I was privileged to visit Maui, Hawaii the last week of October. As sometimes happens, our flight home left at 10:15 p.m. Checkout time at the hotel was noon, of course, so we had about eight hours to kill before we left for the airport.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t looking forward to 1) getting ready at 9 a.m. and sitting around all day so I didn’t get hot and sweaty or 2) getting on a flight having spent the day enjoying the resort without being able to shower. We devised a plan that might allow us to do it all!
We got ready for the day before checking out of our rooms and then went to a fabulous restaurant for lunch. We watched some surfing and looked for sea turtles before returning to the hotel to wait for our 7:45 departure time. But we still had hours to kill. And then we remembered the spa! It was available to all guests to use the steam room and showers.
I don’t very often use a steam room but I ventured in and pushed the silver button as I was told. There was a hissing noise, water spurted out of openings in the wall close to the floor and steam began to fill the small room. I took a seat and relaxed into the corner, shutting my eyes and taking deep cleansing breaths of the eucalyptus steam. A delight for sure!
After a few minutes, I opened my eyes to observe the steam continue to thicken around me. Mind you, this is steam, but it was palpable. No longer could I see the door to the room. It was a little unnerving, so I shut my eyes again. After all, it is only steam and it has no weight and no power to hold me down. I wondered momentarily if I would find the door again, but quickly shut down those unhelpful thoughts. I wanted to enjoy these moments of peace and calm before my long flight back to the mainland.
When it came time to leave the steam room, I gingerly walked in the direction of the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of light through the glass. I knew the light would guide my few faltering steps.
The steam room reminds me a lot of my experiences with anxiety and depression. Both feel very real even if my concerns are not based in reality. I often felt like I couldn’t see my way forward because my perception was distorted. The door to freedom was right in front of me, but I couldn’t see it. The light beyond anxiety and depression was there if only I could catch a glimpse and walk toward it.
I have always been a disciplined person, sometimes to a fault. I exercised regularly, slept enough hours, spent time in quiet and meditation, chose food conscientiously and yet, I still found myself anxious and/or depressed. One of the most unhelpful things for me to hear is that I needed to trust God more, read his Word more, pray more. That drove me to more religious behavior with no discernible difference in how much anxiety or depression I felt.
In my healing journey, I learned that my anxiety was directly tied to the core longing for safety. As I encountered Jesus in relationship to my need for safety, the anxiety dissipated. I will be the first to say that anxiety is directly related to my view of God. But reading the Bible more or praying more as stand alone activity does not necessarily cause anxiety to disappear. There needs to be a significant encounter with Jesus along the way.
I remember the day my doctor suggested I might be depressed and recommended I try counseling. Inside I was horrified. My understanding of it was so limited and counseling sounded terrifying. I resisted for several months. But as I pondered the idea, I softened toward it and eventually called and asked for a recommendation. That first experience with counseling changed my life.
I wonder sometimes what motivates me to write about anxiety and depression. It isn’t that I need anyone to know my story. At the same time, if my experiences help someone else, then I want to tell the world. The thing that motivates me more than anything is what I see and experience in the world around me, in my own community.
Mental health is not always understood well. I certainly don’t claim to understand all the intricacies of it, but I know so many people living with anxiety and depression, pushing it under the rug like it is an embarrassment. It is as real as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
My husband has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is possible that it would be improved by changing his activity level or what he eats (after all, I can’t always control that), but it’s also true that his genetics are prone to both of those health problems. So he treats it with medication. I wouldn’t dream of shaming him or telling him that if he trusted God more, his health issues would disappear. And I don’t want him to stop his medication.
There is so much that can be done to alleviate anxiety and depression, but a person has to feel safe to come forward and say it’s an issue. At times, it will be intense emotional and spiritual counseling that brings an individual to a place of healing and wholeness. And at times, that is done in conjunction with lifestyle changes and/or medication.
I used to be ashamed that I dealt with these mental health issues. I didn’t want to admit that I was anxious, depressed or fearful. It felt like there was something wrong with me; I was broken. But when I was able to say it, I found the help I needed. I could see the Light!
The truth is – I am broken. We all are. But now I find beauty in my brokenness. It is the broken places that create beauty, softness and empathy in me. I smile now because it comes from my heart, not to manage what anyone thinks of me.
Do I still struggle with these issues? Sure. Some days I do. But I have tools to help me manage. I know what questions to ask myself. I recognize the voices of darkness that want to pull me into the fog. I have safe people in my life that I can talk to and sometimes it only takes me saying that I’m having a dark day. Darkness flees in the presence of Light, so I shine the light of Truth as much as I can.
I also believe that there is so much scripture that is helpful to read and meditate on so I will be sharing some of those this week. My prayer is that you will have the courage to share your struggles or be the safe place where others can share.
Until next time...
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26