Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
The following is an excerpt taken from Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness (pages 36-38).
“I don’t know how you do it, Laurie,” some would say. “You’ve been through so much. You’re such a strong person.” And in my heart, I’d think, I know. I am pretty amazing. These comments were intended to be compliments, words to encourage me, but they only fueled my growing pride. And, as they say, pride most certainly does come before the fall.
I started noticing issues with my health little more than a year later. I was nauseous all the time, and I just didn’t feel quite right.
“I think I’m pregnant,” I told Travis.
“Yeah, but the tests keep coming back negative. Do you think I should get a blood test?”
Travis thought I was being silly, but I went to my doctor the next week anyway. He ended up being right. I wasn’t pregnant, and the specialist I was referred to said my nausea was most likely caused by stress. The nausea went away after I took some medication. But then my heart started acting funny, and I began having headaches all the time. Maybe something’s really wrong with me, I thought. And that was it. I was struck with fear at the idea, and no matter how many times I tried to persuade myself that I was just fine, I couldn’t believe it.
After that, a new symptom seemed to show up almost daily. I was tired all the time—and I mean ridiculously tired. I felt dizzy. I started having digestive issues. I felt nervous and absentminded. But I think the worst part of all was that my mind didn’t seem to work properly. That scared me. I couldn’t think clearly. My brain always seemed to be in a fog that left me feeling out of touch with reality and emotionally detached from others.
I was desperate to figure out what was wrong. I spent quite a bit of money going from doctor to doctor in search of a fix, only to be told I was experiencing the physical effects of anxiety that had built up over the years. Quite simply, there was no easy fix, and I was left with absolutely no idea about how I might be able to get better.
It didn’t take much for me to lose hope at that point. And of course, that’s when the depression hit. I tried desperately to fix myself—to pull myself out of that dark pit—but, for the first time in my life, I could not save myself.
I tried all that the world tells you to do in situations like this. I tried therapy. I tried eating better and exercising more. I tried meditation. I tried taking a stress management class. I tried yoga. I tried reading self-help books. I tried implementing those silly principles found in The Secret—the power of positive thinking. And I even considered going to a Buddhist retreat, if you can imagine that! I truly was desperate, but nothing helped.
I really don’t like taking medication—I don’t like things messing with my body—but at this point I figured I had no other options. I took an antidepressant at the advice of my doctor, hoping it would finally provide the relief I desperately needed, but after only a few days, I realized that the medication was yet another rabbit trail leading to false promises. The medication was short lived. It didn’t work. In fact, it had only made things worse.
I felt like I had been plunged into the pit of hell. Anxiety raged like a storm within me, as my mind spun completely out of control. One irrational thought after another entered my mind, as if planted there by another, sending me into a tailspin of fear. I was terrified. My mind was so cloudy and unstable that I didn’t know what I was capable of.
I don’t think I was ever suicidal, but I do have to admit—a small part of me wanted to give up and die. I was terrified of dying. Truthfully, it was probably my greatest fear, but to die just seemed easier somehow. I felt so incredibly empty and alone. I had experienced so much pain, and that pain never seemed to stop. I wasn’t sure life was worth all that pain. I desperately wanted to give up, but I couldn’t. I was a wife and a mommy, and I didn’t want to leave my children as Dad had left me. My family needed me, and because of that, I chose to fight.
But I couldn’t solve this one on my own. I had no answers. I had finally come to the end of myself, and I needed help.
I called Sarah. She and I had become friends a couple years ear- lier, after meeting at a Gymboree class when our oldest were babies. We talked for a little while about nothing in particular, as I worked up enough courage and laid down enough pride to finally ask, “What church do you go to?”
“Oh, my church?” she asked, sounding a bit surprised. “It’s called Grace.”
The following Sunday, my family and I willingly walked through those church doors to attend a service for the first time since I was a teenager. I was terrified, but my desperation trumped my fear.
All other options had been exhausted.
It seemed God was my last and only hope.
If you've experienced anxiety and/or depression, I'd love to hear from you! I'm currently gathering information for what I hope to be my next project on this topic and would love to hear your struggles and your victories. If you'd like to share your story, visit my contact page at LaurieCoombs.org to send me a message! I may not be able to answer your message, but rest assured that I will read it and use it to help others overcome this pit of darkness!