Depression is best understood rather as ‘a kind of mental arthritis.’ Unlike other sorrows this one infects us with malignant patience. Often we who suffer it have no ready or immediate rescue off of its stranded island. Rather we must learn the skills of grace necessary for surviving there and adjusting our lives to what it means to thrive within its conditions. - Charles Spurgeon
For those in the struggle:
There is not “one cure fits all” for mental health. We all know that’s not true. Although I’m sharing practical actions that have helped me, I also know what it’s like to be bombarded with suggestions when you’re just trying to make it through the day. So, I hope you believe the sincerity in my words when I tell you the four activities I’m sharing with you today are my own “skills” when anxiety and depression hit hard.
[Please know that this is all in conjunction with my taking anti-depressants. Please talk to a medical or counseling professional if you haven’t already. I didn’t include that as one of my actions because for me it’s a foundational element in this journey.]
Telling a safe someone.
This was my worst fear. Letting someone into the thoughts, fears, and heartache that is plaguing me is terrifying. In my head, I just knew that since my thoughts left me distraught, I could only imagine what they’ll do to the person who is hearing them. It was with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes that I told Aaron what was going on in my mind. You know what? He didn’t freak out. He didn’t condemn me. He also didn’t trivialize it. He reminded me of my identity in Christ, the person he knows me to be, and he pointed me to truth, grace, and logic. In these mental health and spiritual battles, I’ve learned that Satan almost always wins if I’m facing off with Satan alone in the privacy of my mind. The minute I bring someone else into the struggle, I start to see the light of God’s truth through Satan’s lies of darkness. Every time I’ve told a safe person- my mom, sister, a best friend- what I’m struggling with, regardless of the topic, this proves true.
This came out of desperation. I was making my quiet times a priority. I was listening to my “Christian thought playlist.” But I found that when I was in the game room with the kids, or we were playing in Eliza’s room, the anxiety would creep back in. My 2 year old and 10 month old didn’t exactly give me “mental health recovery” breaks to go have an intense time in the Word to re-focus.
One day I grabbed construction paper and a sharpie and I started writing some of the Bible verses that I felt like God had given me throughout this struggle. I found a roll of blue painter’s tape and I started taping these verses up around the house- wherever I knew my eyes lingered. I had one by our kitchen sink for when I did dishes, one in the game room, several in our living room, and one in Eliza’s room above our changing table. In my really hard moments, I would read them out loud, sometimes many times over and very emphatically. Initially my kids would stop and look at me with surprised faces, but eventually they got used to their mom’s random outbursts and proclamations, and little by little, I found that I started turning to those signs automatically before the negativity hit.
Growing my brain.
I found I do better when I learn something new each day- whether it’s listening to a podcast, reading a book, or googling a topic I’m interested in. By no means am I saying this replaces my time in the Word with the Lord, but I realized that on days where I had listened to podcasts and learned something new, I found my thoughts defaulted to the new knowledge I was processing. My unhealthy thoughts always hit the worst when I was day dreaming or zoned out. But, when I had been intentional with Scripture and then added to that new and interesting information, my brain started becoming occupied more frequently with actual truth and information- rather than my worst-case scenarios and fears. I have been reminded that God is truth, and all truth points us to God. So even in my learning new things about a variety of topics, they still point me back to Him.
One day, quite unintentionally I realized that this made a huge difference mentally. Since we had moved into a new house right before my anxiety hit, there was still quite a bit of decorating to be done. One afternoon in one of the hardest weeks of my anxiety, I started working on decorating a set of bookshelves so I could mark it off my list. I realized an hour later that I had gone an entire hour without a negative thought! I couldn’t believe it. I’ve started assigning projects to myself each day and its been helpful for me to have something in my hands that helps me focus my brain.
That’s it. These are the primary ways that God has sustained me these past few months.
This quote from the book Spurgeon’s Sorrows has brought great comfort - as I hope it does for you as well. “However exceptional and unusual my be your trial, yet, with Job whisper these words, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’ In such whispers, often unheard and unnoticed, His treasures shine as it were, small but warm like a candle flame within a cracked jar. Invaluable this flicker amid the howling winds of night’s deep. His vigil light, undaunted keeps watch over the helpless, keeps watch through to the morning. The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a Savior.”
Immanuel. God with us.
*All quotes come from the book Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was an incredible source of comfort, challenge, and hope for me in some of the darkest weeks.
About Holly's Blog
Holly loves to write, and you'll find her blog covers all different topics!