CASSIDY STYNSKY: DID GOD REALLY SAVE ME?

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You walk into that new classroom auditorium and before you know it your heart is racing so fast you can hardly choose a chair. Where do I sit? Is there someone sitting there? Will this person mind? You start looking around and before you know it what was supposed to be ten, turns into 100 faces looking at you and wondering who you are. Before you know it you want to leave the class as fast as you can, drop it, and just get out before anyone notices you. 

You race home and you start thinking I gotta get out of this, this is not working, I need to take a semester off, I cannot go back. Did I ever pray before I walked into that new environment? I was a blessed individual. I was born in a privileged family; two teachers, hard workers and spirituality strong. I was encouraged to get involved, play all the sports you can, sing out loud and have fun and don’t forget to say your prayers. I grew up where saying our prayers before every meal was normal, speaking about God was a daily conversation, praying and going to church was the norm. I asked myself, you step into situations that are and uncomfortably hard and what do you do? Freak out. Well I didn’t always freak out, actually I was always pretty level headed. 

After all I always had somewhere to go and a place I could relax and calm down if I was ever upset. I went into high school as a grade 8 feeling pretty comfortable since both my parents taught there and I guess you could say I was a gym rat! I walked in knowing every room, almost every teacher by their first name and being involved in everything before I even could write down my name on the sign up sheet. Is that not every grade 8 or 9’s dream? There wasn’t much anxiety in grade 8 but university was a different story. At University I was swallowed up by hundreds of people I did not know, a massive campus and new professors that intimidated me without even knowing they did, it was an everyday anxiety internal outburst and one that made me feel like I was not in control of my situation. 

At 16 years old I often forgot when and how to pray. I prayed and talked about God because my mom made us pray. Did I believe he could help me? Probably not, no. My mom took on starting and leading a group of students from our high school into mission work, another blessing in my life. I had my safe zone that carried me all over the world; different countries, provinces and continents. My mom did everything for and with me. A best friend. She prayed for me, so I thought and now I know. Traveling you got to experience the poor, the less fortunate,  appreciate different religions and cultures and search for hope and strength. When on Mission Trips I felt like I was on cloud nine, a time away from reality. You appreciate every little thing that happens during that time away. I felt truly blessed to have that experience but I sure didn’t feel blessed when I got home and back to my life, my reality. I went to church every Sunday with my family. What 16 year old got up every Sunday morning to go to church? Me. I never complained. I did and I'm now actually really thankful that I did. When I experienced depression, I try to kill myself and I’d say “I hate my life” a lot. I hid out of view as much as I could and our basement media room became my sanctuary where I cried and I looked down on myself. I did spend time praying and asking God to help me and get me through this part of my life.

Three years later at 19 years old, I believe God saved me. Why do I believe this from someone and something that many do not believe exists, that is not human, that exists in a place Christians call, “heaven”. I met a friend that picked up the pieces in my life, I felt relief in going to church, praying calmed me down and looking at the big picture, believing in God gave me strength and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Something stopped me from taking that one last pill, something got me through those horrifying bad days, someone got me through those times when I was alone and hopeless. For so many years I felt lost and ashamed. I have always been strong, worthy, and a  child of God but I just never realized it fully and I am proud to say that I believe God really did and still does walk right beside me, teaching and molding my life.. 

So I walk into that auditorium and a thousand faces look back to see who walked in. My face goes red and my stomach flips upside down. I feel my body burning up and sweat starts to drip. I say a prayer and look for ways to do something to make myself feel comfortable. I say a prayer although nothing formal. I just talk to him. I know he hears me. I hope we all have something or someone to believe in and that we  all have someone we feel safe around. My mom prays for us constantly, that’s a given, that's what mothers do. But the fact that I’ve grown into my faith as an adult makes me feel safe, proud and full of hope. I was born with a plan and he put me on this earth to live with challenges, strength and love. 

