M.K. Harlan – My Testimony

I am a Christian. I am 19 years old at the time I am writing this. I have not been alive long enough to really have a story like other people do, but I have had my share of struggles and strife. This is where I’m going to tell you the story God has given me so far.

The Early Years

I was raised in a Christian home. Both of my parents are Christians, my mom’s side of the family are believers. I’m not certain of my Dad’s parents, they were raised Catholic and I think Methodist but I do not see them enough to know if they are actually believers. My great-grandfather (Grandma’s, on my mom’s side, father) was a doctor and a minister who grew up on a farm during the great depression, his wife grew up a preacher’s daughter in the same time period.

I accepted Christ when I was in first grade. I don’t remember exactly when, but I meant it, I really did. But even though I meant it I did not understand it completely. I got depressed. I was bullied in elementary school and became rebellious. I did not take care of myself the way I should and I did not interact with people the way I needed to, I was afraid to do those things. To this day it gives me a few problems with social interaction, but I’m learning. I read more books that most kids in elementary school and way above my grade level. God blessed me with that, because I loved those books I started writing. I’m currently enrolled at Ball State University and am majoring in Creative Writing. I am set to graduate in the spring of 2017.

For the longest time I did not relate to other children. I tried going to Wednesday night AWANAs, but I did not relate well. I did not understand what they were telling me, and why they were having me memorize verses. It was something my grandmother wanted me to do and it meant that on Wednesday nights I got to go to Gramma’s house and have dinner and play with the dogs. I had a few friends in the group and I still talk to them every now and then, but we have gone our separate paths. That seems to be how life works, God puts people in your life and they have and effect on you, whether you know it or not. God put those people in my life and it was being friends with them that prevented me from having no idea at all what to do with people. Between those few friends and my family I can function in society.

In school, life was much the same, only here I was bullied rather than just socially challenged. I was bigger than the other kids and physically slower, I still am. My forte was in the classroom, not the gym or on the playground. I had a few friends that were like me, the odd balls. I got a couple of them to go with me to AWANAs and later youth group with me. They accepted Christ into their hearts. Sometimes I look at them now, and I don’t have a lot of contact with them, but I wonder if they really meant it or if they were following the crowd. Then again they could be like me and just not know what to do next, not understanding what it means to be a Christian. That was certainly what my early years were like. Back then, I did not understand the point of devotions, or praying daily or at meal times. I didn’t always act very Christian either. I often ask God to give me opportunities to talk to them and show them what it means, maybe all they need is a boost to get them out of discipleship infancy and into the field, knowing what it is to live for Christ.

When I hit middle school I started attending Crossfire Student Ministries, our church’s youth group. Yet again I did not quite fit in. I did not know how to handle the other teenagers, I got along with the adults way better than the kids my age. In school, I still had the friends from elementary school, but I barely saw them because I was in different classes/halls. Luckily, the bullying either stopped or started to just not bother me. The most influential people in my faith at this point were the youth pastor and his wife. I looked up to them, they made sense to me and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to have a relationship with God the way they did. The adults in youth group were amazing. I loved their examples and I wanted to be that way. Sadly I let my social awkwardness with the other teens keep me from going to youth group and my attendance was sporadic. I did not feel comfortable with them. I have since discovered that I do much better in a smaller Bible Study group than I do in a large, loud group of people.

Throughout high school I rarely went to youth group and mostly just did the weekend trips. But I always felt a little out-of-place. I did not have the same experiences as the other teens so I did not know where to start when conversing with them. I had been struggling with depression since I was in elementary school. I have never been officially diagnosed due to the fact that I feel too insecure to go talk with a counselor or psychologist. To this day I still struggle with it as well as social anxiety.

I hid in my bedroom when I was home, I read, I wrote, and I did my homework. I was still rebelling, I rarely did my chores, I did my best to make my siblings (I’m the oldest of 4) think that I hated them, same with the rest of my family. Sometimes I think I succeeded. I was angry. I was addicted to anger.I can’t tell you how many pages of plans I had for running away as soon as I was 18 to go live in the mountains or something with a dog and never come back. I was messed up. But when I went into high school I thought things were better, I threw those plans out and thought it would be fine, life seemed okay. I thought I was happy, but I was not. Most of the kids I was friends with were atheists, a few were Christian. Some of them claimed and still claim to be practitioners of Wicca. I never got into any of those things, I was set in the fact that I was a Christian, I just did a poor job of showing it. I thought that I could do things on my own, that I was in control. I wasn’t. I never realized how depressed I was. I was convinced that I was fine, I was handling it, but I was not.

Honestly, it was only by the grace of God that I managed not to get into trouble with those influences. God granted me with a stubborn nature and it kept me determined, even if I did not realize it at the time, to commit to my Christian faith and do it right. I kept dabbling with devotions, but because I thought I had things under control I was not very faithful about them. I didn’t care enough to keep them up regularly. I thought I was fine. I wasn’t.

Depression and Anxiety

There are so many people out there that have it worse than me. Their depression and anxieties are debilitating. Mine would be, and almost were, but I have God on my side and I lean on him. He is my crutch. He can calm the stormiest of seas.

