Biblical Perspectives on Raw Topics: Pursuing God Despite Severe Anxiety

Pursuing God Despite Severe Anxiety

Ashley:

Hello everyone and welcome back to another blog post of Biblical Perspectives on Raw Topics with Mentor Mama. I’m Ashley and if you’re new to this blog, we are Coffee and Bible Time.

We are here to help you learn how to delight in God’s Word and in this new series, we are going through raw topics with Mentor Mama.

Last week, we talked about overcoming the shame of having sex before marriage. If you have not seen that video, definitely go check it out.

You don’t want to miss it.

So in today’s episode, we’re talking about mental health. Mentor Mama has walked through a lifetime of mental health issues. I have also walked through mental health things, which we still do to this day. So, I’m excited to hear Mentor Mama’s view on what she’s been through and her story of mental health and I’m excited for you to hear it as well.

We have two more episodes coming up in this series, so come back for those. One’s going to be on how to handle emotional outbreaks due to hormones and the last episode is going to be on body image and learning how to accept your own body.

So, in today’s blog, we are talking about mental health, like we said, and Mentor Mama has been through the wringer with mental health. When you were younger, you were in a mental health facility, you struggled with an eating disorder, anxiety, maybe depression, I don’t know, all those things. So, I’m excited to hear your story today. Just jumping into some questions. At what age did you start struggling with mental health issues and what type of mental health issues did you experience?

Mentor Mama:

I really started struggling with mental health issues when I was in college, so that was the start of it, and during that time I had an eating disorder, and although it wasn’t until later that I also found out that I was suffering from depression. So, it was the combination of both of those, and 30 years later knowing what I know now, I feel like I probably also struggled from anxiety, but back in the 1980s, that type of thing wasn’t really talked about that much.

Ashley:

You said that you struggled with mental health in college, so describe more of what that looked like during your college years, which I can completely relate to. I had horrible mental health in college. I actually had mental health issues starting in third grade, severe mental health with anxiety, but in college things just flared up for me as well. So, what was mental health like for you during that time? Tell us your story.

Mentor Mama:

I need to give you a little bit of backstory first. I went to the University of Illinois, which I absolutely loved, but it was also super hard for me and school work previous to that wasn’t hard for me. So, when I was in high school, I excelled at my coursework and I was in the top 10 students for graduation. I was used to getting straight A’s and I received a couple of scholarships to the University of Illinois, but it wasn’t until I was at the university that I realized everybody is just as smart as you are or mostly smarter than I was and for the first time I just started having challenges in my coursework and it was stressful. It was creating a lot of stress and I realized for the first time that perfection wasn’t possible and perfectionism is something that I had struggled with up to that point in time. Looking back now, what I really see is that the problem was that my identity and my worth, and my value all stemmed from my performance. So, I thought I needed to get good grades to feel worthy. I needed to perform well at things that I did to get praise and accolades. So, my grounding was not in Christ, it was in my own performance and when that started to crumble, that’s when I started to crumble.

Ashley:

I can guarantee too, that even when you’re putting your faith in Christ, like me in college, I still had mental health issues and I still had struggles, so I think that, as you said, you weren’t putting your faith in Christ, your foundation in Christ, which makes it hard to get through anxiety, but it’s also hard when you are a believer, you are following Christ and you still have anxiety. But I think that we show both sides of the coin, someone who doesn’t have Christ and they don’t have him to turn to with anxiety versus someone who has Christ and has him to turn to through anxiety. I think that having him in your life changes how you deal with anxiety, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have anxiety or mental health issues.

Mentor Mama:

Right, I agree with that. It’s just that my foundation was sinking sand.

Ashley:

Yes, totally.

Mentor Mama:

Also, during this time, I began struggling with food, and I began having binging issues where I was just using that as stress relief and then sometimes, I would even throw up what I ate because then I felt bad about all the calories that I ate. I wasn’t into that, I think, as aggressively as maybe some bulimics are, but I did kind of want to say experiment doing that with a few different ways, so that was kind of rough.

