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One of the greatest ways that Satan binds the church is through deception. And one of the greatest deceptions that he feeds into our minds is that we are alone in our struggle, everyone else has it all together, and that we are weaker than the rest. Why does this happen in the church? Because we wipe away our tears before we leave the house, get to church and see smiles on everyone’s face and don’t want to show that we’re struggling when everyone else is not. And we do this not knowing that many of those smiles that convinced us to paste on our own fake smiles are indeed fake themselves.

So I have decided to strip away my mask in prayer that others will see and be encouraged.

I walk around a lot with a smile. Often that smile is genuine, sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, I paste it one because either I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems, or I just don’t want to talk about them, so I don’t let people know that I’m having problems.

But I am. Some people know of these problems. Others don’t.

I battle every day with the strongholds of depression and anxiety. Some days are better than others. The depression is getting better, the anxiety is getting worse. At the beginning of this year I went on a three-month deployment onboard the USS Carl Vinson. This deployment was a living nightmare for me. I began to feel extremely claustrophobic. I began having flashbacks to my difficult childhood. Anxiety and fear plagued me and most of the time I couldn’t figure out the source. Thinking I was losing my mind, suicidal thoughts began weaving their way into my mind. I reached out for help. I didn’t get the intervention I should have.

By the miracle of God, I made it to the rest of the deployment. But my battle had just begun. My ship’s medical continued blowing me off when I reached out for assistance. I ended up spending a month total in a hospital’s psych ward. When I went up to the ship’s captain to ask for a discharge and report medical’s lack of assistance, I was given a sound rebuke, cut off in every explanation I tried to give and called manipulative.

Soon after, I learned my thyroid was overactive and I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease. The hospital removed me from the ship and assigned me temporary shore duty. However, in retaliation, my ship cancelled my shore duty, flew me back to the ship, and gave me 30 days of restriction and extra duty for minor offenses anyone else would have been verbally rebuked for and sent on their way (walked away from a JAG officer and refused to go to medical when security told me to.) Then, satisfied, they returned me to my shore duty.

And even now, away from the ship, the battle continues. My experience onboard the Carl Vinson hit me at such a deep and traumatic level that I continue to have nightmares about it. Many of my nights are restless, plagued with bad dreams. I have become skittish, easily startled. A simple conversation about the ship is enough to send me into flashbacks of being underway. Many a day I am on edge, terrified of things I don’t know. Terrified I will return to the ship, even though the odds of that are extremely thin.

I go to therapy now: group and individual. I run to the alter whenever there is room for my feet. I hide in God’s presence during praise and worship at my church. I sometimes cry myself to sleep. I had a recent relapse into cutting. I grit my teeth when my flesh cries out for negative coping skills—desperate for relief from the mental onslaught. I keep my mind and fingers busy with my writing and the church’s newsletter. I fall before the feet of Jesus, weeping and reaching for the hem of His garment.

And in the midst of it all, God holds me. He loves me, rocks me in His arms. He whispers in my ear how sorry He is for my pain. I have learned not to be angry at Him. My pain grieves Him more than it grieves me. So I pray. I fast. I worship. I cry out for deliverance.

And because I am victorious in Christ Jesus—no longer a victim—deliverance is headed my way.

God has heard my cry. And though it may not appear so now, He is responding.