On the inside, I was anxious and depressed. When I would drive into work, I would be sweating thinking about the immense tasks at hand. In meetings, I would be scared that when it came to my turn to speak up, I wouldn’t be able to and my peers would view me as incompetent. This overload of stress and anxiety drained me during the weeks, and weekends would come around and all I could do was sleep. A typical day off would look like this: wake up for a few hours, take a nap for a few hours, then wake up for a few more hours to then sleep through the night.
In large groups, I would almost be paralyzed. The room would be scouted out for my nearest and best exit, in case I needed to get sick (which has only happened once in my life). I would position myself around people I knew so that I could avoid being asked questions I didn’t know the answers to. Also, I hated “lying” when people asked how I was doing, because on the outside everything was great, but as you can see on the inside, I was anxious almost every single day.
Then, there were the days where I felt incapable of doing anything. I literally couldn’t function. No drive to move from my bed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even God, my wife, best friends, or family. I would have to make up reasons for missing work, time with family and friends. Yes, I was lying. I didn’t want anyone to know what was really going on. I didn’t think anyone would understand. I wasn’t even telling my wife everything I was experiencing! Some of it was that I didn’t even fully comprehend how far this had gone, and how deep it had become.
Satan loves when we feel alone. I believe he loves when we isolate ourselves from others and avoid vulnerability and transparency. Thoughts like: “It’s all in your head;” “It’s not that bad;” “No one else understands;” “If I tell anyone else they will think I am weak or it will sound stupid;” “You’ve got this;” are fodder for Satan to thrive on and lead us away from the community God has built for us – power, not fear.
“He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 (NLT)
Living life with anxiety and depression is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute FIGHT. After living with it for more than 25 years, I understand that I am not alone. But too many people still believe Satan’s lie.
So when it comes to anxiety and depression what is the TRUTH? I am far from a professional expert in this area. I am a pastor that has decided to fight against the lie that I am alone in this. First, I had to work with a counselor, my wife and friends to find out WHY anxiety and depression had a track-record in my life. Second, I had to develop tools to fight this!
Four Causes of MY Anxiety and Depression
Along with regular counseling, I had to start reading and studying both anxiety and depression. I had to put facts to the fiction that was bouncing around in my brain. If I could explain it to myself logically, with “clinical” terms I would be able to underscore the lies. What I began to find is the reality of chemical imbalances that most likely exist. My “wiring” could possibly be prone for anxiety and depression. This was a hard fact to accept, but it was one the more I read and talked to my counselor, the more was true.
Then, I had to evaluate my past. I had to look back at my family’s history which included several divorces, sudden and tragic losses of close loved ones and even family members struggling with anxiety and depression. I had to ask family members if they too were dealing with it and begin understanding that I was more prone to it because I grew up around family that were diagnosed or undiagnosed with anxiety, depression or both.
3. Perfectionism & Pride
“The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5
This might be the hardest area I had to evaluate. I was holding myself and others to standards that were impossible to obtain. Hours would be spent on a project or task that were unnecessary, because I was worried about it. Frustration levels would soar when someone wouldn’t follow through or they only gave, what I saw, some effort instead of 100%. I would snap and my words would become piercing. I wasn’t trusting God. I was relying on myself and it became prideful mixed with perfectionism all powered by anxiety. I wanted to perform and everyone to see me as an unflawed hero. Instead I was a wreck.
Now I have to continually ask God for wisdom and discernment. I have to give the most grace because of the grace I’ve been given. I sleep a whole lot better at night because I trust God with things like: growing a ministry, dealing with a hard situation, navigating change...etc.
4. Fear Driven
Trusting God vs. Pride and Perfectionism leads me to my last reason for my anxiety and depression. I was living a life of fear. Fear of what others thought of me. Fear of failure. Fear of what the future held if I wasn’t in control. Fear of pain and suffering. Fear of looking like an idiot...the list goes on. “Do not fear” or a form of it is in the Bible around 365 times! That means once a day, for an entire year, we could have God Word speaking into our lives assuring us that, even though we may experience pain, we should be reliant on HIM ALONE. Fear is a fuel for the engine of anxiety and depression and we have to stop filling it up.
Four Tools to Fight MY Anxiety and Depression
1. God’s Word/Thought life
I allow WAY too much of what others say, thoughts I have or how I perceive things to control my brain. The realization that I needed more of God’s Word in my head than the words or things from anyone else, was eye opening. I took a whole day and evaluated my thoughts. The majority of it was about MYSELF. Well, no wonder I was anxious. Jesus Christ’s entire ministry and call for each and everyone of us as Kingdom Workers is to be others focused. So, we must turn each and every thought toward him and focus on HIS Kingdom.
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NIV
This may mean setting reminders on your phone to pray for people throughout the day, or memorizing key verses to fight with. It may mean filling your time serving, instead of sitting at home watching Netflix or on social media!
2. Exercise & Activity
With the mix of anxiety and depression, there is only so much that you can control. One area I knew I needed to honor God with, and my counselor promised I would see and feel immediate results, was to exercise! I began a 5-6 day regimen of working out! Sounds crazy, but this has drastically decreased my level of anxiety and I can say that I have not had the bouts of depression as I have had in the past. This is coming from a guy that is leading a large team, at a large church, with a wife, 3 kids and a lot on my plate. If I can find time to do it, you definitely can. Do what works for you and talk through your plan with your doctor and counselor.
Where I lived isolated and alone, I now have to be honest and open with people about my fight. I have to be 100% honest with my wife, who now knows to ask regularly about the level of anxiety I am at and what she can do to help me. Whether that is talking me through a big project coming up or helping me talk myself out of lies I believe! Whoever you have to be honest with about your fight, go even further and widen that circle. Don’t just tell your best friend, go further by telling your parents, friends at church and even a pastor. Then set a level of accountability for yourself so you do not climb back into that lonely hole Satan wants you to stay in.
“Oh great, here we go.” I know you are thinking it. That’s about the same thing I said when I knew I had to approach these two things seriously. You must find the right counselor. If you go to your first appointment and don’t like him or her, go to another one. You need professional help if this is a fight that is real in your life. They can help you navigate your own thoughts, give you practical tools to fight daily and even set you up on a plan of challenges and provide resources! Prescriptions are also another area that you, your family, family doctor and counselor must discuss. I put a lot of time researching and asking a lot of questions, and ended up finding it was a great option for me, along with tools my counselor gave me! If it does indeed come to a possibility of chemical imbalance, prescriptions might an option you explore and should be open to.
Where to go from here? Seek God’s guidance and wisdom above all else. The bottom line is you have to stop doing this alone. Even if this is not something you fight, there is a great likelihood of friends and family that do and you, as a Kingdom Worker, need to be one that is a source of hope in Christ!
Jesus asks: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:27 NLT.
The answer is no, and sometimes we have to fight to stop the cycle of worry that cause anxiety and depression.