It’s national anxiety and depression week. So of course, I had to share a quick blurb.
As someone who has struggled with both depression and anxiety, I am fully aware of the detrimental effects this illness can have. I am also aware of how it has refined me as a person.
On a more personal note, I have seen firsthand what it can do to someone—specifically depression—causing such hopelessness in the moment that it results, unfortunately, to further heartache in a family. Stating it bluntly, two years ago my niece took her life as a result of the negative effects of depression.
As you can imagine, this event rocked my family something fierce. So many questions ensued. The aftershocks were extremely hard. It still is. However, as one who’s struggled with this personally, I can attest that depression and anxiety disorders are as real as the sun in the sky, the air that you breathe, and the ground that you walk on.
In regard to depression, it’s not something you can just snap out of. For those that don’t struggle with it or never have, I’m not sure how you can truly relate. But to give you an idea of what depression is like: it’s like feeling your absolute worst even before you get out of bed, making it difficult often times to even get out of bed, take a shower, eat or do anything normal for yourself. You feel like crying all the time. You have weird thoughts that are frightening or overwhelming. You feel numb. I still remember shedding more tears during those seasons of depression than I ever have in my entire life.
Why are so many of us so silent about this illness? What is it about depression and anxiety that makes those struggling with it shy away from talking about it?
I remember feeling ashamed by it. I remember feeling alone in it, like no one else struggled with it. I remember wondering if my faith was strong enough as I went through it, because others would tell me I just needed to “have more faith in Jesus and He will deliver you out of it.” As well intentioned as that advice may have been, that was not what I needed to hear, nor do I believe it is fully true.
When I started to recognize my feelings, thoughts, and emotional imbalances for what they were, not negating the realness of what I felt, and realize it was nothing to be ashamed of, a small weight I’d been carrying with this illness began to slide off my shoulders.
When I began to reach out to some close friends letting them know of the condition and state I was in, they either wrapped their loving arms around me in non-judgment or embraced me because I wasn’t alone in this struggle. I started to believe in the truth that I was still loved regardless of my “issues,” and as a result, another weight slide off in effect.
And when I began to recognize I did love Jesus—I had faith that He could take this illness away if He wanted to or allow it to stay using it for His greater purpose —I began to see a bit of hope.
My eyes began to open as I continued to go through those long and dark times of my depression episodes, that maybe, just maybe God had a plan for it. God would use this to further refine me and help me bring hope to others someday.
God did not enslave me to it because I was being damned or chastised for my lack of faith but rather, looking back, He used this time to deepen my dependence on Him and help me understand just a bit of what Jesus’ suffering on the cross looked like.
It continued to bring me hope until I finally made it through the storm.
Anxiety and depression illnesses are for real. Although I’m not currently in a season of depression (and I continue to hope I don’t get stuck in it again) I still struggle with my anxiety issues some days. Yet, I have seen firsthand how my anxiety issue has deepened my walk with God all the more as I run to Him in prayer and meditate on His scripture when those heart-racing attacks arise in my day.
If you struggle with depression or anxiety, please reach out to someone for support and prayer. Just this week I had a woman struggling with postpartum depression ask for prayer in our church group. Simply by voicing this struggle, she gained the immediate support she needed through prayer and further encouragement as we continue to give support to her in whatever ways we can help. She mentioned how already she feels like a piece of that depression weight was lifted.
An interesting part to this story is all of the women in our group (including myself) have struggled (or are still struggling) with depression or anxiety illnesses. It was interesting because we could all relate to her in some way. It’s was also interesting how it proved these struggles are more common than originally thought. We were able to provide different ways that we each had found help us through those acute (or life-long) seasons with these illnesses. Amazing.
Let depression and anxiety refine you instead of define you. Let it be the way you seek to become more restored through God by getting the help you need in whatever way, shape, or form it may take.
Let God hold your hand through it.
Ask God to strengthen you by it.
Don’t forget you are loved no matter what lies your mind believes.
(For more resources or information, check out the National Anxiety and Awareness website!)