When I first sat down to write this article, I had a specific message I intended to get across. As I was writing the final paragraph however, I realized my struggle to compose wasn’t because I had writer’s block; it was because I wasn’t writing what was on my heart. So I scrapped that article and started this one. The intent is still the same, but the delivery is much different, and I hope more impactful.
One day, about a year ago, I started mental health counseling because I thought I had depression. Even today, very few people know this about me, but I’ve decided it is about time that changed. I don’t want to be ashamed of this ‘secret’ anymore, and I want to use my story, unfinished though it may be, to influence others in a positive manner.
My thoughts up until that first day of therapy ran the gamut. I denied anything was wrong with me. I argued that it was something I’d grow out of—that the ugly thoughts would go away on their own. When I finally admitted to myself that something was wrong, it was just the beginning. I didn’t want to get help; only kooks went to psychologists; telling anyone would change the way they saw and treated me; seeing someone meant giving in and admitting weakness and broadcasting that something was wrong with me. Something was. Those and many other irrational thoughts ran through my mind on a daily basis. I knew that’s what they were, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Oh, and my parents were completely unaware of the situation, and I hadn’t the slightest idea how to tell them.
How are you supposed to tell the two people who love you more than life itself that you don’t really find much joy in life anymore? How can you make them understand that you can’t tell them what’s wrong because you don’t even know yourself? How do you explain that the smiling, animated, happy, productive daughter they see every day is anything but? I had no desire to wound and confuse my parents in such a manner, but eventually I reached the point where I knew they needed to know, despite the social stigma that made me hesitate. While it was and still is a work in progress to help them understand, I’ve never doubted my parents’ love. If I had, all I would have had to do was look into my father’s eyes and see the pain in my heart reflected back at me.
I’ve always heard it said that sons have a special relationship with their mothers, and daughters equally so with their fathers. I agree. I have a bond with my dad that I will never have with anyone else—one that I will forever treasure. As a small girl, he let me climb all over his fire trucks and taught me how to ride a bike. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, Dad took me on father-daughter dates that to this day remain some of my fondest memories, showing me how a gentleman should treat a lady. Dad taught me how to be logical, how to be wise with money, how to drive a car, and how to make the right life choices, and I’m very secure in the knowledge that I’ll always be his baby girl. But as important and precious as those memories are, they aren’t why I feel such an unbreakable bond with my Dad.
As I struggled with the idea of sharing with my parents what was on my heart, there were countless times when I almost burst into tears and ran straight to Dad. In hindsight, that seems rather strange to me, because I don’t consider us very similar in nature, while my mom and I are. But then again: there’s that unique fatherly bond, and every daughter has moments when all she wants is her daddy. In those times, when I wanted to turn to him, something—I’m not entirely sure what—held me back. In those moments of intense pain, I found myself turning instead to my heavenly Father. This wasn’t even a conscious thought process, something I would come to marvel over later. I was angry and hurting, and my prayers reflected that fact. I begged God to take away the pain. I questioned ‘Why me?’ I had never felt more alone, and I told God so on multiple occasions. I can’t really pinpoint exactly how long it took for me to notice, but slowly He started showing me just how alone I really was—and that was not at all.
First it was a friend who kept coming back and asking if I was okay, seeing through my reassurances of the affirmative, who then told me she would pray for me. Then an adult mentor walked up out of the blue and hugged me, and when I pulled away I knew she knew something was wrong because she wouldn’t let me go and whispered that it had been on her heart to pray for me. At church one week, someone commented on how tired I was looking lately and told me I was in her prayers. Finally, one day, after I’d slept until late in the afternoon, my Dad shot me a look across the room. He may not have done anything more than glance in my direction. Honestly, I really have no idea. But that glance flashed me back to all those precious memories, all the moments he’d nurtured and guided me, and all the times I’d messed up and he’d still loved me. I decided then and there that I was ready to spill my guts, and that night I did.
In the subsequent weeks, the struggle didn’t lessen. I still fought every day to get out of bed and find the motivation to eat, let alone accomplish anything productive. But somewhere among the therapy appointments, diet and lifestyle changes, and nights spent crying into my pillow feeling worse not better, I realized there had been a flashing neon sign in front of my face the entire time. Suddenly I came to the realization that the rush of love I had felt from my dad was a representation of the love God had for me. Let me tell you—I know I didn’t come to that realization on my own. You see, my relationship with God had suffered more than anything else as a result of my depression, and in that moment that fact popped into my head. I felt God nudging me and saying “I allowed this, and I’m here to carry you through it.” That subconscious action of prayer was nothing like an outcry of desperation (as I’d previously thought); it was God urging me to turn to Him.
Now, I wish I could say after that moment of clarity everything did a one-eighty, but I can’t. The fact is, a year later my depression hasn’t gone away and my faith is sometimes still shaky. After exploring various options, I’m still in counseling and I take antidepressants, but so far I don’t feel any difference. I often still have those moments of heartfelt pain, and every time, I find myself talking to God, telling Him I’m achingly lonely, utterly confused, and absolutely livid. But after those moments pass, I remember that God orchestrated my life to pray those prayers, and despite the laundry list of things I’m unsure of, somehow my trust in Him has never wavered. I’m one thousand percent sure that’s not because I’m just that great of a Christian….
Yes, I have a special, unique relationship with my dad—one that God used and is still using to bring me closer to Him. So to all the fathers out there, please keep investing in your daughters and treasuring your relationships with them. We need that from you. Please show us through words and actions that we’re beautiful no matter what the world says. Please teach us the life skills we will need to succeed. Please give us the freedom to be ourselves and develop our personalities. Please guide us as we muddle through the confusion of boys. Please instill in us the importance of having the values of a godly woman. Please model for us what healthy Christian relationships and marriage look like. Finally, please continue to love Christ so that His love can shine through you to influence your daughters. You are one of God’s most important beacons in our life, a symbol for His unconditional Fatherly love.
Sierra has been homeschooled from the cradle, and has been greatly blessed through her ten years in Classical Conversations. Her interests include piano, handbells, vocal choir, drawing, caring for children, and American Heritage Girls. In 2015 Sierra earned the nationally recognized Stars & Stripes Award through AHG. If she can’t be found, she’s probably off in some corner reading Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Tolkien, Lewis, or some other classic. Sierra will be participating in the Honors Program at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA this fall, with a double major in Psychology and Business Administration. She hopes to attend graduate school down the road to become a Christian mental health counselor.