Welcome to Part 3 of my teenage fight against depression. Part one introduced you to my experience of being a victim of parental paranoia which resulted in me being forced to play the fool at 13 and subsequently lead me to getting a job in a bank at 17 (in Part Two), which I loathed because of the horrid, bitchy staff who I had to work alongside for two years.
I entered the working world quite naively. I didn’t know how mean colleagues could be when they felt uncomfortable by anyone who is different. I never knew what it was like to be persecuted as a Christian. Well, how can I use that word ‘persecuted’? I was so intimidated by them, that I never spoke about my faith unless I was asked what I had done at the weekend. And nobody plucked out my fingernails while getting me to renounce Jesus as Lord, I was never threatened to be dumped into a tub of boiling oil, nor was my bible snatched from my arms and thrown into a pot of bubbling acid. But sometimes it felt like I had suffered similar, all because I had made up my mind to be gracious, helpful, exercise integrity and be willing to do anything.
On my very first day, I retreated into my shell as 9 out of the 13 members of staff made it quite clear I was not welcome. I was informed much later that they had resented me being allocated to their branch because they were a tight-knit bunch and did not want any outsiders infiltrating their little clan. It was expected of me to be the one who washed all the previous day’s dirty crockery and make piping hot drinks for all the staff in the mornings and I did this with a good attitude; however, our office was a large open-plan space, yet colleagues would enter the room with a tray full of hot drinks but none of the mugs would be for me. They claimed I was so quiet that they forgot I was there.
Staff often socialised together outside of work, but coming from a devout Christian background, I had never been allowed to frequent discos and I had no desire myself to go to a night club. Many Christians at this age do rebel, but I was sure in my mind that I wanted to live my life the way God advised and I knew I was not missing out on any ‘fun’ that my worldly peers so claimed. This caused them to be extremely resentful of me and they took out their frustrations on me whenever they had chance. My colleagues got away with their unacceptable behaviour because the branch manager was the nastiest of them all. He even made open racist remarks about the customers (80% were Asian) and whenever he was pulled up by his Assistant Manager, he would retreat into his office mumbling arrogantly, “But it’s true though isn’t it?”
Two racial remarks that I did actually find amusing, was when we had a power cut. Apart from a tiny shaft of light coming from the windows at the front of the branch, we could not see a thing. We were situated in a large ethnic area called Bury Park. The manager entered the main office with a big grin on his face and declared, “Bury Park has been blacked out.” Everybody went into fits of giggles. I smiled. Another black girl had begun working there and the two of us were told to “Just keep on smiling.” This was actually so jolly compared to how I was normally treated that I was totally desensitised to the meaning behind it and I laughed.
Okay, so I know that everybody has a tale to tell of awful times at work, so what is so different about mine? Well, the thing that was hardest for me was that I had nobody to ‘fall back on’. My school friends were lovely but none of them were Christians and did not understand what I was going through. But the worse thing was that I had been brought up in a Christian church since birth, with many young people, but in all those years, I had made no friends at all. I had been dreadfully shy as a child and my parents did not help me by encouraging me to go along to the youth camps or inviting one of my Sunday School peers round for tea. They kept to themselves and in so doing, kept us away from the many possibilities of having good Christian friends on whom to rely, have fun with and encourage. It is not God’s will for people to be isolated and…
…as parents we should make every effort to see that our children have good friendships.
Having nobody to turn to, no supportive mother figures in church, no weekly house group support, no friends, no parents who would listen, I became very depressed indeed. I desperately wished there was an elderly lady I could visit who would sit me by her fire and tell me stories of how she overcame difficult times with the help of God, when she was young. I longed for a grandmother or aunty who would hand me a biscuit and tell me everything is going to be alright. I would then sit on the floor and watch her go to sleep in her favourite armchair while I comforted myself that I had a wise companion who cared to listen and cared to support me when I needed it most. Back to reality… I began to get panic attacks each time I went to church because I felt nobody cared about me or cared what happened to me. The attacks made me feel extremely humiliated, isolated and rejected. I desperately wanted my life to end. Every day was just existing but not enjoying.
But it is in these times that I realised who Jesus really was. I came to realise that he really was a best friend, and a comforter and a help in time of need, and a peace giver and a giver of joy and hope. The fact that he was invisible did not hinder the fact that I felt his presence each time I was sad. Sometimes I would get off the bus and cry all the way home but I knew he was there walking alongside me. It was him who ‘kept my head lifted up above my enemies round about me.’ (Psalm 27:6) Crutch? Well yes! I am not ashamed to say Jesus is my crutch because I need his support during the great times just as much as the bad and you do too. We were not created to be spiritually self-sufficient. This verse was a real comfort to me during those times:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 Amplified)
This is where Part 3 ends and leads me into the final part of my story. It is here that I discovered what a blessing it is to have known God from an early age, as he was the only one who kept me going during the moments where I was stuck solid in the pits of despair. See you soon.