My name is Heath and I am writing this blog because I have a story to tell. Lately, I have been having some crazy experiences and encounters that are transforming my life, but before I get into any of those I think that it is important for you to understand where I came from.
As far back as I can remember, up until recently, I was depressed. One of my earliest memories is sitting at a table with my parents and telling them “my heart is broken and I would never be happy again.” I think that I was about 3 in this memory. Since then I have seen counselors, been put on medication, and even hospitalized all to no avail. The counselors gave me some exercises that helped me cope and the medication masked the pain, but the problem was still there.
By the time I was 18 I was incredibly depressed and suicidal. At the time that I graduated from high school though I was still able to cope with the depression and not too many people knew what I was going through. I had been through a counseling program a few years prior to graduating and I had learned to act as if I was ok. I acted like I was ok because I hated going to the counselor and I did not feel that anyone cared enough about me to actually help me.
Upon graduating I wanted to travel, really what I wanted to do was escape my life and I thought that getting out of town for a bit would help. Being raised in church I decided that I should go on a mission trip to Thailand with and organization that took teens and young adults to foreign countries to evangelize. While the trip was incredible and I was able to escape for a brief period of time, when I got home I fell right back into the same issues that I was having when I left.
I felt that I couldn’t sink any lower and I knew I needed to do something to help myself. I was still plagued by suicidal thoughts and they were getting harder and harder to fight off. I decided that I should join the “after high school, internship program” that the organization that I went on the trip to Thailand with offered. I felt that it would help me work through my issues and “discover my purpose in life”(which is what they claimed to do). Little did I know, I was actually joining a cult and that would only add to the issues that I was dealing with.
At the time I did not see this organization for what it was. I could not recognize the abuse coming from the leadership and after only 2 months with this organization I was so beat down and depressed that I could not fight the suicidal thought that I was having. They haunted me day and night. My mind was filled with bloody images of self-mutilation and all I could think about was dying. Still feeling like they had my best interests at heart I went to see the staff counselor to talk about what I was going through. I will never forget the day that I went to see that counselor.
I openly and honestly told him about all that I was dealing with. He seemed compassionate and understanding of my issues. I trusted him. He reassured me that he was going to help me and that he was going to work out a treatment plan for me so that I could stay with the organization and ultimately deal with once and for all the depression I was experiencing. He told me when I left that he needed to work with the leadership of the organization to develop a plan for me. I left his office feeling refreshed and like I was finally going to get some help.
A few hours later he called me back to his office to discuss the plan that they had come up with. I went back and almost as soon as I sat down he told me that they had made the decision to release me from the organization. He told me that I had until midnight to be off campus. I was devastated, confused and scared. I had no money, no form of transportation and I was a very long way from home. I called my parents and told them about what had happened. At the time they did not have the money to get me a plane ticket home but assured me they would figure something out. I started packing my things and saying goodbye to the friends I had made there. A few hours later I was on a plane home.
It was probably a blessing that I was sent home, I don’t know that I would have survived the entire year, but at the time it felt like a major rejection and plunged me deeper into depression. After a few months of being home, I decided that I just couldn’t handle life anymore. The thoughts that I was having and the images I was seeing in my mind were just too much for me. My parents knew I was having issues and had taken preventative measures to make sure I did not have access to any of the firearms in the house. Despite their efforts, I found a way to get into the gun safe.
One day when everyone was out of the house I opened the safe and took out the shotgun and a shell for it. I remember sitting on the edge of my parent’s bed with a loaded shotgun pointed at my head and trying to work up the courage to pull the trigger. I had been sitting there for a good while when my phone started ringing. For whatever reason, I abandoned my plan and answered my phone. It was the project director from my trip to Thailand. She was inviting me to go on another trip with her to Thailand. In my frazzled state, I agreed to go.
The excitement of going on another trip around the world sustained me for a few months, but a few weeks before the trip I again found myself sitting on the edge of the bed with a loaded shotgun. I had just about worked up the courage to pull the trigger when my phone started ringing…again. Same as last time it was the project director for the Thailand trip. This time she was calling me to make sure that I was ready for the trip and that I was going to bring my guitar because she wanted me to help lead the music for our group. I hesitantly agreed. I think that it was her expectation of my coming on the trip and the responsibility she had given me that prevented me from proceeding with my plan for the next couple of weeks.
I was in a really bad place when I arrived in Texas to meet my group and prepare for the trip, but then something extraordinary happened that would change my life forever. Our team had gathered outside under a tree and we were listening to our project director give her testimony of how she had found Jesus. I don’t remember what she said but I remember being really moved. I realized that I was missing something in my life and that in order to be whole and free from depression that I needed Jesus.
I was raised in church so, obviously, I had heard of Jesus but I really did not want anything to do with church or Jesus. I put on a good show, though. I was a regular at youth group and I knew all the right words to say but it was hollow. This time it was different. What she was saying made sense to me. When she had finished talking she invited anyone who wanted to accept Jesus to come talk to her. I knew that I had to do this. She sent me off to be by myself and told me to have a conversation with Jesus and ask him into my life. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had never had a conversation with Jesus. I sat in silence for a bit just crying. I knew that if I did not do this now that I would die. Hesitantly, I just began saying what was on my heart. In my own words, I gave my life to Jesus. The only way that I can describe what happens next is to relate it to the feeling that you get when you have stayed under the water too long and your lungs are burning for oxygen than just as you are feeling like you are about to die you break the surface and your lungs fill up with oxygen. That first breath is so refreshing and is such a great relief that you feel like a new person. This was the same sensation. I also felt like a great weight had been lifted off of my shoulders! This was the moment that my life began to change.The next few months were bliss. I was excited. I felt like a new person…I was a new person!
Shortly after returning I started college and the issues that I had been dealing with returned, but this time, it was different. I knew that there was freedom for me if I would only pursue it and that is exactly what I did and am continuing to do to this day. It has been almost 9 years since that experience in Texas and I can honestly say that I am unrecognizable from who I used to be. So much healing has taken place over the past 9 years and that is what I want to talk about in this blog. Every day is something new. I am continually encountering God in new and exciting ways. That is what I want to use this blog to talk about. I want to share my experiences and my journey with you and my hope is that you too will find the freedom and healing that I have!