Many people pray without the expectation of an answer. Maybe it's because they need a little more faith, or that they're used to not getting a solid response. But God doesn't necessarily give you a "solid" response, He will most likely give you the subtle hints of his blessings---something you have to be aware of. Exactly one month ago, I fell into a dark pit of depression. I honestly didn't know if I could get out of this one. Usually, I remain quiet, maybe even reach out to a loved one about it, but I don't want to become a burden on anyone. So over on Instagram, where I mainly put most of my private life on display (even more than this blog sometimes) -- I posted a beautiful picture of the moon behind a purple sky from my childhood home. And I wrote something incredibly heartfelt---something that came from deep within. I had a sense of 'dread'---a sense that I was no longer going to be here, but not by my own doings. I was heading into a deep depression.
Since my work involves helping people who struggle with their mental health, I thought it was important to share my struggles as well. It's even more important to share how you overcame that very struggle and let others know about it as well. There's no shame in it at all. Those who are embarrassed by what they go through suffer in silence, in fear of people's judgements. I was never fearful of other people's judgments, only because I know how many people suffer with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. It's not just people who aren't functional in life---it's those who are married with kids and hold two jobs to make ends meet. It's your doctor, your teacher, your boss and even your own therapist. We are all human and in this together. Not one falls short of a mental health issue or crisis from time to time. If you're finding yourself embarrassed of struggling with anxiety or depression, or embarrassed that a loved one is having a difficult time with it, try to look at it from a different angle. What good could come out of it? The ironic thing about those embarrassed about mental health issues, is that they seem to mock those who are suffering just like they are. It's like a front that they put up so that nobody finds out how dysfunctional their life really is. You can be "dysfunctional" and yet still live a seemingly normal life. Anxiety and stress can manifest in different ways, from insomnia, to crying episodes, to yelling and screaming excessively at your loved ones just to 'get it all out'---it depends on what's your go-to. And we all suffer in different ways. For me, I get bad insomnia with a pounding heart that lasts for a couple of days. Two weeks ago, my heart rate sky rocketed up to 200 bpm. I was taken away in an ambulance and spent the weekend in the hospital. I'm fine, have a healthy heart, but this anxiety had really taken a toll on me. And I am not embarrassed to say what happened, because I want to tell people how I pushed through it all.
Sometimes, you can do all the breathing exercises, the dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and grounding techniques all you want---but nothing has helped me more than prayer and meditation. When you sit down and tell God everything, talk it out, cry it out---whatever and however you let it out to God, He will answer you, but not the way you expect. Sometimes He has to put you through the fire to refine you and take out all the impurities---just like how gold is made. The struggle is the lesson, and then when you have the lesson, to take that and share it with other people who are at the level you once were on. Lately for myself, it's been a pretty constant struggle, but instead of every single day, it went to every other day, then to once a week, and now once every two weeks. Hey, I'll take it. It's progress. My anxiety worsened when my mom passed away, to levels I have never seen before. And as soon as I thought I was getting better, the pandemic hit me (and the rest of the world) really hard, to where I found myself gripping for the lifelines again.
It's OK to Not Be OK
The one phrase that bothers me the most is, "You're not alone, we're in this together." No. Many of us are alone and we need to acknowledge that. People may be suffering just like we are, but we are indeed, alone. Sometimes, there isn't one person to help us in a crisis. Even our own loved ones can't, as much as they want to help. That's when you truly need to hang onto God and remember that He is the way---He will lift you out of that dark pit to see the light of day again. But you have to have faith---you have to believe that He is right there with you. It's not suggestive thinking or some kind of miracle that will happen, it's an actual physiological response you get when you sincerely pray and take time out for God. So, I used God as a therapist. I meditated on the Word. I meditated on the subtle answers that appeared before me. You have to keep at it though, it's not just a "prayer and a wish"---it's a constant communication between you and God.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. --Romans 12:12
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will go God in Christ Jesus for you. --1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
One of my personal favorites is this verse:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. --Philippians 4:6
Go-To Strategies for Panic Relief
The good thing about the suffering I experienced this past month is that I got to help others who were also struggling. I gave them some techniques to use, if they didn't have faith in God, and I also was there to talk it out with them. Even if you pray, it's also important to work out your go-to strategies when experiencing a panic attack or a deep depressive episode.
