Slaying the Dragon of Anxiety and Depression Part 2

My life has been colored by anxiety and depression.

It took years of struggle and cumulative growth for me to overcome not only the anxiety, but also the critical and negative spirit that I learned while growing up. While every person is different, I believe the lessons I learned along the way can help others win over anxiety and depression, too.

The first step toward healing came when I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of seventeen. I do not exaggerate when I say that all the bottled up anger and unforgiveness in my heart was lifted that day. In its place, God filled my heart with such love for each member of my family. If God could forgive me of all my sins, I could no longer refuse to forgive others. I was able to let go of past wrongs, real or imagined. When I look back on my life some forty years later, I know that without Christ’s transforming power in my life I would have become a bitter, lonely person. My life would have been a shadow of what it is today.

Marriage to my high school sweetheart brought all the typical challenges newlyweds face, and more. Those first years were rough as my high expectations and unwillingness to compromise made it especially difficult for my husband. Opposites do attract, and he was as easy-going as I was uptight and anxious. I thank God every day for bringing my husband into my life. His gentle spirit and unconditional love covered me even when I was at my most unlovable. Our marriage is a testament to God’s grace in our lives. The lessons learned from my husband are many: unconditional love; no one is perfect; value each person for their unique traits; say “I love you” every day; don’t be so hard on yourself and others; forgive, forgive and forgive some more.

The birth of our first child brought me outside of myself in a way that nothing else ever had. For the first time I had someone else totally dependent on me. It caused me to quit worrying about myself and put someone else first. One of the hard truths of anxiety is that you are wrapped up in thinking about yourself all the time. Having children caused me to set aside my own selfish worries and care for the needs of my children. I learned life wasn’t all about me. It caused me to grow up. I purposed in my heart that I would learn to parent my children without the negative and critical nature that came so easily to me. I wanted to be a better person for my children.

In the years that followed, we were blessed to attend several churches with wonderful pastors and teachers. As I grew in my relationship with Christ, God began to change my heart and my thought patterns. We listened to Christian radio and read many books on parenting and marriage. We prayed individually, as a couple and as a family.

Medication became a part of the healing process after a devastating loss that I could not seem to recover from on my own. I was hesitant to take medication (a typical response for someone who suffers from anxiety), but my doctor explained that my brain was not producing a chemical it needed. She advised my need for the anti-depressant medication was no different than a diabetic needing insulin. I took the medication for a year or so and saw improvement in my ability to deal with the stress and anxiety of life.  Again, as typical of someone with anxiety, I wanted to quit taking the medication as soon as I saw improvement.  When I asked my family if they thought that was a good idea, I got a resounding “No!”.  ( I love my family for being honest with me.)  I continue to take the medication today.

I made lots of mistakes, but I learned to ask forgiveness and move on. I didn’t have to try to be perfect anymore. I even learned to laugh at myself, which is a sign of true healing from perfectionism. And, something amazing began to happen.

When I no longer had to be perfect, I began to be able to express my creative side.  The shy, introverted person who at one point couldn’t look people in the eye began to reach out to others in social situations.  It wasn’t anything I did, it was all a response to the great love God showed to me and compelled me to show to others.

I try not to look back and think of all the opportunities that passed me by while I let those destructive emotions rule my heart.  There is no sense in fretting over something that you can’t change.  My goal is simply to live life to the fullest.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, don’t give up!  You can win the battle.

I would love to hear from anyone who has struggled with anxiety and/or depression and what has worked for you.

Slaying the Dragon of Anxiety and Depression

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I have struggled with anxiety and depression all my life.  You might say it’s in my DNA.  Growing up, I watched my dad wrestle with it, although at the time I didn’t know what it was called.  We didn’t talk about it.  Men of his generation would never admit to suffering with anxiety and paralyzing fear.

I had a front row seat to see how it limited my dad’s life and how his world shrunk smaller and smaller as he got older.  As parents do, he passed on his predisposition to anxiety to his children.  “Don’t do that!  The neighbors will laugh at you!”  “You don’t know how to do that!”  “Don’t do something unless you can do it right!”  “Close the drapes!  Someone might look in the house.”  The mantra he spoke over us imprinted deep on our souls.

We grew up afraid to try anything for fear that someone would laugh at us.  We never thought we were good enough.  Because he was a perfectionist, we could never do anything right or please him in any way.   The sad thing was that dad was always hardest on himself.  He never thought he was good enough.  He thought people looked down on him.  He bristled at imaginary slights.  He thought people were watching him in anticipation of his failure.

