April 27, 2008 was the first time that I showed my church family what was really going on inside my head. I was a lonely and distraught eighth grader that didn’t know which way was up. I had been involved in my church’s youth group for a little over a year and was learning about God in a completely different way than I had ever imagined. Instead of worshipping through an organ and a hymnal, I was experiencing worship through guitars and raised hands.
School was tough and making friends was even harder. I found myself in the depths of depression and anxiety without knowing what I was actually dealing with. People kept telling me: “It’s a phase, you’ll get through it eventually” or that “Middle school just sucks.” Although I agreed that middle school did tend to suck, I was certain that there was another reason why I was constantly upset and angry with the world.
I reached my complete bottom in the winter of 2008. My dad had a fancy dinner to attend and had invited me to tag along. I remember getting ready and putting on a nice outfit, but before we were about to leave, I lost all interest. I told my dad I didn’t feel good and I wasn’t up to going anymore. So he left and all of the sudden, I was alone.
I went back to my bedroom and sat on the floor behind my closed closet doors, trying to think of how to get past these emotions that were controlling me. I remember fighting with myself. Becca didn’t want to die, but my brain did. I reached over to my phone and just as I was about to turn it off, my youth minister texted me, checking in to make sure I was ok. I saw this text as a sign that I was suppose to stay and reach out for the help I needed.
A few weeks later, the pastor announced that our church was going to have a revival. For the first service of the week my youth minister suggested that the youth members perform a skit known as: “The Everything Skit.” In the skit, the lead girl (my role) battles with the side effects of depression.
Following a few weeks of practice, it was suddenly time for us to perform for the congregation. It was April 27, 2008. The room was packed. I don’t recall feeling nervous, but rather as though I was in a safe environment. As we performed, I shared my biggest struggle with the congregation and my peers. I laid it all out on the table without fear of what they would think of me, of the story, or if it was even good.
After the service was over, I rushed up to the balcony to turn off the camera and watch the recording. When I pulled it off the tripod, I noticed that the record button had never been switched on. There was no proof of this miraculous moment; I was never going to relive that relief.
The anniversary of April 27 started with me being mad at my youth minister for never pressing the record button. As the years went on, I released my anger and began reserving that day as a time to relish in the relief I had felt when performing in front of my church. Although they saw it as just a skit, it was my life. My struggle.
When I discovered that I had clinical depression and anxiety, I set aside April 27 as the one day out of the whole year where I focus solely on my well-being, on the good things in my life. I make time to put myself purposefully in God’s presence. Sometimes I’ll buy a cake or call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. But no matter what I’m doing, I take care of myself.
And though I hope to do this most days, it’s important that I schedule a designated day as a reminder. A reminder that I am worthy of help and that my struggles are not something I need to be ashamed of.
For the longest time, I worried that I would say something to scare people. Would they think I was unstable and a danger to myself? Would they see my emotions as overdramatic and unrealistic?
It wasn’t until this year when I truly decided to hang up that battle. Overcoming my depression and anxiety will be an everyday struggle, but in the end, I have to choose me.
When is your April 27?
Becca Phillips is a self-published author of “God Knows What Sex Feels Like.” She aspires to publish her work on a larger platform so she can continue buying kibble for her cats.