Ashley:

What ended up happening? Were you diagnosed with mental health disorder or what happened?

Mentor Mama:

I was thinking back on this and a lot of it is kind of a blur as to exactly how it all happened, but what I do know is that I ended up in Chicago at Northwestern Memorial’s eating disorder program, and back then it was an inpatient six-week program, so I was not allowed to leave. And what really came out of that was an understanding for me that the eating disorder was sort of a symptom of a deeper problem, which was the depression, and so, that’s kind of how it exhibited itself and so, what they told me there was that I really needed to gain a better understanding of why I was depressed and then get those issues addressed and that’s what we worked out during those six weeks, was that we went through peeling back the layers of the onion to understand where my depression was coming from and then the net result of that was really facing some issues head on and having some joint counseling and from that point forward, I really didn’t have that major struggle with the eating disorder anymore once I discovered what the underlying issue was and dealt with that, and it was very difficult to deal with, I can tell you that! It was like a one-on-one confrontation with a family member, and it was just really, really, really hard, but in the end, it changed things for the better for both of us.

Ashley:

Thank you so much for sharing that, that’s really hard and I think that gives hope to people who are listening and watching to know that they’re not alone in their mental health struggles and I think the biggest thing to take away too, is that within your mental health struggles, whether that’s anxiety, depression, eating disorder, self-harm or whatever it may be, it’s really important to get help and that’s where my story comes in too, and also Taylor’s story, is when we also went through an eating disorder in college, which we’ll touch on more in the final episode about accepting your body, but that also has to do with mental health because your mind has warped thinking about food, about your body, anxiety with food, all these things, stress, anxiety that goes into that and what I ended up realizing was that I needed to see a counselor, and so, I got a specific counselor that was specific to eating disorders and specific to binge eating, and so, having that changed my life. She (the counselor) wasn’t a believer, so a lot of you might think, I have to go to a Christian counselor, well, she wasn’t even a believer and the Lord still used her in my life to help me with food because she had a specific gifting of helping people overcome their food struggles. So I think that a big thing to remember is that it’s okay to get help. It’s okay to tell your friends and your family that you need help and don’t be ashamed of that, it will help you heal. It will bring to light what’s in the darkness and it will be the first step to your healing journey.

Mentor Mama:

Yes, absolutely.

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Ashley:

You said that you actually came across a lot of healing and everything, but did you ever struggle again with anything after that anxiety, mental health issues, eating disorder things, or was it, you were healed and then you moved on with your life?

Mentor Mama:

For me, as I mentioned before, I wasn’t doing the severe eating disorder behaviors such as binging and throwing up, but I do still struggle with body dysmorphia and we’re going to talk about that in the last session. So, I feel like that’s something that I’m constantly having to challenge myself with and since becoming a believer actually, and recognizing that my worth comes from Christ and not what I look like or how my performance is, that’s really helped me accept myself for who I am and try to see myself how God sees me.

Ashley:

What about anxiety? Did your anxiety and depression go away?

Mentor Mama:

Well, that’s kind of led into this recent sort of bout of a different type of mental health issue and I think a lot of it is tied in with menopause because over the last five years or so, I’ve been going through sort of a new season in my life and struggling with things that I’ve never struggled with so much before, primarily this severe anxiety and lack of focus. I actually did go in recently to get some help for that because I felt like I was just kind of losing control and I thought that it was primarily due to focus. I could not focus on my work or what I needed to do to save my life. So, my primary doctor actually suggested that I get evaluated for ADHD and so, I did do that, and technically they said I had everything that diagnosed me as having ADHD, but they didn’t want to give me that formal diagnosis until my severe anxiety that they also diagnosed me with got under control.

Ashley:

Was it hard for you to find out that you were diagnosed with severe anxiety?

