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.
Leave a Comment
Kim Gibbens says
Thank you for giving words to the feelings so many of us have deep inside of us. The tension between fine and not fine is real. I am learning to lean into my Savior as I walk this road of being okay, but not okay. Thank you for being real, honest, and stubborn enough to keep going even when the days are tough.
Becky Keife says
Thank you, Kim. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone either.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you for taking readers behind the mask of mental illness. I’ve been living this way for almost 60 years. I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD, panic attacks, and depression until I was 30. I know, full well, the peaks and valleys. One day you can be okay and the next day the dark clouds roll in and the grey glasses go on. It comes uninvited and you fear that this unwelcome visitor is here to stay and will never leave which just causes more anxiety. It is an illness, not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure, only it affects your brain and therefore alters how you think and feel. It’s not a flaw in your character or the result of not having enough faith or praying enough. God knows your heart and that you are not choosing to feel this way. There is no guilt or shame to own. These COVID times are hard enough for the “average” person, but add in mental illness and some days I’m doing well to get from dawn to dusk and still be standing. Awesome post, Becky! Thanks for daring to be vulnerable…
Becky Keife says
You’ve articulated this so well, Bev. I’m grateful for your understanding and encouragement.
Ann Woleben says
Thank you so much for sharing! I pray each day for God to give me a calm spirit. May He do so for others who experience the same feelings.
Becky Keife says
Amen. Joining you in that prayer, Ann.
I can’t tell you how much I needed this today! Thank you so so much! Praying for all of us with this anxiety & depression! ❤️
Becky Keife says
I’m really grateful to know this was timely for you, Whitney.
Thank you. I needed this.
Thank you so much for giving words to what I feel. I have struggled with anxiety all my life but never knew what it was until I was in my late 40s and was working on a counseling degree. How ironic. The stress of living in a world of Covid with its isolation has magnified it but lots of walks and hikes and praying helps. And reaching out to family and friends helps me to realize my blessings.
Becky Keife says
I’m with you, Madeline. Now that it’s getting lighter earlier with the time change, I’ve started hiking again a few mornings a week with a friend. Fresh air and moving my body always helps. It’s hard to get going, but I never regret when I do.
Judy M Wagner says
Thank you for reminding me I am not alone in this. There are days when my emotions and feelings just feel flat. Like I don’t know how to express or feel anything except feeling overwhelmed. Or I just don’t feel anything at all. Usually I suffer from S.A.D. every winter but it seems that this has gone on forever, not just in the winter but all year. I am so looking forward to 2021 and a new start. Prayers and concentrating on Jesus is the only way to get me through every day.
Becky Keife says
Judy, that flat feeling is so hard to navigate and move through. What would we do without Jesus? I’m looking forward to a fresh year and continuing to trust in His new mercies, too.
Robyn Mulder says
Becky, I can relate to so much of what you wrote. Thank you for writing this, and I pray it helps someone else put words to what they’re feeling (okay or not-okay). ~Robyn
Cherie Brockman says
Thank you for your awesome words. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for decades. I’m doing better, learning how to be kind to myself in my self talk. But it doesn’t totally go away… even though I wish it would. I am learning to feel my feelings.
Becky Keife says
Yes, right there with you, Cherie. It helps me to ask myself, “What would you say to a friend?” And then show myself the same compassion and encouragement.
I needed every single word of this post today. Thank you. You were able to put into words what I cannot…and I feel very seen. Love you friend…
Becky Keife says
Love you, too! Grateful we aren’t alone.
Rosie J Williams says
Beautifully written. I like your honesty and encouragement to walk through difficult feelings with Jesus.
Becky Keife says
Thank you, Rosie.
Susan E Long says
Thank you. The exact words I needed today to know I’m not alone in the struggle.
Becky Keife says
Susan, what a gift that God sees us and walks with us. I’m really grateful these words were meaningful to you today.
I cried as I read this. I have been struggling through this pandemic and recently just hit the wall and broke. Everything you described is how I feel. Thanking God for having you put this out there just when I needed to hear it. And thank you for letting me know I am not alone.
Becky Keife says
Paula, I’m sorry you’ve been struggling. Your comment was a blessing to me, reminding me that God works through all things for the good of those who love Him. Grateful that giving voice to my experience could be of comfort to you.
Thank you for sharing and letting me know that I am not alone. I have had the same struggles for years.
Prayers are much needed for the children, especially the teenagers, during this pandemic based on studies.
I needed to hear this today. I struggle with this same roller coaster. Your words echo my own prayers. Thank you for your honest post.
Sandya Corbin says
Thank you!!!! Because I had so many emails stacked up I was just about to hit the delete button when the quiet voice in my head stopped me. This was what I needed to hear today. I so appreciate your willingness to be open and share your journey with mental health issues. It is hard to explain to people who have not been there. Its like that old line “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it”. I have found that being able to recognize it for what it is has been the hardest part. I’m working on that with His help and can see the top of that cliff. Once again thank you so much.
Becky Keife says
Sandya, I’m so glad you listened to that nudge and found this post. It means a lot to know it resonates with you.
I needed to hear this today. I struggle with this same roller coaster. Your words echo my own prayers. Thank you for your honesty.
Molly LaCroix, LMFT says
Your vulnerability in sharing the struggle in the context of preparing to speak at a conference is moving. The sentence about healing – feeling the feelings and allowing Jesus to be present with you in it – is powerful. As a therapist working with these issues, I also applaud your encouragement for anyone struggling to reach out. Blessings to you!
Becky Keife says
Molly, that means a lot. Thank you. Even when we know how to encourage and support a friend, it can be hard to treat ourselves with the same understanding and gentleness. I’m seeking the help I need and praying others will too.
“An undercurrent of sadness that doesn’t match my circumstances.”
This has always been a struggle for me…trying to figure out what’s “my problem” when I have so much to be grateful for.
Your words reminded me to practice self-compassion and to trust Him to get me through. Beautifully written. Thank you!
Thank you for being transparent ! Although the struggle is painful, your words were so tender and wove the beauty and hope of the Lord Jesus. Thank you.
Thank you Becky! Yes, I am on the edge of depression recently. I am not drowning in it as I have a few times in the past. But I drift in and out throughout most days. I recognize the signs of despair and I’ve been able to pray my way out so far. I would love to talk to a friend or meet with a counselor, but don’t have anyone appropriate. Meanwhile I will try to use the tools I know to battle the darkness. Maybe the light will continue to win out. Thank you for naming and shining your light on the struggle. May you be richly blessed!
Kathy Walker says
Thank you for being so transparent about your feelings and experiences. It helps those of us who have loved ones going through anxiety and depression understand better how they feel and what they may be thinking. It is also wonderful that you can share how your faith in the Lord helps you as you cope with mental illness. Most people don’t really understand mental illness until they’ve had to deal with it either themselves or with loved ones. It’s an illness, and we need to be supporting and praying for one another just as we would for any illness. Thank you for encouraging openness about it.
This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Totally feeling fine and not fine today and being hard on myself by telling myself I just need an attitude adjustment. Maybe what I need is a good cry and this has given me permission to do so. Thank you!
Brenda Bourcier says
Hi my son is dealing with on going mainly anxiety and depression. He has Asperger syndrome he does so well…then all the sudden the plates come crashing down! Either a significant event or a side comment. I’m trying to support him but somehow just don’t know what to do. Appreciate your candid honesty and transparency in a subject most of us do deal with.
It’s always easier to tell someone a few steps to guide them but when it’s you it’s a blur of emotional and intertwined situations and not easily defined.
Going to Gods Word is key to help us get back on track but counseling is sometimes necessary…thanks for your article I needed this today!
Lori A says
Hi Brenda, it sounds like your son has the same issues as my 23 year old. It is so hard to know how to help them. I will pray for your son along with mine today.
Bless you both.
I was told just yesterday by my sister if I am feeling anxiety (been an anxious person all my life along with depression off and on) I am not trusting God is in control. Since Phillipians 4:6-7 says “do not be anxious, etc.” just stop. How do you tell my sister differently?
Blessings and understanding to you.
Vivian Noah says
Wonderful blog. I have never been able to explain it the way you did. Thanks!
