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God's Word tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, that outward beauty is deceptive and fleeting while inward beauty is unfading and of great worth. It doesn't take long to look at today's media and see how the world is trying to convince us otherwise! Read uplifting and encouraging real life stories from Christian women about true beauty and health. Start seeing yourself as the women God created you to be!

How I Overcame the Worst Months of My Depression

  • Bonnie Gray
How I Overcame the Worst Months of My Depression

Out of the blue, during the happiest chapter in my life — being a Bible teacher; happily married with two boys — I suddenly started experiencing panic attacks and depression. And I didn’t know why. It turns out, because I was now grown up and safe, all the painful things I experienced as a child began to surface. Not because my faith was faulty, but because God loved me. It was time to heal from the trauma of my past.

My post-traumatic stress disorder therapist told me that a soldier doesn’t experience trauma when he’s brave and fighting on the battlefield. A soldier only experiences panic attacks when he’s finally home — when he is safe to face what was too difficult to process at the time. It’s actually God’s way of protecting us when hurt, fear, or loss is too overwhelming. Our healthy nervous system, designed by God to automatically shield us in the moment, compartmentalizes pain for us, so we can get through hard things — temporarily.

If you’re a Christian who is struggling with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) read on to see what has helped me overcome the worst months of my depression and PTSD, and what myths about mental health need busted.

If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk to someone. Call 1-800-273-8255 or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

Fighting Depression and PTSD as a Christian

Sometimes, even when we know the truth of God’s love for us, we still worry, feel anxious, or even become depressed. In these seasons, we have an opportunity to remember God’s love for us and, out of the knowledge of that love, work to take better care of our physical and emotional well-being and free ourselves to rest and recharge.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five people suffer from depression. Think about it: whether you’re sitting at church or laughing with friends on Friday night, someone near you is suffering emotional pain, even if they appear happy, sociable, and capable.

You might be tempted to think that people who read the Bible every day and trust in Jesus shouldn’t be suffering from depression. But it isn’t true. On this side of heaven, we all journey through loss, pain and suffering. Mental health issues happen to everyday people — even to believers who are strong in their faith and have friends.

Emotional PTSD

I never experienced physical abuse or fought in Afghanistan. How can I have childhood PTSD? I thought. What my therapist said next stopped me in my tracks: “Did you know emotional abuse has the same impact as physical abuse? You need to heal from Emotional PTSD.”

I hadn’t wanted anyone to question my faith, so I kept quiet and prayed my depression would go away. But God wants to heal us, not shame us or make us hide from our pain. In fact, working to heal your heart may be the most powerful act of faith that God can call us to make.

So, how have I found healing after the worst months of my depression? Here are a few things that have made the difference for me, that I hope and pray will transform your journey of healing into beauty and meaning.

Making Time for Soul Care

Jesus says, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31)

When we feel overwhelmed, we can restore pockets of rest. This needn’t be an all-day retreat. Even 5 minutes of time helps. Even just a few minutes of time in a quiet place can begin to help you detox from stress, get refreshed, and do a little bit of soul care.

Soul care with Jesus is what I had to learn on my journey to heal from depression. To my delight, I researched 40 different ways to detox from stress and refresh my spirit using uplifting Scripture with God’s love and captured them in my book Whispers of Rest. Here are 5 of my favorite simple soul care practices to de-stress and refresh your well being with God’s peace, and 4 myths we must bust about mental health and faith.

1. Pray a breath prayer.

The minute we stress is a special opportunity to invite Jesus into our day and be refreshed. A powerful, simple way is to pray a breath prayer. It is a contemplative prayer practiced by the early church to experience God’s peace, practice the presence of God, and “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

An example of a breath prayer:

Inhale and whisper the name of God you connect with—“Good morning, Jesus.”
Exhale and whisper how you feel or a request—“I love you” or “Help me today.”

2. Read a printed book.

Put away your electronic devices and breathe. Turn some actual pages. A great way to restore calm is by reading a good book. Research shows that reading a printed book (it helps more than reading on your tablet) is the best way to relax, and even six minutes is enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds, according to research carried out at Sussex University. Snuggling up with a good book returns tranquility to your brain and body as you get lost in a story and unplug from constantly multitasking during the day, which is exhausting.

 

3. Listen to a worship song.

 

Songs give us a simple way to practice the presence of God—to call us back to Him during the day. Music is also used in therapy to uncover hidden emotional responses in children, helping them find words to express themselves. Music therapy is not just for children. Music helps us pray without words. Music comforts and alleviates pain. When you feel too stressed to pray, put on a favorite worship song. Let God whisper rest and love to you.

4. Take a walk among the trees.

Reduce stress and recover better from daily stress by simply taking a walk down a tree-lined street with God. One Glasgow University study even found that the positive effect of walking in a park or a trail for people suffering from depression and anxiety was twice as good as a trip to the gym for mental well being!

 

5.  Say no. Stop and rest.

 

“Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) Elijah had done everything he knew to do—even defeating the prophets of Baal.   Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah’s spirit. In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him. Not only that. God sent an angel—to touch himtwice

God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first, in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.

Say no. De-commit for a season and stop everything, so God can take care of you. Your well-being is God’s first priority!

Bust the Myths of Depression and Mental Health and Fortify Your Soul with Truth

A hard part of healing through depression was the sense of shame some Christians made me feel, but as I studied Scripture, I realized my faith wasn’t flawed; it was their views toward mental health and faith.

 

1. MYTH: Jesus commanded us, “Do not worry.” If you worry, you are sinning.

TRUTH: Jesus was encouraging us. God will take care of you.

When Jesus was telling us not to worry in Matthew 6:27, He wasn’t telling it to us as a command to inflict guilt or shame if we worry – but to encourage us when we do!

Jesus was lovingly saying if God takes care of the flowers and feeds the birds— which people don’t even pay attention to — how much more will He take care of us, who are more valuable than they are?

So, be at peace. God understands why you worry. He loves you! He is the God of comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4

2. MYTH: Trust God and you’ll have peace and joy. If you don’t have peace or joy, then you’re not trusting God enough.

TRUTH: Faith is emotional honesty. God invites you to trust him with your real self, instead of hiding how you feel or trying to do or be more.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me strong, cheerful, calm, and untroubled.”

It’s the opposite. We’re invited to come to Him weary — whether confused, numb, anxious, angry, or stressed. Jesus tells us to simply come, as we are. Imperfectly His.

3. MYTH: If you read God’s Word more, pray more, praise more, give thanks more, rejoice more, etc. — you will have peace that surpasses all understanding.

TRUTH: Faith is not emotional amnesia. Faith gives us the courage to face the brokenness of life with God and heal.

Jesus Himself obeyed, prayed, praised, and gave thanks perfectly. Yet He suffered emotional trauma, overwhelmed by impending physical and emotional abuse, abandonment and betrayal: 

“My soul is deeply troubled, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Going a little farther, He fell to the ground…” - Mark 14:34-35

4. MYTH: You don’t need a therapist. You just need Jesus and God’s Word.

TRUTH:  If you look at most instances of healing in Scripture, someone had to step out in faith and take action to go somewhere, see someone, or ask for something.

You deserve to take care of yourself now that you’re safe to heal with Jesus. God’s Word will give you strength to heal and investigate your emotional wounds.

Just like God uses skilled doctors to help us heal from physical wounds, God uses psychologists to help us heal our nervous system and process memories that once wounded us, so that we’re free to sleep, rest, and access all parts of our heart and our story.

You story is worth remembering. You are worth valuing. Be curious. Let God love you. Take the journey of healing. You’ll be amazed by the beauty and be transformed by it.

Resources for Depression and PTSD:

To learn about EMDR Therapy: Among the hundreds of types of therapy, the treatment I found most effective and gave quickest relief and results for panic attacks, anxiety and depression, for me personally, is what the State Department of Defense uses to process vets from the battlefield (even though I’m not a soldier): http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk. Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

To learn more about PTSDhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_trauma

To find a Christian therapist, you may consider: http://www.aacc.net/about-us/

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Bonnie Gray is the author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace and Whispers of Rest. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons.