According to the The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18 percent of the population (source: National Institute of Mental Health),” and “anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.” And, when left untreated, it can take a tremendous toll on one’s marriage and family.
About 12 years ago, I started experiencing depression and anxiety firsthand. But, I didn’t realize it at the time. That’s the funny thing about these disorders. We think its normal at first. Human beings are prone to having some anxious thoughts. We tell ourselves things like:
“I’m just worried. I’ll snap out of it in time.”
“I’m just down. I’ll get better when my circumstances get better.”
“I’m just a little nervous. It will pass.”
All people have these thoughts a time or two, but those suffering with anxiety and depression let these “every now and then” thoughts turn into HABITUAL AND ACCUSING thoughts. They fester and become more sinister by the day. We suffer in silence and shame.
Over time, those of us with anxiety and depression start thinking and BELIEVING thoughts like:
“I will NEVER snap out of this. I must have done something terribly wrong to feel this way.”
“I’m going to lose everything and completely mess up my family.”
“If anyone knew the worries and horrible thoughts that I have, they would hate me. I can’t tell anyone about this.”
Friend, if any of these sound familiar, then you know the pain of living with anxiety and depression. And, you have what I call, “functional,” anxiety and depression if you live with the weight of this every single day, but you are still able to complete your basic responsibilities as a spouse, a parent, a worker, etc. However, your heart aches every day as you are riddled with accusing thoughts, a churning stomach and heavy breathing. You may even experience intense anxiety attacks too. You feel like you can’t tell anyone because you don’t understand what brought this on, and you don’t expect anyone else to either.
Friend, I’m here to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
And, YOU DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO BRING THIS ON.
And, most importantly, YOU CAN GET THE HELP THAT YOU NEED. In fact, YOU MUST.
I tell you this as someone who walked through a long battle with anxiety and depression. I shared my personal experience in a previous blog called 5 Things Your ANXIOUS SPOUSE Wants You to Know (below).
I know how hard it is on a marriage and kids. I understand how it feels to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, having a full-blown anxiety attack, and running to the bathroom to throw up. I know the overwhelming fears of losing your spouse and the frustration of not being able to just “snap out of it.”
It’s gut-wrenching and heart-breaking, but THERE IS HOPE.
There is hope when we open up to our spouse and family about our struggle. We cannot keep it in. The only way we can get help is by being honest and open.
Hope is not hiding in the dark; it can only be found in the light.
So, we must be brave and bring our truth to light through sharing our deepest fears, worries and anxieties with those we love most.
In my own experience, I wouldn’t have survived my four-year battle with anxiety and depression without the full support of my husband, Dave. There were times I would wake him up in the middle of the night to ask for prayer and an encouraging word. He lovingly prayed for me and encouraged me every single time.
I truly believe that God heard our prayers and strengthened both of us through that difficult time. Prayer has been and continues to be my lifeline of hope.
Dave also encouraged me to go to regular Christian counseling. This was a tremendous help. I attended counseling on a weekly basis. Each session, my counselors would help me to unpack the root of my depression and anxiety, give me practical tools to help with my healing, and remind of the truth of God’s Word. I felt lighter and lighter with every appointment.
Today, I am living in freedom, and I am quick to tell anyone suffering with depression and anxiety that YOU CAN LIVE IN FREEDOM TOO.
Your battle with anxiety and depression doesn’t define your life, so please don’t let it.
Every battle requires a fight, so we must keep on fighting against the anxiety and depression by resisting the desire to hide our struggle. Bring those LIES in your mind to the light, and surrender them to God. He will immerse you in His truth and show you that you are NOT damaged goods.
God’s Word says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Psalm 139:14. God doesn’t want us to be anxious.
Philippians 4:6-7 says,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And, Jesus tells us,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Friend, anxiety and depression are not easy battles to face, and we certainly can’t face them alone. If you are facing this, please open up to your spouse, trusted family member or close friend. Find a local Christian counselor or pastor to talk to on a regular basis. Tell your doctor too. In certain situations, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication may be helpful.
You do not have to keep on suffering with this, and you will get through this. There will come a day when you will walk in freedom. It may take some time—more time than you realize right now—but I promise you that freedom with come when you refuse to give up and continue to get the help that you need. Let today be you first step to freedom, Friend.
If your spouse, friend or family member has any of the symptoms I described in this blog, please share this with them and offer to help them. Thank you so much for reading, sharing and responding!
If you or your spouse—or both of you—are suffering with anxiety and depression, our NEW video resource called “Fighting for My Marriage” may be very helpful to you. It is our most intensive resource yet, and it even includes an interactive component of gender-specific online support groups. You can download three FREE videos from the series by clicking HERE.
This article originally appeared here.