What a blessing to see a student “get to the other side” of their adolescent struggles.  

Today’s guest author is Tori Hagen, one such young woman who share’s her story of transformation.  Tori candidly describes her painful struggles with perfectionism and depression but also how she has found lasting hope and victory in Jesus.
I remember Tori’s struggles, as well as her fears and doubts.  I remember how very frightening this season of depression was not only for her but also for her parents. With permission from both Tori and her mom, I wish to share her journey with you today because it is an inspirational story of hope, one that I pray will serve to turn others, who may also be struggling, to the One who desires to transform our lives from ashes to beauty.

Isaiah 61:3

……to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…..

 What’s Stealing Your Heart?

By Tori Hagen
 This is my transformation story.

 Sophomore year I fell into a deep depression.

It all started with my perfectionism. For the first few months of school, I managed to keep it all together. I followed my precise schedules, did my hair every day, worked hard at dance, and went to church. With school becoming harder, my brother leaving for college, and my hair being more stubborn, I was finding it very difficult to keep up this “perfect life”. I started to become complacent and unwilling to do anything at all.  If I couldn’t do it exactly right, why bother trying? This escalated to the point where I had paved the perfect way for some serious depression. And I’m not talking about the kind of depression where you feel down for a couple of days and want to stay in bed all day and do nothing with your life. I’m talking about the kind where you think, “Oh it’s okay that I made this one stupid mistake because I’m probably going to kill myself pretty soon, anyway.” The kind of depression where the only way you can fall asleep at night is to tell yourself none of your problems will matter because you will die tomorrow. Or on another night you acknowledge how much of a failure your life is and you begin to call yourself lazy, ugly and stupid as you drift off into sleep.

 Once I entertained the thought of killing myself, my whole world took a nosedive for the worst.

The next thing I knew, it was okay to yell at my mom and look at porn and neglect all of my responsibilities because I told myself It did not matter because I about to die. If I could have wished for one thing at that moment it would have been that I could fall asleep and dissolve into nothingness. I started to go crazy in my mind. My thoughts went in circles as I desperately tried to find an escape. Dying was looking better and better as each day passed and I became less and less myself. School became my worst nightmare since I had to pretend to be normal and act like everything was okay.  I tried everything I could to miss classes. One morning, I locked myself in my room so that my mom couldn’t take me to school. My heart hardened as she screamed my name and pounded on the door. After she threatened to call the police, called my dad, and broke down crying thinking I had killed myself, I finally opened the door. And just like that I was seriously depressed, and I felt hopeless. It seemed to hit me out of nowhere. This was all of the sudden my life. The days grew darker as I fell deeper and deeper into misery.

 Depression is a dark, hopeless place.

It’s something only those who experience it themselves can truly understand. Life becomes meaningless and grueling. Simple tasks become mountains to climb. Small mistakes change how you view yourself entirely. I remember being so convinced that I was stupid, that I was truly surprised whenever I got awards for Student of the Trimester in two of my classes. For a moment, whenever the truth overcame the lies, I was happy again. I could breath for a moment until the lies came seeping back into my mind. Then it was gone and darkness took over again.  What I desperately needed was transformation.

 A person has three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Likewise, transformation is three fold.

The spiritual, mental, and physical part of who we are is key to unlocking complete transformation.  This is what my journey looked like. Physically, I took care of my body by exercising and  changing my diet.  I also started taking anti-depressants.  Mentally, I took care of my mind by managing my thoughts.  I did this with the help of a therapist and through journaling every day. Spiritually, my life began to change as my mom had many people praying for me and even had her childhood pastor anoint me with oil and pray over me. There is power in prayer. James 5:14-16 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up…Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In addition to having people pray for me,  I read scriptures. Though initially I found it slightly silly, I read aloud several verses that I had written on note cards every night before bed. I also started to pray simple prayers telling God how I felt. As I began to change my thoughts and actions spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I began to experience a powerful transformation. Slowly, but surely, I started to climb my way out of the dark pit that I had dug myself into.

 Your mind is a powerful thing. One thought can become the seed to a lifetime of despair.

I urge you all to be careful what you put into your mind, whether that be the movies you watch, the things you look at on the internet, or simply the things you choose to believe. Learn to see what eats away at your heart. Catch the lies before they destroy you and the evil before it ensares you. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” To keep your focus in the right direction, 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” God knows how powerful the mind can be.

 Through spiritual, mental, and physical change, anyone can be transformed.

Romans 12:2 says,Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Take a moment to reflect on your life. Take a close look at your mind and ask yourself, “What’s stealing my heart?”

 Ephesians 6:10-17:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.