First of all, I am not a doctor. I’m not claiming to be an expert on anxiety and depression. These illnesses affect each person differently. This is not a cure. This is simply my experience and what I do to cope with it. If you or someone you know exhibits signs of severe anxiety or depression, encourage them to get help and make sure they know they aren’t alone.
I decided to write this post to help raise awareness of these illnesses and hopefully to be an encouragement to people struggling and suffering in silence. You’re not alone. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. There are people who care and who understand.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety. I’ve spent decades being afraid of the what-ifs. What if this, what if that…random, controlling thoughts running through my head at all hours…never ceasing, they’re always there. When I was a child, I thought something was wrong with me. Sitting in class, I would get clammy skin, a racing heart, stomach issues, and getting called on or having to do an oral report would kick-start a full-on panic attack. I didn’t know what it was, I was embarrassed about it, and I thought I was alone. Cue the depression. The depression became more severe as an adult, especially after having children. The anxiety was crippling at times. There were days I would refuse to leave the house, days where I couldn’t focus on anything but fear. I began having thoughts I never thought I would have and it was downright scary.
Those of you who know me personally might be shocked reading this, or you might not, depending on how well you know me. Those with depression and anxiety are usually very good actors. We hide it well. The society we have grown up in has taught us to be ashamed and humiliated by these diseases. That somehow we have done this to ourselves. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, and only 37% of them seek treatment. I wonder why. I grew up in a church that taught that these diseases can be prayed away or that “you must not be reading your Bible enough”, or “you’re not trusting God enough”. It took me a long time to realize that was utter nonsense. I can’t control this any more than a person with cancer can control their disease. These misconceptions are why people keep it bottled up inside and why people keep dying.
Like all people with an illness, I have good days and bad days. The good days outnumber the bad, now that I am no longer keeping this inside. Scripture does help, don’t get me wrong. It reminds me that there is always hope in what comes after this life and that there will be a day when this will be cured. But until then, speaking about this with friends and my husband helps immensely, as does reading.
Reading has been a lifesaver, literally, for me. It doesn’t matter what I read, escaping reality for a bit, being someone else for a while, for that small period of time, is a temporary cure, a medicine, a therapy for those thoughts that creep in and make life miserable. Goodreads has been so helpful at giving me ideas of books to read that have characters going through the same things, feeling the same things, thinking the same thoughts that I have. If you or someone you know are having issues with anxiety or depression, or other mental health issues, here are a few booklists that I have tried:
Like I said before, along with reading, having people you can talk to really helps. Once I started speaking out about what I was feeling, I realized there are a lot of people who struggle with the same things. Get rid of the toxic relationships in your life that trigger your anxiety and depression. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, not bring you down.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now and have been putting it off because of what people might think. But it’s time. A blog for me is also like an open journal. Putting my thoughts and feelings into words on a page is therapy in itself. If you have any thoughts, encouragement, or book recommendations, I welcome any comments!