According to 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 eighteen and older, or eighteen percent of the population”), and “anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment” (source: National Institute of Mental Health). When left untreated, mental health disorders can take a tremendous toll on one’s marriage and family.
About 20 years ago, I started experiencing depression and anxiety firsthand. However, I didn’t realize it at the time. That’s the funny thing about these disorders. We think it’s normal at first, because 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 anxious or worrisome thoughts from time to time, but those suffering with anxiety and depression are inundated with these thoughts habitually. These thoughts fester and become more sinister by the day, and 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 thoughts sound familiar, then you know the pain of living with 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., then you have what I often refer to as “functional” anxiety and depression. You might be able to get out of bed and make it through the day, but your mind is often riddled with accusing thoughts. You may experience intense anxiety attacks, too–your stomach churns with nausea, your body feels weak, you spontaneously break into a cold sweat, and your heart feels like it just might beat itself right out of your chest. 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.
Sound familiar? Friend, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone, and you did not do anything wrong to bring this on yourself. Most importantly, you can get the help that you need to heal, and honestly, you must.
As someone who walked through a long battle with anxiety and depression, I know how it feels to barely get through the day without feeling like you are constantly feeling like you are failing at everything—at being a good spouse, a good parent, and frankly, a good human. 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.” I go into more detail about my personal struggle with anxiety and depression in our new book, Naked and Healthy. Mental health battles are 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 see a Christian counselor on a weekly basis. This was a tremendous help. During 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 every thought to the light—especially your deepest, darkest ones, and surrender them to God. He will immerse you in His truth and show you that you are not damaged goods and that He loves you so much.
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.” 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,” in John 14:27.
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 as well. 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 will come when you refuse to give up and continue to get the help that you need. Let today be you first step to freedom!
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. Also, be sure to check out our NEW book, Naked and Healthy, where we take a deep dive into how you and your spouse can move towards better mental health, spiritual health, and physical health while also cultivating a rock solid marriage. Be blessed!