My Journey with Anxiety and Depression
Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with some form of mental health issue. If you are one of those individuals or know an individual that suffers from some mental illness, you know it is like living in a different world. God does not make evil, but He does permit it. Sometimes it does not make sense, but our God is good and will not give us more than we can carry with His help.
I was recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I was 21, fresh out of college, and there were a lot of moving pieces. I had been anxious just about every day since high school but just thought that was normal. If I could make it till tomorrow, I would be fine. I didn’t need any fancy medication; I did not want to seek help because I didn’t need help.
I did not talk to my doctor until depression struck. I felt as if no one cared for me and that nobody would miss me at all if I passed. Or I wondered if maybe they would only miss me if I passed? Regardless, I tried reaching out to people but was not finding the support I needed.
And so I began to consider harming or possibly killing myself. The thought of death didn’t seem scary like it once did--in fact, it seemed almost relieving. It would be like an athlete training so they can play their sport: I had just finished my “training” and was on the court, but all of a sudden, my head was not in the game and I wanted nothing more than to be benched. Life felt mundane and meaningless.I was aware that things were not that bad around me, and I was aware that things were going to get better, but regardless, living in that time period just seemed too hard to continue.
I had been a loyal servant to God for years… wouldn’t He want me to live? If He wanted me dead couldn’t He have done this without all the extra misery? Was I Job and this was just the beginning? I went through this one day at a time, each day worse than the last, and I kept trying to justify how God could allow this to happen. What purpose could this possibly serve?
I kept pondering and could find no reason God could allow such a thing. It shook my faith. I began to question everything. I had a firm foundation, but even a firm foundation can be tested. Prescriptions were able to help with the anxiety, but nothing helped my depression until I began counseling.
I found that with counseling it is important to do your research, find the right counselor for you, and stick with it. There are different methods and practices in counseling. There are Christian counselors, marriage counselors, child counselors, there are some who have a ton of experience and some with very little experience.
This is not an absolute, but most of the time you get what you pay for in counseling. My first attempt to receive counseling I went the cheaper route and began seeing a counselor who was still in training (this is not always a bad thing, but considering the suicidal boat I was in it was probably ok to splurge). I thought counseling was this one-size-fits-all type of profession and that could not be farther from the truth. I learned that counselors are not going to be a perfect fit for every client, just as every client is not going to be a perfect fit for every counselor. Counselors are people too, and different people connect in different ways.
My first counselor was NOT a good fit for me. All he did was listen, which is not what I needed as a very conversational person. So, I continued my search until finding a counselor who was right for me. After you find the right counselor it is important to stick with it. A counselor can help to reveal things you have spent your whole life suppressing. It is important to engage those things because the process leads to resolution and healing, which is so much better than shame and hiding.
Counseling made me feel seen and heard, which was something I was desperately craving. In addition to this, it helped me dig up problems I didn't even know I had. Things had been buried but they were things I desperately needed to resolve.
I grew up in a big family and would always put others' needs ahead of my own. In doing so, I would deny myself basic needs. Much of my loneliness came from that pattern, and that resulted in my depressed state. My non-confrontational and selfless character eventually led me to a place where I was getting ready to die of thirst but was too worried about being an inconvenience to ask for water. But confrontation is a part of life. Having needs is a part of life.
During my battle with anxiety and depression, I prayed to God every day for friends and family to grow closer with. But to quote from the movie “Evan Almighty”:
“Let me ask you something: If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives him patience or does God give them opportunities to be patient? If one prays for courage, does God give them courage, or does God give opportunities to be courageous? If someone prays for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm and fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?”
Growth happens in the struggle. God gave me opportunities to grow closer to my friends and family. I kept praying, and He kept providing opportunities that I was not taking advantage of. I believe my depression was a needed nudge to get the ball rolling.
Today I am much better. I believe that counseling saved my life. Counselors are trained to recognize and treat problems and with counseling, I was able to get better. In fact, I recently “graduated” from counseling. I am happier, healthier, and more connected with God and those around me than I have been in a while.