I like to write, and it’s always been part of my life. I’ve kept diaries/journals since a young age and I’m so happy I did, because my illness is chronicled through them. I have a written history of my symptoms, my misdiagnosis, my struggles, my prayers, and scriptures that have spoken to me along the way. I didn’t always journal my blessings, though, and I regret that. I’m going to start including what God’s done for me in my journals so when times are hard, I can go back and remember how he delivered me in the past as to give me hope for the future. Sometimes, I go back to my journals and something will stand out as a repetitive issue for me that feeds my illness. It allows me to see the problem and then go to God for His help in changing it. For example, just recently, I went back to one of my journals and in 2012, I started to write about how I felt guilt over not being a stay at home mom. I wrote often about it and I could look back and see when I started to really dislike my job. I could see that my guilt was plaguing me. Had I not kept a written record, I may not have seen the guilt. I was then able to go to God and ask Him for help. I ended up ordering a book for my daughter and when it arrived, I realized that God was answering my prayer through the book that I determined was for me, not my daughter. It addressed being a perfectionist and the guilt cycle that goes along with it. It opened my eyes to the fact that I had unattainable standards set for myself and as a result, I was ridden with guilt over all of the areas I felt I fell short. My guilt was feeding my anxiety/panic. Back in 2008-2009, I went through an especially hard time with my illness. My depression hadn’t been diagnosed yet, but I was on medication for fatigue that helped my depression. Unfortunately, that medication isn’t intended to treat depression by itself and I ended up taking more of it than I should have to feel better and what resulted was a very humbling experience for me. Around that time, I also ventured to cure myself of whatever was plaguing me with natural remedies and a very strict diet. Since I have a chemical imbalance, none of those measures cured me. I even took on-line natural health classes to learn, hoping I could find something to make me feel better. I felt run down, low in spirit, no energy, no motivation and a general feeling of hopelessness. I can now look back and know I tried different ways to feel better and it ended up taking pharmaceuticals to make me feel better, which helps me with acceptance of medication. If you don’t keep a journal, I highly recommend starting one–it doesn’t matter whether it’s old school pen and paper or electronic.
We are human so we all make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow. But, what if you made a decision that turned out to be a bad one and it triggers your symptoms? The answer is God’s grace. Go to the Lord in prayer and ask for forgiveness and ask Him to help you. None of us are exempt from making mistakes. I thought I was in God’s will letting a couple of family members live with me for an extended period of time. In order to support more people, I chose to go into debt despite the fact that the verse in proverbs that advises us not to be a slave to your debtors kept coming to mind to warn me. I took matters into my own hands and created a financial mess that I’m still trying to untangle nearly three years later. Did God want me to go into debt to support the family? No! He wanted me to trust him as my provider. You can imagine what this did to my anxiety and panic disorder. I have asked Him for forgiveness and help in fixing what I messed up. We all make mistakes. Nothing you do is a surprise to God. Acknowledge you made a mistake, ask for forgiveness, then put it in His hands. After you do this, don’t let the enemy beat you up over it anymore. Do what you can do and God will do what you can’t do.
There are several names in the old testament for God. One is Jehovah Rapha, or the Lord that heals. If you are actively suffering from depression/anxiety, know that He WILL heal you! It’s always in His timing, though, and we need to remember that. I suffered many years, but especially bad over the past year. I asked Him over and over for healing and couldn’t understand why He wouldn’t answer me. Guess what…He did answer! But, He answered in His timing, not mine. I would rather not have this illness at all, but since I do, I am determined to let Jesus work through me to help others. My own daughter was helped with clinical depression because of my journey. She knew from my experience that what she was experiencing wasn’t normal and she came to me for help. She is now on medicine and doing fantastic. Her healing came much quicker than mine, but had I not had mine, she may have went years suffering like I did. So, my illness has been a blessing. Hard to think of it as a blessing, right? Just think of how many people Jesus can help through you if you’re willing! When you experience your healing and feel better, use your experience for good to help others. Talk about it and share your story with others. There are a lot of Christians suffering from depression/anxiety and they need encouragement, support and hope. You can offer that having been there yourself. Share what the Lord, our healer, did for you and watch how He works through you to help others!
I’ve shared at least part of my story in previous blog posts. Mental illness–depression, anxiety, panic–has been an issue for me my entire life. The past year was especially difficult. With the help of my doctor and trying several different medications or combination of medications, I am finally feeling better. So, now that I’m feeling better, what do I do with the experience? Share it…that’s what I need to do. Our testimonies are powerful to help others overcome, be encouraged, and have hope. Don’t get better and then hide your light. Let it shine! Because you have suffered, you can understand and be empathetic to others suffering. God will use your pain for good, so be a willing vessel. You would be shocked at how many people you encounter in your day-to-day experiences are suffering with depression/anxiety and they feel all alone in their suffering. Since I’ve gone public with my illness, I’ve had many people approach me with their stories. Just imagine, now that I’m feeling better, how encouraging that is to someone in the pit of depression who feels like it will never get better. Share your testimony and help others!
If you work full time, you are already aware that you spend the majority of your waking hours at work during the week. What if you hate your job? It can lead to feelings of emptiness and leave you wondering what your purpose is. Each of us have different gifts and talents to use in our work and we’re told in the bible to do our work unto the Lord. What if you dislike your job so much that it’s sparking your depression/anxiety? It’s time to hit the prayer closet and work it out with God! Either He has you there for His reasons and you may need to change your perspective, or you are there for your own reasons (we do have free will) and it’s time to discover what those reasons are. Maybe it’s not a job change you need, maybe you could use your gifts and talents to do volunteer work that brings you joy and fulfillment or even a hobby? We are happiest when we’re operating in our gifts and talents and living God’s purpose for our lives. God will guide your steps…all you have to do is ask Him!
