July turned out to be a somewhat difficult month, a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride. Just when I thought I could get ahead financially, my bank account was hacked, my car decided it needed over a thousand dollars in repairs, my new health insurance ended up costing a lot more than I thought it would and some health issues require a trip to the doctor. As you can imagine, all this stress was also accompanied by a personal visit from my old enemy…anxiety. It shook me. Discouragement threatened to overwhelm me. But this time I was more prepared to fight my nemesis than I ever have been before. And one of my most powerful weapons turned out to be a letter I wrote to myself a little over a year ago.
Last summer around this same time, I came very close to having another nervous breakdown and it was absolutely terrifying. As I was coming out of it, I determined that I would never go back to that place again…ever. But how? Every time I’ve recovered from a severe bout of depression and/or anxiety, my brain somehow thinks I’m over it and will never struggle with it again. Experience has taught me otherwise, and in the process of fighting many such battles, I’ve learned some things, gained insights and tools. So I decided to write a letter from myself to myself. I’d like to share with you the words of wisdom that my victorious overcomer self wrote to my down and out self after winning the most intense struggle for sanity I’d had in years.
When you’re under the water and you feel like you’re drowning, read this little letter from me, the sane one. I know you’re thinking that I might not be so sane after all, but I assure you that I am. I am also thinking more clearly than I’ve thought in about a week.
Last Friday I was starting to sink. That awful dread had settled in my stomach and the intense fear, you know the beast, had its talons around my throat. So, here are some things I want to share with you. Listen up!
First of all… no matter how all consuming and overpowering your fears are, they are simply not as bad as it FEELS right now. When you’re living on the razor’s edge of panic and each and every single moment is a fight to survive, I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Yesterday, I couldn’t have have sat down and written this letter to save my life. I felt like I could barely put two coherent, audible sentences together. Well, look at me now!
This week was hell, but you didn’t give up. You fought and you overcame! I am so proud of you! I understand exactly where you’re at, how the record is broken and stuck on a never-ending repeat message of nothing but doom, destruction, death and terrors of all kinds. I know how badly you want to make it stop, how desperately you want to silence the screams in your mind. And how utterly powerless you feel, that every fiber of your being is frantically grasping at any and every possible escape. But no matter how hopeless and dark and desperate it FEELS right now, you must not give up! No matter how weary and bone tired and sick of life you are, no matter how much giving up FEELS like a good idea, IT IS NOT. You must fight! And I will tell you how.
1) Pray, pray, pray – I know it feels pointless and useless, like the doors of heaven are closed to your pounding and God’s ears are deaf to your cries. That is not true. Remember, “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened.” Keep knocking!
2) Fill your mind with God’s truth. Yes, it is TRUTH! It is living and breathing, a two edged sword that can divide bone from marrow and defeat the power of the enemy of your soul. Read it. Hear it. Speak it. Continue to read and personalize your favorite scriptures. (***see below)
I know that doing this feels like nothing more than chanting some kind of spell, that the fear and doubt can be so strong when they try to convince you that there is no God, or worse – that there is and He doesn’t care. Not true! God loves you so much. I can’t answer all your questions about the suffering you are experiencing or the suffering of the world, except to say He is always faithful to deliver you through it. Hang on! Hang on with your last breath. Taking every thought captive to Christ is hard work, but you CAN do it! I know it FEELS impossible. But it IS possible.
3) Eat small protein snacks as much as you can. I know that food tastes like cardboard and your stomach is in a constant state of rebellion, but you must eat something. Drink a protein shake. Eat a handful of almonds and a few veggies. Drink some soup broth, a peice of cheese, a hard boiled egg, some yogurt. Stay away from sugar, alcohol and coffee. These substances will only make the depression and anxiety worse.
4) Drink water! Fill your water bottle and carry it with you. Force yourself to drink often as much as you can. Try to drink a gallon a day. You can’t afford to become dehydrated.
5) Take a shower and do your hair. I know you feel like you don’t have the energy to take care of yourself and that a part of you may think you don’t even deserve to be clean, but it will help you feel better. It will help you continue putting one foot in front of the other.
6) Do not, I repeat DO NOT make ANY big decisions concerning your future or your kids. I know you want to do right by them and that you FEEL like you’re letting them down, that you possibly may even be a danger to them. What they need most is a mother who loves them and who will continue to fight, a mother who will take care of herself so that she can take care of them.
7) Have you been taking your medication? If so, call your doctor to schedule an appointment to re-evaluate the dose. Remember, it’s been approved by your doctor to increase your sleep meds so that you can sleep. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not getting good sleep.
8) Remember who you are. You are blessed, chosen, beloved. I know it doesn’t FEEL that way right now, but it’s true. Yes, you’ve sinned and made mistakes. And the blood of Jesus has covered it ALL. there is NOTHING, NO SITUATION and NO ONE who is beyond the Lord’s redemption. You DO love God, and to the best of your ability, you try to serve Him and live for Him. Even when your best isn’t good enough, His grace is still sufficient. Just because you don’t have all the answers and can’t see how all the problems will be solved, doesn’t mean He doesn’t know. Of course He knows and He will be faithful to guide you in the way you should go. TRUST in Him. REST in Him. There is no problem too big for Him.
The morning I remembered this letter, stress had piled upon stress and the anxiety had been building. I was struggling to get up and go to work that day. As I read it to myself, and read the scriptures I’d written on index cards to carry with me, I wept. Tears streamed down my face because I knew I had come a long way since I had written that letter. And I knew that by the grace of God, I would never go back to that dark, desperate, drowning place…not ever again.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.