Finding Faith in Darkness

SHARED BY MARCY

Unable to Cope

My battle with anxiety and depression started in childhood. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and I was always under the impression something was wrong with me. My mother felt I needed to suck it up and be stronger. I always felt inferior to other people, wanting to fix what was wrong but never knowing how.

I became overly empathetic, hoping to help everyone I encountered, so they wouldn’t feel the same way. I had anxiety about everything—the neighbors outside must be talking about me, my husband must be cheating on me, a headache was most likely brain cancer. When my husband said he wanted a divorce, I envisioned a bleak future and spent my days in a trance, unable to cope.

Through a friend I met at my children's dance studio, I learned more about Christianity and Jesus Christ. I grew up in a faith that really didn't speak of salvation. After learning more, I accepted Christ enthusiastically. Things did improve. I met a wonderful man who was willing to take on not just me but my two small children, too. Our families blended surprisingly well, and I vainly thought I was doing something right—that I was the source of my success.

God however, in His wisdom, chose to reveal I was giving myself too much credit.

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Family Turmoil

When my oldest daughter, Melody, was fourteen years old, she began showing signs of depression and anxiety. She then developed suicidal thoughts, and she never wanted to be away from me. I would spend hours with her each night, sometimes sleeping in her room to try and soothe her. She needed professional help, but in order to save money, we went with a therapist and psychiatrist on her father's medical plan. (Neither were Christians.) The psychiatrist kept throwing medications at her, and it helped a little. Although her therapist was a very nice man, we saw no major improvement overall.

Melody began experiencing anxiety at school, and I fought with the administration for two years to get her help. But the constant battling to simply get her to school was draining our whole family. Finally, at the end of her junior year, we decided to pull her out of school and let her get a GED.

This turmoil also caused me to switch jobs, as my coworkers at the time were less than supportive (with the exception of a couple I still consider dear friends). These vindictive coworkers decided mocking my child's mental illness was fun, and they reported me to the head boss each time Melody would call or text me crying from school.

Life was a mess, but I had it under control. Or so I thought.

Meanwhile, as I spent the majority of my waking hours with Melody, I assumed my youngest, Serena, was thriving. She was a star at dance, landing premium roles in each performance, and she was doing well in school. Then I noticed changes in her. She resisted going to dance. She cried over homework. When she was finally diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder her sophomore year and announced she was quitting dance, I had my breaking point.

I felt responsible. I began experiencing panic attacks every day. Every time my phone buzzed, I wondered which child was texting to say they hated their life, to say they wished they were dead. Weeks were spent crying hysterically over what I must have done to ruin my children. Why did I have to go through this again? Did I not learn something while going through Melody's depression? Would I need to relearn everything through Serena's struggles?

Finding Help and Support

I finally sought the help of a Christian therapist. I came to realize I could not be my children's savior. That was Christ's job. The therapist helped me realize I could not help my children while I was drowning. I had to lean heavily on the Lord, trusting Him not just a bit, but 100% with my children's very lives. I also had to find a way to handle my anxieties and fears before I could help my children.

Because of these new revelations, I switched both daughters to a Christian therapist and psychiatrist despite the cost. These mental health professionals of faith incorporate holistic remedies and nutrition into our healing. Through their guidance, I discovered why I felt the need to "save" everyone. I learned to accept being the child of a narcissist and how to appropriately process my upbringing—and it has profound affects on my parenting.

I have been reminded how much God loves me. He tells us to love others as we love ourselves (emphasis mine). He never says love others but don’t love yourself. I now practice self-care, and I'm learning how to help my children in effective, Christ-centered ways.

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Is everything perfect now? Of course not. Serena left her high school and will now do online homeschool. Melody continues working on her GED, and both girls are working closely with their therapists to learn how to live with anxiety, not letting their anxiety lead their lives. And I'm learning God has always been with me, even through this terrifying journey. God provided me with a great therapist, a wonderful new job (my boss has two daughters with anxiety and understands when I need to take a call or leave early for a therapist appointment), and a very supportive church community group with people who have been or are going down this same path.

My favorite Bible verse has never sounded truer than it has these past few years:

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
— Jeremiah 29:11

I hold tightly onto His words, even when fear grips my heart and panic pounds through my chest. Anxiety will always be a part of me, as it will for my children. It runs rampant in the DNA of my paternal side of the family. But I will also always have a Savior who will be there during my darkest times. Not just for me—He is also there for my children, and what a wonderful release it is for me to know He carries my burden. I can live my life with anxiety, because I can cast my cares upon Him.

 
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