As my third year in Secondary School came to a close, I found myself staring at the blue pages of my report book and realising I had gotten an L1R5 score better than anyone else in the class, and nothing worse than a B3 for each subject.
Compared to most students in my level, I had done very well for the final year exams. I even obtained many bursary awards. One part of me felt immensely satisfied, but at the back of my mind, I knew that I had paid an outrageous price for this.
It’d all started at the beginning of 2017. I always had that desire in me to be better than anyone else, to be the brilliant one – the cream of the crop. God gave me academic and artistic strengths, so why not milk them?
Losing sight of my faith, I’d let these ambitions overtake me as the days passed.
THE FAILURE OF ACADEMIC SUCCESS
I pushed myself to work hard for my studies, with razor sharp focus on my goal of excellence. Long nights were spent at my study desk poring over my notes from school, assessment books and any other study-related material. I was also quite deprived of sleep.
Progress started to show in the second half of the year, when my grades shot up. I was reluctant to continue with this lifestyle, but I pressed on. And while the grades went up, other things were taking a downturn.
I stopped hanging out with my friends after school because I wanted to go home and study. I started skipping meals. My walk with God faltered, and going to church weekly as usual did not help. I was not willing to surrender myself to God, let alone be at church.
Then the worst happened. I relapsed and found myself in the familiar throes of depression and anxiety which I thought I’d left behind.
While my grades went up, other things were taking a downturn.
This greatly affected me. I found it hard to function normally or study. This mental virus drained my energy away rapidly. Miraculously, I pulled through, but I was constantly in a foul mood and interaction with others was a burden.
Naturally, I shut myself off from everyone as I did not want to be seen as weak, even from my cell group. These were the people I held closest to my heart, who always prayed for and believed in me. By the end of year, I had damaged many of my close relationships, the most prominent being my best friend in school. I hurt her deeply with my acrimonious words and uncaring actions.
All this, just for my own desires? I was too blinded to see anything. Depression, the unrelenting demon, stole away a big part of me. I was so empty it felt indescribable.
EVERY STUDENT’S REAL REWARD
Despite all this, one small, human part of me clung to what possibly was the only bit of sanity left in me.
It was hope.
Hope is being able to see the tiny light within the overwhelming darkness. And even in my loneliest moments, I could feel Christ my Saviour right there with His arms open. By the grace of God, hope found me.
During a cell retreat at the end of the year, I came clean with my cell group about my struggles. It had to be the best decision I made. I saw the love in my friends’ eyes and I knew that they were the ones who truly cared for me. I felt simply free.
2 Corinthians 5:17 edifies me greatly. It says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” I can be sure that my life, previously riddled with sin, self-harm and suffering, will be renewed with His healing and hope.
In Jesus Christ, I am loved. There is peace; He will calm the storms within. I know that I do not need to prove to God or anybody else that I am better, brilliant, or worthy – because He loves me no matter what and that is really all that matters.