I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed…

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed. #hope #believed #despair

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage;”

Psalm 27:13-14 nasb

 

I sat down to finish writing something entirely different, but my fingers wouldn’t type.

So, I walked away.

I find myself in a familiar place today –

Afraid.

Too anxious to sit. Too scrambled to articulate sentences and think up pretty words.

I’m not myself – or rather, a previous form of myself.

I don’t like her very much and I struggle to give her grace when she shows up.

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed. #hope #believed #despair

I Would Have Lost Heart Unless I had Believed…

I’m battling a cold and tiredness seems to engulf me today.

My youngest is home sick, he woke up at three a.m. with a high fever and cough. After giving him medicine and a cool towel we sat together and watched some of the Olympics. My little guy drifted off sometime after four and I sat alone in the dark thinking.

I know better than to go deep when the night is heavy around me…

Whispers from the past pull me down

Lying in bed next to my sweet, sleeping cherub, I wander to a place years ago in the midst of postpartum depression, when my older son was sick. Back to a time when life seemed unbearable because I was having severe anxiety and obsessive, intrusive thoughts.

I was physically present but not so much emotionally and mentally, which left my memories blurred.

My boys are no longer little. Two of them are teenagers now and my tiniest—as my husband and I call him—turns nine next month. Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital?

The nagging voice in my mind whispers – Time is short... I shift uncomfortably in my bed because I am all too aware that I can never get those days back.

My breath catches as tears fall while I grieve the past.

It hurts.

The would of’s, should of’s and what if’s are there waiting—so are the fears that once swallowed me whole. None of them truly leave and if I rummage long enough, my emotions match my thoughts. 

I am left feeling helpless and anxious.

Today I am Tired

Memories have that effect on me.

I struggle when ghosts from my past trigger emotional reactions, especially in weak moments.

Today my body is fighting off sickness while my mind fights to stay present. When I’m tired I am more prone to anxiety and then depression always follows closely, seeking an opportunity to descend.

I’ve been waiting for a day like today. I knew it would come and I’d have to write about it…

 

We hear all the time how hard it is to be transparent.

Well, it really is… Hard.

Then the lies…

Who do you think you are to write about overcoming anxiety and depression? You’re still here…

You have nothing to offer…

You’ll never get over this…

The ripple of a stone thrown years ago in the lake of my life still reaches me, even today, on an average snow-covered February morning.

If only life were a sitcom, where we could laugh while all misfortune is neatly summed up in 30 minutes.

But it’s not.

Life is complicated, tangled and imperfect.

I’d love to tell you I am wrapped up in the prettiest paper and neatly tied with a bow. But this would be a lie because I am a work in progress. Bad days happen when you deal with anxiety and depression. And often for me, it’s the memories that set one in motion.

But God…

Making some soup for my boy, I spotted the most beautiful little bird amidst the snow outside my back window. He didn’t seem to mind the frozen ground, pecking and digging until he found a worm. Satisfied with his loot he flew off to the nearest tree and sang a song until another sweet melody responded.

Observing my feathered friend on this crisp winter morning, reminded again that God is faithful.

He was then, He is now.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed…”

I love the King James Version of this scripture – I would have lost heart unless I had believed…”

Oh, how I lose heart when I forget to believe! It is so tempting to look back and try to manipulate the events of our lives – although, the only thing altered is us – we are left defeated, sad and helpless by lingering too long in the unchangeable.

But God…

“I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

He reminds me of His faithful goodness IN the land of the living.

Right. Now.

When I dig through the icy memories at my feet I find Him there. The goodness of the Lord, even in the cold, even in the muck. When I do, I rise above the cold to sing a song of rejoicing for where I am AT this moment.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage;”

I texted my husband to ask for prayer and my sweet guy told me to look at the cross. “You don’t have to try harder, He did it all, just look up in faith to Him.”

Today I wait.

I wait for this to pass.

I fight to stay in the moment and remember that sometimes fighting doesn’t mean pulling out weapons and battling until you’re bloody. Occasionally it looks a lot like waiting. Allowing your heart to take courage by standing firm in the truth you already know. It takes a little time for our heart to thaw and take in courage.

Then my guy told me something else. “Don’t try… Just write,” he said.

So, I write

My little boy is snuggled in watching movies next to me, his fever warmed skin pressed against mine. I nuzzle my face into his sweaty head of hair as his blue eyes gaze up at Wreck-It-Ralph. All while remembering to breathe out a quiet thankfulness for this moment, time alone with my Tiny while my older two are at school.

Days like today take place, they just do.

Triggers come and sad, anxious days will occur. But just as the delicate bird sings his song amongst the wintry frost, I choose to believe I will see the goodness of the Lord IN the now.

Reminders of past victories and present grace.

Hope.

Won’t you join me today in thanking Him for the hard days as well as the good? They will come and that’s okay.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble… God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” Psalm 46: 1-2 &5 NASB

 

I’m linking up with some fantastic fellow bloggers this week – click on the links and join me over there!

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Holley Gerth

 

          

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The Spiritual Side of Anxiety (Part 4)

Overcoming anxiety and depression photo

***This is part 4 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here.

 

Many years and 3 kids later, I had made a reluctant agreement to do life with anxiety and fear. I also experienced postpartum and perinatal depression with all three of my boys.  (This is an entire topic close to my heart that I will cover separately in a future post.)

During the time I lived daily with severe anxiety and depression, I put an unnecessary importance on the spiritual side of my battle. Through a combination of half-truths and wrong focus, I gave far too much credit to things that had already been beaten.

I was a prisoner set free—cell door wide open, sitting sadly, defeated.

Overcoming anxiety and depression photo

How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Getting back to Basics

The human experience has 2 great enemies; sin and Satan. Both would see us annihilated and both have already been defeated.

I believe the majority of Christians struggle in their Christian walk because we have forgotten who we are in Jesus Christ. I learned first hand how crippling it can be to live life outside of the power I possessed.

The Adversary

Satan knows each of our weaknesses, he is an observer, after all, as evidenced in the scriptures. The things I experienced as a child contributed to the fear that had grown inside of me and I have no doubt my enemy played upon those circumstances.

 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”   1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

When I take my boys to the zoo, one of my favorite animals to see is the majestic lion. He sprawls himself high upon his rock and scans his surroundings with a predatory gaze. When he opens wide his toothsome mouth and thunders out the most magnificent roar, I am thankful for that sturdy layer of unbreakable glass.

Satan is referred to as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I often zeroed in on the devouring part and felt like a sitting duck. My battle with anxiety and depression made me feel as though I was already in his grasp.

“The truth will make you free…” John 8:32

You see, Satan is my adversary, this is true, but what I neglected to focus on was the fact that he had already been defeated.

There is the sturdiest and most protective glass between him and me;

My precious protector, Jesus.

We give the devil too much credit when we attribute all of our woes to him, just as we can often ignore the part he plays altogether. Both are his deceitful tricks—focus too much or not at all.

So, what do we do with our adversary in light of the truth?

  • Be alert and sober-minded (or calm and collected.) 1 Peter 5:8-9
  • Resist him. Resist= withstand, oppose, to set against. – Standing firm in our faith. *see James 4:7
  • Be aware of his scheming; being aware is not fighting with him. Even Jesus Himself simply rebuked him with truth and Satan fled. *see Matthew chapter 4

When we believe the truth of his defeat, we understand how little power he truly possesses. He rejoices when we believe we can not escape because he knows what we don’t in the moment, we’re already free.

His lies are like thunder, it’s loud and uncomfortable but cannot harm you.

A roar, no matter how booming, is, after all, only noise…

The Wrong Focus

Along with overcoming an inappropriate fear of my adversary, I had another hurdle that held me back from the freedom God intended for me.

Sin.

But maybe not in the way you think.

I saw in myself and other Christians an obsession with hunting down the sin in every situation. Yes, sin is ever-present because of the broken world we live in. Even so, it does not mean that every trial we go through is a direct sin issue.

In the heart of my struggles, I would periodically gain the courage to open up about what I went through but would often receive unhelpful advice from well-meaning Christians:

“Is there a sin you haven’t confessed?”

“The Bible says we’re not supposed to worry because it’s sinful.”

I was already dealing with so much guilt and confusion, that comments such as the aforementioned were extremely unhelpful. As Christians, we often end up unintentionally wounding those in pain with our words.

