This is Sharyn’s story:
My story isn’t of a one time miraculous event that brought about my salvation, and a happily ever after ending. My story is of a journey. My journey has been a long, at times a painful process, consisting of hard work, character building and making hard choices. I’ve had to break many wrong beliefs, convictions and stronghold patterns of thinking that came about from a myriad of circumstances – some highly traumatic, and others so subtle, they seemed normal. God didn’t wave a magic wand like I wanted, but I am thankful for this, as it has developed a trust in God, and a maturity and depth in me that I never thought was possible when this started 20 years ago.
I grew up in a small, loving community church in Kalgoorlie, although I lost my belief in my teenage years. I had a loving family and had come from a good home, in comparison to most people I knew. When I was quite young two younger siblings died. Though I was too young to remember this, it had its impact on our family. In hind sight, this mixed with clashing personalities and discipline styles meant I grew extremely distant, and this gave anger a foot hold in my young heart that went on to wreak havoc.
By the time I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with chronic depression – the term used back then, to describe depression that does not fluctuate up and down, but is unceasing. I was put on anti-depressants by the psych of the time, but he was unable to break through to me and get me to open up and talk, so I was left to battle alone. I was lost, extremely lonely and had horrifically low self-esteem. My best friend had recently moved and because I was very closed hearted, angry and distant with my family as well, it left me alone and unable to cope on the inside. For a year I was bullied at school by a violent group of girls because they liked my current boyfriend. This made me very fearful. At 14 the suicide attempts started, and although they were but a desperate cry for help, I ended up in hospital on one occasion in a serious state. Unfortunately, there was still nothing anybody could do that helped me. I became involved with a fair amount of drinking, drugs and relationships around this time.
When I was 15, we moved to Perth, and at first a very co-dependant relationship seemed to fix me until a falling out with a friend brought all my mental health issues flooding back with added force. I developed extremely bad social anxiety and depression. My low self esteem had now turned into self hatred and the suicide attempts started up again. In my first year out of high school I started suffering from panic attacks. The humiliation I felt from having a panic attack in public caused an immense fear of having more panic attacks. I could not handle the embarrassment and so I became consumed with fear. Fear permeated into every area of my life and I began to develop what psychs told me was a phobia of the panic attacks. This phobia then fed and created more panic attacks. It was the most soul wrenching painful cycle I had ever known. Everything that had once been so normal in my life became terrifying, because of the chance of a panic attack happening. As a result of my soul trying desperately to control the uncontrollable and to hide everything that was going on inside me, I began avoiding everything that could trigger a panic attack, which soon became everything. I ended up house bound, I stopped driving a car, going to uni and going to social functions. Mostly I stopped talking. I was so afraid of speaking in case people saw my pain. I literally avoided any contact with people and only spoke if I absolutely had to. My safety box was also my prison, void of real connection or love rendering me terribly lonely.
I lived in this hidden turmoil for three years. In this time psychs put me on all sorts of drugs. They labelled me with about nine mental illnesses and told me this was how I would be for the rest of my life. I had A.D.D, agoraphobia, social disorders, claustrophobia, depression, anxiety disorders, phobophobias, glossophobia (fear of speaking) and a panic disorder. But again nothing they did helped and so I just struggled on. I just wanted to die as I saw no future. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember how traumatic this time period was. On the outside, still hiding as much as I could, I drank a lot to cope, binged on my prescription ADD meds (dexies) and endured an unhappy relationship.
Things got so bad at one point, that the psychs thought I may be developing schizophrenia as I was starting to hear third person thoughts amongst the normal paranoia I was used to. I was the right age and had a sporadic history of drugs, which is a known trigger for schizophrenia episodes to start. This was the last straw for me. If I couldn’t even trust that my own thoughts were real, then there was no real world left.
Absolutely broken and desperate I cried out to God. I saw God as so distant and uncaring that if he did exist, I hated him. But I chose to push through, and dug out an old Bible and prayer journal my mother had given me. I began to read and write everything out to Him. As the momentum built, I got my hands on books about how to overcome fear, and diligently started to study the Bible. I became an avid student of how the mind and emotions work and found a Christian counsellor. I learnt so much and as I started to put it all into practice with the faith that this was God’s truth, I started overcoming. One by one I faced my fears, always with the faith that no matter the outcome God would get me through it. Slowly I overcame every area of my life. In a beautiful combination of God’s hope for my future and self-awareness and self-discipline, God transformed my mind, my thoughts changed and my heart began to heal. I forgave and let go of the unforgiveness in my heart and my relationship with my family started to change.
By the end of this year of transformation I became capable of giving and receiving love and a deep level of connection with people. My desire to hide dissipated and I became transparent and talkative. As I read and spoke scriptural truth to affirm my self esteem I became stronger and I now had an incredible hope for my future. Most of all I started to believe I was loved and I learnt to really love myself. This changed my entire world. God had completely set me free of all mental illnesses. I still battled fear a lot over the next years but I have never to this day again suffered a mental illness.
