TGIF and happy FriYAY, freebies!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to speak my peace on depression, anxiety, and the presence of God.
You can have a psychologist, psychiatrist, and some Jesus, too.
In 2017, I lost four of the closest people in my entire life, all within eight months. If this wasn't challenging enough, I took in two children due to one of the deaths (I didn't have children). Consequently, I needed to upgrade my living space, find schools, create a different routine, and start a new career to accommodate my new reality. Because we were relatives, the children were grieving, too, and it was excruciating for all.
And there I was, navigating heartache, grief, the stress of being an overnight mommy, the learning curves of a new career, and anxiety. My health was declining rapidly. It felt as if I had lost another life: my own.
The space that I found myself in was unfamiliar and dark. I was used to being optimistic and hopeful, but the motivational speaker, author, follower of Christ, and inspo enthusiast had nothing left to give. Hypocritically, I empowered others publically, but privately, I questioned God's presence and promises. And before long, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, referred to a psychiatrist, and on several medications just to function.
So, there IS a difference between depression (what we hear casually and often) and clinical depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a breakup, a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder. Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or day-to-day activities, such as work, school, or social activities.
Clinical depression is, umm, practically debilitating. Not only was I clinically depressed, but I suffered from acute anxiety. Physically, I experienced heart palps every morning, hair loss, sleep deprivation, elevated blood pressure, stool bleeding, and other stressed induced health issues. Emotionally, it was a nightmare and miraculous, even recalling it five years later. My chest was constantly tight with anxiety, stress, and shortness of breath. I couldn't breathe, and my brain wouldn't stop at all.
A ringing phone and a speeding fire truck became triggers. I was convinced that every call that came in was another death. Surely, my heart will give out from racing; I will have a heart attack and die at any moment, I thought.
God, why and where are you? My anger burned. I was upset at Him for the deaths of my loved ones and the frequency of losing them. I was frustrated by the responsibility of being a mom and losing my social life. At the same time, my heart pained for the children. Perpetual guilt and hurt are what I felt. I was sad and felt guilty for complaining and feeling hurt and miserable in the first place. Crazy, right?
Imagine managing these issues and emotions while actively parenting and starting a new career. Heck, imagine the juggling act while showing up for life, other relationships, and keeping the inspirational content flowing (on your social media feeds because your audiences and followers need to be encouraged). Because I believed in the toxic lie of the need to "be strong," I kept going. I thought Christians couldn't be depressed.
Surprisingly, I managed to keep it up for roughly 9 months. Honestly, it was the children and their needs that kept me going. They depended on me.
In July 2018, I hit a wall, and it all came crashing down. I could no longer pretend and function like I was. I wasn't well. I wasn't fit at home, as a parent, or at work, and remaining on autopilot would be dangerous.
The repetition of seeing my doctor, a psychiatrist, and a therapist saved my life. I was too angry with God to give him credit (at that time). After all, He abandoned me when I needed him most, so I thought. It didn't occur to me that He was working through the medical team. Or that He opened my eyes every day, hardwiring resilience and a strong will to live. He allowed me to keep showing up (whether I felt robotic or not).
I realized that life would go on with OR without me. I realized that I still needed to show up, especially if I didn't want to die, and I didn't.
Sis, anything that does NOT move (or grow) is dead. Dead things don't move, and although you may feel like you're barely inching, barely moving, or taking the tiniest step, it's still movement. You are alive, and so I ask:
Do you want to live?
At the direction of my psychiatrist, she insisted that I do more of what I loved to feel alive. We had a solid regimen to change my mind and a couple of prescriptions to help.
She asked, "what are you passionate about and love?" My answer was simple and consistent, serving and inspiring others! In time, I learned to change my perspective and mind focusing on what was going right.
While I was frustrated with God, He was all that I had.
I started reading and posting affirmations everywhere, saying them over and over. I learned firsthand the scriptures below in practice.
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Romans 12:2 Don't become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I learned that if you could change your mind, you can change your life. A desire to live and a mindset shift began to nurse me back to health. A session with my therapist brought a breakthrough and forced me to be honest about where I really was. Something needed to change. My mindset shift led to a series of decisions revamping my life for good.
Where was God? He was there the entire time, working through my doctors. He was providing for the children and me and sustaining us.
Can one be saved, believe in God, and still battle depression?
From my experience, yes.
While I'm no doctor, I believe the feelings associated with depression (no matter what triggers them) can be conquered by renewing your mind. If not completely conqueror (for those with chemical imbalances) but managed very well by shifting your mind. But it's not just a one-time thing; it's daily, a REtraining and renewal. Mind renewal depends on optimism, positive thoughts, and physical acts of DOING more of what you love.
For the believer, it's similar but focusing on the word of God, what He says about you, and how He is fighting for you.
If you are battling depression, take an inventory of all the things that are causing sadness, frustration, and hurt. Is it relationships, a job, situation, new responsibilities, health, or all the above? Whatever it is, list out the things you can change and make a plan to change them. Things you can't change will need to be surrendered (daily) to Christ.
You'll also need a community to encourage and pray for you. Lastly, affirmations and scripture are great mind shifters. Ask yourself whether you want to live. If the answer is yes, you'll need to fight for your life.
I am praying for you.
Until next time,
Drop a comment and share with your girls if you found this helpful.
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