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When Anxiety and Depression Threaten to Pull You Under

Posted on: March 19th, 2014 by Laurie Coombs 20 Comments

Anxiety, depression, depression help, anxiety help, physical anxiety, what is anxiety, what does anxiety look like, healing, God, Jesus, pit, anxiety and depression, how to find peace, peace, finding peace, Christian depression, Christian anxiety, trust, trusting God, fear, trials, hope, faith, salvation, coming to faith, getting out of depression, getting out of anxiety, cure for anxiety, cure for depressionIt occurred to me the other day that I haven’t written much about anxiety and depression. If you’ve read some of my early posts, you know that I experienced severe anxiety and depression about five years back, which was ultimately what God used to bring me to Christ. Prior to this, I had been able to get through everything on my own, but I couldn’t seem to get myself out of this one. Honestly, I think God needed to present something to me that I had absolutely no control over for me to finally turn to Him. And though I would never want to return to this terrible place, I am thankful that God did what was necessary to bring me to Himself.   

But it was such a horrible, dark place to be, and I didn’t know any other person who had been through what I was experiencing, which made it even more frightening. I would have given anything to simply talk to someone who had been there, someone who had made it out on the other side. Someone who was “normal” again.

When I was there, I think I just about lost all hope that I would ever be normal again. I questioned whether or not I was going crazy, and I actually feared I would end up locked away in some asylum somewhere. It was truly unbearable––unbearable beyond words. And with time, it only got worse. Just when I thought my depression was the worst it could possibly be, I would plunge even deeper into my pit of darkness. The anxiety raged like a storm within me. Mentally, my mind seemed to spin out of control with fear. Fears were stacked upon fears unceasingly. As one settled, another would take its place, and I’d feel as if my whole being were being plunged into the pit of hell. Thought after irrational thought entered my mind, as if planted there by another, which would send me into a tailspin of fear that wasn’t manifested only in my mind, but in my body as well. Physically, symptom after symptom began to show up. First I had the headaches that remained day and night for months on end. Then my heart was acting funny to the point that I went to the emergency room because I thought I was having a heart attack. Then I experienced panic attacks that left me feeling like I couldn’t breath in enough air. Irrational panic would strike suddenly out of absolutely no where. But even when I wasn’t having a false heart attack or panic attack, I was never at ease, and I found myself saying over and over, “I just want to feel peace. How do I find peace.”

I thought I was going to die, and I was terrified of dying. Yet at the same time, I found myself thinking it would be easier to die. I don’t think I was suicidal or anything, but the level of suffering I experienced made a small part of me want to give up and die. But I couldn’t give up. I was a mommy and a wife. My family needed me, and so I fought. I fought like never before to get better.

I tried all the world tells you to try. I tried eating better and exercising more. I tried therapy. I tried mediation. I tried a stress management class. I tried yoga. I tried reading self-help books. I tried implementing the lessons taught in The Secret. At one point, I was even considering going to a Buddhist retreat, if you can imagine that! And when all else failed, as a last resort, I tried medication, but it only made things worse. There were times I thought I was on to something, but ultimately all these worldly solutions turned out to be a bunch of foolishness. They were all man’s attempt to attain happiness apart from God, which is something that, quite simply, cannot be done.

I was desperate, but Nothing worked. Nothing was making me better. And so with all other option exhausted, I finally called my friend Sarah and asked about her church. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give church a try. So, I went, and to my surprise the pastor’s message spoke to what I was struggling with in that exact moment. As a non-Christian, I left thinking, the shear probability of that happening is just crazy! It blew my mind. I went back the following Sunday. It happened again, and it continued to happen over and over until I finally understood that God was showing Himself to me, and I believed.

