I am walking through a very hard season of my life and as a result, I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety. There isn’t just one culprit, it is just a myriad of things that are testing my faith and trust in GOD at the moment. Although both my depression and anxiety aren’t chronic, sometimes they can be debilitating and devastating. See, I battle with PTSD. While this condition hasn’t stopped me from living a fully joyful and enriched life, sometimes it is triggered by external factors and I find myself back at this desolate place.
Let me explain my PTSD. I grew up in a very dysfunctional household with an abusive and ever-unfaithful stepfather and a perpetually depressed and emotionally absent mother. Childhood was painful. I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave as far away as I possibly could, and So I did. I got married at the tender age of 19 to a guy 17 years my senior, who turned out to be extremely abusive once he brought me to America. Any kind of abuse you can imagine, I endured: physical, verbal, emotional etc. After I met my First Love and accepted JESUS as my Lord and Savior, my life drastically changed. I was made anew and had new life. I was given a sweet, gentle man as a husband, but the trials continued. We lost our first child together during my second trimester of pregnancy and once again, my heart was so broken I was sure it couldn’t possibly be repaired. I know what raw and deep desperation looks like. I was there. I know what true loneliness is. I know what it is like to feel like I was a mistake. I know what it feels like desiring death so badly because even that is better than living this life.
From a worldly perspective, I had little to no chance of turning out “OK”. Oftentimes, people who share similar stories like mine end up struggling with some sort of addiction, stuck in a never-ending rut, or have such broken identities or skewed sense of worth that they end up in even worse situations. GOD’s redemptive story for me was a different one and I literally lived a supernatural rescue from my One Love. I am well aware of where I could’ve ended up, and I’m eternally grateful for where I am instead. Nonetheless, this past did happen and left deep, deep scars that I know are currently being healed. Sometimes, however, whenever something feels remotely similar to any experience lived during those years, that pain comes back… sometimes in full force. Over the past several months, I have been walking with that pain. It hasn’t been easy on me nor on my family. It breaks my heart to see how this pain that haunts me is now affecting my family. Something needs to be done. I have decided that it is time I had a sit down with myself to come up with a plan because, even though I am in an arid place, this shall not be my permanent address. So, this post is mostly written to myself. It is a note that I can come back to whenever I am being paralyzed by pain. It is my declaration, my commitment to myself and my GOD to be a willing participant in my healing and recovery process and not just a passing spectator, waiting for HIM to do the whole of the job.
I share this fully knowing that maybe someone out there who is dealing with chronic depression or anxiety may stumble upon this note and feel like what I have outlined here doesn’t work, and that I don’t understand where you are or the countless times you’ve tried similar approaches to heal and get better. My intention is never to make you feel worse, ashamed, embarrassed or further broken. I hurt for you. Chronic depression is a bigger and harder monster to handle and my note may seem like a band-aid cure over a broken bone. I pray for you loved one, and please know that GOD is with you right there where you are. HE has not left you nor forsaken you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
You are suffering greatly right now. Things seem to be too much to bear. But you know that this isn’t the way they will always be, and while it is OK to be broken for a minute, eventually you have to do something about it. Remember Oscar Wilde’s ” everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end”.
It is time to FOCUS. Focus your eyes on JESUS, the beginning and the beginner of your faith, and the One Who perfects it, and take the next step. Here is a list of tiny baby steps to take and focus on to recover and heal. Each step will not work isolated, You must exercise discipline and be intentional with each and every one of them. and so:
- Give The First Of Your Day To GOD
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock. Psalm 40:1-2
He is your source, your shield, your horn. You are strong in His strength when you are weak, and He is your rescue. Don’t depart from Him. Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not in what you see and feel right now. You may feel like He is absent, that you are talking to a wall and prayer time may seem dry and pointless. Don’t give up in your pursue of HIM. Remember, this is only a season. Life is dynamic, it is constantly changing but HE isn’t. Maximize your war binder, where you will write your prayer and the answers that will surely come, your daily gratitude and your daily focus commitment. Remember that when you don’t write your prayers, you tend to drift off, and next thing you know you’re making your grocery list during your prayer time. find new ideas and inspiration for it at www.liveoatsboutique.com they have great resources for prayer and war time.
Review your focus commitment 2 or 3 times a day.
- Take Care Of Yourself
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I know you feel like doing nothing at all, but that is just making things worse. GET UP! go for a walk, get on that treadmill or elliptical. Get your heart pumping. Feel it. Sometimes the enemy likes to keep you sedentary and feeling sorry for yourself, for how you look like, for those extra pounds. Get moving not only will lift your spirit right now, it is helping you achieve the goal to feel more energetic, and eventually, feel more comfortable in your own skin. It will not happen magically. Get moving.
Take those vitamins. It is a scientific fact that a lack of Vitamins B, D and/or Omegas can negatively affect the mood. Help your body’s chemistry. Take your vitamins.
See the doctor. You just stopped breastfeeding a month or so ago, and your hormones could be all over the place. Or you may be dealing with other issues that can be resolved medically. Either way, see a doctor. You want to make sure that you are physically healthy while pursuing mental and emotional health.
Continue seeking counseling. Opening up to someone about your wounds and traumas isn’t easy. But is healthy, and necessary for healing. It is also a great way to exercise humility because let’s be real, exposing yourself in such a raw way is humbling, and accepting to be led in ways you may not feel comfortable exploring brings you more awareness of your sense of self versus your sense of GOD in your life.
Prioritize healthy sleep and eating habits. Ok, so Elizabeth isn’t sleeping through the night yet, but you do choose to watch TV or check FaceBook until very late in the evenings, resulting in an average of 5 hours of good sleep most nights. Then, you are so frazzled with all the things you “need to do” that you skip meals frequently, and when you realize how hungry you are, you reach for the wrong stuff. These two seemingly trivial activities can have a huge impact on your mood, and your routine.
- Trust in GOD On The Quest To Fight Off Fear
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him – Psalm 32:10
This is a hard one. The hardest one for you here my dear. Right now, you’re walking into rediscovering what faith versus trust is and their differences, and the role of fear in the whole equation. Recently, someone questioned your faith and knowledge of GOD because of what you are going through, because of your fears… and while that was painful, it led you to realize that trust is a process, not a once-and-for-all-end-of-all-fear type of thing. Trust requires action in spite of fear and not in the absence fear. Trust is an active choice. Sometimes, a several-times-a-day choice. A choice to continually putting on the armor of GOD, go to spiritual warfare and fight the enemy. Keep truth near so you can run to it. Do what you know is righteous even if you don’t feel like it. Actively walk in faith, and only be led by it, even if you can’t see the outcome. Keep remembering that your salvation is secured, and HE is with you. You have been equipped spiritually to fight back. The Holy Spirit is your sword, in in HIM, you can proclaim in the name of JESUS that you are victorious in this battle.
Finally, don’t be ashamed to have fears. Your Daddy knows you do, and HE doesn’t condemn you or expects you to get rid of them on your own. *Even David understood fear. When you read Psalms you can see a fear that he senses no one understands. But now, your walk is taking to into a path of transforming traumatic fear to Godly fear. A fear that causes overwhelming despair makes it nearly impossible to look beyond one’s own hurts, brokenness and failure and creates a self-defeating cycle of fear that is nearly impossible to break. The fear of GOD, however, is a focus outside of oneself on The Giver of life and hope. When fear begins to form, it is only by understanding and accepting that there is a GOD who is bigger than those fears that drives those clouds away*
- Recognize Your Pride
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up – James 4:10
Do you remember how mind-blowing it was when you discovered that behind shame and doubt in GOD was an element of pride? in your shame you have said “no one understands me. My suffering is uniquely mine” forgetting that HE is not foreign to all pain for HE endured it all, or “GOD’s promises are for others, not for me” “HE rescues others, but I should not expect anything for myself” forgetting that these lies (because that’s what they are even though in the moment they seem like resounding truths) not only are hindering your healing, but also making you an idol because essentially, you are saying that GOD ins’t powerful enough for you and that you and your pain are higher than GOD.
Quickest way to exercise humility? practice gratitude. Active, intentional gratitude even when you don’t see anything to be grateful for. Be grateful for that breath of air you just took even though you feel that is a waste of good air on someone so unworthy. Be grateful anyway. Give thanks for that fantastic husband and wonderful children, even though you feel like they are better off without you. Be grateful for them anyway. Be grateful for GOD Himself that chose you even though you feel like that isn’t all that true or that HE made a mistake. Be grateful for salvation anyway. Write daily gratitude prayers in your war binder, be grateful over and over and over until you being being grateful. Because faith comes by hearing, and so tell yourself that you are grateful until it sips and takes root in your heart.
- Forgive Yourself
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a]free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2
Let’s be real. Sometimes, you are the enemy’s best advocate against you. You can play his mouthpiece to tell yourself lies on a regular basis. As John Bevere puts it in The Bait of satan “If God forgave you, who are you not to forgive one He has forgiven, even if it is you?”