For panic attacks, besides prayer and meditation, I use DBT. It's basically distractive methods to take your mind off the mental and physiological symptoms you are experiencing. Many therapists are using this method these days because it's working so well.
I'm also a big fan of CBT, which is basically training your brain and mindset to view an obstacle differently. So say you have agoraphobia. The best CBT method is to just take a few steps outside of your home. Then walk back. Keep doing that until you walk down the block. Remember, you can always turn around and go home. Or if your agoraphobia is more about big supermarkets, the best thing to do is just get two small items near the front of the store, so you get some exposure. In time, you'll be pushing a large cart doing a full grocery list. It really works if you try hard enough.
If you suffer from heart palpitations and tachycardia, the best natural thing to take is potassium and magnesium glycinate. Your potassium can come in vitamin form, but best if you drink coconut water, which is all natural and provides electrolytes which also aids in helping palpitations and tachycardia symptoms. The magnesium glycinate is the most absorbable form you can take (no tummy issues) and it'll help regulate your heart's rhythm, as well as take away muscle aches and leg pain.
Cut the Alcohol & Go to Sleep!
That's all I got for now. I wanted to share what I have been going through with you. I also wanted to share what's been helping me the most these days. I think it's important that people who suffer with mental health help one another out. Think of it like this... Say you had to go to AA and the director of the meeting never touched a drop of alcohol in their life. Wouldn't that be unsettling to you? Wouldn't you want the director of your meeting you have experienced the addiction, pain and agony you went through so they can relate to you more? Even therapists aren't perfect. I prefer my therapists to have their own therapists. The best therapist I ever went to had her own therapist and was on medication. She KNEW what I went through---not just studied it. There's a huge difference. And for that, I am so grateful I came across her. She helped me while I was caregiving for my mom and she also watched me grieve the first days without her. I was such a mess. I remember calling her hysterically crying while I was home alone in my mother's huge, empty house. There was no way she could calm me over the phone. This woman hopped in her car to come over and help me. Because she had experienced similar events, she was able to compassionately save me on levels a regular 'textbook' psychologist could never. I will never forget her. I want to even say that it was the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done for me.
Help Others On Your Journey to Wellness
If you ever need to contact me, please either message me on my Facebook page or you can DM me over on Twitter.
Here are some great verses to meditate on before you go to bed:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." ~ Psalm 56:3
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” ~ Psalm 94:19
“But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” ~ Isaiah 43:1
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” ~ Proverbs 12:25
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 6:34
“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6-7
“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” ~ Isaiah 35:4
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” ~ Luke 12:22-26
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” ~ Psalm 55:22
“Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” ~ Mark 6:50
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
“'For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” ~ Psalm 118:6-7
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” ~ Proverbs 29:25
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:39-40
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7
“But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” ~ 1 Peter 3:14
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4
“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” ~ Deuteronomy 3:22
“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'” ~ Revelation 1:17
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” ~ Mark 5:36
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
“The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” ~ Zephaniah 3:17
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…” from Psalm 91:1-16
Be assured, He is with you in whatever you face, in the turmoil and struggles, amidst the anxious thoughts and the worries of life. He is there, strengthening, helping, and He holds you in His hands. God is greater. He gives us the power to live courageously, boldly, fearlessly in this life, when many things that surround us would tell us to be afraid. His truth whispers strong and sure to the deepest core of our spirits. “Do not fear.” All of that stuff on your mind? Give it to Him – again. Replace those fearful thoughts with His words of truth. And sleep in peace tonight. He knows what concerns you, He’s got you covered.
Read more here regarding fear and anxiety.