This is a very hard post for me to write and I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but as more and more awareness and acceptance has been made toward mental illness and more people have started sharing their stories, I thought it was time that I started a blog and shared mine. My name is Jessica Esau and I live with what can be termed as high functioning anxiety and depression among other conditions.
Growing up I was a happy and chatty kid, always excited about life and meeting new people. A full social calendar was always a priority for me, whether it be playdates with friends, family dos, or, as I got older, youth group and going to camp. People often commented on how happy it made them to see how excited I got about things. Living with Turner’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes stunted growth and other physical abnormalities due to a missing x-chromosome, sometimes caused kids to be mean and put a damper on my mood, but I never stayed down for long and my parents were always there to remind me of God’s love for me. So then what changed?
After high school, I spent two years at Bethany Bible College. These were some of the best and most challenging years of my life. I learned a lot about myself and how to build healthy relationships, but not without some bumps along the way, including the start of my anxiety. Being away from everything familiar to me, social situations and the pressure I felt to improve myself as well as the failure I felt when I made mistakes in my relationships suddenly started causing me such severe anxiety that I would get sick and couldn’t eat properly. I lost a good 15-20 pounds, which is a lot for a person of my size. As my anxiety got worse, I learned of the importance of surrounding yourself with a good Christian community. Other girls would share their journeys and pray with me. They encouraged and helped me to keep going, even when the going got tough. The struggles and eventual successes that I had at Bethany caused me to turn to God a lot more than I ever had living at home. I learned of His heart for the marginalised and really felt affirmed in who He was and how our role as followers of Him was to love these people rather than focus on ourselves. Growing up with a disability, I knew what is was to feel marginalised, different from the rest of the world and found hope in the idea that I could offer encouragement to others in my situation. I had always known that this was the role God had given me, but for some reason it didn’t quite hit home until Bible School.
Coming home at the end of second year, I was ready to start fresh in a new church and city where my dad had just gotten a job and put these lessons I had learned into practice.
The first two years in Coquitlam were really good for me. I made some great friends in our new church and got involved right away in kids ministry and worship. I felt energized and passionate about serving God. My appetite got better and I gained a little bit of the weight I had lost back. I was also enjoying my studies in the Medical Office Assistant Program at Douglas College. I graduated from the program nearly top of my class and was encouraged during my practicum that I had what it took and shouldn’t have any problems finding a job. But that wasn’t to be the case. Month after month I went to interview after interview without any offer of a job. It was at this point that I began to question God’s plans for my future. Did he really have good things in store for me? Was I good enough to get a job? The old doubts about my self worth and feelings of failure that had plagued me while at Bible School started coming back. I began sleeping longer, not eating as well, and didn’t feel motivated to keep at it with the job hunt. However, just when I was about to give up, God came through for me once again. I got offered a job with Fraser Health at Jim Pattison Outpatient Centre where I have been working since July 2014.
I learned pretty quickly that being part of the adult work world was going to bring with it a whole new set of challenges, especially having Turner’s Syndrome, but for the first few months at least I let myself be blissfully naïve of things such as office gossip and drama and just soaked in the joy of having a job and a growing bank account. Of course, as is bound to happen, I did eventually find myself caught up in office politics and many lessons have had to be learned. God has given me a newfound compassion for others as I interact with my co-workers and see the situations that people find themselves in life, many due to their own feelings of insecurity. He has humbled me so many times when my anxiety and self-doubt has led me to think someone has it better than me and wished to be more like them, leading me to a heart of thankfulness for the solid upbringing and love I have received from my parents. This isn’t something that comes naturally to me and I often need a reminder through verses, a devotional, or fellow brother or sister in Christ to get back on track. Thank goodness we have a patient God! God has also used my struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and other trials in life to remind me of the importance and difference my faith really makes. Though this will be a life long struggle, I am grateful for the way that God has been with me every step of the way and hope to encourage others with my experience.