I’ll start with this: Praise God, it’s no longer something I struggle with.
Seriously, that’s not a passive or cliché statement. I’ll always give God the glory for helping me overcome depression, anxiety, and disordered eating. And I know firsthand, these are very real, very difficult, very crippling experiences for so many. And I certainly don’t pretend to think I won’t one day face them again myself.
I couldn’t hate the enemy more for the way he works his way into the minds and hearts of the people I love.
It’s hard to watch people endure it. I’ve been on both sides – from watching others experience it now, and knowing how it was for others to watch me experience it then.
It’s a weight. A chasm. A wide field of sinking sand.
It hovers, waiting to pull us in, take us down, and trip us up.
It’s worsened by the harmless, routine little activities that have warped our daily life. From instant scrolling, endless news reports, knowing SO much about others, our modern-day obsession with “more”…I don’t need to tell you what you already know.
But maybe we don’t know? Not really, at least.
Through years of talk therapy and gradually coming back to a sound mind, I started paying attention to the simple idea of “cause and effect.” Or as my Dad often says, “connecting the dots.”
For example, I learned my depression and anxiety was rooted in shame. Embarrassment. Fear of unrealized potential. Both being disappointed and being a disappointment. Trauma from a number of life events in my immediate circle. Relational hurt. Living inauthentically. Separation in my extended family. Being underweight. Starving spiritually.
Stuff adds up! And the thing is, we move fast. Arguably too fast.
So we almost never stop, reflect, acknowledge, share, and recognize the cause…that’s led to the effect…(whether that cause happened recently or some time ago).
As human beings, we’re a crazy sum of subconscious thoughts and autonomous behaviors. We rely on these for our survival.
But we never think that these thoughts and behaviors can also be part of our demise.
Yet they can – and they are! The phone chimes and our blood pressure increases. We see something we don’t like but we go right into the next thing. We experience hurt and shrug it off. We find ourselves in relational conflict but decide to change the subject. We never talk about the past because it’s better that way, right? (Ugh! No!) Your kids do something wild and your muscles tighten. We go through months and months of stress and uncertainty and then are surprised to see it affect our physical health.
But it does. All the time.
According to heathline.com, here’s just a few physical effects of stress on your body:
- increased depression
- weakened immune system
- high blood sugar
- high blood pressure
- fetility problems
- pouding heart
- risk of heart attack
- rapid breathing
- low sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- tense muscles
- missed periods
You guys! These are also symptoms of hundreds and I’d bet thousands of other medical ailments.
Stress can affect almost every single bodily system we have.
Stress doesn’t always feel like, “Omg, I’m so stressed out” or “I’m so overwhelmed.” No, no – that’s not how it works.
Stress can be caused by feeling directionless, purposeless, fearful, uncertain, hurt, traumatized, tired, sick, alone, anxious, depressed, unworthy, unloved, judged, indecisive – the list goes on.
All of these things put stress on our mind, body, and spirit.
we just don’t always recognize it as stress because it goes by so many names and disguises.
But when you give a name to something, you give it an identity. You shine a light on it. You give it a cause…and you start to see its effect.
To be clear, when I say “cause”, I don’t necessarily mean an origin. Because I fully get that you won’t always know WHY you feel the way you do. Especially not right away.
But you can look for as many clues as you can to take you on a discovery of when, where, what, and why you’re experiencing what you are.
So journal. Take notes. Find a confidant. Talk to a professional. Reflect. Pray. Move your body.
I’m not saying you should know how to or even attempt to solve the way you’re feeling. I’m saying you should respect the emotions you’re feeling and simply try to notice them. Acknowledge them. Map them out. Let them know you realize they exist and you’re not going to let them win.
Depression and anxiety hate grit. They don’t like it when we get scrappy and bold and try to charge through the fog.
They want us to sit in the thick of it. To believe there’s no way out. But there is. In due course and due time.
The other thing I know about mental health is that God’s word is a weapon to yield whenever we find ourselves in battle.
I recently came across this translation of 2 Corinthians 10:5-6 (MSG) and absolutely love it. It says:
We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.
The power and promises of God are our greatest hope. That, each other, and an overwhelming amount of grace.
Sending you a lot of love.