Always hope in Jesus

Natasha Beckles,

Added 14 October 2012

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THERE WAS A time when Sonya Goddard was so overcome with worry that she experienced up to five panic attacks in a day and had a headache that lasted for months. But that was before she turned to God for help in fighting her battles and learnt how to manage her anxiety through exercise, healthy eating and a sincere desire to get well. The 21-year-old photographer and graphic artist told the SUNDAY SUN she was inspired to share her experience after learning of the death of 24-year-old Angel Taitt, who leapt to her death last September 14. She wants young people to realize that no matter how difficult things get, there is hope in Jesus Christ. And she wants Barbadians to see anxiety and depression for the serious conditions they are instead of seeing them as “minor things”. Sonya explained that her anxiety reached its worst point last year but, in retrospect, she believed it began in 2007 when she lost a friend. “I would’ve experienced death before, in terms of family members and stuff, but to see a friend who is around my age go along as well, it hit hard, especially since we were graduating and he wasn’t able to graduate. “Since then I believe I started to live in fear of the unknown, fear of various things,” she said. The former Alexandra School student entered the Barbados Community College in 2007 where she did an Associate degree in visual arts before going on to do her Bachelor’s in graphic arts. While studying for her Bachelor’s, the stress became too much for her as she spent numerous late nights at school and tried to balance working and studying. “One night going home on the bus, my heart just started to race and I felt like I wasn’t there on the bus. I was looking around but I felt like something was just separated from me. “I felt so strange, like I was there but I still wasn’t there. So for a couple months after that I was battling this thing called derealization where you’re present but your mind is so caught up with other stuff, it is as though your mind isn’t with you,” she related. To onlookers, Sonya seemed “normal” but emotionally she was “battling and struggling every day”. She developed an anxiety disorder which was accompanied by headaches. “I had a headache that lasted nine months. It would not go away. Every single part of my body, something was wrong. “I went to the doctor so often . . . either freaking out or thinking something was really wrong. They couldn’t find anything but I was convinced that something was wrong with me,” she said. All this time Sonya was missing out on school, fearing that if she got on a bus again, she would once more have a panic attack. “I was in my final year and I was at home telling myself, ‘I’m not going to school because of anxiety’. “I was doing well at school but at the same time so scared to go to school because I didn’t want to be by myself. Whenever I was on the bus, I had to be with somebody,” she explained. Sonya did extensive reading on anxiety and found out that she was not alone in her experiences. “I learnt a lot of ways of managing anxiety, especially when you’re in a situation where you’re by yourself,” she said. Although this helped her to come to grips with her situation, the young woman said her real wake-up call came from her father. “It used to have me depressed so I would be crying all the time. My father started to see a difference in me and he told me, ‘You’ve been to the doctor, you’ve been to church, you’ve talked to these people . . . the only other thing now is to [go] to the Mental’. “From that day on I decided I had to do something about it because I couldn’t let it escalate to a point where I was imprisoned in my mind and imprisoned in a psychiatric facility. “I’m not crying down anybody who is there right now but this was something I believed I could fight,” she stressed. Exercise and healthy eating were integral parts of Sonya’s recovery. She did research on healthy eating, created her own recipes and was able to lose about 70 pounds in the last year. “I applied my mind to it and I started to see the benefits. People started to see them before me and I used to get depressed and [think] nothing was working and I still used to get the anxiety. “But then I started talking to my pastor. I remember nights when I would be up at 12 o’clock panicking and I would call my pastor and she would pray with me,” she said. Sonya’s pastor Reverend Norma Boyce of Kairos Wesleyan Holiness Church in Pie Corner, St Lucy, is one of the people she credits with helping her to get through the tough times. “Not everybody understood what I was going through. Sometimes not even my family understood, but my pastor was one of the people who helped me to realize that sometimes stuff like this goes beyond the physical. “It goes beyond natural and it may be more supernatural – where it may be the enemy trying to get to me because my weakness has always been me thinking that the way I was going to die was to get sick and go into the hospital.” Sonya noted that her family and friends had mixed reactions to her condition. She said her mother understood in some ways since she “had her own fear journey”, but she worried as Sonya’s condition progressed. Her father tended to offer tough love. As for her friends, “It seemed as though they could only be there for me at certain times,” she said. Sometimes her friends got annoyed with her behaviour and while in those moments she felt their reaction was “uncalled for”, she said she now understood that the situation could have been “overbearing”. Despite her many challenges, Sonya was able to do well in school, finishing with a 3.6 grade point average. She wants other young people to realize that their challenges are not insurmountable. “The way to overcome trials and tribulations is to understand that Jesus came so that we could have life. “When I was going through my anxiety, I never thought I would’ve obtained any hope but there is hope. Jesus is our hope!” she declared. • Positive Youth is a series highlighting the efforts of youth in our nation who are engaging in positive pursuits. If you know of any such people, please contact Natasha Beckles at 430-5459 or natashabeckles@nationnews.com or Bryan Walker at 430-5492 or bryanwalker@nationnews.com

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