I know I’m not the first to speak up, but right there in the middle of my struggles, I thought I was both alone and legitimately crazy.
I have anxiety.
Not the general kind when I worry sometimes, but the paralyzing, *every mole hill is a mountain* kind with racing thoughts, increased heart rate, tears, and total cessation of rational thinking that come in the form of really bad attacks.
And I have some depression peppered in too, as long as I’m laying it out. Actually my doctor said I have a perfect balance of both. I mean, I strive for perfection so that’s cool.
And you know what? I’m in great company.
I recently bared my soul to a group of friends online. “I’m struggling,” I told them, “the things that used to make me happy seem insurmountable…I don’t know how I’m going to maintain my blog or do a radio show. I’m barely functioning.”
It was a matter of minutes before my inbox was full of messages from women in the same sinking boat.
Mamas writing, “I’ve never told anyone this but…” followed by story after story of their own struggles with anxiety and/or depression. Eye-widening, personal, pained stories released from these friends just because one woman openly confessed difficulty.
“I was on medication for ages.”
“I totally lost it…”
“I saw a counselor. I needed my counselor.”
“I’m still not recovered.”
“I’ve never told anyone this, but…”
And those were just the messages online; I heard even more accounts from other friends as I told a few here and there.
The point is I’m not flying solo and I’m tired of not talking about it because if any struggle is real, it’s this one. There are dimensions of anxiety/depression (I pair them since they’re my faithful companions) that we’re afraid of, and there are antidotes. They may not dissolve our problems entirely, but they might calm the waves while we ride out the storm.
Anxiety/Depression are isolating…
We closet our issues because we feel shame. I kept it in because I was embarrassed. What am I supposed to say? “I freak out and cry sometimes.” Why? “I don’t know, but I can’t stop.” We want to look like we’ve got our stuff together and life is smooth sailing, right? But how many of us are struggling to keep our heads above water behind closed doors? and not saying a thing?
It’s also a little terrifying to admit the challenge because we don’t know how people will respond. I don’t want pity (I don’t think); I don’t want deer-in-the-headlights faces from people who suddenly don’t know how to handle me because I might burst into tears. So silence it is. But while keeping quiet carries the illusion of safety, I’ve learned the power of letting it out.
…but they could be unifying.
After individually telling a friend or two in person, a few chimed in with their own stories. I had NO idea any of them had experienced anxiety or depression. “I didn’t want anyone to know – friends or family,” one told me. Ohhh but you know what? Even though hearing other depression stories didn’t make mine vanish, I was strengthened. I felt validated. And that validation gave me a teensy bit of courage to face the rest of the day. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t alone. Learning that any friend – on or offline – had the same struggles made us closer in our weaknesses.
The Lord uses us as channels of mercy and consolation for each other. We don’t have to shout our hardship from the rooftops if we don’t want to, but entrusting a few souls with this sensitive, precious information will give us an opportunity to be vulnerable like Christ, and give them the chance to love like Christ. Win win.
Anxiety/Depression are overwhelming
We glorify a packed calendar and praise mamas who do it all. Though it is a blessing to know our missions in life, we put too much pressure on ourselves to deal with everything and anything, keeping our plates full even when something like anxiety/depression come knocking. I have a lot going on right now with my own work, homeschooling, and just day in/day out stuff. Beyond immediate tasks, I’ve already mentioned that Andrew and I are doing a complete and total marriage overhaul and we have some major work to do.
…but they’re a reason to pull back, even for just a while.
So I stopped. Everything. The air date for Brave by Grace Radio Show with Katie Sciba is TBD so I felt free to prerecord interviews further apart. I wrote on my Facebook page that I wasn’t going to write for a while. I stopped cooking and stocked up on frozen pizzas. I stopped homeschooling and let my sons impress people with their PBS Kids education. Logged off Facebook. Barely checked texts.
Fragile and frail, I stopped everything nearly certain I’d never begin again.
And I breathed and prayed. I’m not totally fine, but I’m not where I was. I have to remind myself to keep my to-dos limited while the Lord affords improvement; otherwise I’ll overdo it and go right back where I came from without giving due course to time and healing.
It’s ok if we’re not all better tomorrow or even next month, but in stepping back and clearing life, we’ll be better than we were yesterday. Right now I have peace in slowly approaching obligations like my baby learning how to walk. Tiny, uncertain steps are still steps.
Anxiety/Depression is scary
I was previously handling my life out of fear. I felt pressure to write for fear of letting myself or readers down. I skirted the topic of homeschooling, afraid my husband would be disappointed in me for not showing the day’s work. I made excuses for the unfortunate dinners I made. The fears came from anxiety and fueled my anxiety.
I really lost it Easter Sunday. With my issues increasing steadily over weeks, I had a complete meltdown after Andrew suggested we start getting ready for Mass. I tried to push through my tears, but I lost my breath and hit the floor sobbing. I was out of commission for a couple of days.
That was the worst of it – thanks be to God, but this one event combined with a stack of lesser episodes made me realize this was out of control.
And that scared me.
…but perfect love casts out all fear.
In the midst of writing this very post, a friend sent me this line from St. Faustina (fave):
O Jesus, today my soul is as though darkened by suffering. Not a single ray of light. The storm is raging and Jesus is asleep. O my Master, I will not wake You…I believe that You fortify me without my knowing it.”
Oh Divine Providence – you and your timing!!
When we’re in the fog of anxiety/depression, it’s hard to see anything clearly, especially God’s hand at work. He sustains. He provides. In the few moments of clarity, looking back at “what God’s hand has wrought” (Psalm 143) has given me at least the knowledge that this too will pass, even if I don’t have it in me to brave the rest of the day.
And in my baby steps to sanity, I’m focusing on why I started anything in the first place and the answer is love. I’ve delighted in writing and simultaneously loved the Catholic faith since I was very little. I see the good of homeschooling and want it for our family. Love is the ultimate motivation that pierces through fog and discouragement to restore our hope.
With as much or as little faith as we can muster, we can take our hopelessness to Jesus. I saw no way out of my darkness, but he restores my soul and is loving me out of this slowly and carefully.
Anxiety and depression don’t have to be as taboo as they are. Whenever I’ve feared judgment, I’ve been met with compassion. I thought I was alone, but I was caught off guard by ready solidarity. Sure that everything I had going was shot, I’m seeing it all with restored vision and hope in Christ.
As many the causes are for these crosses, there are aids. Medication, counseling, withdrawing from life’s demands, whatever avenue you walk for relief, couple it with prayer and dare to make yourself vulnerable to at least one trusted person. Take it to Jesus and show him the pain. Talk to a friend and know for certain you are not alone.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you'” (Is. 35:4).
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