Depression, Anxiety, and Faith

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This past year I struggled with a bout of depression. It feels so dramatic to say that. I feel like I had a cold, but I am going around saying, “I overcame a very intense respiratory virus.”

Yeah, lady.  It’s called a cold.  We’ve all had ’em.

But drama or no drama, severe or not severe, cold or respiratory virus, it is what it is.  I struggled with depression after all the changes my family experienced during our move.  I spoke with my minister during that period and she, very appropriately, called depression a season.  I wholeheartedly agree with that comparison.  Depression is a season.  But I think I can be even more specific:  Depression is like hurricane season. 

Hurricane season has a definite start and end, just like my depression did.  And during hurricane season, you aren’t constantly battling hurricanes every day, but you are very aware of a disturbance in the Gulf.  A presence of a force that might become a hurricane.  And that constant awareness that just under the surface of myself there lurked total devastation was exhausting in itself.  I felt like a ticking time bomb waiting to break down.  And then, of course, there are the days when the hurricane does come ashore and everything is flooded with tears.  On those days, there is almost a relief.  Just like living on the coast, you are constantly worried of what the weather might bring and so when the storm finally does come, there’s almost a little bit of relief that it has come, it has destroyed, and now you can begin to move on.  Waiting is a hard thing, emotionally and meteorologically.   

When my season of depression finally ended, I was so thankful.  That state of, “Will I keep it together today or won’t I?” is exhausting and I was glad to put that behind me.  About the time I started to feel better, I went out on maternity leave and had Gracie Girl.  As stressful as that might sound to some people, this has actually been a really calm time for me.  I’m not working, so there’s no stress there.  Chris is handling our finances (one of the changes we made to deal with my depression), so that’s not stressful.  The kids are happy, we’re all healthy (and insured!), and everyone is getting along.  Not too much to be stressed about.  Because everything has been smooth sailing, Chris and I have decided to start house hunting and after a very quick search, we’ve decided to make an offer on the house today.  Fun stuff, right?  I’m super excited.

So then why am I suddenly worried?  Why am I awake in the middle of the night again?  Why is my heart beating like it wants out of my chest now?

I’ll tell you why.  Because if depression is like hurricane season, then anxiety is like a summer storm.  Here in Florida, we get summer storms every day, like clockwork.  Around 4:00 every day, the sky darkens and the wind blows and the rain pours as if Noah’s going to float by in his ark any minute.  And then, as quick as it happened, the storm is over and the sun is shining.  That is what anxiety is like.  Unlike depression which comes in distinct seasons of your life and then goes away, anxiety is just part of my daily weather pattern.  Most of the time, I can keep it in check with a prayer or a few deep breathes.  I think it’s probably very normal as to what other people experience.  But then sometimes, when things are a little more stressful, I don’t seem to be able to handle it at all.  And it is so hard to explain why because I understand what it is and I know that I am being irrational.  But the anxiety is still so very, very crippling.

It’s like this:

Imagine you are standing at your kitchen window watching a summer storm rain down on your front yard.  You notice your car is parked in the driveway and then you realize that you left your driver side window down.  In all this rain, the inside of your car is getting soaked.  You know what you need to do.  You know this is a relatively simple problem and solution.  You just need to get your keys, run outside, and roll the windows up.  All very easy steps.  Only, you can’t seem to be able to move your feet.  You want to go look for your keys so you can fix the simple problem, but you can’t seem to get your feet to move no matter how much you try.  So, you end up standing there, like an idiot, staring at the problem, knowing how to solve it, but unable to do anything.

That is anxiety to me.  It freezes me in my tracks, renders me useless, and then is spiteful and still makes me stare at the simple problem and feel guilty about the fact that I can’t get my damn feet to move.  It is beyond frustrating.

Last night, I got up to feed Gracie in the middle of the night and when I tried to go back to sleep afterwards, I couldn’t.  My mind reeled with all that was going on – could we afford this?  Were we sure this was the house?  What if something went wrong?  Finally, I sat very still and took a deep breath and when I did, a simple Bible verse came to me, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Then I proceeded to hear God saying the following things to me:

“Be still, Katie, and know that I am God.”