Mentor Mama:

It was because I have struggled with mental health issues in the past and I thought, oh no, here we go again, I’m falling apart again, but it was just learning how to get the symptoms that I was having related to menopause under control and then coming to grips with being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and how to traverse those waters.

Ashley:

How have you been turning to the Lord within all the mental health issues; anxiety, ADHD, all these things that are going on in your head, in your brain? What has been your hope during this season?

Mentor Mama:

I’ve kind of taken, what I’d call a four-pronged approach to treat my anxiety and the first one is, that I try to be faithful in reading God’s Word, and by doing that, I’m seeking God’s wisdom and direction for my life and staying close to him, continuing to learn about him, seeing how other people in the Bible have gone through those struggles as well and what was so amazing was even this morning when I was doing my quiet time, I’m using the Moody Today in the Word and it’s going through Proverbs and I was reading Proverbs 2, and it says in verses one through five, it says, “my child listen to what I say and treasure my commands, tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding, cry out for insight and ask for understanding, search for them as you would silver, seek them like hidden treasures then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord and you will gain knowledge of God.” And the Moody commentary that came with it said, “searching for wisdom is compared to looking for valuable treasure, like silver and hidden treasure, and when we receive this wisdom from the Lord, it gives us protection.” And so, that has been so true in my life, so that is number one, is trying to stay in God’s word. Another thing that I’ve learned through some of my different counseling is behavioral therapy. So that’s teaching how to breathe, like doing deep breathing techniques to calm me down, and then, also, one of the things that I always do, and I joke about this whenever I go to the dentist, I recite myself Psalm 23, just in my mind, over and over again, that is such a calming Psalm for me. Then the third thing, and I just want to be real and open, is that I also take medication. I know that’s a very personal decision for each and every person, but the medication has really worked for me, so I do that. And then the last thing I would say is that I have been part of a women’s small group for over 20 years and part of being in this small group is doing Bible study together and gleaning wisdom from other godly women. But it’s also about finding a safe place to share your struggles and things that you’re going through and ask other people to be praying for you. I feel like that has been just so valuable and essential in my life and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve never wanted to stop. I’ve just been going and going ever since you guys were little. I just haven’t wanted to stop going because I find this as a place where putting both of those together, the fellowship and the understanding people. I’m always amazed at every year in the group that God puts together, that they’ll be somebody else who’s experienced something similar and they can always also encourage you and support you.

Ashley:

I think out of your four tips, what I’m hearing is that turning to the Lord helps you in your times of anxiety and it’s important to even acknowledge that you have anxiety and to realize that we can turn to the Lord within our anxiety. We can also turn to things such as counseling and medication to help us in our anxiety and I think another big thing to take away is that here on this earth, we live in a broken world, and sometimes we’ll go through seasons of severe anxiety to seasons of being a little bit better to seasons of depression, to seasons of who knows—our mental health is on a rollercoaster and we can look forward to the future hope of one day, God will completely heal our minds and we won’t have to worry about mental health issues anymore, but we will be with the Lord in perfect peace. And so, although right now on earth, we have anxiety and we do have the Lord with us, but we still have these anxiety issues, we can look forward to that future hope of we will have that peace in our minds with the Lord and perfect union with him and with people, so that is exciting to know. Thank you so much, Mentor Mama, for sharing everything that you went through. I think even just hearing that we’re not alone in our mental health issues and that back in the 1980s, people were still struggling with mental health, it’s not just us today. I think that probably for centuries, people dealing with anxiety and stress and depression and all those things. Thank you so much for sharing. If this encouraged you today, leave a comment on our blog, subscribe, and share with a friend. We love you so much. You guys also check out coffeeandbibletime.com for more Coffee and Bible Time resources and the podcast, of course, where Mentor Mama runs it and hosts it. We love you so much, guys. Stay tuned for next week’s blog on dealing with hormonal outbreaks. We love you!

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