What I’ve Learned (So Far) About Mental Illness

Struggling with mental health issues has been almost a lifelong journey for me. Anxiety, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), and depression developed in my early teen years and have shape-shifted in my life for the past two decades.

But dealing with mental illness doesn’t mean that you can’t fight it and determine how to thrive. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and grow. It doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome.

To that end, I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned during my mental health journey that will hopefully help others who are fighting a similar battle.

  • Mental illness is real. Others may say that there is no such thing as mental illness, or that you’re making things up. They may say that you’re going through a phase, or that you need to slap yourself out of the funk you’re in. As a Christian, I’ve even been told that my mental illness could be the result of a demon living inside of me. This made me feel horrible and like it was my own fault. But I’ve come to believe that mental illness is real – and thankfully, it can be treated.
  • Seeking help is a good thing. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression or something similar and it has become overwhelming, PLEASE get help. You can start by talking to someone you trust: someone you care about and someone who cares about you. If that doesn’t help, you might want to seek professional help. It can be difficult to find a good doctor that you can afford, but don’t give up. Keep trying until you get the help you need. If you are in a crisis or are having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and confidential, and someone will be able to talk with you.
  • Mental illness can morph. As I mentioned earlier, my anxiety, depression, and OCD have changed over the years. I’ve found that at any given time, one of the three is foremost in my struggle. For example, my OCD plagued me for a long time, but as I worked to overcome it and finally found some relief, my depression came to the forefront. This is probably different for different people. I guess I just want to emphasize that mental illness can change over time. It is a complicated beast and it demands a multi-faceted plan of attack.
  • It’s okay to not feel okay. Being honest about how you’re feeling is a big step. I used to be so worried about what other people would think that I held my thoughts and emotions inside. But it’s okay to feel how you’re feeling. And it’s important to find ways to share what you’re experiencing – ways that you find comfortable. You can talk to a trusted friend, write a poem, draw, journal, or any other activity that will help you release some stress. As you share, there’s also the possibility that you can help others who are in a similar situation.
  • Practice self-care. When you’re struggling with mental illness, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. You lack energy and motivation, and it may even feel selfish to tend to your own needs. But it’s not selfish to practice self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself some grace. And take the time to care for your physical needs, such as getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising, and spending time outdoors in the sun. As I’ve struggled with mental illness, I’ve come to see learning to practice self-care can be a process. It probably won’t happen overnight. But you can take one day at a time, and celebrate each baby step that you take forward. This will encourage you to keep going!
  • Rely on God. For me, one of the main reasons I’ve been able to make it this far is because of my relationship with God. He’s there when you have no one else to talk to. He understand what you’re going through. He promises to give strength and help when you ask Him. He will never let you down. Draw close to God through His Word, prayer, and relationships with others who love the Lord, too. You’ll find that your burdens start feeling a little lighter, and that you begin to have hope. This will give you the strength to keep going – and to not give up.

I hope that these points have been helpful for you. This is obviously not an exhaustive list – it’s merely a list of a few things I’ve learned during my struggle with mental illness. If you have any other ideas that you would like to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! And as always, thank you for reading. ❤

10 Bible Verses to Combat Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are real. But that doesn’t mean that God has left us defenseless against them. Over the twenty or so years that I have struggled with these illnesses, the Lord has enabled me to rely on Scripture to stand firm in my daily struggles. This does not mean I have always succeeded – many times I have allowed the whirlwind of mental illness to overtake me. But I keep trying. Day by day, I take baby steps. And I’d like to share with you ten of the verses that God has used the most in my struggle against depression and anxiety. I hope they bring you comfort! And I would encourage you to make a list of YOUR favorite verses to fight mental illness. Keep them handy, and memorize them if you can! If you feel led, I would love for you to share some of the verses that help you the most, in the comments section below. ❤

  1. Psalm 34:17-18 – “The LORD hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
    God hears us when we call to Him. He is listening. Even if no one else is, God is listening…and He sees us in our struggle. These verses also state that God is near to those who are broken in heart and spirit. So you don’t have to feel alone in what you’re going through. Bring all of your cares to the Lord and know that He hears you.
  2. Psalm 40:1-3 – “I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. The will put their trust in the LORD.”
    These are my favorite verses that relate to depression. They really strike a chord with me. When I am discouraged and overwhelmed, I feel like I am sinking in a pit of mud, and that no amount of struggling could free me. But God is there to lift me up out of the pit – and after steadying me, He fills my heart with praise for all that He has done!
  3. Psalm 42:11 – “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God.”
    Praise is an important part of overcoming depression. You might ask, “How can I praise God when He has allowed me to feel this horrible?” I understand the question, and have thought it many times. I’ve learned that God allows things into our lives for our good, and for His glory, that do not make sense to us. But we can still be grateful that He is there for us, and better yet, we can praise Him for who He is. His character never changes, and He is worthy of praise even in the midst of our deepest trials. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to praise God for one of His attributes today – you may just feel better afterwards!
  4. Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am Your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
    We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged, because God is near at all times. Although our struggles may not go away, the Lord is near and He will help us – and will ultimately have the victory in our lives.
  5. Lamentations 3:21-26 – “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’ The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.”
    I LOVE these verses. I have remembered them so many times when I wake up in the morning and feel overwhelmed by how many ways I had messed up the previous day. They remind us that God has new mercies for us each day. We get to begin afresh! And He is faithful to forgive us for our shortcomings when we confess them to Him and rely on Him to live in obedience.
  6. Matthew 11:28-30 – “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'”
    So many times I feel burdened by the weight of my struggles with mental illness. I often feel like I just can’t do it anymore – that I’m going to have to give up. But in these verses God gives us a beautiful picture of how HE carries our burdens when we relinquish them to Him. He takes the bulk of the weight on His shoulders (if we let Him) and frees us to walk alongside of Him and to find rest. Don’t try to carry your burdens any longer – give them to Christ daily.
  7. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
    God is our Father, our Abba, our “Daddy.” When we need comfort, He is the person to run to. And He not only comforts us, but enables us to share the comfort that we receive from Him with those around us! When we share with others the comfort that we have received from our heavenly Father, it brings praise to God and also encourages us.
  8. Philippians 4:4-8 – “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
    Prayer is so important when struggling with mental illness or any other trial. We need to be in constant communication with God and look to Him for deliverance. As we rely on Him in our anxiety, He will give us the strength to meditate on His truth (instead of Satan’s lies or our own doubts) and will provide us the peace that we so desperately need.
  9. 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
    Fear does not come from God – on the contrary, our Father gives us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. So when you begin to fear, put on God’s armor (see Ephesians 6:10-18) and command the enemy to get away from you in Jesus’ name. God will fight for you, and will enable you to move forward in confidence.
  10. 1 Peter 5:6-7 – “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”
    One of the most amazing things about God is that even in His splendor and majesty, He cares about us deeply. When we humble ourselves and rely on Him to help us combat depression and anxiety, He will always be there for us, and will “lift us up” in His perfect timing.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Escaping Emptiness

Words elude me.
They fly away
Like a flock of birds
Soaring over my head,
Just out of the reach
Of my grasping fingertips.
I long to write –
To share everything
That’s going on
Inside my heart and mind –
But each time I try
I come up empty.
And what do you do
With something that is empty?
You fill it! So I am going to fill
This void that I am feeling
With emptiness itself,
And pray that my words
Will return again soon.


Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash