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!

   

Now let’s link-up!

Grace&Truth-300x300

 

Do you struggle with anxiety and depression?

It’s normally assumed that a proper telling of a story should begin at the beginning. I suppose it only makes sense, we humans like chronological. The problem with the beginning, at least with my story, is that you don’t see the hope, not right away at least.

I’m sure if you’ve experienced any kind of trauma, you can relate. Our stories of brokenness don’t normally open with hope, do they? We tend to pull the curtain back only to find that turmoil, hurt and pain have the starring roles.

I want something else to have the starring role here.

with anxiety and depression

What do you do with anxiety and depression?

Over the weeks to come I’m sharing my journey of living with anxiety and depression. The good, the bad, the ugly and the in-between. I believe in bringing our stories into the light to share our bumps, bruises, and scars with one another. There is momentous value in the painful parts of our stories.

However, these days, I try to put the spotlight where it should’ve been all along. For that reason, I’m starting somewhere else.

I’m starting with HOPE.

If you glean only one thing from our time together, I want it to be hope.  I believe that hope is the single greatest conqueror over fear.

If there is one emotion intrinsic to anxiety and depression, it is hopelessness. It feels like a ride that you desperately want to get off of but can’t figure out how. Before you have even begun you already feel defeated. This is where anxiety and depression thrive, in the darkness of “I can’t” and “this will never go away.”

I’d love for you to try to make a conscious commitment to walk away from that kind of thinking. I’m not implying that you stop feeling or telling you that by thinking positively all your problems will dissolve.

I’m asking you to make room for something else – make room for hope.

The lies in your head will tell you that you are alone, that you are the only one that is beyond help. Those same lies whisper that there is no hope for you. It is just simply not true.

My friend, I want you to grab hold of one truth before we even begin talking about the specifics of anxiety and depression.

Hope is a necessity for healing and for change.

There is hope. 

For everyone. 

Meeting the God of Hope

There was a time I truly believed I was the only person in the world that couldn’t be helped. I really believe that if I can overcome daily panic, anxiety, and depression, anyone can. I realize that is an audacious statement to make, but we have a truly amazing God.

The comfort and hope I have gained are found in a person that just happens to have hope in His name.

The God of hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

He is the God of hope and our hopelessness and brokenness are His specialties.

He’s not the God of “I really, really, really hope that this happens.” No, it’s a different kind of hope. In this verse, the word hope means a joyful and confident expectation. Do you see the difference? He’s not a cross-your-fingers and wishes kind of God. He is a God that we can have complete confidence in.

A God we can hope in.

My prayer for you, my dear reader, is that you will come to trust the God of hope with your emotions, greatest fears and biggest doubts. He’s big enough to take it.

No matter what you’ve been through or how long you have gone through it, there is always hope. 

I pray also, that you find this blog and thereby find a safe place of “me too.” Even if you do not experience anxiety or depression, I am fairly confident we all know someone who does – and really, everyone will most likely deal with these emotions at some point in their lives. My desire is that you find some valuable information to help in the fight against fear for yourself or someone you love.

Maybe, just maybe, you can walk away with a little more hope.

There is a  God that is so much bigger than our fears. He is the God of hope.

Where to begin to combat anxiety and depression

I can say without hesitation, you didn’t get here overnight, therefore, you are not going to do one thing that suddenly changes it all.

When I was in the thick of anxiety and depression I found myself searching for a big solution. When really, it was a whole lot of little things that lead to the big change I had been grasping for.

Here are a few things you can do today to start turning the tide:

  • Begin with hope and move forward from there. Make a choice to believe every day that things can change, you can change. You are not beyond help.
  • Speak Truth. In the really hard moments of anxiety and (or) depression, your brain is going to be screaming that you can’t get out of this. You have been believing the lie that you just can’t. These lies have become ingrained in your mind and have turned into a belief system.

Find scripture or other truth that specifically combats the lies you are believing, write them down, memorize them and speak them to yourself. Plain and simple, replace the lie with the truth. (I’ll talk more about this in later posts.)

No, it’s not a magic wand. Yes, it takes time and effort on your part. But truth kills lies. Speak the truth and you will see hope increase.

  • Be okay with where you are. Right. Now. Yes, we all want to be better, do better, feel better Right. Now. But sometimes it starts with being ok where you are in this moment. Give yourself permission to be anxious. Let it be okay for you to feel the depression. You were made with emotions, God-given emotions. Your emotions are not the bad guy. Be okay with allowing yourself time and looking under the hood to figure out what needs a tune-up… You are a complex, unique, remarkable, one-of-a-kind individual. God made you that way. Working out the kinks will take a little time, and yes, a little hurt along the way.

And that is Okay. You know why?

Because hope comes from suffering.

What do you do with anxiety and depression?

Every day you show up, equipped with truth, believing there is hope and allowing yourself to be where you are – when you persevere you are building up your reservoir of hope.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

There is no shame in hoping.

Find hope. Believe that there is hope. You were not meant to walk this life crippled with panic, fear, and sadness. I promise.

He promises.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” …Jesus   John 10:1


A necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a professional with letters after my name. I am someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. Read about me here. I may have life experience and insight… But I would suggest you seek professional help if you feel you need it.

***If you came upon this site and are not sure about this whole Jesus thing, let me just say, welcome! I hope you’ll stick around and maybe enter the conversation about Him and who He claims to be.

 

Join me over at

Grace&Truth-300x300

What does real love look like?

I’ve been sick this week and completely useless.

It’s no fun being sick around the holidays, so much to do and no energy to do it. Thank God for Amazon.

And my husband…

Every time I’m sick he takes such good care of me. He makes sure I have all the medicine I need and am totally comfortable. He must’ve gone to the store 50 different times because of my ever-changing mood for food and drink. And, he even drove halfway across town to get me my favorite soup.

Also, he allows me to rest and he picks up the slack around the house and takes care of our kid’s needs. I am truly blessed because of him.

My husband’s response to me being completely laid up and useless during one of the busiest weeks out of the year has got me to thinking.

What does real love look like?

Is it really just 3 little words with an emoji attached to it?

Or is there action behind this word that is shaded in various hues of pinks and reds?

In our day and age “I love you’s” are said daily without a second thought and are slathered all over social media. While sometimes this can be the only thing that can be done or said in a moment, I can’t help but think it can feel a bit vacant. When it’s thrown around so impulsively it begins to feel void of any commitment and true substance.

Maybe loving isn’t always as easy as we like to think it is. Perhaps, at times it takes a little more work than we would like to think.

What if during this season of giving, we take a step back some 2,000 years ago and follow the man from Nazareth and consider what real love looks like.

For God so loved that He gave…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

This is more than likely the most well-known verse in the entire bible and I believe it holds an equation as simple as 1 + 1=2.

God loved = He gave.

Real love gives.

God gave His Son to die for us which led to life for all mankind. He knew we had a need and out of love He gave.

This gift that He gave was given solely out of Agape. This is the word used to describe the love that is from God and specifically IS God.

Agape love is shown by what it does. It is not an emotionally based love, it is not based on anything the recipient has done. Agape is faithfulness and commitment.

Agape is God’s love for us because it is who He is.

Real Love has a name

Because God IS love, (1 John 4:8) He is the ultimate model of who we are to follow when we need to see how to do love.

God gave Love…He gave Jesus.

We love, we give. There just simply can not be one without the other.

Real Love Gives

We have forgotten in our day and age that there is a responsibility that comes with loving someone. It is a weighty duty.

And a great privilege.

Love doesn’t mean we are fulfilled or even necessarily happy at the moment.

A lot of the time love isn’t even about us or our needs.

Most of the time, it is others focused.

Truly loving another comes with sacrifice on our part. It may even mean going against what we feel in the moment to give another love.

…”My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39

I think we like to believe love shouldn’t cost us anything.

But sometimes love doesn’t look the way we think it should, sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable.

Sacrificial, even.

Love gives

an apology.

truth.

time.

a hug.

a meal.

a sacrifice.

Friend, don’t be fooled by the shallow counterfeits out there. There are many. We can fall for the shiny and the easy, thinking it’s the road to real love because it gives us butterflies. All the while forgetting that true Love is stained with blood and wears a crown of thorns.

The ultimate gift we could ever receive was given just over 2,000 years ago. It was the utmost act of love and sacrifice at once.

It was certainly not what everyone expected… or even wanted.

But it was exactly what was needed.

This is real love.

Love came and entered our little ball of dirt and turned everything upside down for the people of that time, and if we allow Him to, He will continue to do so today.

Because real love never stops giving.

May we be reminded this Christmas, and all the year-long, that real love gives.


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Learning How to Talk to God

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

Learning how to talk to God

how to talk God

Listening has never been my strong suit.

On the contrary, talking is second nature to me, as evidenced by a letter my mom wrote to my grandmother when I was about 4.

She wrote, “Susan is the loudest little girl, she runs all around the house just talking and yelling.” “I think she just loves the sound of her own voice!”

Ouch, mom. * Eyes rolling with head lowered in embarrassment.

Sadly, not much has changed. Anyone that knows me, knows that I like to talk. A lot.

It’s just how I process. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a difficult place to be when listening is a far better, less selfish skill to have.

Thankfully, in the Bible, I find myself in good company, although, it’s not the ones with outstanding character qualities and endless amounts of faith that I relate to.

Usually, it’s the misfits.

How to Talk to God

The listener and the talker

If you’ve heard anything about Mary and Martha from Bethany, I’m going to bet it’s been praise for Mary and a steady shaking of the index finger at Martha for being consumed with busyness.

When we stumble upon Mary and Martha in the book of Luke, we see Mary seated and listening and Martha serving.

“…She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me…” Luke 10:38-42

“The Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part..” Luke 10:41-42 NASB

Oh, that Martha… Complaining, fretting…

I’ve always had a soft spot for this poor girl who was busy serving and looking for help. Instead of validation, she was reprimanded and then used as an example for the next 2,000 years of how not to do life.

I’m thinking this wasn’t her ultimate goal.

Yes, Martha was serving, she was fretting. But do you know what else she was doing while Mary was sitting?

She was talking…To Jesus.

The message I have always heard about these two sisters was this, be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. End.Of.Story.

Because I have a penchant for the underdog or possibly because I feel like maybe she got a bad wrap, I started paying a little more attention to Martha than Mary.

And wouldn’t you know it? My perspective changed a bit. I felt like I was standing on the other side of the room getting an entirely different view of Martha as a person.

What has resonated the most with me is that she came to Jesus with this assumed grievance without fear or hesitation. She clearly was used to talking with Him and felt comfortable doing it. You’ll also notice, Jesus listened and was genuinely concerned with how anxious she was.

I became aware of how Martha was speaking to Jesus rather than how wrong she was. I began checking all of the other places in scripture where Martha was mentioned and sure enough, you guessed it.

She was talking.

“..a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.. Luke 10:38

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” John 11:24

Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” John 11:39

Carrying our burdens to Him

Over in the 11th chapter of John, we find the siblings again. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died and was buried. They were grieving and upon hearing Jesus was coming, Martha went to meet Him and Mary stayed back. (literally translated “was sitting.”)

I don’t know why Mary stayed back but I love that Martha went. Even in their grief, we see their personalities.

Mary sat quietly.

Martha grieved and processed in the only way she knew how,

She talked… she went.

She meets her Lord on the road, eyes, red with pain from weeping hot tears, brow furrowed at the seriousness of her words as she looks up into His eyes and speaks.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.” John 11:21, 22 NASB

Jesus states that He is the resurrection and the life and asks her if she believes this.

“She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” John 11:27 NASB  

This statement of faith is beautiful. Martha proclaims God’s victory while choking back tears at the very present loss of her brother. It’s incredible to me that she was brutally honest with Him, both in her confession of faith and in her expectation of Him. She carried her burden of grief and disappointment and in the same breath confessed Jesus as the Messiah.

None of us are “less than”

Some of us naturally talk more than others and I’ve finally decided that maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.

Of course, I’m certainly not advocating to go around saying whatever you want, there is discretion. But, what if sometimes we can be a voice for those who can’t find theirs?

I have felt “less than” because I am innately a talker. I wonder if Martha ever felt this way.

I’m thankful for her, this woman who walked alongside Jesus thousands of years ago and welcomed Him into her home. I am thankful for her words to our savior and the example she set for how easily we can speak to Him.

I have a new perspective on the whole Mary/Martha paradigm.

Mostly because of this;

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus.” John 11:5

Just to clarify, what it doesn’t say:

“Jesus loved Mary and Lazarus and, oh boy, He sure would’ve loved Martha if she would’ve just shut her mouth every once in a while and sat at His feet.”

Nope. It says He loved Martha.

He loved them all. Equally.

Warts and all.

Talker. Listener. Sick

There is value in our talking.

We as Christians have raised Mary to this place of superiority because she was a listener. Jesus praised Mary but didn’t tell Martha not to talk to Him about her concerns.

By putting the sole focus on Mary’s listening, maybe we’ve missed the beauty of Martha’s brazen confidence to speak to her Lord.

I believe we can learn just as much from how Martha spoke to Jesus as we can from Mary’s actions.

Talk to Jesus

Martha brought her concerns and carried her burdens to the One that could correct her thinking, and in exchange, Jesus engaged in conversation with her. He listened to her, even when she may not have been in the right.

It’s not our job to pretty up what we bring to Him. We’re just supposed to bring it.

He can do the prettying up thing all by Himself.

Even though I’m a talker, I’ve been afraid in the past to speak openly to Him. Like He didn’t already know about the bitterness, sadness, fear or jealousy I had in my heart.

We don’t need to be afraid to speak to Him, He already knows what we’re going to say anyway.

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord you know it all. Psalm 139:4  NASB

Whatever crazy thing you’re thinking or feeling, just say it. He’s not going to shy away from your ugly, your mistakes, your missteps, and assumptions.

He listens and if needed, kindly speaks back, even if it’s with correction.

He did that for Martha and I believe it changed her.

I believe it will change us too.

This post is also shared over at the Salt & Light link-up and at Tune in Thursdays, Come on over and read some other fantastic posts!