Depression and Anxiety–5 Theoretical Solutions to this Modern Day Epidemic

sad-womanAs a rather emotional person from birth and now a working mother of four children, I have struggled with anxiety and sometimes, bouts of depression for most of my life. But as I meet more mothers, both working and stay-at-home, I’m discovering that I am not the only one.  It seems that anxiety and depression is a common issue with moms. But why do we have this issue so often? And what are ways to cure it? In my research and experience, I have come across 5 different theories.

The Theories:

  1. Take pharmaceutical drugs to cure the “chemical imbalance” that supposedly is causing the anxiety or depression.
  2. Find the external cause of the anxiety and depression and get rid of it.
  3. Cope with it through exercise, rest, prayer, meditation, and change in attitude.
  4. Deal with the spiritual problem causing it, requiring major prayer and often, repentance.
  5. Approach the anxiety biologically as well, but through diet and supplements rather than pharmaceutical drugs.

All of these schools of thought depend on what one believes is the cause of the anxiety or depression. Is it a chemical imbalance? Is it a spiritual problem? Is it a natural and normal reaction to an environmental trigger or problem? Is it some other biological cause? If it is a chemical imbalance, what is the cause of that? In today’s blog I seek to explore each theory, and its strengths and weaknesses, through a Christian World View.

Pharmaceutical Drugs: As a Christian woman, I personally feel very convicted about pillstaking pharmaceutical drugs. I find the pharmaceutical industry to be corrupted and money hungry, out to make millions off our suffering and causing more suffering to us in the end. I also believe the bible when in Revelation it talks about people not willing to give up their “pharmakia” in their pain and suffering for God in the last days. Given the statistic that 48 percent of Americans are taking at least one pharmaceutical drug and the pharmaceutical industry is making 234.1 billion dollars a year off our suffering, and less people are believing in God than ever, I can’t help but see a correlation. Now I want to clarify, that I believe there are many good, God-loving Christians out there who are taking pharmaceutical drugs for one reason or another. I don’t say the above correlation to discredit your faith. I’m just making an overall correlation to Americans in general in light of the scripture.

But none-the-less, I do urge Christians out there who struggle with anxiety or depression or any other ailment for that matter, to seek other ways and practices that have been known to resolve health issues first before resorting to these drugs. God did not offer Noah and his offspring pharmaceutical drugs to help them on their journey. He offered them himself, as well as work, and of course the plants, fruit, meat, and herbs. And eventually, he gave the law and the Sabbath, and always showing us his forgiveness to those who repented.

Therefore, I personally believe that pharmaceutical drugs should be a last measure, if at all, when all else has failed and only if the safety of the person or others are in danger. But I have certainly have had anxiety episodes in my past where I have thought about taking something to fix me. And I understand deeply why so many women resort to them as they can be a fix for some. Unfortunately, however, often times the anti-anxiety pills don’t work, or only work a little, or become such a big crutch that women find it very difficult to get off of them (often times getting off makes the anxiety episodes even more extreme), and worse yet—can give a number of other effects that are no fun, including heart palpitations. I know this personally because my father suffered from anxiety after his father died. He ended up taking anti-anxiety pills for 10 years, which lead to all of the above and eventually lead to heart palpitations, which I believe caused him to drown when he was 57 years old (the same day he told my stepmother over breakfast, that he wanted to work harder at getting off of the drug when they returned from their vacation). Even so, if there is such thing as a chemical imbalance, what is causing that? Drugs don’t heal us. They only cover up the problem.

