Life is really weird right now. We can all stack hands and agree on that, right? I was never taught how to handle a global pandemic while I was in college, I think I’d like my money back. It feels like a constant flux of boredom and exhaustion. Peace in this new slower pace and extreme frustration over what we’re missing out on. I feel both discouraged by where our world currently lies and hopeful for what the future may hold. And inpatient. So inpatient.
There are days I wake up with the sun (this is new for me, thanks, Corona) and feel ready to take on the day, and other days where I wake up wondering if getting out of bed is worth it. It’s a mixed bag.
The temptation for me is to look around, either as I pass people on the street or on the internet and compare my heartaches and frustrations with the store window of ourselves that we all walk around with on display—but it’s my firm belief that to compare our insides with someone else’s outsides will rip the joy right out from under us.
I don’t know what this all means, in so many ways I am still trying to figure it out. But here is where I will plant my flag; we have to do this together. We have to be honest with one another. What we are currently experiencing is a gigantic collective trauma, one that simply powering through could eventually wipe out our insides altogether if we aren’t careful.
I have been really encouraged lately by the belief that we belong to one another. This doesn’t just call us to love and care for one another well, BUT ALSO allow ourselves to be loved and cared for. This is not always so easy.
I was talking with a friend yesterday and sharing with him about my long-fought battle with anxiety. After describing for him what this has, and currently looks like for me, I ended by saying, “But the truth is, without this thing that haunts me, I am not sure I’d ever understand how much I need both God AND people living in me, with me and through me.” While I am an expressive, emotional person, I don’t prefer to be a vulnerable one. I prefer to think I can do it all on my own. (All of my close friends are rolling their eyes right now.) But extreme bouts of anxiety and depression have a real funny way of reminding me that to live with this idea could drown me.
In that same spirit, the one of doing this together, I want to share a couple things that have been helpful for me. Maybe they will be for you…and if not, that’s ok too. There are many balming ways to combat this beast, these are simply what I’ve found to be the most useful in the trial and error that has been caring for my mental health.
Move Your Body.
I started running in high school—back then it was because solo sports were way less intimidating to me (ha), but throughout college and especially now I do so primarily to keep my brain in check. Between the chemicals released while running, and the feeling of accomplishment, this works far better for me at combating my unsteady brain than anything else ever has. I know some folks might roll their eyes at this, not everyone likes running. That’s understandable, but find what you do like—yoga, walking, swimming, anything…just move.
Find A Morning Routine.
I am not a routine person, it’s not where I thrive, but I’ve found having a consistent morning ritual of sorts is a game-changer for me. It feels weird to share this, as it feels like a pretty sacred space, but this has been so helpful during this season, so feels worth letting you in on. Each morning I wake up, make coffee, read either my Bible or another form of devotional, journal and then go for a walk and talk to God about it. I do that last part out loud, so it’s quite possible that my neighborhood folk think I’ve lost it completely. But the intimacy of speaking out loud to our bad-ass God as I walk is so special to me. It breaks some of the barriers that I can sometimes feel between Him and I. I imagine Him walking beside me as I speak and then I listen. It’s in these moments where I hear God speak the most tenderly and clearly.
Your morning can look different than this. Find what works for you and breathes life into your insides. It’s so worth it.
Look to Those Who Have Gone Before Us.
My favorite thing about the Bible is how often I read stories of those in crisis and feel understood. The culture has changed, but the messages are as true as ever. Currently I’ve been reading about Advent—the period of time before Jesus’ birth. The nations were in turmoil. There was a tyrant dictating over the people and hope felt lost. They had been told there was a savior to come, but the waiting felt unbearable, and doubtful. (read: WAITING ALWAYS FEELS UNBEARABLE AND DOUBTFUL, can I get an amen?!) Nowhere felt safe. But Jesus came, as promised and flipped this world on its head through the most unlikely person, in the most unexpected way. GOD SHOWED UP. And He keeps showing up.
My prayer each day is “Lord, enlighten my heart to see you moving in and around me.” (adapted from Tim Keller’s book Prayer.) And He will. I promise.
With that said, also know that anxiety and depression do not equate a lack of faith or relationship with our Creator. My therapist once said to me, “You are trying to pray yourself out of anxiety and it’s actually making you more anxious. God is not mad at you for being afraid, He is in it with you and there are tools He has given us to walk us through it.” I found this statement incredibly freeing, as for so long I felt an intense shame that if only I trusted God more, I’d be healed of these fears. And more often than not, that is just not the case.
Find Your Home Team.
One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in this battle are the people who love me well, and who I get to love in return. I have a small number of friends who on the really hard days I reach out to walk me back to myself and to Jesus. Somedays these are texts that simply say, “Red alert,” which my people know means I am in the thick of it and need prayer/support as soon as humanly possible. Somedays it’s tearful phone calls begging for prayer. This can look however you want. Find your people you can personally reach out to and ask to walk alongside you. Courage and faith beget one another—it’s ok to lean on someone else’s faith, courage, mental stability, etc., when doing so on your own feels impossible. In fact, I’d argue that it’s imperative. We cannot do this alone. And we don’t have to. And that is kinda beautiful.
I would add here an encouragement to not do this via social media. Social media can be a great tool for sharing parts of our lives, but it falls short in actual intimacy with others and can leave you feeling more alone than supported.
You Are Not Alone and You Are Not Crazy.
I cannot state this emphatically enough. I recently read that somewhere that 7.3% of the world has diagnosable depression and anxiety disorders—that is one out of 13…and that statistic was taken before the dumpster fire that is 2020, so I think we can assume the numbers have gone up.
The biggest lie we can tell ourselves is that we are the only ones who feel the way we do, and therefore shut ourselves off from others. The truth is, the more honest I’ve been about my own struggles in this area, the more I’ve learned I am not only not alone, rather I am in the company of some of the greatest people on the planet (shout out to Michelle Obama).
Truthfully I will probably never stop praying for this monster inside me to be gone. I’ll probably never stop begging it to leave, he’s not my friend. But this is not the whole of who I am, nor is it you.
You are whole. Right here, just as you are.
And you are not alone.