I suffer from depression and anxiety. And ADD. I was blessed with the trifecta of toilet bowl thinking. It’s only been recently that I have put two and two together and allowed the cumulative history of my life to tell its story. But now, at 51, I have more life behind me than in front of me, and I can see that I have wrestled with these debilitating brain shackles all my life.
I remember that when I was in elementary school, I would be physically sick every morning due to the anxiety of going to school. My mother called the doctor who gave her some advice about giving me juice or something, but I vividly recall the nausea that would hit the moment I woke up and realized I had to go to school. Anxiety affected how I made friends and how I handled day to day challenges. For the most part, I was fairly popular, but inside I was wracked with self-doubt and fear.
I also remember periods of time where I felt really blue. I thought everyone felt that way. I didn’t know what depression was.
And I also struggled with ADD, which back in the 70’s and 80’s wasn’t even a recognized handicap. All I knew is that I even though I managed to get decent grades, I studied 5 times harder for 80% of the good grades that my two best friends got with half their brains tied behind their backs.
In high-school, my depression & anxiety combo really bound me up and between those two emotional challenges and the inability to stay focused, my grades tanked. My brain was so full of depression and self-loathing that I fell into really negative behaviors trying to escape my sadness and of course, as we all know, all that did was exacerbate the anxiety. I was scared to live because every day I took a breath, I managed to make worse than the one before. I had many bouts of suicidal thinking – although I never attempted to take my life. That’s the condition I was in when I met Jesus.
I was 18 years old when I became a Christian and I thought that all of my anxiety and depression would magically go away now that I was going to live a clean life. The logic was: No more sin = No more fear. No more screw-ups = No more sadness. But it didn’t quite out work that way.
Over the years since my decision to follow Jesus, I have studied the Word like it’s my job. I love the Bible and nothing gets me more excited than getting to know Jesus and studying the Word. And I love to worship the Lord. In that place of awe and reverence, things come into alignment. And I have been faithful in church since I was 18. I’m not a flighty person. I’m loyal and dedicated and I love the Lord. But even with all of that going for me, it still hasn’t been enough to stop the tsunami of sadness that comes over me at times. Or the anxiety that gives me chest pressure and heart palpitations at times.
In all fairness, my adult life has been marked by a lot of losses and some really intense crises that would make anyone sad and anxious. So I never thought that depression and anxiety were something I suffered from.
But recently, I have encountered the perfect storm. As I said, I am 51 so I am entering that marvelous time of life when the youth factories start shutting down. Not only can that wreak havoc with your hormones and your emotions, but being at this mid-life age causes a lot of retrospective thinking. “Why hasn’t A, B, or C worked out yet? I thought I would be further along than this by this age. When are my opportunities going to materialize? Did I miss God? Am I out of his will?”
And then come the crazy thoughts: “Am I even saved?”
If you don’t suffer from any form of depression, you cannot fathom how crazy toilet bowl thinking can hijack you and sideline you. But take it from me, when you’re sliding down the slippery slope of negativity without crampons, it is way too easy to lose your grip on reality and on what the Word says.
Depression and anxiety are slave drivers. But one thing I know: Because Jesus is my chain breaker, I am free. I am no longer a captive. When Jesus burst up out of the grave and blew the door off his tomb, he displayed the finished work that brought us up out of captivity with Him. He put the keys of the Kingdom in our hands. Those keys carry the same authority that Jesus exerted when he walked the earth and brought freedom to every person bound by any sickness or torment. And today, I plan on taking the set of keys he gave to me and placing them in the lock of your prison door. Because of what he is doing in me, I refuse to let you sit in depression alone. You are not alone. You are not forsaken. You are not shameful. He has not given up on you. You are precious to Him. Jesus is attracted to brokenness and He has come to set every captive free. Because he is your chain-breaker, you are free. You are no longer a captive.
There are three keys that I want to share with you that open the doors of captivity when the tsunami of sadness and anxiety wants to roll in. I am new to the discovery that I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time, but I am not new to finding ways to have victory over these shackles. God’s Word has been my standby and His presence is my warfare. And even when I didn’t know what I was fighting, all these years he was teaching my fingers to fight and girding up my loins for war.
Maybe depression and anxiety don’t have you bound. Maybe your shackles are the unforgiveness you hold toward people who hurt you or shame about who you think you are and about your past. Or maybe your shackles are disappointment, grief, jealousy, envy or comparison. Whatever your shackles are that keep you in bondage, I want to stir up your faith to realize that Jesus is the Chain Breaker, and you are free. You are no longer a captive.
So let’s look at the three keys that you are going to use to access your freedom:
- God’s Word is our Lifeline
- God’s Presence is our refuge
- God’s Voice is our necessity
God’s Word is our lifeline: I think most of you reading this blog would agree that the Bible is not an ordinary book – that it’s anointed. But beyond being anointed, the Bible itself teaches us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Before Jesus took on flesh and came to dwell among mankind, He pre-existed as the Word. So Jesus is the Word. And everywhere that Jesus is, his authority and power are as well. Now we may not see that power or feel that authority when our emotions are freaking out, but that doesn’t change the truth of what happens when we speak the Word.
A number of months ago, I had a couple days where I felt like I was losing my mind. Has anyone else ever felt that way? I couldn’t stop crying. The issues I was crying about were serious and cause for pensive reflection and prayer. But when thoughts turn into hopeless crying jags, then the emotion has just turned toxic and is now going to eat away at any chance for faith and hope to activate. If we’re drowning in fear and hopelessness, how can we operate in faith? Can bitter water and sweet come from the same fountain?
And I’ve found that the harder I try to talk my way out of how I’m feeling, the deeper I sink in it. It’s like to trying to wiggle out of quicksand. When someone is sinking into quicksand, a person on the edge needs to throw them a lifeline. And the worst thing the person in quicksand can do is struggle. But when I’m going down into utter blackness in my thinking, I start to struggle. So the Lord has taught me take his word as my lifeline and stop struggling.
The other day when I was losing it, I kept saying through my crying hiccups, “The joy of the Lord is my strength and his power is made perfect in my weakness.” For about 20 minutes, I felt nothing. But I kept speaking the Word. And then all of a sudden, I felt a ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop!’ in the atmosphere and the weight that was pressing me down and holding me under just lifted.
I have found that one of the scariest parts of depression is the toilet bowl swirl, as I call it. My negative thoughts swirl around and around and I can’t unhook from them —until I force my brain out by focusing them on something else. But unlike turning on the TV to find a distraction only to be swarmed by the thoughts again, the thoughts that bring lasting peace come from the Word.
And I have found that the Scriptures that banish darkness the best and the fastest are the ones that magnify Who He is. Once I begin telling the darkness who my Lord is, it backs off. What does the Word say in James 4:7-8? Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
So I begin to worship Him for everything I can think of, even if I don’t have one corresponding emotion to go with it. The Word says, “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered.” (Psalm 68:1) When He is exalted and His Word is honored, darkness cannot stay.
Tell yourself out loud, “I’m going to make the Word my lifeline.” Now say it like you mean it!
- Do you suffer from depression and anxiety?
- What solutions have you tried to get over the symptoms?
- How well have you been able to manage your symptoms? Do they return?
I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m just a Plain Jane who loves the Lord and has found freedom through His Word and His presence. It didn’t come overnight, that’s for sure! But He is the Chain Breaker and there is healing for everything that binds us in Him. I am experiencing complete freedom and I will be praying that you find freedom from every chain that has you bound in captivity!
(This post is Part 1 of the message, Chain Breaker: Keys to Breaking Free from Depression and Anxiety. Be on the lookout for Part 2 in a few days!)
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