weedsRidding ourselves of External Causes:   If you can find an external cause, and after prayer have confirmed it would safe, and biblical to get rid of the trigger, then by all means do it. This is very helpful and often an easy solution to anxiety. For example—a stressful job, a poor choice in friends, or perfume sensitivity could all be perfectly fine and beneficial to get rid of, depending on the circumstance.  But the problem with this second option is that often time, there is no external cause for the anxiety. For example, within the first year after my daughter was born, I had three anxiety attacks in the middle of the grocery store. I love the grocery store! But sure enough, I’d be walking through and the chest pains would come, the heart would start racing, the sweat would break out on my forehead and meanwhile my mind would be perfectly calm and wondering what the heck was happening with my body. So what am I supposed to do, get rid of my wifely and motherly duties? If my husband is willing, great.  But what about my other bouts of anxiety? Or what if he is not willing to take the grocery shopping duties? Am I to get rid of him? Is that really the effective answer?  If our loved ones are the source of our anxiety, then we should work on some problem-solving and communication methods to help that relationship out.  Otherwise, other options might be necessary.

bible-readingLiving Life Abundant:   There are strategies to help us build strength and endurance when facing difficult situations–especially prayer, rest, and exercise. God gave us himself; he gave us work; and he gave us the Sabbath. This means these are important. God knows best! I have certainly found much relief from attacks when I have sought God, gone to bed early, or hit the gym. But sometimes the problem can be deeper….

God did give us his Word which is filled with tips on how find more joy, as he has intended for his children. If we don’t read the bible—we won’t recognize the lies we believe which could be causing our anxiety and depression and we won’t know the ways we can eliminate this from our lives. Because these are so often tied to our relationship with God, I will discuss these in the next section—Relationship with God.

Often times, people learn about “coping mechanisms” in order to deal with the struggles of life. I have an issue with a lot of the psychology behind these mechanisms because they often lead to some really dangerous ways of thinking designed to pull us away from God and our purpose here on Earth.

For example—meditation is a form of escapism and is rooted in Eastern thinking that we are to disassociate ourselves from all emotion and from this world even.  Frequent meditation can lead people to disassociate often and prevent them from connecting with other people. God gave us emotions for a reason.  While we need to learn how to use them effectively and control them, rather than let them control us, they certainly should not be shut off. Another issue with meditation is that it opens our minds to be influenced by demonic lies. If we don’t keep our mind focused on Christ (as commanded by the bible, requiring prayer or focus on scripture) then we are at risk of filling our open minds up with unbiblical lies and misunderstanding. If we are to meditate, it should be meditating on a bible verse or a truth of God, not in opening our minds and releasing all thoughts. Focusing on one thought–a truth of God, is much safer and healthy for Christians.

Other psychological coping mechanisms require us to change our attitude in harmful ways. I knew a woman once who went through a bout of depression in her early 20’s as she was feeling worthless and guilty over her promiscuity. She went to a psychologist for help. He told her to cope with the depression by changing her attitude about her actions—no longer believe that promiscuity was bad or immoral and then naturally her mind wouldn’t feel depressed about it. This harmful strategy sent her further down a road of promiscuity that left her scarred emotionally and could have potentially lead her unplanned pregnancies and STD’s had she not been so lucky.

prayerRelationship with God:  If the problem is spiritual, and through prayer and reading the bible you identify the lies that the dark side has whispered in your ears that have caused your anxiety and have bound them, hallelujah. Satan and his demons want to kill and destroy us and prevent us from living a life that glorifies God. If they can stop you by whispering lies that cause you anxiety and depression, they will. Condemnation is one common lie he can use. Remember God’s grace. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven for your past sins. You are a new creation!

These lies can lead us to sin and to think and feel in a certain way that destroys our lives and our purpose. Our anxiety or depression can be due to our conscience struggling with sin in our lives that can be forgiven, but still needs to be addressed first. God gave us the law for a reason.  And as Christians, our spirits know when we are sinning. Adultery, alcoholism, unforgiveness…the list can go on and have deep-seeded connections to causing anxiety. Addressing those sins is essential to healing ourselves of the damage it can take on our bodies. Sin hurts everyone!  God doesn’t want us to sin, not just because he wants us to be dressed for heaven, but because sin destroys our current lives and the lives of those around us. I have experienced this myself and it has made a huge difference. More often than not, anxiety and depression really is a spiritual issue.