You know your mistakes. You know your past. You know your guilt. So does GOD and guess what, HE loves you nonetheless, HE forgave you nonetheless, HE blesses you nonetheless. It is time you do the same for yourself. If GOD could not only forgive Paul, but use HIM to write most of the New Testament and change the world with it, so you too can be forgiven and equally important, used. His modus operandi oftentimes involves your past mistakes to exemplify and amplify HIS mercy and HIS grace. He is in the business of making beauty out of ashes.
Keep on reading your daily affirmations. As you read them out loud day in and they out, the lies begin to quiet and the purposes and gifts of GOD for you will become easier to hear. Start today, and continue this practice diligently.
- Have Contempt For Anxiety
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
Anxiety is one of PTSD’s greatest weapons. It continually tells you of imminent danger lurking in the future. If GOD didn’t rescue you in the past, what makes the future’s outcome any different? When our sense of security is removed, whatever is exposed can tell a great deal about who we relied on for that security. Since you relied on your own self for the ability to be secured, to provide for financially, to protect your child, etc; once the ground was shaken and everything came tumbling down you realized there is very little you actually can actually control, and therefore, the anxieties were born. Now you’re anxious about money, you feel anxious when the school bus is delaying, you even wonder if your marriage is going to survive the military service. Your past has told you that really bad things can and will happen, and GOD has felt so uninvolved while these things were happening.
A symptom of anxiety is a controlling impulse. You feel that life is changing faster than you can cope with so you try to control the tidiness of your home. You feel that your husband leaving to serve the military means you’ll be back at being a single mother so you try to control your finances and schedule until you feel drained and drowning in the endless to-do lists… The funny thing is, the only thing you can – and should – control is your response to your environment and yet that is the last thing you have under control. The stress that anxiety puts you under spills over your family and your marriage. You react in ungodly anger when your control is challenged. Anxiety and doubt go hand in hand, and the remedy is, once again, trust. Believing that no matter what, no matter what happened, or could happen, HE is still good, and HE alone is in control.
It is good to practice discipline. It is good to follow your daily time budget and it is definitely good to knock down those to-do lists. But none of these things should hinder your ability to serve GOD and those HE puts in your path. So trust that HE will take care of you and your children one way or another, even if it doesn’t seem possible. Trust that those you invite in will be grateful that you did instead of judgmental of how messy your home is. Serve, and let others love you in their service to you.
- Don’t Forget Your Tribe
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. – Matthew 18:20
When you’re really struggling, you hide in a cave where no one can find you. You isolate yourself because you think “who would like to deal with all your drama?” You feel like you’ll be discovered, that your brokenness will be exposed and you’ll be shown for what you truly are: a reject. a defective person. You think that if GOD had a human-making machine, you surely would belong to rejects pile. This is once again, an attack from the enemy. He is out prowling like a lion, looking whom to devour, and a lion’s tactic is to separate the prey from the herd so it’s easier to attack and conquer.
However, the few people you have opened up about and let in, haven’t responded with rejection and scolding, they have been loving and understanding. When you found the courage to share with the women’s FaceBook page from church the loving outpour was overwhelming, and the prayer so comforting. You feared a scarlet letter, but what you have found instead has been love, concern, prayer and most importantly Christ’s hands and feet. This time will not be different. Break free from the enemy’s chains, reach out to your tribe in all your struggles, close your eyes, hold your breath and then… let go and receive. Not only confessing our sins and struggles brings about the first rays of hope into healing, it creates an opportunity for more genuine relationships, for new perspective, for wisdom and knowledge. GOD created the community of believers to bear each other’s burdens so it doesn’t have to crush you in your self-inflicted loneliness.
- Find Purpose
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. – Jeremiah 29:11-12
It is easy to let depression arise when you remain stagnant. You weren’t meant to live adrift without a goal or a purpose. You know that yet again, you messed up. And you have said time and time again “is no use” and with every failure comes the hopelessness, and the keen knowledge that you are just not good enough for anything at all. You want to give up. The thing is, you don’t have to pursue victory anymore, because of Christ, we are already victorious. We just need to find the purpose from that victory and not to find victory. From this place, you can find the purpose of today. If you didn’t accomplish anything at all, then hey, you needed a Sabbath, and that’s glorifying to GOD. If you lost it with your oldest and now you feel defeated, then find the purpose to teach a lesson on sin, anger grace and forgiveness. Don’t waste a good trial, find a purpose for your pain. Out there is a woman who’s being victimized at home. A couple who is walking through the pain of losing a child. A person who feels like they are utterly alone in the world. Your greatest pain can be your ministry. GOD is still writing your story. Be the actor playing your part, not the voice-over character. You DO have a purpose, and HE DOES have a plan for you.