“How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” Job 19:2

I believe words have great power to either be instruments of hope and healing or weapons of hurt. How much more does a loving God intend for His words to be used for hope and healing?

Please do not misunderstand me, I was just as guilty as those that sat next to me on my ash pile. I battered the Bible over my own head as much, if not more than others. Every stone I had unturned elsewhere wasn’t answered, so, clearly, this must be a sin. The Bible became nothing more than a tool to “fix” me.

Why do we as Christians often use the Bible as a weapon rather than the love letter it was intended to be? I have found a tendency to slap the “sin sticker” on everything we can not understand.

Of course, this way of thinking is nothing new…

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 NASB

Maybe what you’re going through today is simply the birth of a beautiful work that God wants to display.

Our mental and emotional struggles typically have a spiritual side because we are intricately made of body, soul, and spirit, one is not separate from the other. However, it is usually not the only factor. As intellectual as we are, we are not God, and can not possibly know in what way one affects the other.

Correcting our Focus

An inordinate emphasis is put on sin when we forget we have victory over it. Are we perfect? No, not here, not yet. Do we sin when we have a wrong focus? Sure. But are we to do constant sin hunts and dwell on that? I don’t think so, because when Jesus Christ is our savior, we are new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I spent a very long time staring at the old, gazing deeply into the grave of where I had lain. Staring so long and hard, in fact, that I was missing the greatest love story ever told;

My very own redemption and transformation.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I was given power, the same power that had healed the sick and rose Jesus Christ from the grave.

Try Something New 

When I began switching out the fear of the defeated for the victory of the conqueror, I saw a change in myself. I implemented His words with the purpose He intended them for and when panic hit, I tried something new; I tried resting.

In Him.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted…”Psalm 46:10

I love the NASB version of this verse, “Cease striving…” To cease means to stop. Stop fighting. (I would suggest reading this entire chapter)

In practical ways, I began to rest and stop fighting. When fearful thoughts intruded my mind and panic hit, I began to breathe deeply and speak the truth that Jesus is my savior and He will fight for me.

Was it automatically easy? Nope. But I knew I had Him on my side. There was a power behind my resting. Slowly over time, I began seeing the freedom that was mine all along.


Want more encouragement to help you to overcome anxiety and depression?

Part One – http://carryonmyheart.com/with-anxiety-and-depression/

In Part Two – http://carryonmyheart.com/anxiety-and-depression-series-part-2-my-story/

Part Three – http://carryonmyheart.com/anxiety-and-depression-series-part-3-my-story/

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, #SittingAmongFriends and Coffee with friends Link-ups today

      

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Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 3) My Story

***This is part 3 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here and 2 here.

Coming face to face with my monster…

Everything I thought I knew about myself changed with my first panic attack.

I was newly married and in my early 20’s, working for a law firm as a legal assistant.  I was enthusiastic about my job, happily married, and had family and friends that I loved spending time with.

There wasn’t a logical reason for me to have a panic attack, however, as I would come to find out, fear and anxiety are rarely logical.

Panic Strikes

On a random night before work, I was in my closet picking out the next day’s outfit. I couldn’t tell you now what I was thinking of, besides the enormous decision of whether to wear pants or a skirt.

In an instant, the closet began to feel as though it was closing in on me and a creeping terror climbed up the back of my neck. There was literally nowhere to run from the fear that had completely ensnared me.

My brain had been put on hyper-speed, shooting me messages that were nearly incomprehensible, although, I felt them loud and clear;

I needed –

To run.

My mom.

Somewhere safe.

Feeling as though I could barely breathe while clutching at my chest, I left the closet to lie down on the bed. The sensation of being far away, as if I was outside of my body, overtook me. I was positive at that moment that I was going to die.

my “new normal”

I began to experience severe anxiety and panic attacks daily after this initial incident.

Baffled as to why this was happening, I dove inward, searching and questioning every thought and feeling I had.

As if the answer was in my own head.

Nope. Turns out that is not a fun place to be.

Remember those fears I had as a kid? They had matured right along with me and were more fearsome than ever.

Consequently, I was exhausted and at the end of my rope. I like to assume it’s how Daniel felt in the lion’s den, except the only lions staring me down were in my head and they didn’t have their mouths shut.

My life suddenly looked unrecognizable and in those next months, I had what I would consider a full break down.

Breaking apart

I couldn’t work.

