Sarah Lowry is telling her raw testimony of how her struggle with depression began to take over during her college years. The steps she chose to make in order to heal have become a great help to others.
Starting out as a Freshman at Bridgewater College, Sarah began with a positive outlook on her student path. She and her roommate meshed well, she was excited for her classes, and all seemed “normal”.
By the second semester, something had changed. Sarah’s roommate and other friends suddenly no longer accepted her. The stress of that feeling and new classes began to engulf Sarah.
“I started second-guessing myself and I felt unwelcome in my own room”
She’d lost what she’d expected to be her closest ally. Combined with the new environment, Sarah felt very vulnerable.
“I had to rely on God more than ever, and He brought other friends into my life that helped me through that [time]”
In her second year, Sarah found herself under a heavy course load which quickly began to overwhelm her. As a proactive step, she completed evaluations testing for learning disabilities. Sadly, she was misdiagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type (previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder) and given medication. Over time, the medications to treat this misdiagnosis ended up making her depression and Vocal Cord Disfunction symptoms more severe.
As Sarah continued her studies, a new semester brought new perspectives. Things seemed to be looking up. Her medications were adjusted, she was placed with a well-matched roommate, and had a more balanced course load. The stress from previous semesters was no longer there. But when she should have been feeling better, she actually began to feel worse.
Sarah was assigned to a new guidance counselor to help monitor her while on a new medication. One day when her mother was visiting, this counselor told them that Sarah had some form of psychosis and needed to be withdrawn from the school. They packed her things and left that same day.
“The uncertainty of my own sanity, and, um, the shame in having to leave was a lot to bear.”
While the situation left her more isolated, Sarah continued to try to fight. She was able to secure a job working in a childcare center which gave her hope and helped her work through that difficult time. She then enrolled in Randolph-Macon College as a Studio Arts Major. It was here that she found a much needed Bible study.
“The love and support I found in them… was an invaluable blessing.”
Starting Over… Again and Again
After graduation, Sarah found the anxiety of planning her career began to bring back old struggles. She began a nomadic employment career, working short periods of time in various fields.
Not long after she required surgery for a chronic health issue. That’s when she found herself battling the side-effects of the post-surgical medication. It began to heighten her depression symptoms and anxiety, along with a new problem: panic attacks.
Working as a photographer, Sarah was traveling and keeping long hours. During this time, she suffered several panic attacks, one during a photo shoot.
“I had this feeling that maybe if I just kept talking, If I just kept going it would go away… I felt out of control.”
Taking A Break
That’s when Sarah took a medical leave of absence. She knew something wasn’t right and she felt she couldn’t continue. The leave turned into having to quit her job. Sarah didn’t know when she would be able to work again.
“I felt so ashamed at having failed, yet again.”
Sarah shared that this was a very dark time for her. She truly was fighting an evil disease.
“Summer turned to Autumn and I still seemed to be barely hanging on. I felt completely alone…I had never felt so angry, bitter, depressed, and hopeless. I knew that God had not truly abandoned me, but I couldn’t feel His presence.”
Sadly, Sarah began to feel that she didn’t deserve to feel connection with God. And so, she withdrew from His embrace.
“I ended up taking a break from God. Not with the intention of rejecting Him, but I just couldn’t face him.”
It’s not that Sarah no longer believed in God. She just couldn’t accept the love and grace He offered.
“I hated myself and the burden that I felt I was putting on everyone else around me.”
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Finding Hope And A Loving God
Still not completely giving up, Sarah found a new class to attend. Called Dialectical Behavior Therapy this new class was able to help Sarah put perspective on the areas she needed help. This new approach shows “some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations” . By realizing this heightened stimulation, those like Sarah, who struggle in stressful situations can begin to reevaluate their environments and thus, their reactions.
Having the opportunity to look back over her experiences, Sarah believes that her time away from God has allowed her to see how much more she needs Him in her life.
“In the end, I’m actually grateful for the experience. . . I needed to see what life was like without Him so that I could be ever more grateful for life with Him.“
As Sarah continues what she believes will be a life-long journey, her faith is strengthening.
“I do know that things will get better and that God will be with me every step of the way!”
If you know someone who could benefit from Sarah’s story, please share!
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