent, itchy and causing alot of discomfort. By that Wednesday, 10th July, I knew that something was NOT right, now the rash had spread from my chest, to my underarm, upper back, neck area and was so so sore. I booked an appointment with the GP and was diagnosed with shingles 🙃
I spent the next week bed bound in SO much pain and discomfort from the blisters. I couldn’t even raise my arm without being in excruuuuciating pain and was forced to lay/sleep on one side of my body throughout. During this time my wavering mood levels PLUMMETED. Never in my life have I felt as low as I did at the point. I lost interest and motivation to do anything, lost my appetite completely, didn’t want to be in contact with anyone (had isolated myself from people) and I felt so strongly physically weighed down. Solange described it best with the term “cranes in the sky”. It literally felt like I had metal clouds hanging over me every.single.day. I went through periods of vivid flashbacks of every single bad thing/situation/conflict/ fallout I had done/experienced over my entire life which had me feeling like pure SH** and just did not help my current situation AT ALL. I battled with very very very intense dark thoughts of just not wanting to deal with life anymore all the way down to the detail of how I could potentially make that happen. I had it all planned out, I was done and honestly wanted to give up on everything. I plucked up the courage to go to the GP to talk about these thoughts and was advised to get in touch with an area of the NHS which specialises in talking therapies where I was assessed and diagnosed with moderate to severe levels of depression and anxiety on Friday 2nd August.
I eventually recovered from the visible side effects affects of the shingles but I was still so physically, mentally and emotionally drained. Over the next couple of weeks I started taking antidepressants (my GP didn’t want to prescribe this straight away) to try and elevate my mood which made things get a bit worse before it eventually started to get better. [Side note: I was enrolled onto an online CBT course via the talking therapies but didn’t complete it because I didn’t find it effective in helping me deal with what I was going through]. There were days where I couldn’t go to work because I physically felt so weighed down and had no energy to leave the house so would just sleep the whole day. The anxiety had me experiencing mini panic attacks and dry heaving. My concentration levels declined dramatically so I couldn’t even think straight anymore which was a huge struggle with work because I couldn’t retain and process information properly. It was all a mess.
I spent the majority of my summer sleeping to some extent. If I wasn’t in bed, then I just about had enough energy to make it to work then straight back home to sleep again. It felt like an endless cycle of weekdays: work – bed (sleep) – work – bed (sleep) work – bed (sleep) and weekends: bed (sleep). During this time I felt like I was aimlessly cruising through life, I was ‘here’ in the physical but not present in any other way.
Earlier on in the year I had booked the last week of August off work which couldn’t have come at a better time given everything that was happening. That Saturday, 24th August, I still remember feeling low on energy however for the first time in what felt like forever my mood had lifted slightly. Over that week, I finally experienced my breakthrough and by the following Sunday, 1st September I was freed from the stronghold I was under the past 2 and a half months. Thank you Jesus! 🙌🏾
My shingles outbreak was a result of emotional stress. Upon deeper reflection, I truly believe God used this short illness to release me of all the anger, resentment, unforgiveness, jealousy, insecurities that I was harboring in my heart for so long.
Just as gold has to undertake an intense fiery process to be refined, the same way my heart and character had to be put through what felt like a similar process in order to remove the ‘impurities’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be perfect now by any means and will fall short, because human lol, but this experience has refined my character for the better. God did a work in me that needed to be done!
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”…. Genesis 50:20 NLT
In the years leading up to this, I had some strained relationships in my life that I recognise gradually added to my emotional stress. I’ve seen firsthand how the enemy can use anger, stubbornness, resentment to drive harmful wedges between people and the negative impact it has not just on the individuals involved but those around them too. God exposed me to a love from Himself (and others) during this ordeal that I did not deserve yet He saw fit to grace me with. Those strained relationships have been restored and I am dedicated, now more than ever, to focus on and nurturing all relationships that serve me
As well as the prayers and affirmations from family and friends (I love you guys dearly, you know who you are ❤) I also want to acknowledge and share some amazing resources that comforted me:
Black Gals Livin’
It’s so important to be mindful of the content you consume especially when you’re not particularly in a good place mentally. I found myself turning to these platforms because they assured me that my feelings weren’t isolated.
Overcoming this all has given me an unexplainable new lease of life. I started off 2019 very distant and weak in my faith, questioning alot of things/myself and ended the year not only more confident and secure in who I am, but also in who God is regardless of what I am going through… Alexa, play ‘Eddie James – As The Deer‘ 💓
I say this knowing that I will still be faced with trials and tough times ahead. Heck, I’ve already had a rough day or two since where I’ve had a good cry and had to rebuke any ungodly energy that intends to take me back to that dark place. The God who sustained me during that time will always be with me no what life throws me.
All this happening towards the end of the decade is so symbolic. I have had to shed so much baggage in order to freely receive all the blessings that are to come in this new decade and beyond. There is so much beauty in Gods timing!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” 2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP
“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.” 2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT
If you are reading this and currently resonate with the things I have mentioned surrounding mental health, I urge you to speak up and share your thoughts/struggles with at least one person. Do not allow these feelings to eat you up inside, you are not crazy and you are not alone in how you may be feeling. As much as it may not feel like it right now, be encouraged that this is just a season and you will overcome!
Peace & Joy,