If you have kept up with my blog at all over the past few years, you've probably seen several posts about dealing with the effects of anxiety and depression. I have written these blogs to accomplish a few things. First, I think that it is very important that we as pastors discuss real-world problems, and be transparent in our dealings with these problems. Second, discussions about mental health issues (I hesitate to even type those words, as most people are terrified of them) are discussions that NEED to happen in our church culture. Third, I find it quite therapeutic to write these things out... no idea why, but I do. It has been a while since I added anything about my anxiety/depression to this blog. Quite honestly, I want people to be aware of these things, but I also do not want to be identified as the "depressed or anxious guy." So, in an effort to keep my mind on other things, I have literally written about other things.
Today, I would like to revisit this topic. A little over a year ago, I wrote a pretty honest (maybe too honest, lol) entry about the painful experience we had experienced at our last church. That was a big help for me, because I felt like I finally got it off my chest, and could maybe box that old experience up and put on the shelf. For the most part, this has been the case. I am so very thankful for the church in which we now serve. No church is perfect, but this group of believers love us for who we are, and how we are equipped to minister. Such a massive blessing! God continues to bless our youth and college ministries, and seeing His hand at work is amazing! God really is good!
Maybe your wondering about the odd pill photo at the top of this entry? What is that all about? Steve just said he was doing well!? Well, let me tell you that even though we are in a much better place, the ongoing battle with anxiety/depression still rages... but on different fronts.
I no longer have the situation issues (i.e. crazy job environment) that I had before, but now my anxiety tends to focus more on my own problems and shortcomings. Yup, we all have issues, and I'm okay with having them, as it reminds me that I need to rely fully on the power of Christ in my life. However, the weight gain that came with the last couple of years in that rough place in life has been very hard to get rid of. With that has come a whole new level of personal frustration, etc.
In the past year, I have tried weaning myself off of my daily medication (yes, I spoke to my doctor about it), but found that I still needed to be on something to feel like things were on the level emotionally. Please understand, I am not against medication... One of the things that no one seems to remember during the commercials for these drugs on tv are the side effects. Finding the right medication and balancing the right dosage is a long process. Do not take enough, or often enough, and you do not feel that the drugs are helping. Take too much or too often, you feel disconnected, have hot flashes, very tired, and tend to sleep a lot. Oh yeah, odd cravings and weight gain/loss also fall in the line of possible side effects. Yes, these meds can very much help with the problems of highs and lows, but finding what works for each person simply takes time.
So why talk about this? What is the value in talking about it? Of course, I do not have all of the answers. But what I do know is that we are all stronger when we face challenges together. Since the beginning of these writings, I have talked to people all over the world (of all ages0 who have dealt with all of this for years, but never told anyone. Satan wants us to feel alone. That's how he sidelines us and tells us that we are no good to be used by God. If the liar Satan can convince us of that (and he is often successful), he keeps our witness and our lives from ministering to others.
My prayer with all of this is that you realize that you are NOT alone. God has not left us... He has given us wise doctors, wise friends, and His love in so many ways. But if you're like me at all, I often need to be reminded to set my gaze higher... on the things of Him. Then the struggles of this world begin to fade.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the are marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
-- Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV