When I was young, I lost almost all of my social circles and friends in a very abrupt and traumatic way. I didn’t get the same amount of socialization as most children to begin with because I was homeschooled, but these sudden events cut me off from everything and everyone I knew except for my family and church. I was very close to many of the people I lost during that time, and losing them wounded me deeply.
For a long while, I refused to accept that my status quo had changed. I fought to be reunited, not knowing if I would ever see any of my friends again. Without going into too much detail, I sank into one of the deepest depressions I’d ever been in.
Not only had I lost healthy, regular social interaction with people my age, but I had to cope with some very traumatic events that had accompanied it and the loss of the future I had hoped for. I held myself back, physically and emotionally stunting myself to try to preserve some semblance of everything that had been right before the world fell in around me.
My hope was that, if I could keep myself the same (physically via anorexia) as I had been when I had been separated from the people I loved, maybe it would bring that time back for us. Maybe I could remind us all of a time in which household drama and mental health problems hadn’t taken over our lives. It wasn’t logical, but not many things in my world were at that point.
At the same time, I told myself that my friends were fine. I told myself that their lives weren’t falling apart like I felt like mine was. There was no way that they, as good Christian people, would be having the problems with depression and horrible thoughts that I dealt with.
I thought they were too strong for that, so I tried to be strong too. I didn’t want to disappoint them. Most of them were older than me, and I constantly felt like I was playing catch-up to try to impress them by being on their level. I thought that my compromised mental health would set me back even further from truly being included.
I held on to hope that I would see them again soon, telling myself that all of my problems would disappear then. Countless nights were spent awake, staring at the wallpaper in my room, wondering if they were okay. Helplessness overwhelmed me. I could do nothing to contact them and I could barely get any answers to my questions from my parents who had been worn thin from the dramatic events that served as a catalyst for the separation.
So, I did the only thing I felt like I could do: I prayed.
I begged and pleaded with God to save me from the mental health problems that had taken over my mind, and to spare them from what I was enduring. The feeling of dread that they might be dealing with problems as well made me physically ill, despite how much I tried to convince myself that those things would never happen to them. I told Him that I didn’t care what happened to me, as long as He saved them from the pain. I asked that if any of them were in pain, that He take it and let me carry it for them. I wanted them to know that I loved them, and I asked that He let them know that in whatever way He saw fit.
Then I pleaded for all I really wanted: a quick reunion and to be set back on track, the way things were before. I told Him I was lonely and trusted Him to save me from despair.
I spent weeks genuinely weeping and inconsolable. Physical pain began accompanying the emotional anguish until it hurt to move and breath. Every day I asked. It felt like praying for a miracle to me, even though it was possibly one of the smallest requests He could get in the grand scheme of things.
One day as I sat tearfully pleading with God, the possibility of my friends being in danger and pain suddenly felt undeniably real. It was terrifying, and I prayed to God asking that, if I could make it through this, He give me the ability to help them. At the time, I had no concept of what I had asked for.
A few more weeks passed and I reached the end of my rope. I had begged, pleaded, and prayed to God for weeks on end, multiple times a day, and I felt as though I was being ignored. Then another explanation entered my mind: Maybe God wasn’t real.
I turned this possibility over in my mind until I became despondent and anxious. Unfortunately, after all of the unspeakable things I had seen in my short life, it seemed like the most reasonable explanation. It wasn’t long after that I found myself on the bathroom floor of my family’s house in the late hours of the night, grappling against my own flesh to preserve my life. I felt numb, desperate to feel something.
The following moments would forever be between me and God, but I can say I walked away a changed person. That night I wrestled with anger, resentment, depression, love, and God. By His grace I came out on the other side in one piece and with a deeper understanding of the lightness and darkness that fills the world around us.
My plans to be reunited in the same way with my friends never really happened, as I had feared. Their presence when we were united on rare occasions was like walking on the broken glass of a shattered past.
God had said no to the restoration I had asked for. In His wisdom and mercy, he spared me from knowing that the people I was using in order to keep myself above water were in the same boat as I was, and because of that, I kept swimming instead of letting myself sink. Despite walking away from my own demons that night and managing to stay afloat during that dark time, I still occasionally feel heartbroken.
My friends did end up having very similar problems as I did, and sometimes more. I often tell my husband in a state of sadness that I wish I could have been there for them then. A counselor once called it a complex case of survivors guilt. My husband points out that he thinks it would have been a bad thing, and I would have been worse off for it.
Sometimes it hurts to hear, but I can’t help but agree with him. I was a much different person then, and so were they. Many of the people I have great relationships with now I wouldn’t have had the confidence to confide in then.
Not only that, but I idolize people far too easily. If they had been around during that time, I would have tried to use them to fill my void of loneliness and pain instead of wrestling with God until my wounds that had festered were lanced and bandaged by the only One who can truly mend a broken heart.
I have no doubt that if God had given me what I wanted then, I would be worse for the wear today. While I don’t like the term “unanswered prayer”, I consider that “unanswered prayer” to be the most influential one of my life. Because now, eight years later, it’s given way to my husband, son, a book, and this blog. There isn’t a day that goes by that those events don’t cross my mind and that I don’t wonder what could have been, and that is what has pushed me to write many of the things I have (some of which are unpublished).
Through the pain, sleepless nights and desperate prayers, I found healing. And through me talking about the pain, others have found that they aren’t alone and have begun their own healing journeys.
Praise God for answered prayers, whether they be the answer we want or not.
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