“How did you stop being anxious?”
“You mean, you still feel sad?”
Every now and then, yes.
“You mean, God hasn’t healed you from it?”
“Do you think He will?”
God can do anything. And sometimes, I still struggle.
Oh boy. It’s time to talk about faith and mental health.
A part of me always knew this would be a difficult topic to discuss. Some of my readers are not believing Christians and might mistake my post for some kind of subtle hint for proselytization.
And some of my readers are Christians but may not understand how the two phenomenon, God and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), could possibly co-exist in someone’s life.
I’ve had a few readers ask me about my faith and its role in regards to how I cope with anxiety disorder. Where does God fit in?
They might expect me to give them some of these “cookie-cutter” answers:
Because I am Christian, I don’t struggle with my anxiety.
God healed me from my anxiety.
Or my personal favourite…
I believe God is “delivering” me from this disorder.
Instead, I leave room for something else. Something that needs to be said from someone who’s been there, and is sometimes…still there.
Let me clear the air about two things.
First, I am a Christian and I do believe that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). Does this include healing people from illnesses? Yes.
Second, the former argument does not exclude mental illness. While this was not my personal experience, I do know a couple of individuals who have personally experienced God’s healing from different psychological disorders.
So the question remains: does God miraculously heal everyone from a psychological disorder?
The answer isn’t so black and white. And I don’t think this is the right question to be asking in the first place.
Let me explain why.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the following statement from church-goers in regards to mental illness.
“You just need to pray about it more. You really need to go before the Lord.”
Oh brother. Let me tell you about my “going” before the Lord. As someone who dealt with panic attacks and anxiety disorder throughout university, I can only say that I wasn’t only just going before the Lord but I was face-down-lying-on- the-bathroom-floor going before the Lord.
To those of you who have been there before, you are not entirely shocked. All of us have had a moment at some point in our lives where our body meets gravity. All dignity is pushed aside. And we beg and plead. Often on our knees. Or in my case, on my hands on knees.
Take this from me. I cannot do this anymore. It’s just too much.
So, where did this leave God and me?
God did not take away my anxiety disorder that night as I lay face-down on the bathroom floor of my DC apartment. He did not miraculously “heal” me from my anxiety. I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks. I still had to catch my breath and count to ten in the middle of a work meeting out of fear that I would panic.
God didn’t heal me.
But I started going to counselling.
And I talked to a complete stranger about my fears.
I learned tools about how to stop the onset of a panic attack.
And learned how to manage anxious feelings and negative “self-talk”.
I learned to accept that I struggled with a disorder.
And I told my friends and family members.
I broke some old habits.
I said goodbye to some unhealthy relationships.
And I started to regain my strength and peace of mind.
Then I started to sleep better at night.
And really enjoyed my meal at dinner time.
I relaxed at home by myself, not concerned with the fear of being alone.
So did God heal me?
Not in the way you would think.
As a Christian I believe that God didn’t take away my anxiety. He didn’t minimize my depression.
I still felt sad after going to counselling. I still had the occasional panic attack at random in the supermarket.
You see, God does not promise that we will not experience hardship.
But, He does promise that He will be there right beside us, every step of the way.
How comforting it is to know that I am not alone! Not only do other people serve as a vital support group but it says in Matthew that Jesus overcame the world. He knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed. He knew pain and suffering.
So I’ll be honest with you. Today, I still struggle with anxiety. With negative self-talk.
But I do know one thing: I am not the same person I was 2 years ago. The worst is behind me. And God has been with me every step of the way. From diagnosis to recovery.
And I am on my way. I am on the mend. I am not a slave to anxiety disorder. I am the happiest I have ever been, but every now and then, I feel a little depressed. It’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to feel perfectly. I can just be.
No miracles. I am trudging slow and steady making forward progress.
My name is Rachel and this is where I stand.