One of the hardest things about anxiety and depression (at least for me) is not being able to always name it or explain it. Sometimes I can identify the triggers. I can feel a fresh swell and call it out for what it is — mental illness. But other times it’s just tears below the surface at the dinner table. It’s heightened irritability at my children. It’s an unsettled spirit and coffee jitters I can’t shake and wishing all the people and responsibilities would just go away (even when I love my people and my work). It’s feeling defeated by a task I know I’m capable of doing. Exhausted after a full night’s sleep. An undercurrent of sadness that doesn’t match my circumstances.
When I finally realized what was happening recently, I admitted this new wave of not-okay to my husband. “I’m struggling but I’m fine,” I said as huge tears dropped into my sparkling water.
“You don’t look fine,” he said.
And this is the tension of anxiety and depression: being simultaneously fine and undone, wanting to be seen and wanting to hide.
I’m fine in the sense that Jesus has walked with me through these shadows before and He is walking with me now. I’ve sunk into the pit of anxiety, and I’ve walked the peaks of recovery. I’ve wallowed in the unspoken valley of depression and cried enough closed-door tears to buoy up to a cliff where I could climb out. My faith is strong yet days like today I just feel weak.
I get up and make the coffee and cook the eggs. I play card games with my family. I plug away at the project. The struggle will eventually ebb. This I know. That’s the grace of years — the lived experience that what I feel today won’t always be this way.
This weekend I bawled my way through a novel. It was cathartic to let the tears flow. Afterward I thought I was all cried out, then I realized I wasn’t.
Fine and unfine is like a teeter-totter I can’t get off of. This is anxiety and depression.
I’m preparing to speak at a conference about anxiety. I know the Scriptures. I can coach a friend. I can say all the right things, implement the coping strategies I learned in therapy. Sometimes it helps tremendously. And sometimes it still doesn’t change the tears that flow and the mind that races and the sleep that eludes me and the sleep that beckons me. This is anxiety and depression. Looking for a detox near me to get out of this zone is a good idea.
I’ll be honest, I want a quick fix, a five-step fail-proof plan. I want my knowledge and experience to seamlessly move me into healing. I don’t like staying in the tension.
But I’m learning. I’m learning that maybe healing looks like feeling the feelings and asking Jesus to sit with me in it. Maybe that’s the one thing we all can do today, right where you are. In your okay and not okay-ness, just be. And invite someone to be with you.
Even though I’m anchored in the unshakable hope of Jesus, I wanted to share my in-the-thick-of-it season in case there’s someone else out there who is also fighting an undercurrent of sadness. I want you to know you’re not alone in the darkness. Your feelings and experiences are valid even if you can’t fully name them or explain them.
And I want you to hear this:
If you’re thinking about letting a friend into your darkness, do it.
If you’re thinking about going back to counseling or going for the first time, do it.
If you just need to sit at the table and cry, do it.
The struggle of anxiety and depression does not define you — but giving voice to it will let the light begin to shine in.
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