As a natural extrovert, I’ve found that relationships with others factor into how I view myself. Growing up, I surrounded myself with a close network of friends and family. I never thought that a small change to that setup had the potential to have a great impact. And never more so than when I had to move away from home, for uni.

The idea of starting this new phase of life, with new friends and new experiences was so exciting. I looked forward to what was ahead so much that I never took the time to contemplate leaving behind such a solid community.

To pastures new

The move was great at first, but the excitement quickly wore off. I struggled to keep up with the new classes, new faces, new dynamics… new everything really! It was like I was losing myself, and so decided I needed to ‘find myself’ again. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant in the grand scheme of things. But I knew that it involved getting away from everyone, switching off my phone and social media, so that I could just be.

And with that, I withdrew. At first it was from others, but eventually it was classes and all social situations too. Nothing much was achieved by this isolation. But I thought that only meant I needed to dive deeper into the commitment of finding myself.

Pretty soon, there wasn’t much effort to it. I was more than happy to be alone. Staying in and locking myself away in my room was my preference. I kept my curtains drawn and watched as the days and nights merged into a long, dark fog.

A helping hand

I was blessed to have a few friends notice the change in me and help me realise what was happening. It took a few months for me to break free from the ties that bound and led me into a depressed state. With encouragement and support I gradually walked towards a renewed mind state. I learnt a challenging set of lessons, especially as I looked into the nature of my relationships with others, myself, and with God.

A big lesson was that it’s okay to not be okay as a Christian. It’s not a sign of failing faith or flawed character. In the Bible we read of King David’s despair over the impending loss of his son, and Jeremiah’s accounts of loneliness. But I also saw that God is with us in the difficult times, no matter how alone we may feel. Not only that, but God places people in our lives to help us along the way. We weren’t made to do life by ourselves. Instead God intends for us to live in community and to be there for each other through the good and bad times.

Although time alone is great, there is a balance to be struck. I’ve learnt the need to build conscious, healthy relationships around me, as well as with God.