How did it take me up to now in life to feel comfortable loving myself and loving what I believe in? I could script and tell you about all sorts of inspiring quotes from the bible. But it’s talking with others and understanding my individuality that saved me. My depression is something that I am battling and will conquer. My anxiety is a new challenge but one I know I can beat. I was born to fight those. God challenged me to fight them. Why are you on this earth? Who blesses you everyday with the opportunity to live another day? Who saved you from quitting and leaving that class? Who made you sit down in the auditorium class? 

This is me, Cassidy. Every dreaded Monday morning at 8:20 am I walk into an education auditorium and my anxiety peaks and I experience an overcoming feeling that taunts me to run and leave the situation and never go back. But what do I do now, I pray. I take two deep breaths in, I sign my name, I walk down the right side aisle, I sit two rows from the front and first chair in. I sit down and and I ask God to calm me down and to help me get through that hour and 15 minutes. Before the lecture starts I find myself some comfort and get ready for my notes. Did God actually save me? Yes he did with his grace and strength because I know God put me on this earth for a purpose, for a reason and for great things and to be a light for other people.

Anxiety doesn’t kill. I can fight it and you can fight it and with faith anything is possible. We all have a journey here to cross through this life and make the best of our situation with all of its awesomeness and too with all the stumbles and falls. What works for me is to walk into that classroom, smile, breath and talk to him. Find what works for you. He took away my fear and my option of pills, he gave me strength through prayer, he took away my doubt and took away that past ghost that I am not good enough. I will not allow myself to walk out and say I can’t do it. I can do it, from now on I’ll take two deep breaths in, I’ll relax and find comfort and I’ll ask him to calm me and get me through. I want my University degree and I deserve this degree. He has a plan for me. 

Your place is where you want to be. Fight for what you want and find where faith fits into battling whatever challenges life offers you. This is me, Cassidy and my faith in God really did save the fear in me.

CASSIDY STYNSKY: LOOK FOR TOMORROW

Six years later and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, tomorrow I’ll be even stronger. Two of the biggest questions I could have asked myself were, why was I born this way? When will this stop? I can now say, after six long years, I chose to stop it. Depression and anxiety are simply apart of who I am but they do not define me. 

You may ask yourself, who is she? I was that pretty blonde girl that was on the honour roll and involved in EVERY sport in high school, every club and musical and I was that girl that sang and read at every school and sunday mass. I was huge into hockey and I loved stepping on the ice and feeling free as a bird. That was the only real time I could say I was without tension and difficult thoughts running through my head. I was involved with every little thing possible in my high school, but why couldn’t I just fit in? I don’t have answers and I may never, but I am far past those feelings. 

As a teenage girl we all go through a few break ups, a few broken friendship and fights and a few challenges that come with simply being a teenage girl. I was so lonely and lost, I kept going back, I was so addicted to the need for positive attention and just fitting into my peers. I was in a relationship off and on for a few years, but it wasn’t healthy. It was break up after break up, fight after fight and tear after tear. It broke me emotionally, mentally and physically. No one will ever know know how school, much sleep was lost and how much pain I felt. At that time I had lost myself, I lost that love for my family and I lost the drive to be anything but worthless. In those three years of high school I remember two of the most frightening experiences of my life. My mom had to hold me down one too many times, I put way too many holes in the wall with my phone and I was just sad and angry. I remember not once, but twice, trying to push tylenol down my throat. I lost count after 11 and I just went to sleep. I remember mom taking away every prescription, medication or harmful thing out of my room. It only got worse and in my head I was frustrated, confused and scared.. My visit to mental health was a scary experience; how dare you give a girl the choice to stay in the hospital or seek help? 

I went through some bullying that will forever be apart of me. Whether it was in elementary, high school or as an adult, negative words and actions always hurt. One of my worst memories was on a day that I had dreamed of most of my high school life; Student Council Senior Ring speeches. As a young girl I had always dreamed of the day I would be able to compete for this. I studied and made sure my speech was perfect. I decided to run for SRC senior ring. On the day of speeches, through the corner of my eye I could see girls laughing, yelling things towards me and being very disrespectful. As I read my speech I felt humiliated and unworthy. My hopes of winning were shattered at that moment but to my amazement I went on and won. There were two of us who took on the role of Sr Ring and I was thinking positive going into the New Year. Half way through the year I wanted to quit, I was done. I had experienced so much turmoil and conflict with the “group” of girls that hated me. I went through another episode of relentless sadness, I missed one too many classes and faked sick too many times and finally my mom figured it out. Why are girls so mean? I asked myself daily. Why am I the one they like to torment and make fun of? Through elementary and high school I was the kid involved in all sports and clubs, I was devoted to my religion and to my family, but why was I the kid that was always slammed against the wall? By grade 12 I was done. Taking my life was nothing short of a possibility in my graduation year. It was a time I was suppose to be looking forward to new beginning and a new start but everything just seemed hopeless. I somehow got through alive. The pills, tears, words, actions and cutting just didn’t work. I knew there was something more I just wasn't sure how to get there. Thank God! I believe God saved me through the hardest time of my life. 

I never gave up my fight and I never will. I’ll continue to question why I was that girl they chose to make fun of and judge, but I’ll forever know that it was god’s plan to make me stronger and wiser. It wasn’t the end it was a beginning. My life will never be perfect, I’ll have off days and I’ll have days where I could dance in the rain, but that’s what I will live for; those days. 

If you ever struggled with depression you’d know that feeling that runs through your body, where you really don’t feel anything at all. The concentration is lost along with anything that felt okay to you too. I finally hit my wall around grade 11 and 12 where I knew I didn’t want to feel like this anymore. I went through many counsellors and then seeked medical help. This was when I was diagnosed with depression. I accepted it, and thought I would be fine. I didn’t start medication at this time but instead I started a strict routine of self talk, support and healthy living to try and combat my depression.. Graduation was awesome; I loved celebrating with my family. Personally I feel that the people who hurt me the most were the nicest that week, even with alcohol in their system, weird right? 

The summer flew by and before I knew it I was heading to University of Regina to start my first year of education. This was great, and I was excited until mid September when my grandma got ill. She was like my second mom and we were very close. She suffered for 6 weeks and before you know it, she went to heaven. Within a few short days my auntie also passed away. It was very difficult on the whole family and something I found difficult to deal with in my first few weeks away from my safe home. This affected my grades, attendance, sleep and emotional health immensely. I ended up missing around a month of school and falling into a black hole where I spent all my time in bed. I moved in with close family friends and although it was better I still found nothing changed for me. I spent all my time sleeping. I suggested to my mom I take a semester off, but of course mom knows best and she had faith I could do it. I went through the talk of I’m not good enough, I can’t finish this, I need to go home, I just want to die, and then I was encouraged to go back to the doctor. I was put on a low dose of antidepressants, simply to help me along my daily routine and get me feeling normal, whatever normal was but it sounded good to me. I started to feel a bit better day by day and the year flew by and I met an amazing guy, gained a new family, roommate and even found myself a little. Then fall 2016 rolled around and I went through another episode of depression. I had gone off my low dose of antidepressants cause I had been feeling better. I recalled some old feelings coming back to the surface, recollection of my high school years, hurt, tears, fear and negative thoughts. Why? I thought I was over these feelings. I thought my life was falling into place. At the time I thought everything was wrong, but everything was really alright. Nobody was leaving my side and nobody was giving up on me this time. I had got through some of the ugliest couple weeks ever alone and afraid. I confided in my mom and we decided to go back to the doctor and I went back on medication and this time I committed to two years. 

So what is my message? Tomorrow will be better. I have an amazing family, boyfriend, my small but important friend circle and my dog to keep me going. The pills, knives and negative thoughts will never take me away from who I love and what I love. God blessed me by giving me this life and I will NO longer take it for granted. My hardest days are now just a challenge to make me stronger; my good days are the days to embrace my beauty. My strongest advice to my friends and family when they are feeling down is sit on the couch, give God a little message and know that I love you when all else fails. Love is the most powerful word and can make someone’s life flip upside down, believe it or not. This is a story for you all, the stigma of mental health needs to be addressed. I am not dangerous, I am not unworthy, and I am not unable. I am a student, an athlete, a home business owner, a lover, a daughter, grand daughter, sister and friend. That is enough for me to continue on with this life and on this journey on earth.