This was my struggle with anxiety and depression. Many people in my family battle with depression and even anxiety, but I was always under the impression that I was “stronger” than something like depression. The only other I time I had ever felt anything like this was when I first moved away for college, but back then I just thought I was really homesick. Then a series of events happened and the anxiety and depression floated to the surface. I was underprepared in every way to deal with it. I was in the middle of my last year of a very long masters program. I was trapped in a very toxic friendship with someone from school whom I was rooming with at the time. I kept trying to leave that relationship and living arrangement in the midst of trying to keep my grades up during my hardest semester of school. It was also during this time that I was informed I would not be given the price of my doctorate program that I had been promised. It all came crashing together to bring about a time in my life that I have titled, “40 Days of Weeping.”
It was actually longer than 40 days, but this time in my life always reminds me of the story of Noah.
When I was a kid, I always assumed that 40 days wasn’t that long of a time, but when I went through
Even after the rain stopped, Noah and his family were trapped in the ark as the water slowly receded down low enough for the land to reappear. The same thing happened for me, after the tears began to slow down and even when they stopped. There was finally some light, but the problems did not magically go away. It was still a waiting game while God changed me and made me into a different person, a person who could begin to face the darkness and fight the darkness. Noah also, I’m sure fought off depression, which is why he kept sending out birds to look for land. The land was hope that they would get off the ark. The water in my life slowly began to recede and while the anxiety and depression did not leave, I could at least begin to see “the land” as well. Hope was coming that I could face a new normal, a normal with anxiety and depression, but not crippling anxiety and depression.
At the end of Noah’s adventure in the ark, God displays a rainbow in the sky as His promise to humanity that He will never destroy them again by flooding the whole earth. God sent something beautiful to Noah and his family as a promise of hope for the future. Everything wasn’t perfect for Noah after this, far from it, but Noah better understood the God whom he served. In my life, while God did not send me a rainbow in the sky, He did give me joy again. He gave me fantastic people in my life who fought with me and listened to my tearful phone calls, and who rode buses for hours to come help me pack, and to just cheer me on. I found a counselor to talk to and prayed daily (even though I never heard a clear answer from God) and I began to rely on people when before I had always tried to do everything by myself.
Then one day, I laughed. I hadn’t laughed in almost two months (anyone who knows me knows that normally I can barely go two hours without laughing, I love to laugh), but finally I began to laugh again. I began to feel joy and I accepted it and embraced it. I also embraced the fact that anxiety and depression might be my companions for a long time, but God would always bring the light into the darkness. It might be a long and difficult battle, but He is the God of light and love and mercy, and in my darkness He gave me all of these things. Ultimately, He gave me joy and I try to share this joy with others who also are going through their own darkness, because now I can better see those who are drowning the way that I was drowning.
If you are someone who feels like they are trapped in the darkness, I would encourage you to find someone to talk to, preferably a counselor. Counselors are awesome and wonderful and we should give them awards or something for all that they do. If you can’t find a counselor or afford one, find some Christians who are older in the faith, whom you trust, and talk with them. We need to surround ourselves with other believers and encourage one another. Depression and anxiety are not something to brush off, but rather to be dealt with. Learn how to live your life in joy, even if you still feel depressed or anxious at times later on. I still deal with my anxiety and depression, but now I can see the light because I remember how God brought me out of the darkness and I know that He will do it again. I’m praying for all of you great women! Never give up, and keep striving onward towards the light, because it is there.