How I Naturally Cope with Depression & Anxiety. Part 1.
I wrote this series months ago, and just haven’t had the courage to hit publish. Fear, worry, the same anxiety I speak about in these posts has held me back. I read these words and I decide that it was time to show forth this light in order to allow the glory of the Lord to be seen. Here is my offering.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people suffer from depression and major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27) The ADAA reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. They also state that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. (source)
I am among those groups, and for the first time, I am speaking out as I journey on my Road to a Miracle.
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I always thought anxiety was a part of who I was; part of my makeup. I was a nervous, “stressed-out,” fearful, and worried teen and adult. As an Enneagram Type One, I thought, “That’s just me. This is how God created me.” How wrong I was. Depression usually accompanied anxiety through High School, College, and into my adult life. I’d have some highs and very many lows. I’d lead worship, direct in my theater, laugh, sing, dance, and all-around appear to have it all going for me. But when I’d get home, I’d crash, and the depression and anxiety would overtake me.
Unfortunately, I was in the majority that never sought help. I wasn’t against seeking help. I just never thought anything was wrong. Again, I thought this is just who I was.
In 2018, however, things went from bad to worse. I began having thoughts that my family, my son, and my husband would be better off without me. I started thinking that I had no purpose and that there was no sense of living. I had lost all sense of hope.
Depression and anxiety have such stigmas attached to them, don’t they? Especially in Christian circles. When many think of depression, some see the picture a lady in her bathrobe who can’t move off the couch gorging herself with chocolate. Or how about The White Rabbit from Alice and Wonderland? He is the picture of anxiety gone out of control, right? These stigmas have really been a detriment to those of us dealing with these mental disorders.
Like many women dealing with depression and/or anxiety, we don’t fit these stigmas. Through all of my years dealing with these disorders, I was teaching music in the public schools, serving in church ministry, and was the President of the non-profit community theater I started. I was running this website, homeschooling my son, and leading worship. I was teaching the Bible all while walking through this very dark night of the soul.
“Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts? What kind of Christian are you?”
(Yes, I’ve heard that before.)
And to any judgmental critics reading this, I would say . . . Have you read your Bible?
THE BIBLE AND DEPRESSION
Let’s look at depression first. The word depression isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Instead, you will find words that describe depression like downcast, grief, brokenhearted, troubled, mourning, and miserable.
You cannot read through David’s history in the Old Testament including the Psalms and think that he was riding on unicorns and rainbows. The man suffered greatly with seasons of depression. In 2 Samuel 12:15-23 and 2 Samuel 18:33 we see his grief over losing his two sons. In 1 Samuel 21, we read that David is on the run from Saul and has to pretend to be a madman to save his life.
Just read Psalm 38:1-4. Here David says,
“O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.”
Or how about Psalm 69:1-3 when David writes,
“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”
David most certainly dealt with seasons of anxiety and depression, but he kept his hope and faith in God to deliver him over anything he was up against.
ELIJAH prayed in 1 Kings 19:4 that God would take his life away from him. This is the man who stood on the top of Mount Carmel and defied the prophets of Baal. After that incredible stand against evil -after that stress-filled season - even after God showed up like He always does, Elijah sunk down deep.
“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
Job suffered great loss and devastation, and even physical illness that had him pen words such as those found in Job 3:11 or Job 10:1. Have you ever felt this way? I know I have.
“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?”
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”
Jesus? Yes. Even Jesus was anguished over what lay before Him.
Here’s an interesting note, earlier we mentioned Psalm 69. It is one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament because it is applied to Jesus’ ministry, sufferings, and His dealings with His enemies. If Jesus was acquitted with our sorrows and griefs (Isaiah 53:3), I believe even He had moments of feeling downcast.
THE BIBLE AND ANXIETY
What does the Bible have to say about anxiety? The word is found eight times in the English Standard Version. Although it doesn’t appear in the King James, words like trouble, heaviness, distress, and cares are all used as synonyms.
