Overcoming Anxiety and Depression {Part 1}

Posted on: March 26th, 2014 by Laurie Coombs 15 Comments

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I think last week’s post, When Anxiety and Depression Threaten to Pull You Under, struck a cord. It seems the darkness I had experienced has been experienced––or is currently being experienced––by many. Over the last week, many people have contacted me asking for help, and with each email that I received, I realized just how important it is that I speak out with complete transparency about what I went through and how I got out of it.

I originally decided to write these posts on anxiety and depression in response to correspondence I received from a man I sat next to on an airplane a few weeks back. It was one of those encounters that you know God ordained, but you’re not quite sure why you’re telling a complete stranger your entire life’s story until later. Now, I’m accustom to telling strangers about the crazy story of how God redeemed my past and gave me grace to forgive the man who murdered my dad, but that wasn’t all I shared this time. No, this man got my whole story. I told him about my upbringing, the anxiety and depression I had gone through, how I came to Christ, and more. Truly, I couldn’t stop talking. It felt like I was vomiting words all over this poor guy, but for whatever reason, I knew God wanted me to, so I kept going. A week or so later, I found out why I kept talking and talking when this man contacted me through my blog to tell me his story. He told me that he had no hope when we met, that my story had given him hope, and that he was struggling with anxiety and depression but didn’t know how to get out of it.

Then I started thinking. How many others are out there living in terrible darkness and have no hope? How many others think that they will always struggle with this? That they are the only one? That they will never get better? That they’re going crazy? That they have a legitimate mental illness that dooms them to live a painful, joyless existence for the rest of their lives? And that God has abandoned them?

So many people who struggle with anxiety and depression feel they will never recover. But that’s simply not true. There is hope! God can pluck you up out of your pit of despair! Just as He did for me!

I’d like to share an anonymous comment I received this week. I think it paints a good picture of what depression can look like. It says:

You have no idea how your post on depression has rang true for me!!! I don’t know what to say or how to even describe how reading your article is like looking at my reflection!!! I am in the darkest pit of my life; numb, lonely, afraid and in absolute despair. I have been a Christian since childhood but suddenly I have found myself in a dark place where God is MIA.

All I do is sleep because then I feel like I am getting some ‘escape.’ The few guys I have reached out to don’t get me. The physical symptoms have made me spend so much money on doctors only for the tests to show I am ok. The brain fog, the crazy fatigue, leg aches and endless tears and heart palpitations are beyond what I can take. Nothing good or bad moves me anymore!!!! I am numb, dead man walking!!!

How exactly did you overcome depression, and how long did it take?

This just breaks my heart. I’ve been there. Truly, I could have written this five years ago.

The numbness. The brain fog. The fatigue. The darkness. The fear (or sometimes terror). The loneliness that you feel even when surrounded by others.

Even when present in body, I was not present in mind. My mind didn’t work properly, and quite frankly, that scared me. All I wanted to do was feel, but as this person wrote, nothing good or bad moved me. I was surrounded by darkness, sitting in a pit of despair. Another person wrote to me after my last post saying, “I’m trying to pull myself out of this pit of hell…” Oh, how I could relate!

So the question remains, how did I overcome depression, and how long did it take?

To that, I must take a step back and first say that I experienced both anxiety and depression together, and I think this is a common experience for many. For me, it started with certain physical symptoms such as constant fatigue, nausea, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, digestive issues, nervousness, absentmindedness, brain fog, fear, and so on and so forth, which led me to doctor after doctor in search of what was wrong with me. I spent quite a bit of money trying to figure the whole thing out only to be told that I was physically okay and that I might be experiencing anxiety. But I wondered how I might be able to fix that anxiety. It didn’t seem like an easy fix––it isn’t easy to just “relax” when you’re told you need to and the typical “stress management” isn’t working! Even though I didn’t want there to be anything physically wrong with me, I thought that at least if it were something physical, there could be a cure for that, but what was I to do with anxiety?

As you can imagine, it didn’t take much for me to lose hope at this point, and we all know that’s a bad place to be. Hope is the tether to life––it’s our lifeline. But I had none, and somewhere in the midst of all this mess I became depressed and desperate for anything to make me better, but of course, nothing worked.

Nothing, that is, until I finally came to Jesus.