“I said be still, Katie.”

“Don’t make me come back there, Katie.  Be STILL!  I am GOD!  It’s under control!”

“DANG IT, KATIE!  LAY DOWN AND CHILL OUT!  I’M TAKING CARE OF THIS!”

So, I laid back down and every time a thought came into my head, I would push it out by saying over and over again, “Be still and know that I am God,” and somehow that peace helped me sleep.

Now, I’m not one of those believers who thinks that God’s peace will solve all my worldly problems.  I know God’s hand is in everything, but that doesn’t mean those stresses are simply eliminated from my life.  He doesn’t take all that away, He just goes through it with me.  And that’s why I’m thinking about seeing a therapist.  Going through that season of depression taught me how to ask for help and dealing with these summer storms of anxiety has taught me that even though I might know the solution to a problem, I still might need some help figuring out how to unglue my feet.  I’ve been praying about the therapist thing, too.  And my prayers have kind of sounded like this:

Dear God, thank you for giving me a powerful mind.  In fact, you’ve given me such a complex mind that I think it’s time I get a professional in here who knows how to use it properly because, clearly, I don’t.  So, if it’s okay with you, could you put someone in my life that you and I can trust together to fiddle around with that wonderfully complex mind that you’ve given me?  Also?  If this person was covered by my medical benefits plans, I’d really appreciate it.  And now, I am going to be still and know that you are God of all things, even my anxiety.  Say hi to the J-Man for me.

Depression and anxiety can be such downers.  Literally.  They just bring you down.  They make you feel like you’re too stupid or lazy or insignificant to handle your own situations.  And prayer is such a powerful high for me.  Literally.  It lifts me up.  But I think there needs to be a middle ground between that incredible low and that incredible high.  That’s why I think it’s time I talked with someone somewhere in the middle about how to get my feet unstuck so I can run out there and roll up my stupid windows during a rainstorm. 

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49 Thoughts to “Depression, Anxiety, and Faith”

  1. PJ

    This is wonderfully written and explained, so much so that even though I don’t have depression or anxiety, I unerstand exactly what you mean. (I have an eating disorder, but it’s in check right now)

    For me, admitting that I had a problem was the hardest part; but, once I found the right therapist, everything changed. So, my advice, if you go that route, is to not get discouraged if the first therapist you see is not the right one. It can often take a few to get it right.

  2. Elisabeth A.

    I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety and OCD for years. I still see my therapist several times a month. She really helps keep me in check. Go for it.

  3. Aimee

    Katie, I’m proud of you, my dear internet friend! You recognize the need for help, and you go to all the right places to find it! And, you’re so refreshingly honest in your prayers and when discussing your thoughts and fears and feelings. You’re a blessing to many people (including Chris, Bean, and Gracie)!

  4. I love this! I love how honest you are. Beautifully written.

  5. Lee Ann

    Your honesty and forthright manner of speaking always help me think through my own challenges. Thank you for reminding me that one day at a time is the best I need to do and that there is a Higher Power to help me meet those challenges.

  6. Katie–Thank you for your honesty! As someone who has, and still does, struggle with anxiety & depression, it is so inspiring to read your story. Sometimes it’s so hard to explain to my husband why I can’t just get over it. This is such a wonderful analogy. Thank you! God Bless!

  7. This was such a beautiful and honest description of depression and all that goes with it. I’ve definitely weathered a season of depression myself and saw a counselor during the darkest parts. It’s difficult because we had to dig deeper to unearth the root of the issue before bringing healing, but it is SO worth it. The Lord is so gracious in healing and redeeming. There are things I couldn’t even fathom when I was in the midst of the darkness that are such a part of my life now that I don’t even think about it. I would highly recommend seeking a Christian counselor though. It’s so easy to get caught up in a feel-good focus-on-yourself mentality with a counselor, but I think it’s really important to see someone who understands the importance of making the Lord the foundation of your life, healing, etc. I’m praying for you, and your precious family!