In Genesis 32-33, Jacob fears his brother Esau. After cheating Esau from his birthright, and escaping Esau’s anger, Jacob now returns home and has to face his brother for the first time. This brought great anxiety to Jacob.
Mordecai and the Jewish people in Esther 4 are fearing for their lives after the terrible decree from Mordecai and Haman. Esther 4:1 and 3 says,
“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry . . . And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25-34 deals with the anxiety and worry for tomorrow.
Matthew 6:25,33-34 says,
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Paul’s extortion in Philippians 4 is one of the most quoted passages of Scripture of the Bible. If people weren’t anxious and full of anxious thoughts, why would the Holy Spirit inspire this passage?
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Folks with depression and anxiety are often judged. “It’s all in your head - Just be happy - Just snap out of it - You have nothing to be sad about. You’re life is amazing. Why are you worried all the time? Just relax.” These phrases are ones that we often here and bring an air of superiority with them. Don’t be that person. Don’t be the judgmental type. Read your Bible and see what the Scriptures say and be sure to treat those suffering with mental disorders with love and grace.
The Bible is full of men and women who dealt with anxiety and depression. It is also full of hope, strength, and encouragement. In those very dark nights, I would go to The Word, and inside I would find peace for the moment. I would worship and feel His hand on my mind and my heart. But something was still wrong. I couldn’t break it, and I couldn’t break through.
In 2018, I decided that I needed to seek help. I realized, through reading the Scriptures and spending some one-on-one time with Jesus, that this is not how I was created. I read in that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that even in my darkness, God was there.
“Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:11-14
THE DIAGNOSIS & THE PRESCRIPTION.
I went to my Doctor in the Winter of 2018 and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PMDD. It was a lot to take in that day. On the one hand, I was relieved. “THIS ISN’T WHO I AM! I actually have something wrong with me.'“ And on the other hand, I was worried that I’d never be “fixed.”
Going in, I didn’t know much about treatment, and so I trusted the advice of my Doctor. He put me on Effexor at first. That drug only worsened the suicidal thoughts. I cannot go into the full detail of how difficult it was transitioning off of one medication onto another. My husband and my sister were my lifelines. They stayed with me around the clock during those moments when I thought I just wouldn’t make it.
Within two weeks, he took me off of Effexor and transitioned me to Prozac and Wellbutrin, two common drugs to help "fix" everything. I left feeling “hopeful” that maybe these would work.
My Doctor also recommended a therapist. I found a Christian therapist that brought everything through the Word of God. She was great for a while until she decided to drop three-quarters of her patients (me included) to promote her book! Don’t get me started!!!
After two other therapists, I decided this wasn’t for me.
THE PROZAC POOP-OUT
I was on these medications for nine months. They worked well for a month or two, but after that, each month I had to go up a dose because I was getting worse. The medications weren’t working like they were supposed to. I felt like I was going down a dark spiral staircase. I was trying to get out, but the stairs just kept going further down and getting darker and darker.
When an antidepressant no longer works as well for someone as it did when they first started taking it, that person is said to have developed a tolerance for the drug. Often, doctors call it the “Prozac poop out.” The medical term for decreased effectiveness of a medication is tachyphylaxis. (source)
The medications didn’t work. They’ve actually made me worse. The doctors hadn't given me anything else to go off of except to switch up the medicines. After the Effexor episode, I knew I didn’t want to do that again.
My husband and I sat for a week in prayer asking the Lord for help. I knew that in His word it says He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) What did this mean for my situation? What was the Lord trying to show me?
In Part 2, I will share with you the steps I took as I got off all medication, and learned to find healing naturally through God’s Word.
I just want to encourage you today. If you are going through this type of dark night, there is hope. His name is Jesus. My Friends, I’ve tried everything. I did everything the doctors told me to do. The only true healing I found was in the Word of God. You can read the details about the next part of the journey HERE.
I SHARE THIS WITH ALL MY HEART
in hoping that my story will shine a light onto yours.
E R I K A