This is not exactly the beginning of my story, but something that I have come back to time and again now.
I grew up in church. My family was there every Sunday for Sunday School and both the morning and evening services. I participated in Caravan, Vacation Bible School, the holiday pageants, Quizzing, the youth bell choir that my dad directed, and more. I went to preschool at the church we attended. We stopped going for a short time, but began attending (a different Nazarene church) while I was in high school. There, I took part in the teen group while my sisters were in their Caravan groups.
I moved to Wooster, Ohio for my short year at The Ohio State University- ATI. I was there with friends from my vocational school; and since I couldn’t get to a Nazarene Church, I would go with them to the church they attended whenever I would stay a weekend at school.
I began having what we (myself and my family and friends) now know to be episodes while at school. For those that don’t know the “lingo” of the illness, an episode is what it’s called when someone goes through their depression or mania. I tend to go manic as opposed to ones of depression (although I have had both). For those that haven’t experienced it, mania is absolutely horrendous. I would never wish it on anyone. You do things you wouldn’t normally do, have behaviors you wouldn’t normally have, and handle situations in ways… Trust me when I say there are always repercussions in some form. I became angry, but I didn’t know who I was angry with.
After my proper diagnosis I was put on medication. Those in themselves are not fun. Did I mention that they don’t stop episodes? You take your pills, you go to your psychiatrist (and therapist if you see one), and what happens… You still get sick; and this illness takes away a lot. I had to leave the school that I worked so hard to get into. When I’m manic I don’t get to see my nieces and nephews- 1. I don’t want them to see it; and 2. I can’t always handle having the chaos around me. People treat you with kids gloves. Everyone starts to wonder what to say or how to say it so they don’t “make you sick” when you just want to be treated normally. And trust? You always have to earn that back after an episode.
I became increasingly angry. Now, I knew who I was angry with. God. I was furious at Him. What kind of merciful God would make you go through mania, depression, self-harm… How could He have a plan- a reason- for me having to go through everything else that goes with having this horrible illness. I stopped attending church completely and put my Bible on the bookshelf with that part of my life. I never stopped believing, but I stopped talking to God. Stopped having hope in the faith that I grew up to believe in.
It took around 8 years for me to begin having small conversations with God again; and 12 to find my way completely back to church. I began assisting with the Bible Study that took place at work. It slowly went from there. That combined with a new amazing mental health team started the process- The first step was acceptance of my illness.
Last September I decided to begin attending church again. I decided to go back to the church I spent so much of my early childhood in. I reached out to a woman that I have known just about my entire life (she even ran my preschool at church!) to ask about services and such. Crowds and I are not friends, so I wanted to know which service had the least amount of people.
Even going back to a place so familiar took planning. Routine is unbelievably important to me; and this was not in my routine- hadn’t been for some time. She MET ME AT THE DOOR and sat with me that first church service, pointing out people she was positive I would know (and informing me if they were usually at that service time). I will forever thank God for her going with me that day.
Being at church… at that church… felt like coming home. I have found myself listening to the podcasts of sermons past and present almost daily. I took the classes to become a member of the church. I revisited my favorite book (Hebrews) and found a mantra to try- Hebrews 4:16- “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The verse was in a set of papers that a woman at church gave me when my anxiety was so out of control I was barely functioning. It stuck out at a time when I desperately needed something to hold onto.
I was home. With God. In church. And the difference was visible.