Counting my blessings won’t stop the panic attacks.
Telling me to pray more isn’t going to make the depression go away.
Suggesting I do this/take that/stop this isn’t going to fix my broken brain.
Why do we keep getting bombarded with messages telling us to DO more about our anxiety?
Why does everyone else have an idea/suggestion for how I can quit feeling the way I feel?
Why is it made out to be my fault for having mental illness?
Why do we keep being told we have FIX OURSELVES?
My new friend Alia said this today: Fix yourself for God is not the Gospel.
It’s not. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not. If I was supposed to fix myself or have a magical cure/fix to make everything better, I’d have no need for God.
And yet, the messages keep playing over and over again: do this to feel better! stop that to be happy! Just quit being anxious or depressed, dammit!
(I added that last one, but it’s pretty much written between the lines of these other messages).We do not need to be fixed. We do not need to be told to erase our feelings. We do not need to be shamed into trying to do more or be more. Click To Tweet
We do not need to be told how to make ourselves better by doing x, y, or z. As if we aren’t TRYING to get better.
I promise y’all, I take my meds every day to be the best version of myself. Therapy kicks my ass, yet I still do it (not in this season, but I have in the past). I try hard, every day. Do NOT tell me I need to do something else to quit being anxious or depressed. I’m going to be anxious every day of my life– it’s pretty much a given at this point. My depression is going to ebb and flow daily, and some seasons it’s going to swallow me whole.
But I do the best I can to control it, and to insinuate otherwise by telling me to do this or that is a thinly veiled shaming tactic. It’s not helpful.
I already feel like I’m less than enough because of my mental illness, please don’t add to that by telling me to do more.
I already have a ticker tape going in my head 24/7 telling me I suck. I don’t need more reason to believe it.
Anxiety and gratitude can exist in the same place. Sadness and happiness can exist at the same time. We don't need to put one down to experience the other. Click To Tweet
Feelings aren’t sinful, y’all. God created us to experience a host of emotions. We’re made to feel things. Some of us feel things more deeply than others, and some also experience deep mental distraught that causes them to feel hard things often. I am one of those.
Seriously, watch Inside Out and tell me that our emotions can’t (and don’t) work together. They need each other. And we need to feel them. ALL OF THEM.
There is nothing scriptural or God-breathed about telling people to swap one feeling for another.
You can see throughout scripture how feelings of lament, anger, joy, fear are intertwined.
Look at the Psalms. The Psalmist lived the life of an emotional roller coaster, and he wasn’t afraid to show it.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 ‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]
5 The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
8 Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
12 You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm is endowed with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
[and then…in the same Psalm]:
46 How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
48 Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
49 Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, Lord, how your servant has[g] been mocked,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
51 the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,
with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
52 Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.
Talk about emotional whiplash.
It’s possible to live a life filled with indescribable lament, and incredible joy all at once.
It’s possible to carry hurt and anger and sorrow and still be filled with gratitude.
It’s possible to use prayer, scripture, and other faith-based things to find solace and healing. It’s also possible to use medicine, therapy, and other medical practices too– they all come from God, and God works through the prayer and the pill alike.
We were not made to pit our feelings against one another. We were meant to feel our feelings, then take them to God and let Him work through them with us. He walks with us in the moments of sadness or anger or anxiety– because He has felt them too. And he grieves with us.
It was in my first season of darkness where my faith grew exponentially. Not because I ignored my feelings of panic and terror- if I’d ignored them, honestly I don’t know if I’d be here. My faith grew in the darkness because I had to cling to the light. I had to have faith that God was going to wake me up the next day because I was so scared I wouldn’t. I cried out to God in the midst of the darkness, and it was the only thing that kept me going day after day.
My faith didn’t falter in the despair– it blossomed. I really figured out what it looked like to actually trust that Jesus was what He said He was, that He’d do what He said He would. In a season where everything was spinning at 100 miles per hour, He was the only steady thing I could grasp. So I did.
In this season, God was all I had to hold on to. I HAD to have faith to survive each night of the darkness.It was in the pit of despair that God saved me again. Click To Tweet
It was not in the cheery, happy-go-plucky moments of life. It was not in the moments I thought I had my life completely together and perfectly planned, or where I thought I had to come before God perfect and blemish-free. It was not in the moments where I tried to pull myself up by my fake bootstraps and fix myself, too scared to depend on anyone but myself. It was in my worst moments when grace swooped in and found me, on my hands and knees, defeated.
That was the posture I needed to be in to see what true grace was like.
In her book Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist says something of motherhood and faith that completely opened my eyes to what my faith looked like in my darkness:
“I also believe in God because I have to, because I need someone to pray to with my rabid, sweeping mix of fear and love. I have to believe in something else, I think, or I’d lose my mind. I think I would blow a fuse in my brain every night if I couldn’t entrust Henry to God for safekeeping while I sleep. It’s hard enough for me to sleep, and I believe very desperately in God. I’d never sleep a wink if I didn’t.”
I don't believe saying my list of gratitudes is going to save my life. Trusting God with my feelings and my despair, knowing that He will be with me is what saves me. Every. day. of. my. life. Click To Tweet
Gratitude is a great thing. Necessary too. I’m thankful for so many things in my life. But thankfulness does not have to replace feelings of anguish, anxiety, or fear. God doesn’t ask for us to get rid of our negative feelings. We shouldn’t ask that of anyone either.
We can do better than this, y’all. We are not called to shame, no matter how thinly veiled under “blessings” it is. We are called to support. To love. To walk alongside.
We don’t need another fix. We need your hand.