Joan Munro says
Being being authentic, open and unashamed, depression and anxiety isn’t the end of my story…it is part of who I am, and what I live with but it’s not a lack of faith, trust or hope. My hope is anchored in the LORD, every day…..any day and any way…good or bad….suffering in silence and sadness, or joy in the mourning. I come to God, my Abba Father, who holds me close in His arms and tells me He Loves me, just as I am…no matter what!
Jo Slocum says
This is exactly how I feel a lot of the time, I’m sad but I can not put my finger on why, when I am with friends or family, I want joy in my life, I know God loves me, and I pray about it all the time. I have a friend I can talk to and I go to counseling. I am embarrassed about being depressed because I am a Christian.
Being isolated for the last 10 months has not helped.
God has blessed me with a lot, you would think I would be grateful and not complain about sadness and depression.
I want to thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story,
Thank you so much for sharing this.
“An undercurrent of sadness that does not match my circumstances.” How many times I have tried to describe/articulate (just to me) what I was feeling. Your words are absolutely descriptive of how I feel so many days. I’ve used word like ungrateful; selfish; self pity, etc. which only make me feel worse. My circumstances do not match those feelings of sadness and flatness. But I struggle with the those feelings daily. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being so honest.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for sharing your story here. People, especially the church, need to hear this over & over. Most don’t understand what mental illness is & how it affects people. They believe that if you prayed more or had more faith it would go away. Not always the answer. Sometimes you need counseling, meds or both. There is no shame in admitting that you need help. I’ve never had either one before. This year with the pandemic, election, & other craziness I’ve felt down & out some. There was a time when hubby could do nothing right. I believe not having church or being able to see friends & give hugs has a lot to do with it. Praying a vaccine can be made quickly so we can get back to some kind of normal.
Linda Shukri says
Thank you, Becky, for being so candid and open with your feelings. Spot on for me! I don’t seem to get anywhere with my business ventures or how to take care of my emotional anxieties. It’s a constant frustration that I always pray about. I’m on the verge of contacting a Christian counselor online about my issues. I did have some counseling with an older woman in my church, but it didn’t totally help my situation. I won’t get into my situation here as it would take up a lot of space! 🙂 Anyway, thank you for your post. It’s good to hear that there are other women out there that struggle with depression and such things. Hugs to you!
Brenda Vollrath says
Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s comforting to me to know that I’m not alone. I’ve had my best friend shun me because of my severe anxiety and depression and I began to feel like it was my fault but it isn’t. It’s something I can’t explain to someone else who hasn’t experienced it and I don’t feel as if I need to apologize to everyone for how I feel. Thank you again for this, I needed to hear this today.
I have struggled for years with anxiety and depression. When it first started I really didn’t know what was happening. At first I thought I was dying. By the grace of Jesus Christ I made it through. Do I have all good days of course not but I do know where my strength comes from. There was a time I just wanted to stay in the house , I didn’t want to go anywhere not even to church it was a very dark time in my life. I thank God often for helping me face this. It good to know I am not the only one who struggles with this. Thank you for your article it shows me I am not alone and neither are you
For years I’ve struggled with praying for healing, waiting for healing–and b/c I couldn’t afford Christian therapy, I secretly wondered what I was doing wrong that God hadn’t healed me by now.
This blog just helped me to understand that perhaps my idea of healing is small compared with God’s idea of how He plans to use me right here, in the middle of my brokenness, with all of my feelings of being undone, raw, & vulnerable. It gave me permission to accept me where I am in this season, instead of quietly believing I’m a failure as a Christian believer.
Thank You, Jesus!!
Lastly, “And this is the tension of anxiety and depression: being simultaneously fine and undone, wanting to be seen and wanting to hide.” I loved how you articulated that…it’s exactly how I feel!
Beautifully written, Becky. Thanks for putting into words what I feel every day. There’s the tension of pushing through & stopping to letting the tears come. On Christ the solid rock I stand.
Suzanne B says
I want to print this off for future referral but all I get is 47 pages of text over text – a mess. Spent hours trying to get a clean copy to no avail. Any suggestions?
Use your mouse to highlight the text you want printed. Then right click over the highlighted area and select “print” in the pop up menu that appears.
Suzanne B says
Thank you so much for your help!!
