Originally published Wednesday, 25 June 2014.
I think my anxiety was brought on by the many years of heightened stress I experienced after my dad's murder. It seemed the stress built up slowly over time until my body simply couldn't take it any more, and I just sort of fell apart. But it wasn't just the murder. I think it was a combination of many things––my type-A personality, my need for control, additional stress caused by a high-risk pregnancy, and the normal stresses of daily life––that contributed to my downfall.
I was confused when the physical symptoms of anxiety finally came to a head. I didn't understand what was wrong with me, and this was when the depression hit. All the medical tests ordered by several different doctors came back normal. In hindsight this was a good thing, but it didn't feel like it at the time. Not finding a cause for my many troubling symptoms left me baffled, and I watched what shred of hope I had slip through my fingers. This was the final straw that broke me.
As my hope escaped, I fell into a deep, dark place. I've never had a therapist tell me this, but I'm convinced that both my anxiety and depression were caused by my past. By all the junk I carried with me after tragedy struck my life. Though I tried not to let it, my dad's death threw me into a tailspin. Before my dad died, I felt like I was in control of my life. I had everything all planned out. I knew just how my life would play out. But then my plans shattered. The moment I was told what happened, it seemed my whole world came crashing down. I hadn't planned for this. Life was not going my way. And all sense of control vanished.
I didn't realize I was doing this at the time, but after that, I tried to grasp hold of anything I could control. I wanted to regain a sense of stability, and I think the only way I knew how to do that was to control all that I could. I tried frantically to hold on to my life, but I never could seem to attain a firm grasp for long. And as time went on––as I struggled to control my life––my level of stress increased.
I was foolish, really, for we cannot control our lives. Control is very much like a mirage in the desert. You think it's there. You think you have it, but you don't because control is ultimately not ours to have in the first place. We are not god of our own lives, and any attempt to control our lives is futile.
Scripture tells us God is sovereign over all. He is in control. We are not.
But I didn't know God at the time all this started. I didn't have anyone to rely upon but myself. And let me tell you––that was an incredibly difficult burden to bear. As I held on, trying but failing to keep my life under control, I felt myself slipping. Jesus said, "whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35). This is precisely what was happening to me. The more I tried to take hold of my life, the more I lost it. But do you know what's so amazing about that? The more I lost my life, the closer I came to receiving true life.
I had to die to myself to really live. The same is true for every one of us.
But as I was finishing my manuscript a while back, I got to thinking. Now, this may not be the case across the board, but I began to wonder if unresolved issues are behind most anxiety and depression cases. I thought that perhaps those suffering with anxiety and depression also continue to suffer with pain from their pasts. Pain doesn't have to come out of some crazy tragedy like mine for it to impact your present. As I wrote in my book recently, pain is pain regardless of its cause. Residual pain effects the here and now. And until it's properly dealt with, it will remain a hinderance to the one who carries it.
I know this was the case for me. I carried the pain of my dad's death with me over a decade until God began to show me that I needed Him to heal me. But here the thing––I thought I was fine. I didn't know I had wounds that needed to be dressed. I thought I had taken care of all that years before. But I hadn't. I hadn't brought it to my God. I hadn't laid it down before Jesus, asking for healing like the poor beggar I was. And I had nothing to offer God in return. I was bankrupt in spirit. I had come to the end of myself––died to myself. I had lost my life. But this was the exact place I needed to be. I had just given my life to Christ the year before. I had been made new, but I still needed to allow Jesus unhindered access to my soul so He could dig in and dress my wounds. I needed to open the doors of my heart so His light could shine brightly, casting away all the darkness within.
And I did.
This is when I was healed. And I am convinced that true healing does not come until we get to this point. I am also convinced that much of the depression and anxiety experienced in this world are the result of not having gone through this process of healing that we all need through Jesus.
Remember, anxiety and depression cannot be controlled. The more we try to save our own lives, the more we lose them. But when we lose our lives to Jesus, we finally allow ourselves to live.
Jesus is our redeemer. Come to Him. Allow Him to work in you, and you will simply be amazed.
Laurie Coombs is a writer who encourages others to follow Jesus despite their fears or their feelings of resistance. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Travis. They have two little girls and are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. To read more about Laurie’s journey toward forgiveness and the redemption she’s experienced, visit LaurieCoombs.org and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Be sure to watch for her upcoming book!