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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Do you struggle with anxiety and depression?

The Necessity of Hope

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?

Hope is born from suffering.Click To Tweet

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.

 

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