The girl who is loved.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was loved. Loved by so many around her, but most importantly loved by Jesus. For the first twenty-five years of her life she struggled to believe it for herself, but throughout those years it was hard for her to even see what she struggled to believe.

When God finally brought her into a place of living both fully known and fully loved, life was beautiful. It wasn’t beautiful because it was perfect… no, it was beautiful because it was real. Genuine. Painful, yes. But beautiful.

After just a few short months, the girl who was finally living loved was faced with a life altering amount of change. It would test everything she knew about life and love and her faith, and she knew going into it that it would be the hardest season of her life.

Little did she know just how right she was.

After a few short months living 3,000 miles away from a hometown that no longer felt like the home she always knew, a global pandemic changed life on earth as everyone knew it. She did her best to cope, but being in a new place with new people made it extremely difficult. Despite all the best intentions and efforts, difficulties continued to come her way. Major chronic stress continued that, when combined with the continued pandemic fatigue, brought upon a whole new set of mental illness symptoms that she had never encountered before. She had maybe encountered things a little bit like it, yes. But not quite like this. Not to this intensity.

She took a month off of work for the second time in a twelve month period. As she told her co workers the second time around – “life is hard, healthy coping is hard, and sometimes it all just decides to kick my butt.” Hope lingered in front of her as she did her best to recuperate and take care of herself, but unfortunately that hope would prove incredibly futile.

When she went back to work after the time off, it was the beginning of the end. Her work situation became worse and worse by the day. Most days this girl who – not much more than a year before – had thrived and been able to live loved… most days she would spent feeling defeated, belittled, targeted, alienated… in fact, even though she slowly began to realize that what was happening to her wasn’t normal and wasn’t okay, it would take her a year to fully realize it and begin to voice exactly what happened during those two months at work.

The girl was struggling to live loved. There’s just no other way to say it.

Thanks to her incredible parents and an even more incredible God, she got out of that situation and that season in her life. Upon moving to a familiar place she hoped that some healing would begin to come and come quickly, but she could not have been more wrong. Were there many things during the first few weeks of calling a familiar place home that DID bring some healing? Absolutely. But it was a slow and agonizing process, and it would be months before her eyes would slowly open to the realities of both what happened last fall as well as just how bad things had gotten – and how much they would never be the same.

When someone is diagnosed with a new mental illness and/or identified as a neurodiverse individual later in life, the reality of it comes with both significant relief and significant pain. It’s not that nearly everyone in this girl’s life over the years didn’t care for her or love her the best they could… but sometimes in life it can be hard to accommodate for something that you don’t even know exists. As a result, she knew her loved ones did the best the could. That they cared about her and loved her deeply.

But… unfortunately that doesn’t change the realities of growing up and hearing destructive messages repeated, messages that – given the new knowledge of what ACTUALLY goes on in her brain – are not true like everyone always thought they were.

Or like she thought they were…

Maybe even like she still thinks they are.

Where is this girl today? She is breathing, living, taking it a day at a time. The healing process for her is a lot slower than she thought it would be, and it’s certainly much slower than she would like. Some days it feels like things will never get there – that she’ll never be able to take care of herself and all her responsibilities all on her own, that she’ll never learn how to manage just being alive given the brain and neurodiversity challenges she faces on a daily basis, that she’ll never be able to shake the chronic negative thoughts and messages so that she can enjoy even a little quality of life…

But some days there are glimmers of home. Some days and some moments where things get done and old thought patterns get identified. Some days where the encouragement and positive words from others don’t just go in one ear and out the other.

And, maybe more importantly, how is this girl doing and feeling today? If she’s honest with herself and those around her (which, by the way, isn’t as easy as it was just two short years ago), it all still hurts a lot. There have been so many “why Gods” and “how did this happen Gods” and “where were you Gods”… but there’s also hope. Courage. And if she’s honest, some kind of fight left in her. Because if that fight was gone completely, she wouldn’t even be trying. She might not even still be here.

But she is. She knows that there is a God who loves her perfectly and completely. Whether or not she’s able to believe it everyday, and whether or not she’s able to hear and accept the love from so many around her… deep down at least a small part of her knows it’s true.

This girl, though… this girl is still hurting. A lot. But she also has hope. And light. And courage, and even sometimes… joy.

And this girl?

Yes – this girl is me.