As time went on and my new found sense of freedom became fun, my desperation and need of God decreased as another guy had come along and seemed to fix me again. I had already been in 4 co-dependent relationships by the age of 20 and I had never been single. God had most definitely set my mind free but my heart had a deep void and was still wounded. We moved in together and my years with him were bliss at the beginning, partying hard and in love. But when someone is very co-dependent relationships can’t sustain them long, so it imploded. My inner drives were too strong for me to control, I couldn’t stay faithful. I was so insatiable for love, I sought it in all the wrong places. I knew I needed God in my life again so I started making small efforts to find my way back to him again.
My family moved away, and then proceeded two years of breaking up and getting back together with my partner, as my soul just could not let him go. We were soul tied. When it finally ended I was left hurting alone and desperately searching for someone to fill my aching heart. I rebounded straight away and fell for a sweet guy who was a very heavy drug addict. He started to move in with me, and I knew I was repeating my co-dependent cycle. I was too weak to stop it. But life took an unexpected turn and after only two months of being together he was killed one night while we were at a party. He went to get more drinks on his motorcycle and was killed in a crash while I waited for him only blocks away. This absolutely destroyed me. The loss of two people I loved in such a short time sent me into a painful spin. All of my abandonment, loss and addictive co-dependency issues threatened to drown me as I grieved the two of them. I decided right there that no-one would ever get close to me ever again, so I lived alone for the next 6 years.
During the break up and grieving season I had many addictions fuelled by my subconscious feeling of being unloved and alone. I became addicted to sleeping pills and I drank a lot. I also started selling prescription drugs to survive financially. The only friends in my life were a group of guys who were drug addicts. At this stage most were snorting/injecting every weekend, my closest friend was almost daily but I loved them and was extremely loyal to them.
It was at this point that once again my life changed for the better. I decided one night I was going to use this tragedy to make myself a better person instead of continuing to drown myself in relationships, drugs and alcohol. I started attending a large church and replaced everything from my old life with church functions and serving. I needed the structure to keep me from going backwards. I eventually learnt how to become friends with Christians as their judgmental tendencies scared me, knowing full well how broken I was. During this season my two closest friends decided to follow me on my God journey and became Christian as they watched me draw strength and hope from a God who was so real and tangible and forgiving. So started the healing journey of my heart. As I chose to stay out of relationships God worked on a multitude of areas in my life. I did become quite independent as I still had a conviction I shouldn’t let any one in. I also now had an intense fear of getting into a relationship. But God showed me that although it was part of the healing process I was now on the opposite side of the pendulum to the codependency, that it was still the same fear that drives both, just displayed in opposite ways. Avoidance of or excess of relationships was still about the fear of not being loved and being rejected. So I set out once again to conquer this fear, reminding myself that I was loved no matter the outcome.
Over the years many more friends joined me on my God journey and gave their lives to God including my now husband and I shared everything that I had learned from my heart’s journey, about a loving God who heals from the inside out. I found peace about being on my own and learnt to need God, more than a partner, for comfort and love. I had finished uni and become a Naturopath. I enjoyed some of the most amazing years of my life full of lots of friendships and fun. I have had many epic adventures including climbing to Mount Everest base camp, living in a slum for a while, climbing Alaskan ice cliffs, jumping out of planes and lots of travel. I sought anything that was outside my comfort zones. I chased activities that grew me.
Eight years passed while I waited for a guy to join me on my journey. God took me through a few more levels of having to trust Him until I met my husband. We’ve been together now 5 years and have a beautiful daughter. There were still a lot of wrinkles to iron out in our marriage as my husband was just starting this exact journey with a similar past and I was the catalyst for him to change, but that is a whole other testimony in itself. Although we will always have lots to improve on we are happy and thankful for all that I have been through, for the immense wisdom it has brought into our marriage and our journey together. I now know I have been completely healed of co-dependancy as I now am not focused on myself and my own needs. I rely on God for my self-esteem, comfort and love, especially when my husband falls short, as every human does. I have been enabled to love well beyond my feelings when seasons have required it. I am so thankful for the incredible journey God has taken me on and the person I am now. No matter your past, no matter the circumstance there is always hope. Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of all these is love. Know that you are deeply loved, by a God who sees you and loves you right where you are. You are never alone.
If you relate to any part of my story or you are still in the middle of the battle, please let me encourage you to never give up. Make sure you talk to someone, get prayer and support. There is no shame in being where you are, just don’t give up on the hope for a better future. If I had succeeded in just one attempt on my life all those years ago when things looked bleak I would not ever know the true freedom and joy I live in now. You are loved far more than you could ever imagine and with God, despite your circumstances, you are never alone.
For support, please call:
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Beyondblue – (08) 9266 1029
Shalom House – 0473 883 914 (Men)
The Every Day Woman Project
A group of local Perth businesses got together for a mutual cause in support of the ‘Every Day Woman Project’. The project was designed to highlight a woman’s beauty (inside and out) and strength she had to fight a secret and challenging battle. Our hope is it will inspire and encourage many to step out and seek the love and support they deserve. There is hope, you are not alone.
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