Now, I’d like to tell you that my anxiety and depression vanished the day I gave my life to Christ, but it didn’t. It took time. But over time, it did subside little by little until one day it simply wasn’t there anymore. But I don’t believe this would have happened had I not poured myself into seeking God like I had. In my desperation, I took every opportunity I had to seek God through going to church, going to a women’s Bible study, listening to sermons on podcast, listening to Christian music, and reading my Bible. If I wasn’t actively taking care of my family, I was actively pursuing God, and I believe God honors our pursuit of Him. Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God and He will draw near to us. It’s a promise. One that God is faithful to fulfill.

Anxiety and depression are terrible. You feel alone. And if you’re anything like me, you think you’re going crazy and will possibly never recover. But you need to know that God intends to pull each of us out of our pits, just as He pulled me out of mine.

I would have given anything to have been able to talk to someone who had gone through was I was going through. Someone who had made it out on the other side. Someone normal! So if you or someone you know are in that place, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions.

Any thoughts? Share in the comments.

  • Lauren Bronner

    Thank you so much. I am a mom of 6 with a husband incarcerated. This anxiety and panic has had me in the hospital and all over the place. I crave the peace that surpasses all understanding. God didn’t take my anxiety away but He is for sure with me during this time. I questioned my faith, my salvation and everything else while going through this struggle. How can I say I trust Him but be afraid to die, take every physical symptom and turn it in to the end of the world? I am coming out of the storm. Slowly but surely. I loved in one of your other posts how you said something like combat those lies with truths. Not our truths, but His truths. Thank you!

    • Amen! HIS truth will pull you through. Rejecting the lies in exchange for His truth is the key. It’s a process to learn, but I must say that learning this is what brought me out of the anxiety. Remember, you have the mind of Christ!!!

  • I am so sorry you’re going throughout this, Chad. If it’s any consolation, I have to admit – even though it was one of my most difficult seasons, I would. It change it for anything because it brought me to God. The joy and peace I now have as a result are worth all the terrible darkness and pain I experienced then.
    I am so glad to hear your perspective on it. Keep pressing in and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by the light of Jesus!

  • thebaseball2001

    Laurie,
    Your writing touched home with me.  I am in the midst of it right now.  Last year I started having panic attacks for no reason.  Later that morphed into anxiety and depression.  What you said about it being a dark place is so true.  I have had dark thoughts, scary feelings, etc.  I thought I was going crazy, that I would hurt myself eventually.  That made my anxiety even worse and I have learned just how much of a vicious cycled it can all be.
    I like you believe Christ allowed this to happen to draw me back to him because I had turned away from him.  He knew what it would take to get my hard headed self to turn to him.  Now I am in church every Sunday, I attend small group bible study with a wonderful group of people every Tuesday, and I study when I can even though time has been hard to put aside.  My prayer life lacks a lot too.

    I believe God can lift this veil I feel over me much of the time and the worries that something is going to happen when I really know nothing is going to happen.

    Thanks,
    Chad

  • God is good!!! He WILL see you through! I love what you said about how you can’t trust your feelings. Keep that heavenly perspective! And I will pray!

  • JonathanWeber

    laurieacoombs Thank you for your encouragement. God’s mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I take it one day at a time. I have chronic pain due to nerve damage in my feet which also affects me emotionally. That can aggravate anxiety especially in me. But God is helping me with that,  As I have been prayed for many times there is gradual improvement in my feet. I know He loves me and is with me even though sometimes I don’t always feel it in the midst of pain and anxiety but feelings can be very deceptive. I can’t trust in my feelings but I can trust in God and I believe He works everything for good like you said. I would appreciate prayer for my feet. God has never forsaken me and never will. There is always hope in Christ and each day is a new opportunity to experiences His mercies!

  • Oh my goodness, Jonathan. I am so sorry you struggle with this! You know, I heard Rick Warren’s church, Saddleback recently did a convention of some sort that dealth with mental illness and the church. You might want to check it out!
    What a blessing to be used in the lives of others like that, though. Our pain is never wasted. And I love what you said about all things being possible with God. It’s true!!! I have such a hard time believing God intends for you to be like this forever, but of course, our ways are not his. Either way, one thing I’m certain of is that he will work it all for your good.
    Hold on to that hope! I’ll be praying!

