No, this isn’t a post about cats. But hopefully, it will be as therapeutic for you as petting a cute kitten. Okay, well, that’s a stretch. Especially for this topic. There’s nothing cuddly about anxiety and depression. We’ve probably all dealt with some level of one or the other at some point during our lives. I would imagine that many people have dealt with both on a higher than normal level as we’ve been experiencing all of the abnormalities brought about by COVID. As someone who has suffered with both throughout my life, I wanted to share a bit with you about how I cope.
I’ve gone through several periods in my life where anxiety and/or depression were the most prevalent themes. For years, I struggled with feelings of sadness and despair brought on by situations that were out of my control. As I grew older, those situations became less frequent. After all, I could make choices for myself and if my decisions were bad, I had only myself to blame. That’s all well and good until you face something that you absolutely didn’t plan for and couldn’t avoid, such as miscarriage. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I experienced five miscarriages. Each at varying points during the first trimester of pregnancy. With each one, I got a little further into the pregnancy. And with each loss, I began to seriously wonder if God wasn’t punishing me for the life I’d led.
I had settled down considerably by the time I experienced these losses. My husband and I had decided that it was time to grow our family and I’d attempted to get pregnant in 2002. We were successful, but I miscarried within the first month and I was devastated. I can remember sitting in the chapel at the hospital, crying to God and asking Him why. He answered. A year later, we were blessed with a healthy and beautiful baby girl. I couldn’t have been happier. In fact, I was so happy with being a mother that I decided to leave my job and stay home to have more babies. I had given little consideration to the fact that this just wasn’t up to me.
Being a mother had never been one of my goals in life. But when I got married and we had our daughter, my feelings changed. Having babies was all that I wanted to do and I was determined to keep having children. About a year after I had my daughter, I got pregnant again. But a few weeks later, I lost the baby. Several months later, we went through this all over again. This time, I was a couple more weeks along before I lost the baby. About a year later, we tried again. I made it to about twelve weeks and we went for the ultrasound. The baby had a heartbeat, but I couldn’t help feeling like something was wrong.
Because I was high risk, I had to go back a week or so later and when they checked the baby’s heartbeat again, there was a problem. The baby had died and I had to have a D&C in order to remove the fetus. This was one of the hardest things I’d ever gone through. The earlier miscarriages hadn’t been as difficult to handle, but then, I hadn’t needed to go through a surgery to formally end the pregnancy. I remember feeling like I had failed so miserably because I hadn’t been able to keep the baby alive. With all of the guilt and hormones, I fell into a deep depression and it took a while for me to get back to a place where I felt normal again.
About a year later, we tried one last time to have another child. I became pregnant and we were moving along fairly well. I reached the point where we checked the baby’s heartbeat and everything was fine. But just a couple of weeks later, we were once again ambushed by loss. Before we even went into the exam room, I knew something wasn’t right. Sure enough, the baby no longer had a heartbeat and we were told that the pregnancy was no longer viable. Once again, I had to endure a D&C and once again, I went through a period of extreme depression. Finally, we decided that we would stop trying to have more children and eventually, our marriage completely fell apart.
You may be thinking, “Okay, so where’s the uplifting advice?” Well, to answer your question, it’s right here. After all of this, I was dealing with so much anxiety and depression that I thought my life was over. No matter how much I loved my daughter, I couldn’t stop feeling awful and I didn’t know how to move past the pain. I started seeing a therapist and through many months of processing the losses and working through all of the issues that I was still dragging around from before I was even married, I began to see that the control I had originally thought I had was not really control at all. And that was the thing that was causing me so much anxiety. Once I acknowledged that my anger over all of the losses was driving my fear, I was able to begin seeking ways to help myself come up out of the pit that I’d been living in.
And part of that also involved becoming more in touch with God than I’d been since I’d left the church some twenty years earlier. The combination of processing with a qualified counselor and then connecting to The Most-High Counselor, I was able to break free from the pain and start living my life again. At that point, three things became an integral part of my healing. I began to use a formula that I call Pray/Read/Remember (PRR) to help me deal with life in times of struggle. Basically, when things are feeling off, I begin by spending time in prayer. I pray for strength, peace, and healing. I ask God to guide me out of whatever darkness I find myself in. The next thing I do is to read. I look for inspirational Bible quotes and read articles that help me to redirect my thoughts to more positive things than whatever has me feeling badly. Finally, I remember. I remember all of the things that God has brought me through and how He has healed me, even at my most broken.
Pray/Read/Remember. These things will help you to get back on track and hopefully to break any barriers to feeling secure, safe, and at peace. God has a plan for us and when we are willing to include Him in every part of our lives, He pours out His blessings until they are overflowing. Don’t be afraid to trust Him with everything because we do mean everything to Him.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
~Psalm 13:5 NIV~