Angela Miller-Martell says
You’re wonderful, to build your website for people like me. I’m a recovering addict clean & sober for the last almost 7 months, it’s not a long time but… Considering I had used Drugs for 25yrs…I I am VERY PROUD of myself. Hallelujah and praise God for the Grace and Forgiveness….and next he’ll take away my depression. It’s a constant reminder to stay away from the Drugs. Sincerely,
Thank you with all my heart, Becky.
Tara Archibald says
YES! YES! YES! This is EXACTLY how I have been feeling for months. Others noticed it. I didn’t. Depression did a sneak attack on me this time. Others kept asking me why I was feeling this way. I couldn’t answer it. I couldn’t answer ANY questions or make a single decision. They wanted to know why. I wanted to know why. Then someone asked if I struggled with depression and a light bulb went on. I thought I was done with the darkness. I fought the good fight and God had won. He got the glory. He got the glory but the battle rages on. I am not immune. That battle had ended and a new one has just begun. Though the darkness isn’t quite as deep this go-around, it is more confusing. I knew the source, I knew the cause last time. This time, not so much. I can’t name or explain them. But, like you said, depression doesn’t always have a reason. Sometimes it just is. But God. May He get all the glory again! Thank you for this post! I absolutely LOVE it! And it is EXACTLY what I needed to hear! Thank you!
Becky Keife says
Oh, Tara, yes, this is exactly it. I am with you, sister. The struggle is real but so is God. He is faithful to walk with us even in seasons of darkness.
Thank you so much for this! It put those garbled feelings that have been swirling around in my head into much-needed context. You have no idea what a lifeline this was! Thanks again 🙂
God led me to you! I needed this today at this moment! Thank you for being open so I know I’m not alone in this struggle!
I have been feeling this way for the last couple of weeks, I try not to say it out loud because it feels so intense if I admit the anxiety, desperation AND sadness, but I am so tired all the time of trying to función well, ignoring the storm inside… My body and mind feels so weak. Your words gave me hope , I can be here and invite Jesus, thats all I need. Hugs Becky!
Brenda M Russell says
Thank you for sharing this message with others. It’s been a while since I really listened to an article about another person who sounds somewhat like me. Especially in the early years of having my children.
I did not know there was a diagnosis for feeling like you just want to smile and laugh in your heart. I could be with family and friends but when I was alone I did self therapy.
Okay, one day when your children are older, you will be able to shake off how you think about yourself, your marriage and your job(s). I just wanted an answer for “me” and then several A B C steps to get myself better.
Now my children are all wonderful young ladies. God blesses me so much through seeing them learn about navigating this every day journey. God had been my Great Physician the entire time. I grew up with my grandmother who lived out the example of Christ like love.
I am so thankful and blessed.
I did not know that Christians could have emotional distress, monthly and or seasonal depression. I have lived to learn so much about Therapy and Christian Counselors.
I am in Therapy and I am so pleased to know God will heal His children wherever they need healing. It takes courage, confidence in the person who wants to give you tools to help you grow into wholeness.
I know I can embrace learning about my emotions and how God wants me to understand and experience a wide variety of emotional experiences. He created us to enjoy our lives fully.
Thank you Becky for your sincere honesty in how one feels when coping with anxiety and depression. I, too, have struggled with this all my life, and your words of encouragement help me to not feel so alone. I pray and make the most of every day that I can. I’m very grateful for what I have and don’t take life for granted. God bless you and your family.
Kimberly Coney says
I am a two-time suicide survivor in 2012 and 2013. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety depression and bipolar disorder I have Jesus as my savior but every day is a feat I cry on most days but I know God has me but it is typical thank you.
Becky, I have read this so many times. And today I am reading it again. Thank you for your words of encouragement and the reminder that the overwhelming sadness is not a permanent thing. That the need to be perfect is not what Jesus expects of me. I try to give it all to Him but then the “I need to fix this” bug bites again. I will keep trying, but some days it is hard. Thanks again for the encouragement.
Thank you so much for reminding me that I am not alone in this. I didn’t understand it so I couldn’t talk about it and Becky, you made it so clear, please pray for us that we received our healing in this time.