  • JonathanWeber

    laurieacoombs I have struggled with severe schizophrenia and depression for the past 20 years as a Christian. I was in seminary studying to be a minister when it hit me. I was passionate about Christ (and still am) and wanted to serve Him and the body of Christ. I nearly lost my life and nearly lost everything. It’s been a journey since then, At first I kept going off my medication and disaster kept following. I have learned I need it. God has blessed me with a Christian therapist and a loving and supportive family and I have grown much spiritually in the last 20 years. Lately I have been able to minister to other Christians dealing with mental illness. He keeps bringing them into my life. It is a very misunderstood problem in the body of Christ and many of the worst cases have fallen away due to well meaning but misguided advice by other Christians. I thank you for addressing these things. I have experienced some of these things you described even recently but Jesus is faithful and true and has always helped me through. I do hold out hope that I will eventually be completely healed. All things are possible with God!

  • I suppose I technically do believe Christians can suffer mental illness, but I also think we’re too quick to put labels on things. And here’s the thing: God is bigger than any mental illness!!! Just because someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t (in my opinion) mean they’re stuck with it for the rest of their life! Jesus is Lord over all. He is our healer and he can heal us of anything!

  • JonathanWeber

    laurieacoombs your testimony deeply touched me and made me cry. I have a question. do you believe Christians can suffer mental illness?

  • Hi Laurie – What a blessing you are!!! I’ve recently started sharing my testimony and reading your posts truly is God’s way of telling me not to be afraid. I am 51. Long story short, I had an abortion at 21. The years of guilt, hiding what I’d done, an abusive relationship, and on and on… sent me into a depression that nearly took my life. I didn’t attempt suicide, but I did contemplate it. The way you describe your depression and anxiety really hit home for me. That’s truly the first time anyone explained it that way. I spent three weeks in the hospital. The depression wouldn’t break. My husband and I decided I’d have ECT to try to “shock” my brain into some state of normalcy. This was in Oct. or 2006. I quit drinking on Feb. 1, 2007, One of the best decisions of my life. 

    Anyway, Laurie, I’ve shared my testimony at my Women’s bible study and I will be sharing  it again in August at a much larger venue, our church’s annual Women’s Retreat. God has miraculously given me the ability to speak in front of lots of people just over the last few years. Once I told my brothers and sisters about the abortion, I’m ready to be transparent to the rest of the world too. My very favorite thing you said was that darkness cannot live where there is light. Amen to that!!! 

    One more thing, through years of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, I’ve learned skills to “take my thoughts captive.” A friend is helping me put those tools to scripture. Yes, God had it all mapped out for us. We don’t need ‘The Secret’ or anything else to get through this life. It’s been there all along in His Word!!

    Bless you, and thank you!! 0:)

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  • It can definitely be hard to admit that we’ve experienced this stuff! It’s terrible, and in a way, I think it’s admitting that we don’t have it all together as we like to portray, but I’m proud of you, Mark! Thank you for sharing and for being transparent. I believe this is what truly helps others––to let others know that there are others out there who have experienced the same difficulties. And you know what? It’s something we should be honored to have experienced because ultimately it shows our great need for a great Savior and provided another opportunity to show our God for who He truly is! A rescuer, a redeemer!

