It’s okay to not be okay. The truth is none of us are fully happy with every aspect of our lives. You might have a stellar career but have conflict in your friendships or family. You may have great physical health but you’re battling through depression. By now, you should realize through your own experiences that life doesn’t always play out the way you expect it to. In fact, it usually doesn’t and it can be painful at times, but this ironically makes life more beautiful if we’re willing to cooperate with God’s process of shaping us into the men or women He’s called us to be.
You may not be where you aspired to be in your career at age 25. You thought you would have your whole life figured out and be married to your sweetheart by age 30. You look through your Instagram and can only imagine how amazing someone’s life is. Your mind deceives you into a downward spiral of loneliness and of feeling unworthy even though you know Instagram is all perfectly curated and inauthentic.
Ten years ago in high school, I wanted to take my own life, believing that it would be the best solution to end the pain I felt. At the time, my desire to end the pain felt greater than my desire to live. In the more recent years, these feelings came back intermittently; my mid-20s were a constant battle against comparing myself, dealing with loneliness, and feeling professionally lost. There were moments when I felt the broken pieces of my life collapsing on me, and I pondered whether the world would be better without me. It has and still is a continual process of renewing and liberating my mind to live in freedom from anxiety and depressing thoughts.
I want to share my story with you and how I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts with the hopes of strengthening and encouraging you to truly live, not merely exist. I’m not claiming to be a mental health expert, but I hope you can relate to my story to some degree and please know you’re not alone in your journey of life.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Growing up in a Vietnamese immigrant family as an only child, there were high expectations and pressure to succeed by worldly standards. Achieve good grades in school, attend a prestigious university, choose a lucrative major, and secure a good job. I understand my parents’ intentions were brought out of love and a genuine desire to see me live a better life than they did, but along the way, their intentions manifested themselves into my own self-criticism, feelings of never being good enough, and insecurity in who I am.
As a parent, it’s crucial to create a safe, supportive environment, especially in your child’s development stages. However, I felt like constantly pressured to do better than the kid next to me. It was an endless cycle of competition with myself and others. I felt lost and confused. All I knew was to be that stellar student they aspired for me to be.
Conflicts and yelling were also normal occurrences at home. My parents’ marriage was filled with drama, disagreements on petty issues, and infidelity. “I love you’s,” hugs, and kisses happened once in a blue moon at best. They never truly knew how to express love to each other or myself. They thought that simply providing food on the table, a roof over my head, and financial support were enough. There were no hugs or words of affirmation. Quality time felt like hurried time. Receiving gifts were earned on the basis of merit.
IS LIFE WORTH LIVING?
Sophomore and junior years of high school were arguably the most challenging times of my life. I was a lost soul looking for worth and validation in the wrong places. I couldn’t find it at home with so many conflicts and an unloving atmosphere. There was a girl whom I “loved” and I had put all my hopes in this relationship working out (whatever love meant to a 16-year-old). Without going into details, I was rejected and betrayed by a close friend. I fell into depression and contemplated ending the painful heartache by suicide. My grades slipped drastically. My identity was shattered. Hope only seemed like a flicker in the dead of night.
I wanted to reach out for help but I felt ashamed and didn’t know who to turn to. I put out subtle messages and status updates on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). Nobody seemed to get the memo. One day, I thought about jumping off one of the school’s buildings but by God’s grace, a friend finally figured that something was wrong. We talked it through, and I fortunately survived those dark days of high school.
Fast forward ten years, I’m now 26. For me these days, feelings of unworthiness and mild depression creep in. I’m triggered when I compare myself to others, wondering why I’m not at a certain place in life and they are. I’m triggered when I see my friends’ families showering them with love, wishing that I had loving and supportive parents. I fall into a downward spiral when I tell lies to myself that I’m not worth it, never enough, or when I’m reminded of my upbringing.
Although life isn’t always sunshines, I can confidently say that life is truly worth living. If I had taken my last breath ten years ago, I would have never experienced all the beauty, friendships, and adventures that life had to offer. I would have never known God’s relentless love for a wretch like me — how he chose to sacrifice his only son so I can truly live in freedom.