Or eat.

I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t drive.

After about a month and a half, I lost roughly 40 pounds. I learned that applesauce and scrambled eggs came in handy when my stomach wouldn’t tolerate anything else, but sometimes those wouldn’t even stay down.

At one point early on in my journey through anxiety, I didn’t sleep for 3 days straight. Not your typical tossing and turning that can happen. I am talking eyes wide open, heart pounding, terror in the middle of the night, not sleeping. Night time was frightening because I was all alone with my fear.

My sweet husband would drive me to doctors appointments and care for me on his days off. When he worked he would leave me with my mom and grandmother during the day because I couldn’t be alone.

I was a mess… to put it lightly.

Digging Deeper Inward

I am naturally gregarious, an undeniable people person and a talker. I love my people and I love being with them.

But anxiety.

It morphed me into someone I no longer recognized and my world began to shrink. I rarely laughed anymore and life had taken on a strange color of sadness. I lost all interest in being with my friends and social situations terrified me.

The anxiety I experienced began to intermingle with depression. The longer I stayed in this intense place of panic, a hopelessness developed within me that became an unintended, integral part of who I was.

I spent days, weeks and months trying to cope, grasping for ordinary and forgetting what it looked like. I tried desperately to live my new normal, clumsily slipping along with many, many days of breakdowns.

What is wrong with me?

I had gone to every doctor imaginable, from a family doctor to a neurologist. Someone must have an answer and I was intent on finding it.

Yes, I was that hypochondriac patient.

During this time, I received a stern talking to from a nurse. After checking my vitals she placed her hands on either side of the sterile white paper where I was sitting. She leaned forward until her breath warmed my face and glared unsympathetically into my eyes, “There is nothing wrong with you, you’re completely healthy and fine and this is all in your head!”

Tears streaming down my face, I gazed back with earnest and stammered, “But I feel like maybe there is… something wrong, I mean.” Said with an almost child-like questioning, the words floated in the air as she briskly walked out of the room.

I scolded myself, feeling embarrassed by my lack of self-control and decided then to stop searching for some elusive answer that clearly didn’t exist.

After this, I began trying to reintegrate into my pre-anxiety world, all while still having panic attacks and spiraling down through depression.

I eventually lost my job because of my inability to fully concentrate, I was forgetting important details. Not to mention all of the time I was missing for sick days and doctors appointments. This caused even more depression since I felt like a complete failure at life.

What on Earth was wrong with me?

The worst part – no one seemed to have an answer.

Where was God?

Although I believed in Jesus as my savior when I was a young girl, God currently felt like a distant deity –  unhelpful and far too big to care what I was presently going through.

I was doing all of the “right things,” praying and reading my bible. So, the question remained, why was I still going through this and when would it end?

The more I heard that worrying was a sin the further I sunk into my pit. The thoughts I struggled with were horrific and overpowering. Surely, no other Christian could possibly have such thoughts. I came to the conclusion that I was a defective Christian, or worse yet, maybe I wasn’t one at all…

Shutting my mouth

The fear of my own mind overwhelmed me and led me to a place of despair. Sadly, I decided to no longer speak openly about what I suffered, for fear of what people would think.

During the many years of pain and silence that followed, I came to understand why people would take their own life. This feeling terrified me most of all. And from here, a belief system grew, coiling its way through my every thought, fed by numerous lies and fears, that took root deep within me.

The Enemy had me right where he wanted – alone in the dark, feeling helpless and hopelessly cornered.

Thankfully, the truth of Jesus burns brightest in the darkest of places…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, link-up today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

 

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Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 2) My Story

***This is part 2 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here. 

 

Anxiety is defined as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fears often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating and increased pulse rate) by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. Merriam Webster online dictionary

The very core of anxiety is found in the last sentence of the Merriam Webster’s definition – Self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.

Torn in 2 Directions

The Greek word Merimnao, found in several verses within the new testament of the Bible, including Philippians 4:6, be anxious for nothing – Has a meaning of being pulled apart.

Merimnao= part, as opposed to the whole; drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts.

Anxiety is most definitely a pulling in two different directions. It is standing on the tightrope between hope and panic and feeling that any moment I could fall into the latter. It is the overwhelming trepidation that says impending doom is near, all the while, the opposing voice of truth and sanity explains you’re fine.

