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"The world is better with you in it"

That's what the car said Sunday morning that made me stop and cry.

"The world is better with you in it!"

You see, this statement is not one that had never been heard, super deep or life-changing. It was just a God-sent sign that reminded me that this life is worth living. Saturday night I had a breakdown and felt the lowest I have felt in a while. Thoughts had come into my head that were scary and I did not want in there. So when I saw this sign on Sunday morning, I took it as my literal God sign of a reminder that life is worth living.

Saturday night was not the first time I have ever experienced scary thoughts that do not flee. September is Suicide Awareness month, and I think it is time I share a little of my story. I want to preface by saying I am okay. I am in touch with my thoughts and I know how to calm them down. I know where resources are when it gets too bad. I also want to say that this is not for attention, pity, or worry. This is to show that the devil never wins- my God already has on the cross.

I will save you the long story of my diagnosis, but in my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. After a long time of feeling, well, just "not right," my dad boiled my feelings down to depression and anxiety. Manageable, of course. I started taking antidepressants. Talking to a therapist. However, I was not listening to myself, and I was definitely not fully listening to the Lord. After a rough basketball game and a rough week in general, I had my first thoughts of suicide in the spring of my junior year. I did not act on them, and I called my best friend instead. She did not know at that time, but Ellie answering the phone saved my life that night. Thanks, Ellie.

I talked to my parents and we upped my medicine. Things got better, I went off of them, and I seemed invincible! I just knew I had beat that demon. Until my first semester of college rolled around. I went all of my senior year fairly happy! I did experience some seasonal depression, but nothing extreme or out of the ordinary for winter. Then COVID hit. And it was one thing after the other. No more track. No more school. A thunderstorm interrupting our socially distanced graduation. But I was... okay? I knew I was facing events I will forever be saddened by, but things were going good too. I had just started dating the boy I had been praying for my entire life. I was getting an ample amount of time with family before going to college. I was about to move to Abilene to attend the college I had dreamt about for years. Life was nowhere near bad.

However, when I moved to college things got bad fast. Well, in my mental space, anyway. I was trapped in the same four walls all day long. Making little friends. Missing my boyfriend and family. My mental health declined rapidly. I started taking medicine again. I started seeing a therapist again. But none of it was helping. I was not pursuing the Lord. I was facing trust issues with those I loved the most. I really was just lost. So, after one semester at ACU, I decided to transfer to my friends and boyfriend, and start attending UMHB spring of this year.

Nothing changed. I was still sad. On top of that, the suicidal thoughts came flooding back. I lost myself. I started yelling at friends and family. I started hurting myself to try to feel something. I was not me. Tommy, that lovely boyfriend of mine, was lost, too. He tried his best to help me. I am sorry for putting you in that position but thank you for loving me through it and sticking with me today. You pulled me out of my hole on days where I thought that was where I was going to die. Thank you, Tommy. For everything.

I had gone off my medicine at home and had decided it was time to try it again, but a different brand. I started seeing a third therapist. But still, nothing. Bad thoughts. Bad actions. Losing friends. Losing myself. I just felt numb. All the time. Rarely showered, rarely ate. I was just scraping by. Towards the end of the semester, I was gone. I was not Claire Jones. I was listening to the devil in my ear daily, and fully believing what he said. Until a friend realized how bad I had gotten, and sat me down with another friend to talk. Anthony, thank you for realizing I needed help and talking me into pursuing it. Kayla, thank you for coming with him that night to listen and encourage me. You both gave me the strength to talk to my parents to get on the right track again. Thank you.

I talked to my parents that weekend, and we made a game plan on how to get me back. Thank you, mom and dad, for listening and believing me. You gave me the confidence to show the devil who is boss. I slowly weaned off all my medicine. I dove into the word daily. I prayed harder than I ever had before. I started living for more than myself. I realized that I was a selfish coward for creating a plan to end my own life when the God of the entire universe knew me in my mother's womb enough to know that I would go through this, survive, and go on to fulfill His plan for me. God was with me the entire time. I admire Job's story here because I definitely failed his challenge. I leaned into the devil's lies instead of staying fast in the Lord's love and faithfulness.

You know the story of the 99 sheep, and God leaves them to find the one? I realized this summer that He was trying to find me. He was searching endlessly for me. I was just stuck in the mud, too dumb to realize help was there. Too stubborn to save myself. Too blind to notice that He was there the entire time. Waiting for me to realize He already saved me. He has already beat Satan for me. The battle is not mine. I do not have to fight it. He came before me, called me by name, forgave me, and beat every single battle I will ever face. All by the cross on which He took His final breath.

I am not claiming that I do not have bad days anymore. I fully admitted earlier that Saturday night I was facing those demons again. I know that my story proclaims Jesus, so I know that the devil will continue to whisper in my ear the lies he knows best. The ones that say I am not enough. That if I take my life, I will feel peace. However, now I know fully that I do not even have to listen. God already shut him up for me.

So, that is my story. One that still continues. One that I know many of you might recon with. Friends- if you are going through this- you are not alone. I mean that in two ways. One is that I have been there, just like so many others, and I know you can beat it. Two, more importantly, God will never forsake you. Even when it feels like it most. He is always there. He has already won this battle on the cross. He loves you. He is searching for you, His one. His beloved one. God knows you. He sees you. And He loves you with a love that is so foreign to us that we call it by its Greek name- agape. For we have no words to truly describe how deep it is.

You will beat this because it is not your battle. The battle truly belongs to the Lord, and lucky for you, friend, He has already won. Shut the devil out, lean into the Lord's everlasting arms. And please do not hesitate to talk to those you love. Life is worth living- I promise.

I love you all. The world IS better with you in it. Keep on keeping on.



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