God is the one who healed me. It was the first of many times He has shown Himself mighty in my life, and I am forever thankful for the healing he brought. There was such relief that came with my healing, but I must tell you that it didn’t come overnight. It was a process. It took about one year to get the point that I felt like a relatively normal person again––until the point that I knew I’d be okay. But my healing wasn’t complete after that year. God had to heal me of fear as well, which I believe was at the root of all this mess.

It seems to me that fear is at the root of all anxiety. Though the source of our fear may be unclear, I still believe fear is the cause of anxiety. And fear is present when we fail to trust God. When I was going through this season, I didn’t know God. And when you don’t know God, life is just a series of random events that happen to you. There’s no one at the helm but yourself. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know that you can’t control the circumstances of your life. Things happen. Bad things. And you think, that’s just the way life goes. It’s random. Unordered.

But truthfully, life is anything but random.

After I became a follower of Christ, I began to understand that God is, in fact, who He says He is in the Bible. That He has not only created all things but that He holds all things together. That He is in control. Even better than that––He loves us and is intimately involved in our lives. He’s not some cosmic power in the sky. He’s not some emotion-less creator who has abandoned His creation. He’s our Father in Heaven who loves every one of us and works all things for the good of those who know and love Him.

This is our God. And our God can be trusted.

You see, God is here with us. He says “I am with you” (Matthew 28:20), and “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Those are promises, so even when we feel like God is “MIA,” He’s not. He is with us.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I began to understand who God is––I began to know His heart toward me––and I began to trust God. Over time, my trust in God grew, and as it did, the darkness began to lift. Trust came as I read God’s Word and inundated my mind with His truths. And I believe this is the key to bringing light into our lives again. You see, darkness must flee in the presence of light. Jesus is light, so the more our attention rests upon Him the brighter His light is able to shine upon and in us. This is what it takes to overcome anxiety and depression. To take our eyes off the way we feel and the circumstances we’re currently living in and put them on Jesus. For He alone is our hope. The hope I had that I had lost when I fell into my pit was in fact a false hope. It was a hope in the world––a hope in myself. But you see, this hope will always fail us. This hope will never sustain us throughout our lives. But the hope found in Jesus is a hope that will last for all eternity. Think eternally. Hope in God. Trust Him. Love Him. Press in. Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us! So do it! He is our only real hope in both this life, and the next.

Next week, I’ll be writing about our thought life and the importance of taking every thought captive into the obedience of Christ. Our thoughts play a vital role in our mental health, and we need to take a more active role in accepting and rejecting the thoughts that cross our mind.

Additionally in the weeks ahead, I plan on writing about my thoughts on using medication to treat anxiety and depression (I am not a medical professional, so these thoughts will be based only upon my opinion and experience). And I’d also like to address seasons of anxiety and depression for those who are already Christians. If there are any others topics you’d like me to address in future posts, please let me know either in the comments below or in a private message through my contact page.

Any thoughts? Share in the comments

  • JeriLynn Dawson

    Hi, I can relate to you, possibly. I too have been depressed all of my life. At 5 years old, my Dad died, he was an Air force Pilot an his plane had been sabatouged. I later in life married 2 different men that were physically & mentally abusive to me. At that time, I didn’t not stay in touch with God and I felt like I was in A permanent “dark hole!” I also took maximum amounts of medicine for depression and anxiety, that mostly made me want to alienate myself from my Family and friends. I had to work, so I put on my happy face and forced myself through it. Even with dealing with Harassmnt from two Federal employees. I finally had a breakdown, quit my job of 26 years and moved to CA to be near my youngest daughter. I started Praying daily over 2 years ago, also reading the scriptures. I have a cousin that does Clearing through the Tapping Solution, I feel like I like myself again. A weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I will definitely keep you in my Prayers. May God bless you always.

  • kmoehle

    I suffer from anxiety with panic and depression, I have found my new release is sewing, needlework and any kind of crafting… who knew… oh and I also started blogging  http://kmoehle.blogspot.com/

  • Thank you for that resource, Bryan!

  • BryanJohnson1

    My life was a hell caused by my panic attacks and anxiety. I tried everything: psychologists, psychiatrists, all kinds of pills and drugs. The only thing that helped me and cured me were these techniques I found online. I hope they will be useful. http://www.panicsolutionkey.com

  • I am so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply! I tried to reply right away but had technical difficulties. Anyway, what I’d like to tell you is that I lost all hope as well, but it turned out to be a good thing. The hope I had lost was a false hope in myself and in this world, and that hope will always fail. But then as I sought God with all I had, I was given hope again, but this time it was a new kind of hope––a hope that will never fail me––a hope in Jesus. You can come to this hope as well. I guess my point is this: It’s okay to lose hope as long as we turn to the only true source of hope.

