I’m preparing for worship rehearsal tonight, learning a new song that I cannot get through without crying.
My daughter suggested the song; she knows it well. She’s home for the summer, and she’s using her gifts and talents to lead in worship. Sarah has had this thing – some would call it an anointing, others a presence or a calling – since she was eleven years old. It is nothing anybody did or created; it’s simply how she was made.
She’s sung with an intimate connection to music and to her Creator since she was a child. It’s obvious and evident and as much a part of who she is as her curly hair and her freckles.
Woven throughout her ability to worship is the truth – some of it a hard truth – of her life experiences. I wrote about her diagnosis here, two years ago.
And now she is writing.
She served on the worship team last weekend and led us in a powerful experience, as we sang “There is power in the name of Jesus…” A few days later, she sent these words to me, the text of a message she’d been writing for a friend.
They seemed to have been written for a larger audience. I asked her permission to share her words here, because I believe that they will inspire and encourage and even comfort those who read them.
So, here are the words of my daughter; my beautiful, radiant, broken, honest, vulnerable, kind, thoughtful, stubborn, focused, incredible first-born gift of God.
So, as many of you know I just moved back to Powhatan, Virginia. I left this small town over two years ago to head further south to the beautiful and eclectic Savannah, Georgia; moving away from my family and friends and pursuing a new life… and I was doing it alone.
To say I wasn’t scared is an understatement. Thirteen months prior I had been diagnosed with what now seems to be a trendy mental disorder. I was 19 years old and experiencing extreme anxiety, depression and mania. My doctor was quick to assume it was Bipolar Disorder. I had high highs and low lows. There were days when I honestly thought I could be Beyonce (a confidence spurred by mania); I would stay up all night writing songs and poems and believed I was going to be a youtube star… Hell, I was gonna form a band and win a Grammy…. and I wasn’t afraid to tell you – even if I just met you at the Starbucks in the mall. I would call my friends and leave them voicemails explaining my ideas for the world’s next best business plan that would put me in Forbes Magazine as the youngest billionaire. I planned mission trips and church events that would equal conversion rates like you’d never seen – that we simply HAD TO DO. I would publicly berate people, and start fights with strangers and not care. There was no talking me down.
However, those moments didn’t last. I would cycle rapidly and before I knew it, I would be in a very dark place. I struggled deeply with thoughts of suicide and self hate. I would constantly beat myself up. There were days when I wouldn’t make it out of bed to take a shower, let alone make it to my classes at community college. I was so anxious about doing things wrong at my job that I just abandoned everything I was doing and walked off during one of my shifts. I bailed on important plans of some of my closest friends that I really cared about. I thought I was a failure and no one wanted to really be around me anyway. The normal social Sarah Brawley didn’t want to be around anyone.
Guilt and shame from the times when I had been manic would then began to creep up and plague my mind. How could anyone love me if i was this messed up? After I did that, said that? I felt irredeemable. I felt like a freak. I mean, wouldn’t everyone just see me as broken? As the crazy girl who had to stay in the psych ward? I had to take medicine now. What would my Christians friends think?
My guess is that some of this sounds familiar. Struggle bus, right? It freaking sucks. Maybe you think you’ve failed because things haven’t gone according to plan. I did. I hated myself from – well, you name it. Feeling like a loser for still living at home while all my friends went away to school; the idea of not being enough…
I was a slave to that thought. I wanted to please others. I compared myself to others constantly and was so insecure about my appearance. Fat one day, then too skinny. I would binge on food and then on new clothes. I felt ugly on the inside and outside. I felt unlovable. Like I had let everyone down- that I was an awful sister, daughter, girlfriend, youth and worship leader…
It was a never ending circle of negativity. And you know what? Life kept happening as I was going through all of this, and it just added fuel to the fire. I was hurt by my parents’ divorce and my grandfather almost dying. Many of my feelings began to overwhelm me, keeping me from sleeping even more. Thus began a six-month pattern of self hate, manic thoughts, and zero sleep. That pattern led me to make choices that deeply hurt people and myself damaging and almost destroying certain relationships in my life.
I couldn’t SEE what I was doing. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know how to ask for it. But there were others in my life that could see what was happening and what I needed.
It was people here at PCC. They didn’t reject me then and still haven’t. They prayed for me. Talked to me. Loved me and supported me when I needed professional health care.
And now, I cannot begin to describe how I feel in having the opportunity to lead them in worship. It is such an amazing story of grace and honor; to look out and sing the words, “There is power in the name of Jesus, to break every chain!”
This is just my story, but all of us have chains. These chains in our life can be self-inflicted or completely out of our control – and sometimes, BOTH! There are many of you who are desperate for freedom and to be released from this bondage.
I have been healed. The thoughts that once bound me don’t anymore! Not to say that they do not come, because freaking A they do! The devil tries his hardest! It is a war! But I am no longer a slave to those thoughts. I have a joy and peace that I NEVER thought I would have or could have. I thought I was destined to feel defeated and unworthy for the rest of my life.
But there is power is Jesus’ name. Through the power of prayer I know I was healed. Through biblical counseling; by encouragement from my brothers and sisters who spoke truth into my life and who listened to me. Through equipping doctors to prescribe me medicine. For nurses to help guide me when it was time for me to wean myself off.
When we think about it, none of our stories are the same. But there is absolute freedom for all of us. I’ve made a promise to stop making those comparisons to other peoples’ lives; I’m choosing freedom. John 10:10 says we are to have ABUNDANT life here on earth! He has promised that to you!
I love you so much.