Anne Peyton's Story: Incapable in the Hands of a Good God
Anne Peyton Baker is a natural healer. You can feel it in her presence; she wants to diminish suffering. She came to Vanderbilt with the dream of going into cancer imaging, intending to lessen the pain felt in families wrecked by diagnoses. Although her desire to help never waned, it was not long before she realized that biomedical engineering was not where her passions lie. “I lived with ten of my friends in a Mayfield sophomore year,” she tells me, “People always came to me with their problems. I would stay up all night and talk through issues with them, while my BME textbook would sit open with my half-done homework lying on top. I realized that I just didn’t care about engineering as much as I cared about people and what was going on in their hearts and their minds.” Although her heart wasn’t in it, Anne Peyton believed that with enough determination she could will her way through an engineering degree. Until she failed Electrical Circuits 2112. Twice.
“It was the most humiliating thing,” Anne Peyton remembers. “I made a straight F twice in the same class. I had to come to terms with the fact that for the first time in my life I was in a situation where I tried my best, and just wasn’t capable enough to do something.” Her world was ending; she had reached a point in her life where she was forced to acknowledge her inadequacy. She recalls the experience, saying “I think I felt this tension for the first time where I was realizing my need for faith. In high school, I believed that God was good and he had a plan for me, but I also felt very capable of handling things on my own. Getting to college made me realize that only one of those things could be true – either I am really good and I can figure this out myself, or God is really good and is working on my behalf.” Failing circuits was Anne Peyton’s way of confirming the latter, and giving herself the courage to pursue her true passion: mental health.
As a preteen, Anne Peyton’s junior high experience was characterized by crippling anxiety. There wasn’t a decision she made, a day that went by, or a relationship untouched by her anxiety disorder. “I don’t think I really understood what was going on.” AP remembers, “as a pre-teen, I hadn’t experienced the world yet, so I just didn’t know how ‘off’ it really was. Even when I could tell something was wrong, I think I convinced myself I was ok.” At sixteen-years-old, Anne Peyton wouldn’t describe herself as a Christian, but she was hopeless and needed a rescue. One night, her anxiety had gotten so out of hand that she broke down and began to pray. “I remember pleading with him, ‘God please. I can’t do this without you, take this away from me’” She says. “Considering what I know now – after getting more professional experience with mental health – the improvement I saw in my anxiety in the next few months was almost miraculous.”
After what she had gone through, Anne Peyton wanted nothing to do with her past. “For a while I wanted to deny that that was ever a part of my story,” she recalls, “but then I began to meet so many people who were going through similar situations, and I realized that my experience could help them through theirs. It was a gift.” Although it wasn’t an easy journey, failing circuits and her mental health struggle where both paths to discovering what God had in store for her. “That’s one of the coolest things about Christianity,” she shares with me, “The whole thing is so unexpected. Jesus wasn’t the king they were waiting for - his mom was mysteriously impregnated, he wasn’t born to royalty, and then his own people killed him. No one would have asked for it to happen that way, but that’s who God is. Even in my own life I never would have asked for an anxiety disorder, but looking back at it now I couldn’t have planned a better life. I am thankful he put me through that, because it is what has lead me to study mental health, discover my passions, and to do so many of the things I love.”
“Everyone has something they struggle with,” Anne Peyton admitted, “my mental health was the one thing I wanted to run away from, but embracing it filled my life more than running ever could.” Anne Peyton’s realization that our current suffering can be counted as gain has inspired her to run towards the darkness in her life, not away from it. She finds hope in her faith. Anne Peyton serves a God who has used her darkest moments to kindle a life-giving flame of hope, turning her experience into a fire illuminating the lives of those around her. “I really believe that there is healing out there, because I have experienced it,” she says, “There is not only hope that we will get through it, but He can use hardships to instill passion in us.” After graduating in May, Anne Peyton is going to get her masters in counseling from Vanderbilt. Although she’s aware that what lies ahead will not always be easy, she is confident in two truths: She is not fully capable, and God is really good.