  8. Michaela

    Speaking out about this is sure to give a lot of great support to others struggling. Thanks you.

    In terms of a therapist – just do it. They can be amazing people- they aren’t there to judge you, or rifle through your head. They can just give you some wonderful tools to use when you are feeling anxious or down. Tips sometimes so simple you think ‘why didn’t I think of that!’ Remember sometimes you have to try more than one.

    Good luck with your search, and your struggles. I’m not religious, but I’m happy that God is giving you some peace right now.

  9. Ginny

    I’m proud of you — and I’m always here if/when you need me. 🙂

  10. stacy

    I could have easily written this. Thanks so much for sharing your eloquent thoughts.

  11. Your posts are so honest, and I admire how open you are with us imaginary friends. Just remember that God can help you through any struggle. Lean on him (and Chris too) for support and encouragement!
    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:6-7

  12. We are in the initial phase of an international adoption at the moment, and I don’t know how many times my eyes have popped open in the middle of the night and I’ve felt waves of anxiety roll over me. I’m a control freak and this is totally out of my control. Scary stuff. While I don’t think God takes away our problems, I do think that we need to lay them at His feet. Sometimes He can fix them a lot better than we can. Thank you for sharing and laying it all out there. It takes a lot of courage to do that. 🙂

  13. Jen M

    I love your honesty in your prayer. And I love your comparison of depression to hurricane season. Although in Oklahoma it would be tornado season. I’ve not struggled with depression but your honesty about your situation is refreshing. Thanks for sharing!

  14. You’ve done such an awesome job of explaining this, I almost feel like I know how this feels for you. I understand that I don’t really, but I do feel like this has given me a better idea of how to pray for you. Praying for peace.

  15. Katie, this post is going to give so many people the courage they’ve needed to go see a therapist. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Seeing a therapist in no way shape or form undermines your faith. God, in His infinite wisdom, gave everybody specific gifts and talents in order for us to be interdependent. Therapists have all the right gifts to listen, hear what’s in your heart, ask poignant questions, and hopefully lead you into more of who you are in Christ. Thank GOD for therapists! More specifically, thank God for good, godly therapists who are covered under medical insurance! I’ll be praying for you =)

  16. Kristen

    I am an anxious person by nature and what you describe is exactly how I feel when I am struggling with making a decision or even dealing with a simple task that I fear I might do “wrong”. I have seen a professional and it truly did help and gave me an outlet to talk things out. Don’t feel bad, guilty, whatever about needing help! I didn’t want to admit it for a long time but I wish I had done something sooner and been less embarrasssed by it.

  17. jessica

    I’m struggling with depression and anxiety right now as well… unfortunately it is due to my divorce. It’s unsettling how quickly the anxiety sneak up on you when your having a seemingly good day….all I know is that going through this will make me stronger in the end and will show me that I can make it through any season…..

  18. Thanks for talking about this. Your courage has inspired me to be more honest about this issue on my own blog. 🙂 I know how hard it can be to say that you need help, and to talk about therapy since there is a stigma about it. I see a therapist every week to work on my issues (at the moment, an eating disorder), and it really helps me to talk it out with someone who doesn’t know me like my family does. I think God puts professionals like this in our lives so that we can truly enjoy the life he has given us to the fullest.

  19. Kristenina

    I am one of those folks who thinks therapy is good for pretty much everybody. I hope that you’re able to find a counselor who you click with, and remember that you don’t have to see the first one you meet! Look around to find someone you feel comfortable with and respect, and who seems to respect you. Therapy is great because you’re able to talk about your feelings in a way that is supported by a professional – someone who typically knows what they’re talking about, and who is trained, and whom you are paying money, so there’s no need to worry about taking advantage or talking their ear off. That’s what they’re there for! It’s great. Good luck!

  20. depression…well it’s a bitch, to be honest. I suffered from pretty bad post partum depression and anxiety and it makes it worse when the people you love in your life think you’re just “being dramatic”. Still an issue between me and the hubby that we’re working on. I just started searching for a therapist last week and even though it’s not covered by our insurance, I’m making room in our budget for my mental well being. A very well written post that is somehow like you’re inside my brain. It’s a weird place in there 🙂

  21. Thank for your sharing yourself so openly–your conversations with God are so real, so honest, so true. I will add the arrival of just the right therapist in your life to my prayers as well. God bless!

