One of the things that I have learned through my time dealing with anxiety and depression is that there are some out there that do not understand this condition, and therefore do not know how to handle it. Now, I'm a grown-up... I can handle it if someone does not care for the way I do things, or just does not "get" my often dry sense of humor. I'm okay with that. However, one thing that really bothers me is when people find out about my struggle with anxiety, and either do not engage me further, or walk away because they do not know how to handle it. That is just painful, because this isn't an "illness" that you can just pop a pill for and get over in a few days. In fact, the struggle is often a lifetime spent learning how to cope with, and reduce the effects of this affliction.
The hidden side of this condition is a personal one, and potentially an intensely painful facet of learning how to cope. This hidden side is the fear of rejection and failure when people are faced with the reality that you are not all "put together." Now, as a minister, this fear seems to be amplified. Why? Well, we tend to put ourselves under a bit more pressure to try and present ourselves as at least making an effort to have it "together." Anything that rattles that self-perception is viewed as failure... at least in my mind. So, I try to play it off, and do my best to present a front to others, while secretly having massive anxiety on the inside. Sure, I know it's fake... I don't want to be fake, but I don't want people to feel strange around me, either.
The terrifying part is waged on a spiritual front. Talk to any follower of Christ who has suffered with anxiety/depression, and they will tell you that Satan uses these insecurities to have a field day playing with your emotions. Thoughts can range from "Dude, you're the most ineffective __(insert job title here)__ anyone has ever seen." to "Dude, you're such a mess, this world would be better off without you." Now, understand something here. Just because a person with a/p tells you that these thoughts have popped into their mind does NOT mean that they are clinically suicidal. What it means is that you need to delve a bit deeper with them to find out exactly what they're going through. I am sharing this greatly personal information with you, because I want you to understand the battle that goes on. There are some nights that these thoughts will come at me like waves on a seashore. Over and over, in a relentless pounding way. If not for the absolute power of God, I do not know how anyone could survive such an onslaught.
The power of the Word of God stands above the lies here. Some nights, I cry out to God in the same way that David does in the Psalms. It is in these times when I call on His name, that Scripture begins to come to mind. Scripture that I have read, or know by memory. Sometimes I must quote the same Scripture every time the lies enter my mind. Is it exhausting? Umm... yes. However, knowing that God's Word and peace are always there can help calm the terror that can be experienced in these times.
Why share this with you? My hope is that by continuing to openly share about what goes on in the life of someone that is impacted by anxiety/depression, some of you will gain a better understanding about it. That the Lord will develop compassion in you as you encounter people at work, at church, or in your neighborhood that deal with anxiety and depression. None of us want you to feel sorry for us. Rather, we want you to understand, to pray for, and to encourage rather than steer clear of us. Sure, there will be some tough days in there, but knowing that people are behind you as you move through this life is so important. Thanks for taking the time to read this! Hope it helps!