“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” —Romans 12:2
And just like that, November is here. I cannot believe the start of the holidays are just a few weeks away. Can you?
While we’re on this topic, as magical as it sounds, this time of year may not be the most wonderful time of the year to many people.
I know it certainly wasn’t the case for me this time last year.
Now, when I look back, what a year.
This time last year, I had more downs than ups. And what a significant time it’s been for me.
If you’re one of those who does not look forward to this time of the year, I totally understand. When I wrote this article, my intentions was for it to be therapeutic and for me to see how far I’ve come.
However, the deeper I got into it, my desire and prayer was to provide someone out there with hope and a starting point to begin healing no matter what that looks like.
Here’s my personal story of redirection in the midst of suffering.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST FALL
The last quarter of 2021 was not the “most wonderful time of the year” for me. I was struggling with anxiety that essentially led to short-term depression. Thank God I work from home because my days would start off in tears before I even logged on for my day job at 9 o’clock in the morning.
I didn’t want to socialize in any way much less do it on social media.
Most of all, I wanted to drown myself in work so I wouldn’t create or focus on negative thoughts. However, this bad time in my life began towards the end of the busy fashion season so I didn’t have much to lean on as a distraction.
My evenings were also difficult because I felt like I could physically feel the weight of the darkness. Watching comedy shows I’d normally enjoy and laugh at didn’t even help.
Speaking of weight, I also didn’t eat much either. Within a week or two, I had lost ten pounds. For those not familiar, the normal number is around half a pound/a week. As a result, the flu I ended up catching was worse than I had experienced in awhile. Nothing like feeling worse mentally and spiritually!
My happiest moments each day? When I was sleeping. No, I’m not talking about the moments right before I’d fall asleep. I’m talking about when I was not awake.
MY MOST VULNERABLE MOMENT
Within a few weeks or so, I knew I had to be honest about my situation and tell someone. I told my best friend, “Hey, not that I’m going to do anything, but I need you to watch me. I need prayers first, but I also need you to watch me.”
She told me she was thankful that I trusted her enough to tell her something so raw. She cried with me and prayed for me right then and there. I knew she meant it when she said that she’d pray for me all day.
A SENSE OF AWARENESS
Even though I was in such a negative state of mind, I was very in tune with my emotions. I knew exactly what I was feeling.
Let me tell you, all the personal development books I’ve read, classes I attended at church, and emotional intelligence (thank you, Jen!), high-performance (thanks, Joe!), and leadership training I had done over the last decade had helped me when I needed it most.
FLIP THE SWITCH
When I had a moment of clear thinking, I knew that I had to do something to get myself out. What I knew was that I had do some redirection in the midst of suffering.
So, I flipped the switch. What do I mean by that?
I made the decision I wasn’t going back.
Would I fall again in the future? Probably. But I made up my mind and decided to intentionally try my hardest not to go back to that dark place. I learned this from a mentor of mine, Justin Prince.
Okay, now that I decided I wasn’t going back, what next? I asked myself, “How would I even begin doing this?” along with questions such as “What actions do I need to take to get going?” and “How do I want to feel as a result?”
Here’s what I did:
WHAT WAS THE ROOT / SOURCE OF MY ANXIETY?
Like any problem, to find the cause of the pain, you have to dig to the root and find the source.
After some thinking, I realized that the source of my depression and anxiety was consuming the news.
Even though I haven’t actually watched the news in nearly 18 years, I was consuming it through social media and other apps. Eventually, I was seeking it without even realizing it!
I also realized that I had been following people who shared negative and angry thoughts on every topic imaginable on my social media feeds constantly.
I ASKED FOR HELP IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING
While I couldn’t open up to everyone close to me right away, I immediately asked my best friend to pray for me as she was physically in the room with me. That weekend, I told my mom.
After a month and a half of when everything started, I then told my other best friend who was in town visiting. I remember her telling me, “I knew something was up. I wanted to give you some space before asking.”
Not long after, I told my other best friend while we were on a FaceTime call. To say he was stunned is an understatement. After all, how can Huong, someone who’s so positive be struggling with anxiety and depression?
Let me tell you, just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they’re not struggling behind the scenes.
REFLECTION & REDIRECTION MODE
I knew that in order to take my joy back and find a reason to keep living, I had to do some reflecting. When was the last time I was the happiest? What parts of the old me that I loved about myself did I miss? What did the best version of Huong do that made her so happy? Who did I want to become now?
After some thinking and doing a self-audit, I realized that the last time I was happiest was back in 2013. The parts of me I missed most were having courage to put myself out there, trying new things, and meeting new people.
What did the old me do when I was so happy? The best version of me had a relationship with God. I was reading the Bible and personal development books consistently. Listening to podcasts/YouTube videos, attending business conferences, and following uplifting people were part of my lifestyle.
Who I wanted to become was someone I was all along: a child of God fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.
And now, it was time to get into redirection mode.
I TOOK ACTION IMMEDIATELY
The first thing I did was open the Bible. Since studying God’s word got me through another incredibly tough and long time in life, I went straight to the Book of Psalms. I read and kept reading to renew my mind. Most importantly, I intentionally met with God every night before my head hit my pillow.
Next, I started devouring podcasts and books while I worked. I layered on attending church with a more intentional attitude. Then I planned my trip for a business conference I had already signed up for to give myself something to look forward to.
Jim Rohn is known for having said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Well, I started turning on post notifications for people who I felt would be encouraging to me.
It didn’t matter if I knew them in real life or not. It also didn’t matter if they were in the business, home interiors or fashion industries. If they lifted my spirits in any way, I intentionally sought out those people. And I muted those who weren’t adding value to my life.
Want to know what happened?
I didn’t see the fruits of my redirection in the midst of suffering right away. My “magical moment” didn’t arrive until I was sitting at church at the end of December. During the candlelight services, as I was lighting my own candle, I actually smiled for the first time.
Staring into the small flame, I knew from that moment forward that I would be okay. I felt a glimmer of hope once again and that I could finally enjoy Christmas even though there were only a few days left before it was over.
And here I am today telling you my story.
It’s been a long journey for me. Over 365 days later, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.
I’ve learned that even in the midst of suffering, we can become the diamonds God wants us all to become.
A few things I’ve also learned: 1) the work you put in to grow yourself will help you when you need it most in the most unexpected time and way possible and 2) even though you’re a believer in Christ, Christians can struggle with depression and anxiety.
Everyone’s circumstances are different and struggles vary. In no way am I saying that the steps I took will yield the same results for someone else. Some need to do all of what I mentioned and then add on therapy. Some might want to take a different route. My hope is that no matter what, we all find some kind of joy during the holiday season and in life.
If this article doesn’t apply to you, I’m truly happy for you. I hope my story resonates with you in some way too because if you know someone whom this does apply to, it’s my desire for you please share it with those who need to hear this message of hope.
RachelNovember 2, 2022
Oh Huong, this is beautiful! To say you have helped me would be an understatement. If it were not for you sharing your story and time with me, I would not be here on this earth anymore. I am so grateful you care and you care enough to share. These are the most beautiful and pure steps to make it through midst of suffering. I know God is smiling upon you with happinesses for you sharing with others. You are a blessing to all. Still praying for you. Xoxo