Anxiety is isolating. The worry separates you from reality. Since high school these feelings of fear, worry, anxiousness, and depression have been a daily presence in my heart and soul. When I was16 the depression started. I would stay up till all hours of the night overcome with anxiousness. I filled pages and pages of notebooks with scripture trying to take my thoughts captive. Trying. Failing. Pastors preached from the pulpit “Trust Jesus!” I went forward at altar call and confessed my sin of not trusting enough. Still the anxiety was there. My oh-so tolerant friends would get my “I can’t sleep” texts and respond “Cast your cares, Maggie.” So I did. Still no relief.
Same story in college. “Maggie, just stop,” my friends and teachers told me. But I couldn’t. No matter how much I prayed, how many tears I shed, how many verses I memorized, anxiety and worry hovered over me. I couldn’t get out of the dungeon. It literally felt like a deep, dark prison accompanied by nightmares, panic attacks, and social anxiety. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to seek help, so I confined myself to the darkness.
I was convinced this was soley a spiritual battle, one that I was miserably losing. I was always told depressed people were just really bad christians. They didn’t need a psychologist. That was the devil’s work. They just needed more faith. They needed to “let go and let God”. Obviously, I just wasn’t working hard enough, so I became more anxious and afraid of God. Afraid that he was punishing because I didn’t have it all together. It was a miserable and hopeless existence.
The thought that I could have an anxiety disorder had never crossed my mind. But when I had to undergo a psychological evaluation for a mission board we had applied to, the counselor suggested I get counseling for my anxiety as well as read a long list of books. Immediately I refused, embarrassed by the label of “crazy” I felt had been plastered on my forehead. The shame and guilt I had about my struggled expenotionally increased in that moment. I told my husband my fear of everyone finding out that I was crazy. Nobody I knew had ever struggled like this. I feared this new revelation would isolate me even more than it already had.
However, after talking with some wise people and doing the recommend reading, I started to became “ok” with it all, at least ok with the idea of it all. I came to learn anxiety disorder ran in my family and that my hyper-legalistic up bring had created additional anxiety. I began to feel hopeful for the first time in a while, despite remaining in my dungeon. God wasn’t punishing me because I didn’t believe enough, or trust Him enough. Was it a trial? Yes. But not soley spiritual one.
I didn’t, and still haven’t, sought out consistent professional counseling. I know it would probably be quite helpful, but I still struggle with the shame of the whole thing. I have talked to wise, non professional counselors, read countless books and prayed for relief from my continuing battle. Things are getting better. God’s peace is powerful enough to overcome any anxiety disorder if He chooses, but there is a time for working through things with a counselor/therapist and helping to correct thought patterns that are either in one’s DNA or a creation of events and circumstances. I pray for wisdom to know when my worry is a weakness of the flesh. and pray for protection when it all becomes to much. “The peace of God will guard your hears and minds in Christ Jesus.” He does guard from the spiritual warfare going on for my mind. There are still some nights I stay awake, anxious. I’m not over the whole thing. It still feels a big mess that I’m working through but always remembering there is no guilt or shame in Christ. I hope others who struggle can find hope in the Gospel and the courage to rise above the stigma of depression and anxiety.
These are just some of my thoughts and is no way a thorough or all encompassing dissertation on the topic of anxiety, worry, and depression. There are times when it is a spiritual battle alone, and other times when immediate medical intervention is necessary. This is part of my story, and it won’t look like anyone else’s. I want to tell you that Jesus is above it all, that there is peace, healing, and hope found ultimately in Him.