"but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4
I have sat down to write this post a hundred times, at least. But, I just could not bring myself to do it.
Possibly, because I didn't think I was smart enough or wise enough to broach this subject. Perhaps, I was even afraid that I was wrong. Maybe, everything I wanted to say was not the way it really is.
This afternoon, I left the grocery story and headed home. My heart started beating a little faster and my mind was filled with racing thoughts about this post. It was time.
In my late twenties I suffered from terrible panic and anxiety attacks. I had no idea what they were at first. After visiting every doctor under the sun to try to help me, I was finally diagnosed with panic disorder.
I remember being disappointed with the diagnosis.
It sounded so.....
I wanted it to be anything but a mental thing.
I began seeing a therapist. Two of them actually.
Like it was yesterday, I remember telling one of them, "But, you don't understand. I am a Christian. Christian's don't take medicine for things like this. Christian's should be able to trust the Lord enough to heal them and not have to see doctors."
He looked me square in my tear stained eyes and said, "Jill, I am a Christian too. I was called into this profession to help people. All people. Do you think that medicine and doctors are not from the Lord?"
I gulped loudly.
My mind was spinning.
Peace suddenly filled my soul.
He was right.
If I had found a lump in my breast I would have gone straight to a doctor. I would have asked for prayer. I would have taken the medicine. I would have gotten the help I needed.
But, for some reason, this seemed different.
It seemed so shaming.
I was ashamed.
My life was good. I had a family that loved me and a husband that adored me.
Yet, I could not function.
I could not go anywhere without my heart racing, the room spinning and have a feeling of impending doom.
My mind was not well.
My brain was not functioning properly.
But, I was still ashamed.
I remember praying, "Lord, anything but this."
I started my first anti-anxiety medicine at 28.
It got worse before it got better.
I felt like myself again.
I could go to the grocery store without having to run out of it.
I could take my baby to the pediatrician without having someone drive me.
My life was coming back together.
I still never really talked about the medicine.
I was still ashamed that I had to take medicine to feel normal.
After about a year, I weaned off of it.
I did well for about 3 years, until it happened again.
This time, I was a mother of two.
What was wrong with me??
I went to a different doctor this time.
I remember crying in her office when she asked me if I had ever had suicidal thoughts...
I didn't answer her, I just cried.
She took that as a yes.
I remember her telling me that medicine would just help jump start my brain back into the normal way it functioned.
I was ashamed, again.
Why would God let this happen?? I was praying. I was reading my Bible. I was not in a season of sin.
I was angry with God.
But, after the persuasion of my doctor and my husband, I started taking medicine....again.
I kind of just stuffed those angry feelings down deep. I didn't want to deal with them. I buried them deep into my heart.
I began to have serious trust issues with God.
If He won't heal me from this, He must not love me.
I convinced myself of this.
Until I started devouring God's word in 2012.
I started to trust Him again. Slowly.
He had proven Himself faithful time and time again.
But, honestly, I still did not understand why I had to fight mental battles.
A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Something about this made me see God differently.
I knew she was loved by the Lord. I knew she loved Him. I knew she lived a godly life.
Then, things began to come into perspective for me.
Why did I think I would ever be spared suffering?
Whether it was physical or mental, it was still suffering.
From what I had read in the bible up until that point, all of God's most beloved people suffered from something.
David. Joseph. Moses. Esther. Ruth. Daniel.
Who was I to think that I would be exempt from suffering?
It has been a slow process for me.
I have had moments where I still question Him about this.
Then, I just surrender to Him. And, at times, that meant taking the medicine I did not want to take.
Listen, this is not a post about medicine.
It's a post about God.
And getting help.
And surrendering to what your husband, or parents, or wise doctors advise you to do.
When we are sick, we need the counsel of others. We need to have the faith of a child and let them help us. To take care of us and point us to what we need.
Of course, all of this should be covered in prayer. Much prayer.
But, I am so tired of Christian women feeling like they have to hide their mental struggles. They are convinced by themselves and sometimes other Christian's that if they would just be "more faithful", or "believe harder", they would be healed.
I have found along this journey, that many women suffer with anxiety, fear and panic. I have learned that they also hide it well.
I have found that they carry shame, just like I did.
We must be willing to talk about this. To get help. To get therapy. To ask our friends to pray for us and with us.
This journey has actually brought me closer to God and to others who suffer. Suffering creates a bond with others like nothing else.
Suffering gives you compassion that you could not have otherwise.
Please. If you are dealing with mental issues, reach out. Talk to someone.
God uses people. He uses doctors. Therapists. Counselors. Medicine.
Don't suffer in silence.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10
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