The man was a genius mechanic and could literally fix or build anything.  He had a patent for an invention he called an “Energy Conversion Apparatus”.   The tragic thing is that his intolerance for imperfection and unrealistically high expectations prevented him from passing any of those skills on to his children or grandchildren.  What a loss.

As kids we didn’t understand that he was suffering.  We only knew that we could never measure up. It created a tremendous sense of insecurity in all of us, along with deep-seated feelings of unworthiness and shame.

It wasn’t until many years later, through the lens of God’s grace that I was able to see my dad as a human being tormented by feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure.  God gave me such love and acceptance for my dad.  The last ten years of his life I was blessed to be able to make the 160 mile round trip to visit with my parents every other weekend.  God allowed me to speak words of affirmation and acceptance into his battered heart.  I sat and listened to him tell his story.  I spoke of God’s grace and forgiveness.  I boldly told him I loved him.  I held his hand.

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Even today my eyes fill with tears at the thought of holding his hand.

My dad was a wonderful, complex human being who fought a daily battle with a fierce enemy that he felt helpless to overcome.  Maybe some of you are fighting that same battle.  I fought it myself for many years.

There is victory.  Your life doesn’t have to be limited by your insecurities and fears.  Anxiety does not have to rule your life.  In my next post I will share with you how God transformed my life from one of insecurity and anxiety to freedom and peace.

Is This Poison in Your Home?

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Most parents are diligent about keeping poisons out of their home and away from young children.  When they think of poison, they think in terms of harmful substances like household cleaners or pesticides.

That is all well and good, but there is another more insidious poison that requires extra vigilance to keep away from our loved ones.  It is highly infectious and just a tiny amount can spread quickly from one person to another and destroy your family.

I’m talking about attitude.  Have you noticed how one person’s bad attitude can infect a whole group of people?  Mom gets mad and yells at Dad.  Dad yells at the kids.  The kids fight with one another, and on it goes.  If you don’t nip it in the bud, the atmosphere of your home becomes toxic.

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As parents, our job is to set the tone for our home.  Our attitude towards life and our reaction to the things that happen throughout our day is imprinted on our children’s psyche.  Do you get angry easily over little things?  Do you over-react?  Are you unable to adjust when the unexpected happens or things don’t go your way?  Are you unforgiving and unloving?  Do unkind words, foul language or inappropriate jokes color your speech?  Do you serve your family with love, or does resentment color everything you do?

Your children are watching everything you say and do.  As adults, our job is to protect the children in our lives from the toxic effects of bad attitudes.  That begins by controlling our own attitude and monitoring those of our children.  Gently correcting a bad attitude and instructing a child in how to maintain a good attitude is part of our job description as parents.  If children are allowed to have a bad attitude or moody personality, they will have few friends and will struggle through life.

Model the behavior you want to see in your children.  If you haven’t in the past, it isn’t too late to begin now.

How do you handle a bad attitude in one of your loved ones?

THE BLESSING OF SISTERS

Recently the mail brought one of the nicest letters I have ever received.  It wasn’t so much about me, as it was about the blessing of sisterhood and family.  The letter so perfectly expressed my feelings on the importance of family and relationships that I wanted to share it with you all.

“Sister,

This card comes with a deep appreciation for all the cards and gifts you have sent to me through the years.  Please do not think that you need to send me a present at Christmas.  I fully enjoy Christmas knowing that our family has been blessed with a wonderful mother, father, and 6 beautiful, independent, resourceful sisters!  I am so blessed with sisters and know that at any time I need a friend to talk to or just someone to rant and rave to – I can call on any one of my sisters.  As the years go by (and I get older), I realize just how much this means to me.  After talking to friends that do not have sisters to turn to, I feel so sorry for them.  For without my sisters love, I would at times be lost!

Remember, I love you and appreciate you.  At this time in your life, please, take care of yourself, Dan and your children.  Enjoy life, don’t worry about small things.  Knowing you are out there at the touch of a phone or email is priceless to me. “

The great news is that even if you don’t have biological sisters, you can find a friend to be a sister-of-the-heart.  If you don’t have someone like that in your life, pray and ask God to bring you a sister-of-the-heart.  Psalm 68:6 says “God places the lonely in families.”  What a beautiful promise from God.