When I was around 19 years old, I began to develop anxiety and depression due to my very poor decision-making and lifestyle choices. This was during the time I was enrolled in a university here in Canada. It was not until my mid-twenties that the struggle was largely over. However, life is full of trials so I know to be on guard and to resist the pressures to become anxious or depressed.
With the help of God and others, I’ve learned a lot that has helped me immensely. Now I would like to share some insight on the lessons I have learned.
1. Stop complaining
I was constantly focused on my problems and how horrible I felt. I was in the habit of frequently complaining about my woes. At the same time, the gentle comments from people to be more positive were not sinking in. During that time, I often found solace in confiding to my father about my grievances. One day, while on the phone, he got very angry and yelled at me: “I’m sick and tired of hearing you complain.” I was angry and hung up on him, but I mused over it the next few weeks. As a result, my eyes were opened--I understood my father was right! By acting out on my self-pity, I had been magnifying and reinforcing it! I stopped complaining and my life significantly changed after that.
I had lost friendships and I came to realize it had been due to my constant self-pity. Complaining affects not only you, but your confidant’s mood as well—and not in a good way. Some friends are pulled down and become more negative. Other friends eventually just want to get away from you. There is much truth in the old saying, “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”
Proverbs 12:25: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
2. Never give in to the illness
At my lowest point, while struggling with anxiety , depression and insomnia, I found myself phoning in sick to work many times. Thankfully, I came to see how phoning in sick exacerbated my anxiety and perpetuated the cycle. I finally made a decision to not miss work or class anymore.
At that time, I had a Monday to Friday university class at 9:00 a.m. That schedule helped bring stability into my life. Even when many nights I would not fall asleep until 3 or 4 in the morning, I forced myself to make that class every day. I also went to the gym everyday throughout this period because I knew that would lift my spirits. (Exercise helps rid the body of extra adrenaline and releases endorphins).
After university, I moved abroad. I entered into full-time work, but was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it. However; I stuck to my promise of not phoning in sick and now I can work full-time successfully.
While battling with these illnesses, I came across a quote by Winston Churchill: “Never give in…in nothing, great or small, large or petty.” I made that my motto and I recommend it.
I also recalled Romans 5:3-4: “…tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
3. Keep a journal—of positive things
Most people use a journal to write their deepest feelings. I decided to write a daily journal consisting of a list of only positive things—counting my blessings.
Lamentations 3:23 tells us, “[The Lord’s mercies] are new every morning.” How true that is!
4. Take a good hard look at your life
I had not been to church for many years. When my struggle with anxiety and depression felt out of control, I returned to church (briefly) and requested that the minister anoint me and pray for God’s healing. The anointing ‘didn’t work’ so I asked again. The minister basically told me that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, God would not heal me. I didn’t like his reply at first, but he was right.
Proverbs 4:26: “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.”
Lamentations 3:40: “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.”
5. Be careful of what you read—put God’s word first
Through years of struggling with anxiety and depression, I read numerous books hoping that each would tell me what to do to overcome my problems. As my spiritual maturity grew through drawing close to God and reading the Bible, I noticed a lot of the books I relied on contained satanic New Age concepts. These things work against God. I threw out those books and came to rely more and more on God’s word.
Just when you think the Bible does not have an answer to your problem, no matter what it is, keep searching. If you dig deep in God’s word you will find it!
Psalm 119:133: “Direct my steps by Your word…”
6. Sometimes it’s just “normal” to feel that way
While attending university I saw about three counsellors. The last one was the final straw for me (and him too). I was not making any progress, and he didn’t know what more to do. In desperation, I asked my doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist. When I told the psychiatrist my physiological symptoms, she would ask for the events surrounding them. Then she would just reply, “It’s normal to feel that way”, or “I could see why you feel that way, because of [x or y]”. My eyes were opened! The burden that weighed on me so heavily was lifted. I was ‘normal’ again.
I also learned that fear and excitement have the same effect physiologically. If I thought I felt nervous or fearful, I would try to determine if I was actually excited instead. If I was excited, there was no need to feel guilty or to change anything.
These are some of the many important lessons I learned through my struggles with anxiety and depression. I have to give absolute credit to God, because after I returned to church and committed my life to Him all those struggles that kept recurring over the years dissipated.
Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
I also give thanks to God for those struggles, as without them I would not be where and who I am today. Through those trials and my struggles to overcome, I’m a stronger person today. Those trials did indeed “work together for good” in my life (Romans 8:28). God has blessed me in many ways.
Psalm 119:71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
If you are wrestling with anxiety and depression, I pray that you too will soon come out of the dark cloud into the light. I learned from God’s Word and the experiences of others. I hope you will also.
Despite any problems or trials you may have, always remember what God has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
United Church of God has a helpful free reprint article titled “Depression: Ways to Win the Battle.” It is available at: http://www.ucg.org/files/reprints/pdf/DepressionWaystoWin.pdf
[Editor’s note: This article does not address medical depression, a very serious type of depression where professional help is needed.]
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