  22. This is actually a really exciting and happy post! My husband and I decided it was time for me to see a therapist after our wedding. My anxiety rocketed out of control. I saw a woman who was a genius in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and it changed my life! Congrats to you for doing this; you’re going to feel so much better 🙂

  23. I don’t always listen to Him either when it comes to my anxiety so I feel your pain. I love the way you’ve described both depression and anxiety because it is so true. The important part is how you weather out the storms as they come and go.

  24. Great post! And so very true. I deal with stressing and worrying way too much. I got a devotional from Proverbs 31 the other day that just spoke to my heart: http://devotions.proverbs31.org/2011/05/facing-the-what-ifs-with-courage.html.

  25. Laura

    Hi Katie,
    I’m a regular reader and have been for some time. I just wanted to leave you a note because you might not be aware that this post could be offensive to people with clinical depression. For them (myself included), depression is not a season. It is ever-present, an ongoing challenge in life, no matter external circumstances. To use your metaphor, the hurricane season will be with me for the rest of my life. Medication can moderate the symptoms, but not take them away entirely. I’m glad to hear your depression only lasted for a while. But plenty of people with depression will never be able to say it’s over. And with so many people telling them to just get over it and move on, it’s incredibly frustrating to hear others talk about depression as a passing phenomenon. It’s just not true for everyone, but society would have you believe that you are a failure if your depression never ends. They’re different medical conditions and neither is invalid or untrue. I know you weren’t intending to slight anyone with your post, but I just wanted to let you know how your wording could make some people feel. Thanks.

  26. Tara

    I do the mantra “let go let god” quit frequently at night when my mind races. My husband seems to think it may be time I talk to someone about the fear that although I have been here for 7 years I do not feel like it is home. And it has only heightened since having B. It is hard to finally face that it may not be the window in the car or for me the State we are in but it may be something bigger or chemical. It is with the utmost respect and that I say thank you for having the courage to tell your story. As I sat there crying yesterday realizing that I am just not sure any more I felt so alone. But I am not I just have to reach out. I love Jenna saying this is a happy post because it is, it is time for change and god will answer your prayers. The house, well, it is an adventure and if you guys love it I say good luck!

  27. As someone who has suffered from mental illness since I was 15 (yep, nearly 18 years of severe depressive episodes) I can tell you that it is like a hurricane. I wrote a post called “In the Eye of the Hurricane”. I actually write a lot about depression and anxiety on my blog. Good for you for getting the help you need. Depression and anxiety are serious disorders that most of the time require medication and therapy to control. I’m not saying that the Big Guy doesn’t help us during the troubled times. But sometimes it takes modern medicine to give our bodies a boost. Real depression and anxiety is chemical in nature and you’d be surprised how much medicine can help. I’m not saying it’s right for everyone. But talk to a professional and just get an opinion on the matter. I know a lot of people think therapy and medication means you’ve gone over to the deep end but for many of us it means the difference between being able to function and being admitted to the hospital (as is the case with me). I wish you luck in your search to find stability and happiness, Katie. It is not an easy road. But the work is worth it!

  28. i love your comparison of depression to a hurricane and anxiety to a summer storm. i have suffered from anxiety daily for seven years and i am pretty sure i just went through a bout of depression the last six months (now, looking back). for those who have never experienced either, it is so hard to make sense of it… because, well, it doesn’t make sense. i know it’s illogical, but it’s all so real, and that’s what is crazy.

    i applaud your decision to see a therapist. i would encourage you to see one who can walk you through it spiritually. i’ve been to a therapist who just kind of told me how to sort through my thoughts and then put me on medicine – which is fine – but what i really needed were the spiritual tools to walk myself through it. obviously my thoughts were the ones causing the anxiety in the first place. now that i’m thinking about it, i should probably see one too!

    i pray you find your solid ground soon… the storm will pass and the sun will shine.