  • hopeless72

    I have lost my hope and don’t think it can be found again.

  • Oh my. I am so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through. My heart breaks every time I hear what pain others have to endure. 
    Know that there is hope!! And here’s the thing, you are accepted by God right here, right now! He has always loved you. He created you, and whether you know it or not, He has been pursuing you from the beginning. His desire is for you. He LOVES you more than any of us can even begin to comprehend. 
    There is no right or wrong way to purse God. You can pray through your journal or silently or any other way you feel led. It’s not so much about the how. God sees our hearts and that’s what He’s interested in. He rejoices when He sees us turn to Him. Read the parable about prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). It is a wonderful description of how God interacts with us when we come to Him. He’s not mad at you. He’s not even surprised you haven’t come until not. But instead, He’s rejoicing that you’re taking a step in His direction. 
    Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  • It can be scary to think of going back there, but in those times, I simply remind myself of how God has shown Himself mighty before, and I know He’ll do it again. Keep moving toward that light. Keep pressing in and I believe you will soon come out on the other side of this darkness!

  • Jbpace724

    I too have felt/feel the despair that anxiety and depression cause. The pit is a very real place for me, a place I fear ever going back to. While I’m somewhat out of the pit, I’m just now starting to see the light. I truly believe that light is God. I wasn’t much of a Christian before my post-partum depression, anxiety, and OCD hit. A friend of mine said, “Read the Bible…go to the Bible.” And I did. I can’t describe the relief I get from my fears when I immerse myself in The Word. Devotionals have really helped me as well. I picked a church and made my family go with me. It’s also making an enormous difference in my life. Sadly, knowing others suffer from fear, anxiety etc. helps me. Although, I would not wish these feelings on my worst enemy, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone. I’m not 100%, and some days are better than others, but I believe I’ve been pulled out of the pit by my Lord. I know through my continued relationship with Him, we can do this. The medicine and I can’t do it alone, but I can do it with God’s help. Thank you for this blog. I look forward to reading more from you. When I feel anxiety or sadness I now go to The Word.

  • pquinley

    This is wonderful. I have been depressed all of my life due to childhood issues with my dad and after I told everything he killed himself. I have had all the symptoms that you and others have mentioned. I have been in this dark place with no hope for years like I have this hard shell around me and I can’t or won’t let anyone in. I don’t know what true happiness and joy really feel like. I have just recently asked God to accept me and I have started going to church and reading the Bible but how do you honestly know God has accepted you and forgiven your sins? I pray every morning however I write out my prayers in a journal and I’m not sure if that’s ok I’m not even sure if I’m praying the correct way or if there is a correct way. I was not raised in a Christian home so all this is new to me. Please keep these post coming and pray for me please that God will help me out of this darkness and breaks my shell.

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  • I will! Thank you for sharing, Lynnz! The more transparent we all are, the more people will be set free! So many suffer with anxiety and depression and don’t know how to get past it, but if we join together in support for one another, we will see victory!

  • Yes! Share! So many people need your encouragement! What a blessing you are and will be!

  • Lynnz Uniique

    This is awesome, Pretty cool how I landed here, right now because I struggle with anxiety symptoms, to the point in where my stomach makes embarrassing noises and my digestive system acts up so when you mentioned digestive issues I was like wow maybe this is similar to me- This anxiety rises in quiet and tight places like during in class tests and assignments. Its even affecting my church activities like Youth nights, prayer nights, bible study and its so uncomfortable my focus is on me and on being sent to the bathroom or my stomach making noises. I also thought I needed a doctor but didn’t go for it because I did not have insurance.. I loved that a believer can relate to another believer in this issue with anxiety and depression. I love that you are open about this which is soo needed. It does bring hope! That soon I will be free from all of this discomfort and be able to become that confident radical and selfless instrument of God. The way He desires, and help others also. Please keep these posts coming.

  • EasterEllen

    I love how nakedly you share your journey. I also have recently felt more and more to share my being taken by the hand out of depression and anxiety. God is wonderful. I have been working on a devotional to publish for a while and the other day, I just felt God leading me to start posting on-line instead. Thank you for sharing your story and your faith.