There are some sins or spiritual issues we could be struggling with that are the cause of our anxiety and depression, but are not easily noticed by ourselves. They can be revealed to us though when we read God’s word or when we get honest answers from our friends and family who see us everyday—these issues include fear, unthankfulness, covetousness, lack of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and feelings of worthlessness. First we need to understand what God says about these things so that we can then take our thoughts captive when we find ourselves thinking and feeling in these ways and plain and simple—stop it!

  1.  2 Timothy 1:7–For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
  2. Ephesians 5:20–Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Philippians 4:6–Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
  4. Romans 10: 9-10–That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
  5. Luke 12:7—Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So sometimes the answer is as simple as—stop having yourself a pity party and count your blessings. Or recognize that if your anxiety is coming from fear—it is not from God. If it’s not from God, it’s not true. It is a lie. Pray and bind that lie. Stop it when you find yourself being afraid. God says to be anxious for nothing, but to be thankful and come to him with your requests. Are you giving your anxiety to God? Are you asking him for help in the areas that are causing your stress? Do you trust that he will take care of it? Do you even believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior? He died so that we might be free. Free from what? Free from hell sure, but also free from our sin; free from the lies we have believed; and free from our slavery to our emotions and to our past. If we are not freed from these things, we cannot live a life full of the purpose he has intended for us. Be free! Trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

I recommend two books that are biblical and while they shouldn’t replace the bible, can be used alongside the bible to really nail down any spiritual issues and lies you may believe that could be leading to your anxiety and depression. The Lies Women Believe, and Restored, both linked in these images.

dietDiet: I go back to the bible and am reminded—God gave us himself, the law, his word—but also plants, meat, work, and herbs. So what else can moms do? The more I read up on the diet and lifestyle of American people today, the more I wonder how much our diet plays a role in some of our issues. So I did some research the biological causes and correlations with anxiety and depression. And believe it or not, there is a lot! And as you know from the growing knowledge out there about the problems with the American diet and lifestyle, God may very well have already given us the tools and help to prevent our ailments like anxiety and even depression. And the problem is, we are not using them!

Stay tuned for my next blog—where I will share 10 ways you can make changes in your diet and nutrient intake to strengthen your body and mind– reducing your proneness to anxiety and depression.

As you wait for the next post, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, I strongly recommend you go through the above options and make a checklist for yourself. What areas have you tried? What have you not tried? What can you start doing today? Sometimes, not one approach alone works, but a combination. God wants you focused on him, but he also wants you to live a healthy life. Remember the things God gave his children: himself, the law, grace, work, rest, and the earth.  Starting and ending your day in prayer, and going to God when you feel a bout of emotions coming on, are a good place to start. Then look at your exercise habits, your rest habits, lies you may be believing, and possible sin in your life. Finally, look at your plate as you eat. Is this something Noah and his offspring would have eaten?

There is a great App called “Symple—Symptom tracker and health diary” that can help you track your anxiety and depression bouts and begin to look for correlations with circumstances, thoughts, and diet.

Its only For apple– https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/symple-symptom-tracker-health/id479818115?mt=8

I’m sure there are similar ones out there for Android although I cannot endorse them  without using them.

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“Oh My Gosh, He is Really Real and He Loves Me” Kind of Moments: God’s blessings even in trials.

pRAISE

“Storm Clouds” by cjohnson7 from Rochester, NY.

In many ways, this whole trial with Owen’s cancer has gone by so fast. But in other ways, remembering that day we discovered he was sick seems veiled behind some distant misty dream. Now we rejoice that the harsh chemotherapy treatments are done and look forward to getting through the radiation that starts in about a week. By Christmas time, we are hoping we can put this all behind us. But my husband made a good point tonight. We don’t want to put it behind us so we can forget it. We never want to forget it.

