Guest Post: Depression, Self Harm and Jesus – How to Find God in our Darkest Hours Through Prayer

Untitled design (4)This is a continuation of our series on healing that we started on the Everyday Jesus podcast last week. If you haven’t listened to our episode yet, please catch up here:

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ashley Brooks. Ashley is a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom. Ashley has been married to Lee for 10 years and they have a 9-year-old son. Ashley has a passion to see people healed of depression, suicide, rape and self-harm. And while Ashley is actively involved in her church now, this was not always the case. This is her story:

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Ashley Brooks

I was raised in church. Every Sunday I knew where I would be, I knew if the church doors were open I would be there. I loved church, I loved the music, I loved the family feel.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I decided it was time to stop living the second hand faith through my Aunt and Uncle and get my own relationship with God. I was overwhelmed by His love for me, and how the Holy Spirit was speaking to me! I was on a JESUS HIGH for a couple of months, then depression and anxiety started to take over my life. I still heard God, I still felt Him, but the feelings of my new “friends” started taking over.

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Little Ashley loved going to church.

I started self harm a couple of weeks later. I did not go straight to cutting or abusing pills or doing drugs. I started with my eating disorder. I had no idea at the time this was self-harm, all I knew was I felt in control of my life. Eating whatever I wanted and purging it before ” it could get to my tummy”. That was my rule and I was good at hiding it.

The second thing I would do to cause self-harm to myself was I started smoking (weed and cigarettes). Just to remind everyone I was 13. I didn’t do it with friends or anyone at first, it was my dirty little secret. God would still talk to me, he was still so loud in my ears, I still went to church, but I was living a scary double life. At age 14, I knew I was getting out of control, but now my friends smoked and I didn’t have to be alone anymore. I am not depressed anymore God, see? I am with FRIENDS!

One Night Everything Changed…

I kept living a double life until I was almost 18. One night would change EVERYTHING. With out all the gory details, I was raped. I was raped by someone I trusted and called a friend. He put something in my drink and even though I was hyper aware of what was going on, I couldn’t fight back. After it was done, he acted as if it was my idea. He wanted us to go get food, he wanted us to go back into the living room with our “Friends” and watch a movie. I did not talk. I did not move. I laid there and kept telling myself I deserved every bit of pain going through my body. I was a virgin, and as you can imagine, the pain was real. I prayed right there, in that moment, “God, you let this happen. God, you didn’t protect me. Where is that fathers love you speak of.” That is when the Suicide thoughts flooded my mind, my prayers changed from “why did this happen” to “please take my life God.” I wanted to die.

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Ashley on the night she was raped.

Every night, I would pray for God to take me in my sleep, yet every morning, I woke up. I did not understand it. I completely backed away from God and called myself a NON-BELIEVER. I thought I could do whatever I wanted and did not have to worry about GOD talking to me. I started cutting myself, small places at first, never too deep, not the RIGHT WAY to kill-myself, but just enough to feel something. All of these self-harm things I did to my body kept me going, kept me hiding. God still cried out to me, but I ignored it.

A Few Years Later…

I am married and pregnant. Let me tell you, it was the worst pregnancy ever and I have heard some horror stories. Come to find out it was because of all the abuse I did to my body at such a young age. It ruined my insides. The doctors were surprised I could even carry a child, due to my eating disorder. It really messed up my reproductive system.

I miscarried my first child at 6 months. Despite the difficulties with my reproductive system, I would get pregnant a year later with my son. Somehow, this strong baby boy held on, even though his mamma did not give him the best living space. I was so excited but then…I wasn’t.

On top of my regular depression, anxiety and self-harm, I had postpartum depression. I went back crying out every single night, begging God to please take me away from this world. Take me quiet in the night. I didn’t want my son or husband to have to deal with a suicide or an overdose. He never answered that prayer.

“I Made You For This”

One morning I woke up, it was super early and while everyone slept, the Holy Spirit kept bugging me to talk. My heart was so heavy. I was overcome with emotions. I finally sat down on the bathroom floor and cried out to God. I asked him why He would give me this depression this anxiety. Why would He give me all this pain? He spoke so clearly to me. I have never heard such an audible answer since that day. He said “I made you for this, you can reach others that most cannot”. I shut down completely. It was like my ears stopped working. I fell down to the ground and cried, out of relief.

From that day forward, I started getting deeper in my relationship with God. My depression and anxiety was not gone, but my self-harm stopped. I filled those moments, of wanting to hurt myself, by spending time with Him.

Hear my heart, God did not take away my mental health issues, and a year ago I finally got my last diagnosis. I have Bipolar Disorder. I have really HIGH days, and really LOW days, but God is right here with me every single step of the way.

I have a mental health illness. I take medicine to help control it. My brain doesn’t react like a “normal” brain. As Christians, a lot of people will not speak out about these issues, because they think ” I don’t have enough faith” or ” I’m not praying hard enough”. This isn’t the case. As Christians, we should talk about these issues and try to help people, so they do not turn away from God.

We see through the Scripture, that people were directed to physicians, such as Hezekiah getting ointment for his boil. Today, we know so much more about the human body and how to treat more and more ailments, not just mental illness but many others. With the combo of physical remedies and faith we can get through it. We are both spiritual and physical humans, we must treat both.