  29. That is a really good analogy for anxiety. Knowing what you need to do but not being able to do it. It’s really really difficult to explain this to people who think it’s just a matter of “trying harder.”

  30. First, congrats on putting an offer in on a house. It’s stressful, as you well know with your first house, so fingers crossed for you.

    Second, I hope going to see a therapist works out for you and you get the help that you need in whatever form that means. For a little over 6 months I was stuck in a dead-end job with seemingly no end in sight. There were nights I would come home, crawl on the couch and not want to move because this funk had settled over me. The thought that I had to get up and go to work again the next day was a little unbarable. And while, yes I was grateful to have a job, there’s only so much that gratefulness can sustain a person. Constant worry about paying bills and trying to save money were always in the back of my mind and taking a toll on my health and my marriage. It couldn’t have been easy for my husband dealing with someone who was usually pretty miserable. But, he was always there with a hug and to reassure me things would get better. One night I came home and broke down crying in the bathroom of a restaurant because I was so miserable. After much thinking, I went back to church again and started really working on getting out of my situation. About two months ago, I finally got the answer to my prayers-a new, better job. The funk that I found myself in is now gone, there is much less stress and overall I am just a much more happy person to be around. I wish the same things for you Katie in your stuggles to get grounded.

  31. Brittany

    I was stuggling with depression for about a year or so and things got really bad around April 2010. I finally broke down and saw a counselor. Before my first appointment I felt like I had failed at life. NORMAL people can manage things day to do, normal people don’t need someone to tell them how to change their mindset and attitude! I have a college degree! I have an amazing husband and life! What’s wrong with me?!. I learned that asking for help doesn’t make me a failure…it means I’m smart, and I know my limits and I know what I need to do to become stronger. I feel like my old self again. And I feel like I have someone I can trust to give me some clarity. What also surprised me was how incredibly supportive my church community and husband were about me seeing someone. It has really taught me that I’m not, nor ever will be in this alone. Tangible proof that God will always be with me 🙂 Best wishes! I hope your own adventure into terapy can feel just as healing and calming in your own life!

  32. I admire your transparency and honesty. When people like you share their story with the world, it’s sure to help others who are struggling, and also lessen the stigma that mental illness unfortunately has.

    Your mixture of faith along with the practicality of treatment sounds very wise. These things, along with thoughts of all your supporters, will help you weather the storm.

  33. Ella

    Im sorry Katie that you are struggling at the moment. I have my own depression & anxiety issues at the moment and am seeing a counsellor who is helping me. I know what you mean when you say its exhausting to keep it all together. Good luck with the house and finding a counsellor.

  34. all of this is very true. I’ve felt the same way and talking to a therapist does help. Good luck! Hang in there… we are not alone 🙂

  35. Jenn

    I’ve been a long time reader, but this is my first time commenting…

    I really love this. I have been struggling with depression and anxiety on and off for years now. Currently, my husband and I are trying to conceive and one of my biggest fears is getting depressed/anxious during and after pregnancy. I have tried to find people to reach out to, but all in all, it seems like people don’t like to talk to much about it. It has been great to follow along with your story and get a glimpse into the life of someone who has lived through it and come out clean on the other side. Your metaphors for both depression and anxiety are dead on, so much so that I had to share them with my husband in the hopes that it might give him better insight into my struggles.

    I have been blogging about my struggles, but can’t seem to bring myself to share it with the world. I’d really like to know where you get the courage to do that? Just the thought if it makes me so anxious!

    Anyway, keep fighting the good fight and I hope you always end up on top 🙂

  36. Katie

    Very well put. I couldn’t agree with you more. I found your blog a few months ago and have enjoyed reading through every post. Everything you say is real and easy to relate to (even more so because we share the same name!). Many times I’ve found comfort from reading about your experiences. It’s nice to know that others are experiencing the same things, especially when those are things that many people shy away from talking about. I, too, I’ve struggled with anxiety issues and I’m just learning how to deal with them myself. I hope I can figure this all out, and I wish you luck in doing the same.