Most, if not all of us, have asked God this question and it was probably when you were feeling at your worst. We’re human, so we tend to feel sorry for ourselves when we’re suffering. That is until we come to the point where we realize that God is working in us and will bring healing in his timing. Once we get to that point, our question should change to “what do you want me to get out of this, Lord?” His strength is shown through our weakness. God has used my illness in countless ways to work things in me and others around me. He didn’t leave me in that place and he did show up with healing. He knows what he’s doing and we have to as Christians come to a place of complete trust in him. It’s often hard to admit because I would rather not have the illness, but a lot of good has come from it. I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not experienced it. I have empathy for those suffering. I have understanding of what it feels like to suffer with depression and anxiety. I can relate. And so can you. God will use your illness for good, even though it’s hard to imagine good coming out of feeling so bad. If you’re at a place where you are asking “why me?”, know that by his stripes you are healed. Try to change the focus to what God wants you to get out of the experience rather than focusing on how bad you feel. Keep positive in your mind and replace the self pity with thanks for all of the blessings in your life. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you have a heart of gratitude!
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” Acts 20:24
As we run our race, we receive God’s grace. He shows us compassion, mercy, and love; and bestows blessings on us. The race can seem too difficult sometimes, but it never is because of God’s grace. He will step in and do what you cannot do. He will work things around in your life to bless you and bring good to you and others around you. As we live our life and run our own race, we learn, grow and become stronger. Even during times of suffering, he is working things in us. It’s hard to feel happy about having hardship, but consider it a blessing because God will use it for good. Even your suffering with depression/anxiety can be used for good to help others. As God works in our lives, we grow in faith and trust as well. The more we trust him, the easier it is to get through a difficult day of suffering. By his stripes we are healed. In his timing, he will bring healing. In the meantime, he will show you his grace and mercy so that you can then turn and show grace and mercy to others. We testify to the good news of God’s grace by how we live, talk and interact with others. So, that being said, it is important that we let our lights shine and stay positive while we run our race so that others watching will see our light and want it too.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
The bible says God gives each of us a measure of faith. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose faith when you feel awful and there’s no end in sight. I have often wondered why I couldn’t have more faith, but Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed (the smallest seed) can move mountains out of your way. We don’t need to be overly concerned with whether we are enough. God says you are enough…he loves you just as you are. Continue to pray and keep the faith, even if your faith is small as a mustard seed!
Jesus said today has enough worries of its own, so don’t worry about tomorrow. That’s very difficult to do when you suffer from anxiety/panic, but it’s absolutely critical. When we start worrying about tomorrow, it feeds our anxiety and that can increase our symptoms, especially with panic disorder. I’m not sure why, but as I meet others that suffer from anxiety, I find we all seem to have a racing minds that tend to worry. We’re told in the bible not to worry, but we do it anyway. We’re also told to line up every thought we have with scripture to be sure our thoughts are in line with what God says and not the enemy. When we let our thoughts run wild and uncensored and we start worrying about tomorrow, we don’t live in the present and we buy into Satan’s lies. How can you enjoy today if you’re already consumed with tomorrow? I’ve been practicing taking one day at a time and trying to be fully in the moment. Each day, it comes a little more naturally than the day before. I’m finding that I’m experiencing pockets of joy where before I had no joy. I’m seeing God’s hand in things where I might have missed it before. We’re not promised tomorrow, so why do we worry so much about it? Each day is new and each day should be lived out fully and in the present. One day at a time.
I want to explore how our illness affects those around us who love us. I didn’t use to think much about how my illness affected my family and friends. That is, until I met a new friend whose husband suffers from anxiety. I’ve spent time listening to her side of the story where she is a bystander and feels helpless to help her husband. I started paying attention to how my illness affected my own family. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. My family and friends were suffering with me. It opened my eyes. I saw the pain in their eyes when I didn’t feel well. I know they wanted nothing more than to take it away from me or help me somehow. I became more sensitive to others around me and more aware of their love for me. It helped me become more positive and less self-focused. I noticed a change in my husband when I started to consider his feelings in regards to my illness. I saw the heaviness he was carrying lighten. He has been nothing but supportive, but he also couldn’t fix it and he was growing weary after almost a year of me actively suffering. He continues to be my biggest supporter and my love for him continues to grow as he shows me the love of Christ. Living with someone suffering isn’t easy. It’s hard to watch your loved one suffer, knowing there’s nothing you can really do to help them. Please keep your loved ones in mind and know that they are suffering too. Don’t be too hard on them if they don’t say or do the right things. Know that they are trying, and they really just want you to feel better. Be sure to thank your loved ones for standing by you during the hard times and remind them of your unconditional love.
While we are addressing our friends and family that stand my our side, we should also talk about the flip side. If you have suffered for a long time, you probably went through losing “friends” over it. Please be assured that your true friends that love you will not leave you over your illness. Our illness is pretty good at sifting our friends for us as we’re not always lovable or even communicative. Just know that sometimes, God will remove people from our lives. My own experience with this hurt so bad, but afterward, in hindsight, I see why he had to remove her from my circle. It was a long time friend that I loved very much. She appeared to be one of my biggest supporters throughout the year I suffered the most, but in the end showed me she didn’t love me back. Her words cut me like a knife and the realization that my love wasn’t returned stung more than I can put into words. I thank God for looking out for my best interests, especially at a time when I was very vulnerable. God will always look out for you and protect you.
Pray for God to enable your friends and family to help you while you heal and give them the strength they need to stand by your side. Also pray for him to remove anyone toxic from your inner circle, so you can move forward into the life he purposed for you.