Have you ever had a migraine? The kind when you have to cancel your plans for the day. Turn off the lights. Lay in bed. Every sound and smell; the sensation of light on your eyes, makes the pain worse. Basically, all of your senses are on overload. And maybe you had a fun day-out planned, or perhaps it was supposed to be just a regular boring day at home with a long to-do list…
But instead, you have to set your kids up with a movie (or two), and a drink and a snack (or two!) while you lay quiet in bed and wait for the pain to go away. Maybe you have to call a friend or family member to help you watch your kids or do your laundry. Because you’ve tried all your go-to remedies, and they’re not making a dent. There’s nothing you can do except to rest and wait it out. And desperately hope/pray that tomorrow is better.
Or, have you ever had just a *normal* headache? I’m sure you can relate. The kind where you can pop a Tylenol, or drink a hot mug of peppermint tea. And it knocks out the pain for the most part. You can get on with your day, even though maybe you’d prefer to lay in bed if it were up to you! You have responsibilities, and the dull discomfort is there, but you can push through it and mostly think clearly.
Anxiety and depression looks and feels like that in my life sometimes.
People might be surprised to learn that anxiety and depression are a nearly constant battle of mine.
I’ve been hesitant to share this for most of my life. My biggest fear is that people will think, “She seems so happy all the time, I should have known she was faking!!”
I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, been praised for being such a happy person.
My God-given disposition, my resting face you could say, is a smile. It’s not a fake smile. And my cheerful persona isn’t fake. I’ll try to explain.
Depression, just a dark sadness cloud that lingers around my head, usually for no reason!, has been lingering around since I was a young teen. Anxiety, just a feeling of being scared, so scared you can’t breathe at times! , has been there off and on since I was a child.
But my anxiety has become so much worse since I got Lyme disease. I always say that panic attacks were my first symptom of Lyme actually. The anxious feeling, which once was only a mental thing, became such a physical thing.
I remember the first time it hit me. I was standing at the sink trying to do the dishes, while my girls fluttered around me like butterflies, wanting my attention. It truly felt like someone had their hands on my shoulders and was pushing down hard. Then that same pressing-down feeling would come to my neck and to the top of my head. It was summertime, and the air conditioning was doing it’s job to make our house nice and cool, but I went crazy thinking it wasn’t working. I was always feeling so hot. I couldn’t breathe or think clearly.
Part of me knew I just needed to do the dishes, to instruct my girls to go and play and give Mommy a minute to finish. But, figuratively speaking, the other part of me felt like I was running away from a lion.
My depression that comes and goes is much easier to deal with, honestly. I can pray, I can read scripture. I can pour over vintage hymn lyrics that are rich with theology that encourages and cheers my soul, despite the pain. I can take my vitamin D and my 5htp.
There might be a dark cloud that comes over me some days. But there is a silver lining of God’s goodness and great love and faithfulness that I can’t deny. This is the reason you see a smile on my face most of the time. It’s rooted there. In Him.
My panic attacks are so much harder. I just dread them. The awful, *real* physical feeling. Having a migraine would be much easier to describe! But it’s anxiety. Some days it’s like a dull headache that I can press through. And some days it’s like a migraine that has me down for the count for an entire day, or more. I know Lyme has contributed, but knowing that doesn’t help the pain go away.
On one hand, I really don’t want to share this! Because I don’t want people to look at me differently! But on the other, I want to share it. Because the Bible tells me that depending on Him in my weakness will make me stronger. So I don’t have to be ashamed.
And I want to share it because I’m sure there are many of you out there who just appear happy to the outside world, but inside you are in turmoil. I hope my story can encourage you that you’re not alone! That God loves you and wants to comfort you and be there for you. And that He has a purpose in your suffering.
I also wanted to share because there is so much going on in this world in which mental health is discussed and debated. And maybe I can be a face for you to put with the discussions. By God’s grace, my anxiety and depression hasn’t led me to do anything harmful to others. But it has in the past, before I understood the Gospel, led me to do things harmful to myself. And whenever I hear stories of people with anxiety who are brought to a place in which they harm others, my heart aches. It’s a complicated ache…
But with God’s grace, that ache can turn to praise. As I remember that someday, all pain -including anxiety and depression and mental illness pain- will be banished forever! God did not intend for this kind of pain to be part of His world, but because of sin, it is. And because of the Gospel, I can rejoice and praise Him as I look forward to the day it will be taken away. From me. From loved ones who struggle in a similar way. And perhaps from you too?
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. ” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:11
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break,
With blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
God Moves in a Mysterious Way,
William Cowper, 1774