Jana's Story "Finding Purpose through Pain"

When I look in the mirror I see an ever-changing evolution of the person God intends me to be. As Minister Rick Warren stated, “Your pain often reveals God’s purpose for you. God never wastes a hurt! If you’ve gone through a hurt, he wants you to help other people going through that same hurt. He wants you to share it. God can use the problems in your life to give you a ministry to others. In fact, the very thing you’re most ashamed of in your life and resent the most could become your greatest ministry in helping other people.”


When I first heard this quote it hit me smack in the middle of the face. It confirmed what God had been whispering in my ear for many years. It was my turn to start turning a tragedy into a triumph.

In many ways, if a person were to look at my life they would consider me successful. They would probably say I have a pretty awesome life, and I do. I have multiple degrees, I’ve been blessed with career opportunities and I have friends and family.

I’ve served as the Director of Marketing in industries such as engineering, hospitality and architecture. I’ve been in retail. I’ve been in financial services. Just to name a few. Some may say I get bored a little too easily! I’ve had great mentors and I’ve made wonderful friends along the way.

My experiences have included:

* Day long hunts in NYC for 40 pairs of identical Huey Lewis sunglasses.

* Writing about HVAC, chilled water systems, air handling units and more oh my!

* Delivering amenities to United States presidential candidates.

* Catching falling NASCAR drivers.

* And, setting a T.V. studio on fire while cooking fondue!

It’s been quite the adventure! Yet, like many I was empty inside. I was like a lost puppy trying to find my way to a warm and loving home. I dreaded going to work and fulfilling empty job duties in order to get a check.

I often lay awake at night asking God what His plan was for me. And, for the longest time He didn’t give me an answer or maybe I wasn’t ready to hear.

Yes, it might be a cliché but I wanted more. I wanted to make a difference. I just didn’t know how to do it. How could God use a girl from the little town in Missouri? Little did I know God was already working and setting His plan in motion?

About five years ago, God decided it was time for me to hear that plan and it came in a form I would have never guessed or let alone welcomed. At that time, my heart started to stir and my mind ached trying to make sense of senseless matters from the past. I guess it’s accurate when one says, “God’s timeline isn’t always our own”. Deep inside my soul was rumbling, much like your stomach does but it was trying to digest decisions and events from the past. My family has what some would describe as a disturbing history, both of my grandfathers died by suicide.

Depression weaves itself through my family like a poison ivy vine. My uncles, aunts, parents, cousins and countless others suffer in one form or another. I too suffer from depression. I needed to try and figure out all of this mess.

For example, my mother’s father hung himself in the garage while my grandmother was at church. I had just graduated college. My brother had just gotten married. It was my mother and father’s wedding anniversary. I will forever remember the screams and cries of my grandmother left on our answering machine. They are cemented in my mind. And, they continue to haunt me to this day. My father’s father hung himself in the shed. I was in second grade. I thought he had passed away of cancer.

I had swept the issue under the rug because I had tricked my mind into believing it really didn’t affect me. At the time, I didn’t understand their choices. Yes, I was angry but I went on with my life never stopping to digest the domino effect of my grandfathers’ depressions and deaths.

But, for some reason God decided to plant a seed in my heart. Out of nowhere I started thinking about my grandfather's. Thoughts crept up while I was at work, while driving and in my dreams.In order to start connecting the dots and putting pieces of the puzzle together I started a journal. Whatever thought crossed my mind got penned into the journal. I came to the realization that I had a lot of pent up anger, guilt, shame and confusion. I also started looking into the mirror and closely examining my own issues.

Until that time, I never recognized my own battle with depression. No, it’s not normal to commonly think about crossing the center-line of a highway, crashing, dying and being OK with it. That thought entered my mind on a regular basis and it didn’t bother me at all.

This excruciating self-examination led me to a doctor’s office where I cried my heart out in front of a stranger. I still struggle with depression but I’m blessed to have control over it. My sheets no longer weigh thousands of pounds when I wake in the morning. I don’t constantly twitch and fill with anxiety when with a group of friends. I can fight the urge to go to bed at seven o’clock each night.

This process led me to forgiveness. I was able to let go and forgive my grandfathers for their choices. I was able to accept that I will never fully understand their situations or decisions. I was able to extend grace. And, more than anything this journey started the biggest trip of a lifetime, the pursuit of helping others.

My journal soon turned into a blog. And, after a couple of years, the blog transformed into a book. The book, titled, “The D Diary” illustrates my thoughts and feelings with the suicides and my full family history. It goes back in time traveling through elementary school, to college and today describing the fore warnings of my own depression. And, more than anything it weaves in scripture, offering the hope and peace that can only be found in God.

It’s been about three years since I published the book. It’s been a roller coaster. I’ve had many ups and several downs. Along the way doors have been open and shut. I’ve doubted myself and questioned myself countless times. Is this really what God wants me to do? But every time I start losing my way or I doubt what I’m doing God opens a new door. Because when it comes down to it the story isn’t about me or my family. It’s God’s story. I’m just a vessel.

But, I do know that I came to the conclusion and made the decision that I was going to stop being scared, stop worrying about the specifics and instead be brave enough to walk through any and every door God opens. So I developed the motto that I will accept not knowing where this road will lead but I will be brave enough to walk through any door God opens.

The journey thus far has included two more books, speaking engagements and becoming involved in mental health advocacy within the community. I could have never imagined I would be on this path but I’m so glad God has allowed me to experience it. The journey has had a lot of curves and has taken me places I never would have thought of while staying clear of some opportunities that seemed to make sense. God does work in mysterious ways and having enough faith to trust can be challenging.

Whatever your pain may be, however your story has been written, try to embrace it. Don’t relinquish to the pain, instead give it the power to help others and enlighten your purpose.

Statistics about depression:

* Depression affects 1 in 10 Americans at one point or another.
* Over 80% of people with symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any kind of treatment.
* An estimated 121 million people around the world currently suffer from some form of depression.
* Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year.
* Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
* In 2010 someone in the US died by suicide every 13.7 minutes.