That is the best word I can use to describe how anxiety and depression made me feel nine years ago. Their tactics were simple yet debilitating. If they can isolate you, convince you to wear a mask and appear fine, they can get their painful thoughts and demeaning words into your heart and mind. This plan worked on me for a while and almost took my life.
Anxiety came first. The rumbling of my heart was terrifying. It felt like elephants jumping up and down on my chest and no one could see them. I was very aware of their presence even though they were hidden from the world. Getting a breath felt like hard work at times. Being frozen in fear at the most random moments was anxiety's favorite thing to do to me. Driving down the road at night or sitting at church would be the ideal moments for the attacks to occur. Exhaustion would set in and I had no idea what was happening. I was too scared to tell anyone what I was experiencing. I believed the lie of the enemy that they would reject me if I let them in. Convinced I was the only person with this problem, I pushed it down into the abyss with all the other things I chose to avoid.
Depression sneaked in with below the belt blows. The whispers of "less than" words would go on repeat through my mind: "You are hopeLESS. You are worthLESS. You are useLESS. You are purposeLESS." It was a mantra I desperately wanted to get rid of, but one I slowly began to accept. Still, I chose to mask my pain and shame. No one knew the difficulty it would be to wake up every morning. Doing normal, daily tasks felt like I was building the Great Wall of China even though it was simply brushing my teeth or taking my child to school.
I was sinking closer and closer to the bottom of my debilitating pit. Everybody has a bottom, and for me it was a word I never ever wanted to hear. . .miscarriage. I weighed close to 100lbs and due to the fear and dread that consumed me from my battle with anxiety and depression, I was afraid to eat anything. When I heard the tiny heartbeat inside of me, the mama bear instinct kicked in. I could not eat for myself, but for the sake of the baby, I would do anything! And...my doctor gave me permission to eat doughnuts for all meals, so I had to follow her orders, right?! For eight weeks, I ate. Seeing the scale go up six pounds was a huge victory, but defeat was lurking around the corner. The day the doctor could not hear the heartbeat was the day I made a huge thud on the cold ground.
"You killed this baby. You are hurting everyone around you. You are a burden and need to leave this earth." These were the thoughts competing for space in my mind. Then, it was as if I heard two statements in the midst of my heartbreak: You can give up or you can look up.
I thank God every day for helping me to look up. It was as if He reached down with His gentle hands and lifted my chin from the downward position it had been in for so long. He wiped my tears and showed me I was not alone. There were helpers all around me. The enemy had been lying to me all this time and I could finally hear truth! God used a counselor, my doctor, my church, family, and friends to help me through this treacherous time of my life.
I also found courage to take off the mask. We think these masks are protecting us, but in reality, they are hurting and isolating us. The day I sat with a friend during a play date for our daughters shattered this heavy weight I had been putting on every day. She asked me how I was doing, and instead of saying my usual "I'm fine" to avoid reality, I told her the truth. The look on her face still gets me. She breathed a sigh of relief, and with tears in her eyes she said, "You too?" Yes friend, me too.
God showed me in that moment how others were suffering in silence just as I did, and they needed to know it was not just them. Maybe you need to know in this moment it is not just you. There are over 300 million battling anxiety and depression worldwide and this number continues to rise. You are not alone, and there is hope and ways to cope for all of us.
You know, God's Word tells us He will use all things for good in our lives in Romans 8:28. After finding healing and restoration through my battle with anxiety and depression, the Lord gave me a gentle push to begin writing. Out of this He birthed a 31 Day Devotional called Anxiety Elephants. It is a daily devotional I wrote to share His word, part of my story, daily action steps to take, and a journaling page to help those struggling with anxiety. As this devotional released at the end of 2019, we had no idea what would be coming for our world in the new year. God knew and I am so glad He did. Our Good, Good Father has used this book to help so many of us all across the world not only survive through anxiety but thrive. If you are looking for something to read as you begin a new year, this will be a helpful tool to put in your belt. January can be one of the most depressing months of the year, but if you are choosing to put an active foot forward every day, those anxiety elephants will no longer rule your life. If you would like more information on the book, you can head over to my website at carissnider.com. I am on this journey every day with you. Helping others grow strong in their faith and mental health has become a passion and a calling. It is time for you to see through God, you are hopeFULL. You are useFULL. You are FULL of worth, You are purposeFULL.
I want to leave you with two scriptures that have helped me with my anxiety. One has taught me God wants us to allow others to help us carry our burdens and the other has taught me that when anxiety comes, turning to His comfort will give me joy:
Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2, ESV)
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation (comfort) brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19, NIV)