A couple days ago I had a mind to sit down tonight and write this entry. Earlier today I was on Facebook and two different people put up posts regarding anxiety. Coincidence….ha! I think not. But seriously, I’m seeing anxiety and depression come on the rise more and more in our society, both in the secular society and in Christian society. As someone who minored in Psychology in college, worked at a Psychologist office my first year out of college, and has been in ministry the last 10 years of my life, I have met my fair share of people who struggle with these things. Not to mention the fact that I myself struggle with them…which is why God has lead me to write this.
This past Friday I had my third major panic attack in the last nine months. For those who have never seen or experienced a panic or anxiety attack, they can manifest themselves in many different ways and anything can trigger them and nothing can trigger them. It depends on the individual. As with all mental illnesses, there is a range of causes, of intensity, and of symptoms. For me, mine manifest themselves in uncontrollable sobbing, hyperventilating, and my nerves go haywire. I experience tremors in my upper body in which cause my neck, shoulders, arms, and hands to tick, twinge, convulse, shake, whatever you want to call it. I recognize what’s happening to me in the moment but am unable to do anything to stop it. Then I feel shame and fear because my body starts acting someone who is mentally handicap, in a wheelchair, with no motor skills and that starts another fit all over again. I go into detail because people say they have panic or anxiety attacks but unless you’ve seen or had one, most people don’t know what it means….and how scary they can be for the person having them.
For me, I have found that my panic/anxiety attacks come as a result of being stressed out or overwhelmed. I get anxious about situations sometimes but as a whole it’s not something that is a day to day battle like so many other people. I would liken to someone having exercise induced asthma as opposed to regular asthma. You still have asthma but only under specific circumstances and conditions. My anxiety only manifests itself under specific conditions. The more or heavier the conditions, the worse it gets until I have an all out breakdown.
This most recent one this past Friday started with me realizing that I had hit a state of depression. The entire previous week I wasn’t motivated to do anything. I shutter to admit my thoughts went to a place of even questioning the point of life…my life. Then Friday I finally realized I was in fact depressed. I called my mom while I was at work and told her I thought I was depressed but had absolutely NO idea why. Her first question to me…” What’s your time with the Lord look like?” My hesitation said it all. We talked a little more and then I took the rest of the afternoon off. I drove straight from work to a park where I sat for 2 hours trying to journal my prayers and find some peace with God. I had so many questions and feelings going on in my heart but didn’t know where to start. Then the tears came. I left and drove home where I sat down and proceeded to just cry. I had no idea why or where the emotions were coming from (yes, I know men, we gals do this often;] ). I had been texting 2 of my best friends who live next door and as one of them walked in my door…I had just begun to lose it. After she called my mom to come, and the other friend came over I was finally able to calm down enough to start trying to process why this was happening. The answer was clear though.
I have been in church since I was 3 (I’m 26 now). I have a Bible/ministry degree from the largest Evangelical Christian University in the world. I’ve been in ministry for 10 years. I’ve been walking with God since I was 5 (though my walk became serious at 16). I should know better. But I am human. As Christians it is easy to coast on the fumes when it comes to our walk with God. We know the answers. We’ve heard and read the stories. God has proven himself in our lives so we know who he is. But that is not enough. We cannot live this life on our own strength. Each new day presents its own challenges which means we need a daily fill up of strength. Not to mention the fact that God deeply desires an INTIMATE relationship with his children. If I go a year without talking to my parents it doesn’t change my relation TO them, I’m still their daughter. It does however change my relationship WITH them; there’s isn’t much of one. I still know them. I know their character, but I don’t have an active and intimate relationship. The same works with God.
For me, my anxiety came/comes from not being plugged into God and allowing the pressures of life to overwhelm me. Many of which, are pressures I’ve put on myself. I want to do so much in ministry and for people while in this single season of my life; things many other people who are married or have families can’t. Therefore I over commit myself and neglect to take care of my mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. This leads me feeling exhausted, feeling like I am no ones priority, that I have no one to take care of me, and that no one is pouring into me. While these may even be true, the enemy lies and allows me to feel alienated. The truth is that God is waiting to give me strength and energy, I am HIS priority, He has and always will take care of me, and His cup is overflowing to pour into me.
So now what? Well, God has had me enter into a season of cutting out pretty much everything I was committed to so I can reset the clock and start over. Which, don’t get me wrong, was a very difficult thing to do (if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be in this position anyways). But I need to start over and get back into a rhythm of spending time with Him daily. I desire to know God intimately again but I know this will take time. And seeing as this post is only 4 days after my little episode, I’ve only just begun.
Now, hear me. I am NOT saying that everyone who has anxiety or depression just needs more Jesus. I am infuriated at the Church’s ignorance regarding this position. Anxiety and Depression in their more extreme cases are more than just spiritual battles. That’s part of it, but there is so much more to it. I am a CHAMPION for counseling as I’ve done many forms of it in my life. If you struggle with any form of mental illness, talk to someone about it. There is NO SHAME in struggling with them or in getting help. There is also NO SHAME in taking medication for the people who need to. Mental disorders, illnesses, ailments, whatever you want to call them do have chemical and hormonal reactions that happen in the brain. It’s physical in that respect. If you think you might need medication, talk to your doctor to find the right balance for you.
We who struggle with these things so often don’t want to talk about this because we feel weak or shame or embarrassment. Or sometimes…honestly, we don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to explain it to people. But we need to. If you know someone who has these battles, be patient with them. Love them the way God does. Encourage them to get the right kind of help. If you struggle yourself, get professional help. Find that one friend that you can open up to and share to. Get plugged into a church and bible study that will support you.
And for ALL of us (believers)…we have got stay rooted with the Lord. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by life, to get busy, to be distracted, to coast on the fumes, to do ministry, to do church, to do outreach, to preach, to…insert verb… but we HAVE to be spending time…every day…with God. Be in the Word. Pray. Listen to the Holy Spirit and for the voice of Jesus. And it’s not just for strength to get through the day, but also to really know who God is and to experience as much of His presence this side of heaven that he’ll allow us to. It is because He is a sweet fragrance. He is Worthy. He is Holy. He is Good. He is your Friend. He is waiting. He is….