Since being officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression a couple of years ago, I have learned a lot about myself. Through the aid of a Godly counselor, I have been able to see that this has been a long-term thing that I have dealt with in some way for most of my life. Growing up, I did not fully understand that it was actually something definable... I just thought it was a part of life. I mean, doesn't everybody struggle with bouts of extreme loneliness, intense apprehension/anxiety, even to the point that it makes you feel physically ill? Sarcasm aside, I had simply tried to shove the problem into a corner, pretend I was okay, etc. As I have talked about before, that only lasts for so long. Eventually, the dam will break, and we have to face this condition head-on.
Over the past couple of years, I have tried to figure out the best form of treatment that actually works for me. Obviously, trying to get good sleep, eating right, and exercise play a part in that, but one of the hardest things to do was to take some form of medication to try and curb the effects of it all. Some meds made me feel weird, not like myself, or had other strange side effects. After trying a couple of different meds, I decided (with the help of my doctor) to try and take a specific medication only in instances where I felt severe bouts of anxiety coming on. This tool helped me as my counselor and I explored how I processed things, and how I could learn to deal with what life brings with it. Obviously a slow process, but I could certainly see some improvement overall, especially during that first year.
During the second year, I have faced some serious set-backs in several key areas. You see, my depression is triggered by situational stresses that come my way. I can usually see them coming, but sometimes life situations can blind side you. I have talked about the death of my friend David last year, due to cancer. Very difficult, as Dave was a guy that believed in me, and reminded me of it often. He was a BIG proponent of me sharing my story, as he thought it would be helpful to many out there. I pray he was right, and I believe that he was. I have had many conversations with people in person, and on the web about anxiety and depression, and I am always in awe of how God could use some simple words on a blog page to help people.
One of my greatest fears in talking about and dealing with my anxiety/depression is that people will treat me differently, or give up on me because it is such a complex, long-term healing process. I think that is why so many that struggle with this condition try to keep it under wraps. The look in some people's eyes when they find out, the casual avoidance of anything related to the subject, etc., are all things that I would rather avoid. I understand why people feel this way, but as believers in Christ, I just assume that there will be a deeper level of understanding among fellow Christians when it comes to this topic. Sadly, that is not always the case.
Over this past year, I had two key people give up and walk away from me. I cannot begin to tell you the pain and sense of loss this has brought about in my life. Both sent me into a spiral of emotions that I simply could not crawl out of. I gained a bit of weight, became much more prone to depression, and began to feel myself crawling back into the shell that I had crawled out of 2 years ago. One person (a pastor) was simply tired of dealing with it all. Sad, but true. I have admittedly been a bit of an internal wreck over the summer months, but managed to keep most of it below the surface... until recently.
Due to some life circumstances and knowing that my job would soon be ending in Austin, my stress level has been through the roof over the past 6 months. One Friday morning, about three weeks ago, I dropped my daughter off at the high school and headed back home. I could feel it coming on, but thought I could control it, given a bit of time. However, once I got home, a massive wave of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear swept over me. It was the first full-on anxiety attack I had experienced in 2 years. It lasted for a short while that day, and Amy and I decided that it was time to go back to meet with our family doctor.
I called the doctor that morning, and rarely can I ever get into see our doctor on a Friday. Oddly enough, he had an opening that afternoon, and I went to see him. I told him about where I was, and he suggested a few things. We talked it over, and decided to try some regular, every day-type medication. As much as I had resisted taking meds everyday, I decided to give it a go. That was about 3 weeks ago. Praise the Lord, it has helped out quite a bit. While still a struggle, the medication helps even out my emotions, and really helps me relax... which is something I had almost forgotten how to do. So thankful for Godly doctors, and medications that work!
I will say that there has been a positive side to this struggle, though. These days of struggle often drive me to my knees in prayer. When your strength is gone, the power of God is the only thing you have to rely upon. But the greatest thing is that in my time spent crying out to God, He has helped me focus my prayer attention away from myself, and begin to pray for others that are also in the midst of struggles... They are struggling with their marriage, with money, with their job, with rebellious children, etc. My time spent awake in the middle of the night is often filled with the names and faces of brothers and sisters in turmoil. In fact Amy and I probably pray together now more than ever. She and my girls have been amazing.
In the midst of it all, I can still hear the Lord telling me that He will never leave me or forsake me. That promise is one that I stand on frequently, and pray for others, as well. Right now, there is much uncertainty in my future. I do not know what God is up to, but He continually reminds me that I need to just let go, and let Him lead... even when it doesn't make sense. I can confidently say that the Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. People may give up on us, but God never does. That, my friends, makes life worth living!
I share all of this, as I want others to know that they are not alone, especially during dark times in life. I don't want you to pity me in any way. I pray that each of you reading this will experience the love and grace that Jesus offers. He really means it when He says that he will not leave us or forsake us!