Depression is a funny thing. It hides. When you are depressed you don’t always know it. Some people think that they are just a little sad, it’ll straighten itself out, others think they’re just in a funk. Some people have drastic thoughts of self harm and suicide, and think the world is against them and don’t realize what it is, they just think it’s life.

Sometimes. We don’t have those thoughts. Sometimes we think we’re perfectly fine. But others see something we don’t. They see the constant sleeping, the lack of appetite, the binge eating. They see the lack of smiles, or the forced smiles. They notice that we are lethargic, we hide, we don’t talk a lot and when we do it’s like we don’t think what we say matters. I am one of those. I do not have thoughts of self harm, or lack of worth. In fact I have enough of an ego that I think a little too highly of myself.

But I sleep a lot, not because I’m tired, but because it is a way of coping with stress. I binge eat and then there are days when food just looks unappetizing and I can go a whole day barley eating anything and what I do eat is unpleasant and I have to force myself to swallow, even if it’s usually my favorite dish. I hide in crowds. I may think highly of myself, but I don’t like to be noticed. I am afraid to be noticed most of the time. Dealing with a lot of people and being in loud and happy situations makes me nervous and tired. It drains me. I have panic and anxiety attacks. When people touch me it makes my skin crawl. I go through bouts when I don’t even want my grandma to hug me. They can last days, weeks, sometimes months. I can’t focus, my thoughts lead nowhere. I talk in my sleep, I have nightmares constantly.

It’s not fun. And the worst part is I think I’m fine. In reality I’m not. I’m shutting down, I shut out the world and I go through motions and routines without actually living them. I can go a few days like that and then look back and not remember actually doing those things except for a few vague recollections. My school work suffers, my friends don’t know why I act the way I do, my family worries, and I go along thinking everything is normal. But I’m not happy. I don’t actually experience emotion during these times. It’s like I flip a switch so I don’t have to deal and I mistake quiet for being happy and okay with life. I shut down and shut out.

This past year was my first year at college, my first time away from home. For the first semester I roomed with a friend from high school, one who was an atheist. I thought it would be good for me. I thought it would be good if I could have someone I knew around to keep me from panicking too much, and it did. But then she stopped talking to me. She did not tell me that she was having problems with me and because she never mentioned anything I thought we were fine. I had asked her about my Christian music, to make sure it would not offend her, she told me it was fine. Eventually she decided it was not. I left my devotions on my desk once and she told a mutual friend of ours that it was me being passive aggressive and trying to convert her. I was going through another bout of trying to commit to my faith and she did not think that I did that kind of thing. In her mind everything I did regarding my faith became a passive aggressive attack on her. I would never have known any of this had the friend that she was telling these things to not mentioned it to me. As soon as I knew about these things the stress started to really pile on and I started to shut down and shut out the world. I could not understand why my friendship was going down the drain because of my faith. I couldn’t understand why she did not want to talk to me about it. I grew up in a family that told each other everything: where they were going, when they would be back, how their day was. She did not like that and thought I was being nosy, she had never told me. Eventually I started going to church and a Bible Study and I started to feel better about things I felt better just knowing I had Christian friends I could turn to if I needed it. I also had the friend who had been telling me what was going on. She is Catholic and a strong believer and I thank God that I met her because without her the bout of depression that I went through would have been unbearable.

With the help of Church and Bible Study I alleviated some of the stress. I started doing my devotions again and doing them pretty faithfully, or as faithfully as I could manage between studying and work. My family was praying for me constantly and I was calling them to talk daily. It was the only way that I could really get all of my stress and fears expressed. I started praying more and listening to Christian music over other genres. I could feel God working in me. I could feel his hand on me. These words kept playing in my head:

I know who goes before me. I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side.

I felt God standing there, whispering to me, telling me it would be okay, he was there and I could get through this. I just had to trust him and weather out the storm. He had promised me I would succeed I just had to trust that my depression wasn’t going to get in the way. That no matter what she did it was not my problem. I had to stick to my guns, be faithful to God, trust him, and obey him. I had to show her God’s love and there was nothing else I could do.

As it turned out she had to leave after that semester and my second roommate was nice, she didn’t bother me, and I did not bother her. We could talk easily and be friends, but it wasn’t a bad experience. It was during this time, right after I was finished with the stress of the first semester, that I made the decision to get baptized.

A New Start

I was baptized on Easter Sunday of 2015 by my grandfather who had baptized all three of his daughters, including my mother, before me when they were little girls. God has just gotten me through the toughest time in my life so far (I’m sure that there will be more to come) and I was and am excited to be walking with Him well and truly. I finally understand, or think I understand why devotions and prayer are important. It’s how we communicate with God. It’s how He gives us His promises for our lives. It’s how we ask Him for help and reassurance. If we do not read God’s word we do not hear God’s promises. That’s why I’m doing this blog. The other night during my quiet time I asked God to make me a promise. When I did that I made him one. I promised to read EVERY SINGLE WORD in the Bible. So I’m going to chronicle my faith journey through the Bible, as well as my journey through life. God gave me a gift in writing. I write a lot of fiction, it’s fun and relaxing, but I need to use that gift for Him too. I believe that this is but a part of what He has in store for my life.

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