I don’t know if it’s all this rainy weather us Texans are getting or what, but I’ve been struck with a case of the blues lately.
It doesn’t really help knowing that I struggle with long-term anxiety and depression. I mean, sure, cognitively I understand what’s going on from a chemical perspective. I have learned plenty of coping strategies in the midst of a panic attack or a depressive low, thanks to the costly, but worthwhile investment in a slew of licensed professionals (but, oh, it breaks my heart to think about all the people out there who can’t afford to get the help/medication that I have received because the Lord knows, I would still be hiding out in the closet all day if it weren’t for all the help I got that slowly drew me out of a deep, dark hole. Now, every time I pass a homeless person, I get teary because who knows what got them there. When before, I was kinda’ like: just get a job, dude).
I have learned what works for me in those moments of panic or depression: go for a walk, do your breathing exercises, practice yoga, take a long nap, back off on the coffee and alcohol (notice I said back off, not drop it completely!), cut back on social commitments, cuddle with the kids on the couch and watch a movie, go to bed early, keep telling yourself: this is the anxiety/depression talking! All of those things can definitely help. I am much less likely to do or say something stupid or irrational. I have learned not to make any major decisions when I’m in a low spot. Example: I was tempted to start blogging publicly two years ago, during my darkest moments and just put it all out there for everyone to read. My wise husband and counsel of friends gently suggested: perhaps you should make it a private blog, at least until you’re not so raw. Thank you God, for their wisdom. And that I actually listened. Because sometimes I don’t. I would have written some slightly disconcerting things, as I allude to in my post: Am I Going Crazy?
Mostly, I have learned on days like these to be gracious with myself. I just took a 3 hour nap. In the middle of a work day. I am still embarrassed to admit that. My tendency is to feel lazy and ashamed and horribly unproductive because who can afford to do that? And that was often the voice that I heard during my darkest days: You are so lazy! This is all in your head! Get over yourself! Just get your ass out of bed and go for a run! Some life you have, getting to lay around and sleep all day!
But I finally learned (and actually believe) that listening to that voice does not make things any better. It only exacerbates the problem. Since then, I have learned to decipher the voices. There is one that is incredibly shaming, telling me that I’m a lazy spoiled brat who gets everything handed to her on a silver platter and therefore, can’t complain about anything (you can read about my money baggage in my previous post: My Love/Hate Relationship with Money).
But there is another voice and it is oh so quiet, barely a whisper. I have to completely stop what I’m doing and be really still to even hear it. What it tells me is powerful, saying things like: You are loved. I am here. You don’t have to be afraid. This will pass. Hang on a little longer. I am working all things together for your good. Trust me.
Y’all – it was that gentle voice that got me through the worst of days. I hung on to those whispers of hope for dear life. I literally envisioned a rope hanging from heaven and with that voice saying: You don’t have to be afraid. I am right here with you. This will pass. Just hold on a little longer. And so I did, right there, in the closet, hidden between my husband’s hanging soft, cotton t-shirts and waited for the panic to pass.
Sorry if this is a Debbie Downer of a post. Let me end on a high note: I’ve learned to be much more gracious with myself and with others. Because like I said earlier, who knows what someone is dealing with. We only see the outward manifestation of someone’s struggles. And well, that can look pretty ugly. Especially when we don’t know them, when we don’t have any context to draw upon at all. So now, when I see a raging driver tailgating me or yelling at the airport counter lady or at the Starbucks barista for getting his order wrong, I try to remember that and whisper to myself…I have no idea what they are dealing with. But Lord, you do. And I pray that you would be there for them as You have been and continue to be with me.
Thank you, Lord, for Your unfailing love that never runs out. Thank you for being right by my side during the darkest of times. I pray, Lord, for anyone who is struggling with anxiety or depression right now…that You would comfort them, that they would feel your arms wrap around them, that they would hear You whisper to their souls and they would know they are not alone. Lord, show me how to help others who struggle with similar issues that I have, show me how to give them hope, how to point to You, my only hope. Thank you for loving me enough to die for me. I love you, Amen.