Anxiety is a dividing, a pulling between the truth we know and our emotions that take over. Every day we choose between fear and faith, trust over worry and as the dictionary’s definition explains, it is self-doubt that fuels anxiety.

This is precisely where my story begins.

 

Anxiety

For a very long time, I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew something wasn’t right.

From some of my earliest memories, I was afraid. 

Several things terrified me as a girl, including heights, death and the dark. Many children have fears, however, mine loomed far larger than simple childhood apprehension. I worried obsessively about things that an eight-year-old shouldn’t have been concerned with.

I have vivid memories of sweating profusely as I cowered on the floor of our car, positive we were moments from death because we were driving over a high bridge.

As a young girl, I went through a phase where I was certain I was going to die because I was too skinny since I could see my ribs. Images of my body simply giving up and my heart stopping bombarded me. My mom would tell me to eat more if I was worried and explained I would be fine, but I struggled to believe her.

I also suffered from severe migraines as a child and into my teenage years. I have wondered now if they were partly due to the stress I endured from fear.

There was no practical reason for my phobias as a child, this was simply a part of who I was. Aside from my fearfulness, I was a happy child. My parents tried reassuring me when I was afraid that nothing bad was going to happen…

Until it did.

Where fear becomes reality

When I was ten, my oldest brother died in a car accident. He was 17, a senior in high school and he died only three months before his 18th birthday.

Gazing backward over the layers of time since his passing, I see now that he was just a baby, only two years older than my own son currently is. A life that had so many possibilities, cut short.

Losing my big brother exasperated my worries and made the fear I struggled with seem insurmountable.

At just ten years old, standing huddled in the street between our house and the neighbors, I heard the words coming from my dad’s shaky voice that would change our family forever. “There was an accident and your brother died.”  I had four brothers, so when he said “brother” I wasn’t sure who he was talking about. I looked over and saw James standing next to me sobbing, Robert, several feet behind my dad, face stained with tears. And there, next to my mom just a short distance behind us, my littlest brother, Daniel, oblivious to any crisis since he was six.

It was Paul Michael, my oldest brother, and my father’s namesake who was missing from the picture.

Dad was laughing as he spoke, which confused and upset me. I gazed upwards, seeing his dark-rimmed glasses with the sun just behind him peeking through the trees. Hearing unfamiliar noises slipping from between his lips, I realized then that his laughing was actually gut-wrenching sobs. I had never heard my father cry before and mistook it for laughing. An anguish I couldn’t comprehend passed from his lungs into the warm September air.

Having three children of my own, I can only imagine the grief my parents must have felt that day. They went from having five children to four in an instant.

Reality slapped me square in the face and I discovered my mortality in a very real way. The rest of my family, much to my dismay, was also quite mortal. I would spend much of my time worrying about them for years to come.

We spent the next several days in a haze as my mom and dad laid their oldest son to rest in a cemetery on a hill…far too soon.

And their only daughter became entangled with fear that would, unfortunately, follow her closely the rest of her life.

The painful reality of life and death

I became well acquainted with death at an early age and not just because of my brother. For the next several years my family would receive phone calls about deaths of people close to us, family and friends alike.

I had gone to more funerals than weddings by the time I was 20.

The harsh realities of life and death became apparent to me, and in turn, I feared the possibilities. The terrible feeling of impending doom was a constant in my mind.

Fear, it seemed, was something that was innately etched into my personality. Dealing with death at such a young age combined with my already fearful disposition left me vulnerable. Because I had never learned what to do with my fear and grief, I didn’t understand that there was an appropriate way to handle these emotions.

No, these deaths were not the cause of all of my anxieties. However, every circumstance in our lives has the capability to shape who we ultimately become.

I didn’t know this as a ten-year-old girl, but fear was shaping who I was becoming.

Coping

By the time I was older, I had developed coping mechanisms that kept me living a “normal” life. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings or what I went through in my head. I learned to shove, shove, shove.

Due to this, a perpetual cloud of worry hung over my head. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop… so to speak. Over time and as life marched on, this feeling began to build in the back of my mind.

I decided that if stayed just one step in front of the worry monster, I could outrun it.

Until the day it caught up with me…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, Betheeinspired, and  #TeaandWord link-ups today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

   

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