God forbid, we forget what we went through, forget the desperate need to cling to God and the abundant blessings and comfort and strength he gave us when we did. We don’t ever want to forget, and no longer seek Him because life is Good. There’s a bible verse somewhere I remember reading that I thought was so poignant.The person said to God, please don’t make me so happy that I forget you, or so miserable that I raise my fists and curse you. It is sad, but when life is good, when no trials come a long, we are so quick to push God aside and attend to our own pleasures, forgetting that God made us and every good pleasure we seek is a gift from him and a reflection of his character. In essence every good pleasure we seek is only a foreshadow of what we will experience and know when we stand in his presence in the dimensions outside of time. So we plan to make a memorial of this chapter of our life because we want to always remember.

And God is so good. He shows me how there is still so much to pray for. Just as we are seeing the sun set on this trial, I see so many others going through theirs. My former student is struggling to beat her battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, one of our friends from church just got diagnosed with E-wing Sarcoma, a cancer that will put him through 2 years of treatment. And so many others. We’ve know loved ones who are struggling with miscarriages, parents who have lost their children to hit and run accidents on the way to school, sons with fathers in jail, friends whose marriages are on the rocks..the list goes on. And my heart aches for everyone.

Everyone goes through at least one big trial, one big life-changing event in his/her life. None of us know when it will be, with whom it will involve, or how it will turn out. But I believe most people hope that they will be brave and find strength to get through it with grace, coming out better in its setting than they were at its dawn. And I want to pray for that to happen for everyone. I know that Jesus himself prayed to the Father that we would not be removed from the world, which is full of trials, but that we would be protected from the evil one. He is the one who whispers defeat into our ears, that gets us to question God’s goodness or sovereignty, and fills us with fear during these types of events. My prayer is that all my friends and family, all of those in my network, do not believe those lies, but cling to Jesus, during their tough times, and find not only strength to get through, but benefit from the abundant blessings and miracles God performs for those who love him.

God creates beauty from ashes. He did it when he created man and he does it everyday in this world. God turned Owen’s cancer into a blessing. I’m not saying it was fun. I’m not saying we’d wish cancer on people. But I will say that in the biggest, life-changing event of our lives, God showed us very personally how much he loves us, how much he is taking care of us every step of the way, and how much he is changing us both into better people through the process. To be able to experience that, is a life-changing, faith-strengthening, “oh my gosh He is really real” blessing. And that is the blessing I wish on everyone.

Night

nightI love the night. While the sky darkens and the sun hides its head under the horizon, reality and what really matters become clearer in my home.

As a working mom, my day is filled with chaos— most days are a spit up cleaning, diaper changing, The Regular Show watching, grocery shopping, worker beeing, traffic sitting, copy machines breaking, coffee spilling, kids screaming, lesson planning, internet researching, phone texting, Facebook scrolling, dinner scrambling, dirty boy washing, loud music playing kind of day. It’s hard to see and hear and be under it all.

But at night…

We cuddle with our children as we settle for bed. We read stories or tell stories and above all else, we pray together. Owen and I listen to their prayers first as we close our eyes and then model other ways to pray. But sometimes their prayers are our model—pure and unadulterated, open to see what we as adults don’t see in the hubbub of the loud and distracting day.

Thank you for the funny people in our town

Thank you for my toes

Thank you for our pictures

At night as Owen and I lay in bed, I’ll wake up in the stillness to feel him reach out his arm over to mine …and I know he is saying, “I’m not mad at you for that spat we had yesterday afternoon right before dinner. I love you.” And then I scoot over closer to him and make sure that at least one part of my body is touching his thereafter–a foot, a hand, a leg.

The humble truth comes out at night. None of the chaos matters. You matter. We matter. God matters.

At night-time, we talk about our day, we ask for advise, share our fears, our laughter, our conquests and need for growth.

We have time to be still at night. To breathe in deeply and know we are here and we have a purpose and we are blessed. That God is here with us. That we are each others’ biggest fans.

Night brings us back to center like a Sunday sermon, giving us the strength to make it through the next day.