Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, September 23, 2022

Through the Valley of Shadow, Part 1 of 4

Doug Pryor slumped to the forest floor, exhausted. Was this the last time search parties would be sent out to look for his twenty-one-year-old daughter?

“God, I can’t go on.” He prayed. “I just need to know. Is Taylor safe?”

Just then, he spotted three deer not too far away.

“Lord, if she’s safe, bring one of those deer to me.”

The deer took off.

That’s when Doug knew.

Taylor Pryor was well known for her spunk and enthusiasm, her love for God, and her compassion for the downtrodden. As a student at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, she was in her element—encouraging the other girls and leading a Bible study. Video footage from a 2017 Missions trip to Guatemala reveals a vivacious young woman ready to take on the world. More than anything, she desired to make a difference in the lives of those God placed in her path.

Ending her first year at university with a round of written exams, Taylor flew immediately to Ontario to work in an asparagus-packing plant. Already exhausted, the isolation, long hours, and “no music” rule quickly took their toll on this extroverted young woman. When anxiety and suicidal thoughts began to surface, she returned to Manitoba and worked the rest of the summer as a camp counselor—for which she was far better suited. She returned to school in the fall.

During a college soccer game in October of 2018, Taylor collided mid-air with another player when both jumped for the ball. In the weeks that followed, she began to exhibit physical symptoms such as blurred vision, hearing problems, and an inability to stay focused or sleep. She saw a concussion specialist at a sports clinic where she received physiotherapy for her eyes.

Gradually, personality changes became apparent to her family and even more so to her friends in residence. She displayed anger and anxiety they hadn’t seen in Taylor before. She used language she would not typically use. She began to push her parents away, insisting that she could deal with it on her own.

“We let her do that for a while,” her mother Darseen said. “But it was really hard.”

“She distanced herself out of shame. She was embarrassed about where she was at,” Doug added.

Taylor pushed through that first term and came home for Christmas break, but her parents were beginning to see an entirely different person than the girl they knew. Back at school, things began to snowball. In February, she made her first suicide attempt. By March, Taylor had been in and out of hospitals numerous times. Her parents decided to find her an emotional support dog. Leaving the hospital on the day she was given a pass to go pick out her puppy, Taylor admitted to her roommate that she had no idea how to pick out a dog.

“Just sit back and wait. Your dog will pick you,” was the advice she received.

Taylor with her "baby"
So she did. Sure enough, as Taylor watched the little fur balls wrestle and play, one dog broke away from its siblings and waddled straight to Taylor, later falling asleep in Taylor’s lap. Although the dog’s name is officially Everly, Taylor’s main name for her was always, “My Baby.”

While the dog helped, the chaos escalated. It seemed the vigilance required simply to keep Taylor alive was becoming a full-time job. When Taylor was asked to leave the dorm because of all the disruptions, her parents began to look for an apartment. Finding a suitable one seemed impossible. They needed a place on ground level, near Taylor’s school, that accepted pets, and that was nice (putting someone struggling with anxiety in a run-down space is not helpful). With that sort of laundry list, the odds seemed impossible. But when a friend of a friend told them there was one available apartment in her building and they went to check it out, Doug and Darseen were able to check off all their boxes. In mid-April, they’d secured the apartment and Darseen moved into it with Taylor. As a bonus, their building was surrounded with lovely biking trails, one of which led to Taylor’s school in a ten-minute ride. It definitely felt like an answer to prayer.

To be continued next week.


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