You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever–Psalm 30:11-12
The only way I know how to describe depression and anxiety, is an intense feeling of dread. It starts in the pit of my stomach and spreads like poison until I’m paralyzed. My hands tremble. I feel weak. Unable to concentrate on anything, I lay down and take deep breaths and pray that the attack will pass quickly. Fear grips me even though I have nothing substantial to be afraid of. My mind grows dark. Negative, unwanted thoughts bombard me relentlessly. Feelings of worthlessness wash over me. I try to find relief in sleep but even that evades me. I have so much adrenaline pumping through my veins I can hardly eat. These are the symptoms and feelings that I had when struggling with depression off and on for almost twenty years.
It started when I was in elementary school. Just before sundown I would get nervous because sundown meant that night was about to fall; which meant that sleep was on its way and when I had to try to sleep I was left alone with my thoughts. I didn’t like the thoughts I was thinking. My thoughts made me uneasy which kept me awake. I struggled like this for a few months out of each year until I was twenty-seven.
My worst anxiety attack was in the Summer of 2009. During that time of sadness I went on a lot of walks, it was one of my coping mechanisms. One day as I was walking under the dark Seattle sky I was praying in my heart and mind about this whole depression struggle. I had begged God to heal me time and time again but nothing happened. I was finally to the point that I was so discouraged I didn’t care about life anymore. Life felt really hard. I was tired of fighting with my emotions all the time. Tired of fighting to feel normal, to feel happy. Tired of being misunderstood. I felt that I was a drain and a burden to everyone around me because I was just too much to deal with. I desperately wanted to get better for the sake of my family. I wanted to be happy and healthy if not for myself for them. That day, when I was walking, thinking thoughts to God, something inside of me shifted, that day I hit rock bottom.
That day started off as a very sad day, but it led to my very best life.
Because I know longer cared about my life, I told God that He could have it all. That He could use my life as a tool to do with what He wanted. I would do what He wanted me to do, go where He wanted me to go, say what He wanted me to say. I surrendered my life to Him that day.
After I had that change of heart I felt a physical burden lift from me. Literally, like a boulder was lifted off of my shoulders. I could feel the depression leave my body. I felt light as a feather and filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. I felt love for everyone, including myself which was new for me.
On that day, I was healed from my struggle with depression and I believe you can be too.
When I was in the thick of depression I couldn’t imagine ever being completely well. I thought that it would be something that I battled my whole life. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I know that healing is possible. Yes, I may have a predisposition to it (it runs in my family) but that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn how to cope and do what I can to overcome it.
After that experience, when the depression lifted, I still had some anxiety at times but nothing to the level of the debilitating depression I had in the Summer of 2009.
I did a lot of soul searching and praying to try and discover what the root cause of my anxiety was. I spent time seeking God and asking Him why I had struggled so much with anxiety. During my time of prayer there were specific memories that came to mind. Memories that I had buried down deep and tried not to think about. There were a host of hurts at the root of my anxiety and triggers that sparked the attacks. Emotional trauma I had never healed from, pain I had stuffed down deep inside myself, a root of rejection I had never gotten over and un-forgiveness in my heart towards people who had hurt me.
That’s the problem with stuffing our emotions, it’s like putting a band aid on. It covers up the wound so we don’t have to look at it but the wound is still there. When emotional pain is never dealt with it festers and depression is a symptom of the emotional wound that is now infected because you only stuffed the problem instead of confronting it. Pain will eventually surface to the top, it’s only a matter of time. The depression was a manifestation of all the anger I was carrying around inside myself, only that anger had turned inwards harming me even further.
In order to be set free completely I had to forgive the people who hurt me. Forgiveness is not condoning what they’ve done it’s simply choosing to release feelings of resentment and anger towards that person.
Maybe you’re struggling with depression and anxiety today, if you are, please know that you’re not alone. I believe that your best days are ahead of you. If I can get better, you can get better, I believe that with my whole heart. With Jesus, anything is possible.
Take time to self reflect:
- Have you completely given your life to Jesus? If not, what’s holding you back? I truly believe that this is the best thing you can do for yourself. If I hadn’t surrendered my life to God I think I’d still be struggling today.
- Pray and ask God to bring to mind anything that may be causing your anxiety or depression. And then give whatever is at the root of the problem to him, you were never meant to carry that burden.
Tips to stay mentally healthy:
- Keep short accounts. Communicate your feelings quickly when you’re upset about something and then let it go. Refuse to give bitterness or resentment a place in your heart and forgive people who have hurt you right away.
- Nurture yourself physically by eating healthy, exercising and filling your mind with positive thoughts and entertainment.
- Nurture yourself spiritually with time spent reading the Bible. Pray and write down all that you’re thankful for. Nothing beats the blues like gratitude.
- Think about what you’re thinking about. Purposely fill your mind with loving, kind thoughts because love drives out fear and negativity.
- Hobbies and having fun are important. Give yourself time to do the things that you enjoy. Because self care is really self preservation.
- If you’re feeling off. Take time to self reflect and see if you can determine why. Then ask yourself what you need to do to get back on track.
- Have regular meetings with yourself. Do you feel you’re living out your purpose? When I’m getting off course I feel it intuitively. When I’m in sink with my purpose I feel at peace.