  • vaderalman

    Laurie,
    This is tough to write about and I have only shared this with a few people in my life.  A few years ago I was in an important meeting and I was scheduled to do a presentation.  It was then I had my first Panic Attack which I knew nothing about.  All I wanted to do was to run from the room.  This from someone who was really great at his job and great at making presentations.  My heart hammered and I got cold and just wanted out.  Somehow I made it through the meeting.  I did not know what was going on and did not know anything about panic attacks.  This continued and fed upon itself to the point the fear of a panic attack was causing a panic attack.  I thought I may go crazy.  I was most worried about embarrassing my boss who I looked up to as a father and my family.  I was afraid that they would be ashamed of me.  I finally told my wife and she laughed at me because she did not believe it.  That was tough but she finally realized how bad it was.  At the same time as this I witnessed an accident involving the RR and a vehicle that I tried to prevent.  I became the “star witness” and I did not think I could get stay sane on the witness stand.  The RR was being sued and they knew I became their only hope of the truth being told.  This added a lot more pressure.  I finally told the RR lawyers that I did not know what would happen to me on the witness stand due to my panic attacks.  That was so hard to do; to tell someone I did not know if I could hold it together.  I went to a doctor who did not believe I had a problem but gave me meds anyway.  I read books by Christian authors who talked about how to deal with panic attacks and came away highly disappointed because it was apparent they had never suffered a panic attack and gave nice pat biblical answers that offered me little hope.  
    Throughout all this I had prayed and asked for help to not become an embarrassment to my family and to keep my sanity.  A turning point for me was when I decided that I would testify and if God let me crash and burn then I was going to crash and burn living not running away and I would not take any of the meds because I was afraid to become dependent on something other than God. I realize meds can be the right thing for some people but I knew for me it would destroy who I was to myself if I went that way.  So when I told God that I was going to do life and I was depending on Him to help me through and if he chose for me to flame out then that was what was going to happen.  I could not continue to just live in fear all the time.  
    This song was a great comfort to me during this time as well: http://youtu.be/jVrElcu4-Ps
    After the turning point where I abandoned all hope of getting through it on my own or even believing that I deserved to and that what ever happened that I would lean into God little by little it got better.  I don’t believe I am ever immune to panic attacks but I finally know I am not going to die when my heart beats out of control and that I will come out the other side.  I am thankful to not have embarrassed anyone and I have a lot of compassion for people that I recognize suffer the same concerns and have been able to help a few along the way.

  • Thanks for sharing, Paula! I love that name of God as well! How beautiful it is that God is sufficient! I completely agree with your remark about an accountability partner! Great point! After coming to Christ, I found it to be strange that a Christian could experience what I had as a non-Christian, but I now know that anyone is susceptible to falling into depression and anxiety. But I also believe that those who are Christians who find themselves in this place are either believing lies or not pressing into God in that place. Ultimately, God has His purposes, and while these may not be the only two reasons for a Christian to be in this terrible place, one thing is for certain––God always intends good for us. Even our moments of darkness are used by Him to bring us to a better place!

  • You’ve got it!

  • PaulaKechisenCollins

    Laurie,
    Once again, thank you for being so transparent.  I have been to the pit of depression twice in my life, so I completely understand all you were saying.  The first time was in high school and it spiraled pretty bad.  I was there for many years.  I was on a retreat when God spoke to me through a song, El Shaddai.  I love that the title means “all sufficient God”.  The second was when my dad died suddenly from a heart attack when I was 27.  I was a believer both times, but I had no accountability partner to point me back to God.  I think that is important as well.

  • kgirl87

    laurieacoombs yes please that would be very helpful since I’m going through the same thing right now and this helped me so much! reading the bible and going to bible study with my mom as well as praying are really healing me little by little. Appreciate what you do for people like us with anxiety! 🙂 Keep up the good work and thank you for existing!

  • Thank you so much for your kind words!! I am so happy to hear the lessons I share have helped you!!

    I plan on writing a post next week about how we need to take out thoughts captive and how this can help recalibrate our minds on Christ, which can certainly help with the anxiety and depression. Perhaps I should do a longer series??

    Thanks again! What a blessing you are! Keep that head up! And keep your eye on Jesus!

  • kgirl87

    thank you for these kind words Laurie! And for sharing your story with us 🙂 ever since I found your blog I’ve been feeling much better, hope you keep writing about this and more inspiring subjects! God bless!!