This is an issue that is very close to my heart, or should I say something I suffer with. Often in society and especially the Church there is a lack of awareness and understanding about this issue.
Anxiety happens to most of us in our lives at some point, but for some of us it can be a constant companion.
I have just come out of a bad spell of Anxiety and Depression, this is part of something I have been dealing with in my life for a few years, but I had signs and moments of this as a teenager.
There are some people who seem to think that me or people who are a Christian cannot suffer from these things.
I don't go around advertising my anxiety or depression, but it often ends up coming up in conversation, especially as I, or my husband, can end up sharing about the situation to explain other things such as our work / life balance that is necessary to get through the weeks. As it comes up, and I don't really enjoy talking about it, it sometimes takes a lot of courage to own the issue and converse with people about it, then I get told to hand it over to God. That's not as helpful as it sounds. They think I should not be depressed or be fearful but what is depression?
Clinical Depression is often said to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, this is like all illnesses, it is not something you can control, it's not something that you can get immunity from just because you’re a Christian.
The first thing to understand is that it is not a weakness, it doesn't make you any less of a person, it certainly doesn't make you less of a Christian either. This is however a trap of the depression and anxiety that you end up thinking this, but honestly you're strong, you're fighting day in and day out and not giving in.
I don’t know much of the scientific aspects of this, but as a sufferer then let me tell you this, you are not alone!
There are different ways of coping with these issues. The one that I find most helpful is to be there for others. Being a listening ear helps me with my own life journey.
I have a few different illnesses, and a lot of my friends know about, and this has been tough to cope with. I feel alone in my illness and depressed about my life. I used to be active and now any and every little thing I do drains me. Part of my depression is grieving for the active life that I had prior to these illnesses.
Most days I am OK, well the truth is most days I am good at covering my true feelings, but sometimes I break. I talk to God, but I also get mad and yell at him to make me better, but in His good time I know I will be better, I must learn to be patient and wait for God's timing.
I also have to remember the good things, which are all too quickly forgotten when we are struggle. I am blessed with a loving husband and three amazing children, we have a lovely home and we have food in our tummies. I am blessed! I find these things hard to see when I am having a hard time. At those times I look at myself and see my pain, I see the things I can't be for my children and husband and want to offer them to be free of me. I feel like a burden, as if everything I am going through is causing them pain just because I am in their life.
I have amazing friends too, that are close with each other but when my anxiety flares up, I seem to think that they don’t want me as I am a burden on them too. If you are a sufferer with anxiety and depression you probably know the fear of making arrangements only to cancel them at the last minute and feel like you let them down. You fear that, just maybe, the friendship is based more on them showing you pity than real love.
Obviously, I cannot speak on their behalf but knowing how kind and caring they are that is the last thing our friendship is based on.
I think the craziest things and I cannot control those thought spirals, like a boat being thrown around on the waves sometimes it is all you can do to stay on board! I can say the craziest and hurtful things when I am struggling lashing out with a mean tongue because those things in my head cause me so much emotional pain. I don’t mean it, I don’t plan to think and feel this way it just happens. For some this can also lead to thoughts of self-harm, suicide and very destructive behaviour either to make the body hurt the same way as the mind or to just get out of the mental trap, because after all, those people would be better off anyway if I were gone.
If you're like me this can be something you are ashamed of. As I said you may not want to talk about, but believe me its good to talk to someone. I still don’t want to go into all the details of my life, but honestly I am not going to be ashamed of something I cannot control.
For me I find comfort in music. People telling their story, their battle and how hope and comfort shines through. Many Christian artists are standing up and being real about these things that have affected them, or people they love, it opens up the conversation. Guvna B, Triple O, Trip Lee, Daughters of Davis, Philippa Hanna and many others are using the platforms that they have to stand up and admit difficulty and encourage those who have suffered in a similar way.
For me Fireflight's song "Stand Up" has been something I have enjoyed listening to lately, here are some of the lyrics;
"Look at all the lonely hearts
Shivering out in the dark
Hiding from the truth
Cover up the proof
Demons that I've tried to hide
Imprison me in my own lies
And all that I can do is cover up the proof
Don't be afraid to...
Stand up if you're broken
Stand up if you feel ashamed
You are not alone when you hurt this way
Stand up if you need love
This is not judgment day
You don't have to hide
There's no need to run
Everything will be okay"
Remember you are not alone.