Despite all of the past brokenness, I proclaim that I am a somebody, beloved and valued. I am going somewhere with my life. God has big plans for me to fulfill for His eternal purposes.
Jeremiah 29:11 states “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
3 WAYS TO WIN THE BATTLE IN YOUR MIND
1. Verbally speak truth over your life.
Externally, we are constantly bombarded by lies and soul-draining information. We see ads everyday idolizing supermodels and “successful” celebrities. After being exposed to it long enough, it’s so easy to slip into telling lies to yourself that you’re not beautiful enough, not smart enough, not ____ enough. On top of that, there are lies people tell us from our past that we’re still holding onto. These people can be your parents, teachers, friends, or peers. Have your parents ever told you that you would never become ______? Have your friends talked you out of pursuing your dreams?
Internally, the more powerful lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
Life is a continuous journey of mental management, a combination of offense and defense.
You need to attack and replace lies with truth while protecting your mind against external lies. Satan is the father of lies, and we need to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6).
When Jesus was tested in the wilderness, Satan made Jesus question his own identity by stating, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Doesn’t Satan do this to us all the time? We question if we’re good enough, whether we’re heading in the right direction, and if we’re valued and loved.
Practically speaking, as soon as your mind begin to tell yourself lies, immediately speak truth over the lie out loud. If you feel like your life is a mistake, remind yourself: “I am God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus, to do the good things He planned for me” (Ephesians 2:10). If you feel unloved, tell yourself: “The Father has accepted me in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6).
These are some of the many truths you have the authority to speak over Satan. Refer to 100 Biblical Declarations to Speak Over Yourself.
2. Recognize your triggers.
Social media has long been my trigger for negative self-talk and feelings of unworthiness. I pull up Instagram and I can’t help but feel like somebody else’s life is better than mine. “Why haven’t I gotten that promotion yet? How do they get to travel so much? They seem to have a lot of good friends…I wish I had more friends.”
When I see a photo of a friend having the time of his life while I’m undergoing stress at work, it’s easy for me to feel like my life is lesser than. When I see people getting promoted on LinkedIn, I automatically compare my professional journey to their journey. I begin to wrestle with God and ask why hasn’t such and such happened yet. What’s taking so long? Thoughts of anxiety and insecurity creep in, and I feel absolutely worthless.
Maybe your trigger isn’t social media. Perhaps, it’s a person who reminds you of your past. Whatever it is, recognize it and find ways to avoid being triggered.
For me, I periodically delete all social media apps during times when I’m alone or undergoing seasons of busyness and stress. Looking at others’ lives will only add more anxiety and insecurity. The key is self-awareness and understanding your weaknesses to fight against the father of lies and the prince of this world.
3. Build your support network.
I can’t stress how important it is to build your community of supportive brothers and sisters. I’m fortunate to have people who I can call and pray with when I’m in distress, but it’s taken YEARS to build these friendships. You don’t need many friends; only one or two is already a divine blessing to have.
The trap when you’re feeling down is to isolate yourself. Being able to talk your feelings to someone releases bottled-up negativity inside. Picture a rancid swamp and a clear sea. If you leave trash in a still body of water, it becomes a pungent swamp over time. On the contrast, a clear and (relatively) clean sea has moving rivers flowing in and out of it. Would you rather be a rancid swamp or a clear sea?
Even Jesus, the Son of God, had his group of disciples for support and to do life with.
It’s crucial to begin forming your support network because life is simply better when done together.
Who you invite into your network should be supportive, affirming, prayerful, and non-judgmental.
Encouragement: You ARE loved, valued, wanted, and accepted. You have purpose and God has wonderful plans for you. Life is truly worth living in spite of the pain you may be feeling. Please reach out for help. There are adventures, valuable friendships, and beauty that’s waiting for you on the other side of pain. Don’t give up, my friend.
Question For Thought: What are some practical ways you can take to win the battle within your mind?