18 Apr April: Courageous Conversations
My name is Victoria, and I have been battling Depression and Anxiety for about 15 to 20 years.
This isn’t something I broadcast around as it’s such a private, internal battle, and some people are genuinely surprised to learn about it as I come across quite strong and confident… which is the lie that Satan has planted – that I am not strong, but that I am weak, and pathetic, and worthless, and unlovable.
Most of the time, he does get my attention, but after a while God’s hand reached through the darkness and pulls me up “My God is louder than the voice around me, my God is stronger He’s the hand that pulls me out”. God gives me the strength to stand up again, and again, and again, until I can say enough and stand on my own.
Most recently my anxiety has gotten out of control, which is super-frustrating, because I struggle with a form of social anxiety where I have panic attacks if I’m in a new situation, around new people, at a new restaurant, or even having a meal at someone’s house for the first time. I can’t pinpoint exactly what my ‘triggers’ are, as they have become unpredictable. I can have a panic attack hanging out with my closest friends, or I can have one with complete strangers. The most annoying part is that it has started to spread into other parts [the non-social parts] of my life. I have become claustrophobic in big spaces: like a concert or at a comedy show. I had a major panic half-way through a 13hr flight last year. And my first one was on my wedding day – the happiest day of my life, and I spent it hiding from everyone – that was 16 years ago.
But yet I have no problem with singing on stage or public speaking. This is why I’m so frustrated and embarrassed, I feel like I’m going crazy!! He’s targeting all the places and all the people I love being with.
My closest friends are aware of my mental illness – they don’t understand it – but they support me through it, as much as they can…. just by giving me space and allowing me to breathe, and cancel last-minute if necessary.
I have been really embarrassed about it because it manifests itself in uncontrollable vomiting, and no one wants to be vomiting in front of people!! So I started making excuses to skip social gatherings, and as an extrovert, this is not a very fruitful decision. ‘Pity-parties for one’ are not productive and you become isolated from the people that actually love and care for you. ‘Divide and Conquer’ is the devil’s M.O.
So, I decided not anymore! I will accept all invitations and attend all parties, I won’t play by his rules anymore!
I know the devil is out to ruin me. I know that he is trying to rob me of my joy, and I won’t let him win this battle.
My friends now understand if I keep running to the toilet that I’m actually fighting against running out the front door. And that if I don’t eat their food, it’s not because I don’t like it, but because I am internally fighting his attacks to shame me and send me home in tears, never feeling welcome in their home again.
I have started predicting when he might attack, and recognising his tactics (he is lazy and will use the same methods that have worked in the past). I can feel his shadow creeping up on me and I recognise his whispers in my ear, if I don’t engage with his game I know I can overcome him.
Ironically my counsellor said I should practice ‘mindfulness’, and “acknowledge what is happening in my mind right now”. But I have found that that give him a foothold in my thoughts he will overpower mine. If I can resist the devil he will flee – James 4:7.
I don’t know if God will ever heal me from my mental illness, but I will keep fighting and perhaps one day I’ll overcome it. We live in a fallen world where not everyone gets the miracle they pray for, but I know my God hears me, I know he is my counsellor, and I know that my identity is in Him, because I know His hand when He reaches out for me.
Every second of these attacks is a full on battle! My mind is fighting against the thoughts that are building. I want to run, I want to cry, I want to throw up and I want to scream…. but I can’t, cause I’m at a wedding, or out to dinner with friends. So I’m trying to hold down a pleasant conversation while my palms are sweating and my stomach is in knots and I’m looking for the most lady-like place to throw up…. I just want to go home and cry!!!
If I am able, I drown out the lies with Worship. But If I am unable, I will be praying under my breath for strength. If I didn’t have God to lean on, I know I would be a complete mess.
My name is Victoria, which means triumphant. I am brave, I am courageous, I will have victory.
For my battle is not against flesh and blood – Ephesians 6:12.