I know God is the Healer. I know He made doctors to create things to help us get better. Don’t rely on just one or the other. Combine both so you can see how God works through you. We need both spiritual and physical healing.

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Ashley speaking about depression and anxiety.

Without Him I would be dead.

Without Him scars would still cover my body.

Without Him I wouldn’t know my true purpose.

God knew I could reach people that other people couldn’t. I have lost so many loved ones to suicide. I fight for mental health to be a normal conversation in the church. I fight for people to be able to say, “I’m not OK. I need prayer.” I don’t want people thinking, “I’m not a good Christian, because I don’t have faith to beat this depression or anxiety.” I pray for that every single day.

If you are sitting there and you have mental health issues that you have never told anyone about because you feel like you will be shunned: He already knows what your going through. He has people ready for you to come to them, to pray for you, to love you through it. If you know someone else who is going through any mental health issues, don’t be afraid to stand up in prayer for them, pray that God will open the door for you to help or to send someone else to help.

Do not wait any longer. Get help! Your regular doctor is the best first step. Tell them what you are going through. They will not judge you or take your kids or laugh at you. I promise someone else was just in there, saying the same thing. Your doctor can help you. It is very freeing to get it all out of you and finally get some help for all the feelings inside your head.

Where I Am Now…

My son — my beautiful, perfect son — is 9-years-old and is facing huge mental health issues. He’s dealing with depression, anxiety, and we are waiting on the tests to see if he is on the autism spectrum.

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Depression affects children as well.

If I had not gone though what I did, I would be completely lost. I wouldn’t know how to pray for him, I wouldn’t know what steps to take, I wouldn’t know how to hear his feelings and be that person I wish I had when I was younger.

God saved me. He can and will save you. We just have to let him. God saved me from self-harm, and the spirit of suicide. His overwhelming love was bigger than the overwhelming sadness I felt. He will save you too.

That’s why I push to get rid of the mental health stigma. I want kids and adults to feel safe to admit their issues. My son sees me on my low days. He sees me on my face crying out to God. He sees me praying over him and asking God to give him the same guidance He gave me.

Do you know how great it feels to see your son crying out to God for help when he is having a fit? The fit is still real. His feelings are real, but he goes to God first. God is so good y’all! He really does work in ways we don’t understand!

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Ashley and her family

God saved me. He can and will save you. We just have to let him. God saved me from self-harm, and the spirit of suicide. His overwhelming love was bigger than the overwhelming sadness I felt. He will save you too. Ever since I have been open and honest, He has sent me so many people. I am blessed that he uses me this way to get people help and to get people to him!!

Prayer I say every night

Dear God, thank you for how my body is made, and that it sends me warning signals to tell me that I need help. Right now my brain and emotions are telling me that something isn’t right.

Help me to see if there is something physical that is causing my depression. Help me to sift through my circumstances to see if there is a need for me to change in some way. If I am experiencing depression as a result of a spiritual battle, please bring that to light and show me the best way to fight that battle.

Please lead me to the right source for help. Thank you for understanding what I am going through and thank you that your word tells me that even Jesus went through hard times emotionally. There were times that He was distressed, grieved, faced loneliness, experienced deep sorrow, and after the death of John, He went into isolation. He cried in prayer, and at times he was overwhelmingly sad . There was even a time that He was afraid His body would not survive the anguish He felt.

I come out of agreement with depression, self-hatred, loneliness, a spirit of suicide and spirit of death.

Lord, I ask You to fill me with peace, hope and joy.

I pray that You would send someone to encourage me when I need it. Thank you for again reminding me of how weak I am and for the body of Christ that you have provided to help bear burdens when we grow too weary to bear them alone. I need someone to come along side me, take my arms, wrap them around their neck, and help me walk until I am strong enough to walk on my own.

Thank you for the grace that you have provided. I pray you will use this difficult time to cause me to go deeper in my relationship with you, and that You would get the glory for anything that is produced in me.

Thank you that I am not defined by this weakness. Since I am Your child, I am defined by what you accomplished on the cross. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, I can wake up every morning and live life knowing that no matter what I do, think, say, or feel – the cross covers it. Because you offered up your own beloved Son, I can have peace with you and can face each day with fresh hope and grace. Help me to focus on what is true, and not to focus on how I feel, or the lies I believe. As I sit before the cross, help me to gain a new appreciation for what it actually means for me on a daily basis.

Through this time, I pray that you would enlarge my heart that I might love and obey You, and love others more deeply.

And always Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can’t find the words to say. Amen!

Don’t Delay

So if you or someone you know is fighting depression, oppression, self harm, the spirit of suicide, anxiety, hopelessness, please pray for God to start working in you. Please stand with them in prayer.

If you or anyone you know is suffering right now with suicidal thoughts please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. They also provide prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones and best practices for professionals. Just call 1-800-273-8255. The website also has a chat option https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

For those who rather text, text “home” to 741-741 and a real Crisis Counselor will text you. Some people don’t like talking on the phone and that’s understandable. I pray each and every one of you are blessed. I also pray for you to receive the help you need and deserve. Talk to someone today.

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