  37. Amen Katie! Great post!!!

  38. Katie, your candor is so encouraging and inspiring. There’s such a cathartic cleansing that comes with such a downpour, I think. I know you’ll weather the storms–all of them. You are strong and determined, and you’ve got a wonderful support system behind you. Your courage really makes me want to put myself out there just like you do every day, and I’m sure you reap the benefits of it. You are my favorite blogger, without a doubt. 🙂 Blessings to you, Kate. We’re cheering for you!

  39. Katie:
    1. Great work on the writing. Truly. Excellent analogies on depression and hurricanes.
    2. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
    3. Your insurance should have an Employee Assistance Program that can hook you up with someone for 6 sessions FREE. If you continue with that person then it would fall under your insurance. When you call, be VERY specific about who you want handling your mental health. I asked for a woman, someone Christian, licensed in family, marriage and child issues, and close to my house. I didn’t want to drive all over tarnation every couple weeks which would invoke more anxiety. They were able to find me someone EXCELLENT. I still go see her once in a while when I hit a bump in the road and I need to talk things through. Every year those free 6 sessions start up again.

  40. This post touched me. I’ve suffered with depression and used to be very anxious. at one point i thought about seeing a therapist until an angel was brought in to my life – who said “girl we all get depressed; there’s nothing wrong with you”. and so a great friendship began where we talked about everything; talking and praying whilst getting together for cups of tea. i learned that my anxiety was an indication of how much i chose to trust God; and over time i’ve learned to release that anxiety.
    keep praying…God works in ways that we cant fathom…and your therapist may show up in the least expected fashion.

  41. Becky

    I hear every word. I have anxiety as well. You put in writing what it is like so others can understand. Anxiety is a difficult thing to get a handle on and finding a way to deal with it means a big difference in your life and how you LIVE. May your prayers be answered. God Bless.

  42. BFF Emily

    God (or Buddha, or Allah, or the Universe, or whoever/whatever you believe in – “You can call Him mud for all I care” is what my great-grandmother used to say) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference… I can’t think of a more powerful prayer that can be applied to each and every single aspect of our lives. You, my dear, are so special and so loved and I’m honored to be a part of your life and to have you in mine. (PS, sorry about the midnight text about corn. I knew you’d have the answer.)

  43. I haven’t had many experiences with depression through my life, I’m glad to say. Anxiety, on the other hand, is my almost constant companion. So I can honestly say that I’ve been there, done that, and I feel your pain. I appreciate you saying that you turn to God for help because I think it would benefit all of us to do that. 🙂

  44. Brilliant and beautifully written Kate! I have struggled with depression as well, but have never been able to put it into words as well as you. Thank you so, so much.

  45. Elle

    I agree with Laura of comment #26. As someone who is clinically diagnosed with depression, I find the description of it as a “season” a little offensive. I understand the context you’re meaning it in, I suppose, but the term ‘depression’ is flung around so often these days. Mostly, I think the fact that your minister first calls it a season is most worrying. A season indicates it will pass, and there is an end point. You and your minister should be aware that for many, many people, that “season” will never, ever pass.

  46. Aims

    Thank you. I have been right there with you with the anxiety issues! I just finished my first year of teaching, in 3rd grade, in Florida…and let’s just say I know you can understand when I say teaching does not help with the anxiety! I am going to see a therapist soon and I can’t wait! God gave me a complex mind too. I LOVE the way you explained all of this…the humor and understanding is much needed! 🙂

  47. As someone who suffers with chronic depression and anxiety, I really appreciate your honesty and openness in tackling this subject. None of us is alone!

  48. This was such an incredible post. I know it was written a while back, but I’ve only recently stumbled onto your blog and have been catching up. 🙂

    I went through a huge depression blow this past year myself. Like you, I had no idea what was going on until I was deep in it. This visual you provide is exactly how I felt. I got goose bumps reading through.

    Thanks for sharing. I’m guessing it might have no been the easiest thing to do at the time, but know that it’s so very very helpful and hopeful to someone…

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