Discovering a path out of a hidden pain

By Lauren Smith
Los Angeles, Calif.

Illustration by Semaj Earl

Illustration by Semaj Earl

Hi. My name is Lauren. You probably don’t know me or ever will, but I hope what I have to say to you will have an impact on you, maybe even change your life.

I’m the girl in class who raised her hand when the teacher asked a question. I got good grades, participated in school clubs, and make friends with almost everyone. I never get in trouble. I have never done drugs or gotten drunk. I am what you might call a “goody-goody.”

Even with this “perfect” life, I harbored a deep emotional pain. I hated myself. My pain was on the inside, invisible to the world. I felt the need to please everyone and to make everyone like me. I felt absolutely worthless when I did not succeed. I often thought, “Who can love me? I always mess things up.” 

I had always thought about suicide. I wondered if anyone would care if I just disappeared. I wondered if my parents, who I know love me dearly, would have been somewhat relieved by my absence. Some nights when I would sit in my bed at night and cry, I would ask the Lord if I could die.

This is how I lived my life for as long as I can remember. I walked around, never feeling pretty enough, smart enough, or good enough for anyone.

Around the time I was 12, though, something changed. I was listening to Ruben Studdard’s gospel song “I Need an Angel” when the lyrics made me realize that I needed help. I grew up in a Christian household, so I knew about Jesus Christ. I went to church, listened to Christian music, and read my Bible. And yet, I did not know Jesus for myself.

So that night, I decided to finally know God for myself. I was drawn to the fact that he loved me despite my faults—enough to die for me—things that I thought would keep someone from loving me. I realized he had created me with all of his love and care, which helped improve my self-esteem and self-respect.

I’m not saying that my life is all rainbows now. I go through challenges every day. But if you are like me, don’t worry. Even with all the challenges that come with life, I know I can be strong. And when I feel the menacing spirit of depression creeping into my heart, I go back to the scripture closest to my heart, from the Book of Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

And that applies to you, too.

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