(Photo by Selma Komisky)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Thanking God Through Thick and Thin
By Jehn Kubiak
God gave me a very clear message at about 12:31 AM on April Fool’s Day this year: life is precious, and I have many things to thank him for. I’m almost reluctant to tell this woeful tale at times because I know that people won’t look at me the same. But at the same time, what if I could spare a life? What if I could help another struggling person see that even the people who “have it all together” can also be the people who fall apart on the inside.
Here’s the story.
I dealt with PTSD this past spring from a prior workplace bullying incident after I faced a triggering situation at one of my jobs. Since I never dealt with PTSD before, it took me by surprise. Of course, I didn’t want to remember once again how my hypercritical supervisor at the past job berated me for the most minute mistakes and shamed me for crying twice in front of them. And I know that the people at my then-current job didn’t mean to hurt me, but the ways they addressed my mistakes brought me back to that past point.
It’s because of those memories that I eventually hit a breaking point: I lost my friends’ support, resigned from my job, started self-harming, and wanted to give up on life. Having those thoughts made me realize that something was very wrong at this point, and I couldn’t pull myself out of that situation because I was so emotionally distraught.
As a result, I reached out to a friend and told them I needed help. I didn’t ask them to do anything specific, but thank God they did. Since I talked to a couple of different people that night, I’m actually not sure which friend placed the call. Regardless, one of my friends called my campus security, who then called law enforcement.
Four police officers showed up at my door around the 30-minute mark past midnight and gave me two choices: talk with their mental health team, or voluntarily check into a mental health hospital until I felt like I was okay. I so desperately wanted to just do what I needed to stay home, but at this point, I knew I had to rely on help from others.
I spent the day in the hospital until around 3:30 in the afternoon, but that long period of rest time gave me tons of space to think. It was then that I realized how I put so much pressure on myself to get through the PTSD quickly and be the best at everything I did. Because of that, I actually ended up making more mistakes and even hated doing the things I loved. I literally wore myself thin––to mental burnout––until I had nothing to give.
Thankfully, I worked at an amazing camp this summer with people who knew how to knock some sense into me, yet still show the care I needed. These people told me that I didn’t need to please those who loved me, and that I couldn’t please those who already made their mind up about me. In addition, they reminded me that self-care is important and that I need to be as gracious with myself as I am with other people. Lastly, they said I needed to stop displacing my past on others––meaning that I couldn’t expect them to act the same way as people in my past.
It’s because of experiences like these in my mental health journey that have inspired me to become a mental health journalist. It’s also why I’m so vulnerable and transparent with my life, even though I know people can twist my words or use them against me. I want to help others out there know that hope really exists and that life is worth living. Granted, the tough times will always feel suppressing, but the greater moments outshine those. I know from experience that hardships feel like an eternity, but in the grand scheme of things, they only take up a small part of our lives.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be an optimist. It’s okay to feel, and it’s okay to vent to trusted friends. However, as we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I also want to encourage you to reflect on your life and see the incredible work God has done.
While I truly hated dealing with PTSD, I also realized that it significantly changed me in several ways. Instead of constantly looking over my shoulder to see if my supervisors watch me at work, I now just enjoy my job and trust that I’m doing the best work possible. Instead of letting others walk all over me and treat me unfairly, I speak up for myself––even if it means making someone upset or angry. I’m more patient with both myself and others, and as a pastoral care/counseling major, I can truly relate to the persons I counsel.
If you’ve kept up with the news, then you have probably heard about the suicide of pastor Jarrid Wilson, who was an avid mental health advocate. I don’t know exactly why this man took his own life. Perhaps the depression was too overbearing, or perhaps he felt like a burden to others. But after reading that story, I realized that I, too, was once in a similar place.
This is why, in my current season of life, I’ve developed a posture of gratitude for the amazing things God has done in my life and the amazing people who have helped me transform into a completely new person. I journal each morning and thank God for even the little things, such as when my manager closed the umbrellas during my evening lifeguarding shift a couple of nights ago.
Would I have willingly chosen to suffer like this? Of course not. But I can say that it has given me an incredible story that will hopefully help others realize that God can work wonders in their life. For whatever reason, spring has been a tough season for me in the past three years, but fall has remained a season of renewal. This fall, God is teaching me to stop sweating the small stuff, to slow down and breathe.
As I’ve done that, I realize that a lot of stress has come from me taking things out of proportion or just focusing on the things that go wrong in my day. However, looking back at the fun things in my day or the cool things that have happened has helped me feel more at peace and go to sleep refreshed. Start small; look for God in the little moments and thank him for each precious day of life.