COULD IT REALLY BE THAT EASY?
Hello. I haven’t written for about two weeks. I was planning a surprise wedding shower for a good friend of mine. Of course when I said I would host it, I hadn’t broken my ankle. It was a bit challenging to pull it off, but I had great family and friends to help. My biggest thanks, kisses and hugs is to my husband. Without him I couldn’t have done it. Thank you Dennis!!
In my first blog I talked about how I lived with low-grade depression most of my adult life, well into middle-age. That was because I held onto old toxic thoughts, old scripts which influenced my behavior. Thoughts affect how you feel; how you feel affects your behavior; and your behavior will affect how you live your life. My journey has been rocky with many high and low peaks. Sometimes my depression went deep from a day to a week or longer. But I’m glad to report that it’s been smoother sailing for a long while now. Thanks to God!!
As part of my journey I attended church regularly, read tons of self-help books, articles and scripture till my eyes became pinwheels. Applying the principles I learned wasn’t always easy because there were days when the pressure of old scripts pounded at me dredging up old beliefs of inferiority, shame, and unworthiness. Accompanying these negative thoughts was an uncomfortable sensation of nervousness that settled in my stomach, chest or neck. That made me even more unsettled and led to more wrong thinking. Thoughts affected how I felt and how I felt triggered more wrong thinking and or vice versa. The cycle ran amuck. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. In those moments I couldn’t see how to escape. But I was determined to have peace of mind and happiness. I had had enough and I was sick and tired of being pushed around by my own “stinkin’ thinkin.” I had to jolt myself out of it by making a conscious decision to override all that messy thinking by turning to God, praying and purposely applying what I learned to change my thought processes. And all that effort is paying off.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12.
Clothe yourself – To get dressed is something we do everyday. We purposely choose what to wear and then put it on. I take this verse to mean we purposely choose how we are to think and behave and then do so accordingly. I chose to think and behave differently to achieve healthier thinking.
For years I watched others enjoying their lives. It was beyond my comprehension how they lived and not let things bother them. I was one of those hypersensitive people who soaked up emotions, facial expressions and attitudes from others like a sponge until they affected my own state of mind. I took things too personal, when there was no need to. Ninety-nine percent of the time their thoughts, emotions and attitudes had nothing to do with me. But for some reason I made it all about me. The biggest take away from those experiences was: they don’t like me; I’m not good enough; I’m not pretty enough; anything negative, of course. This way of thinking wasn’t 100% of the time, but it was enough to develop a pattern of behavior.
Why was I so sensitive of what others thought of me? Why did it bother me if someone liked me or not? Why did I need the approval of others? My mind got stuck in low gear where my thoughts would grind over and over again on self-doubt, self-deprecating thoughts, jealousy, fear, shame, self-hatred and/or a combination of any of the above.
Shame was one of the biggies I carried around for so many years. I was ashamed of how I looked (I didn’t like my body). I was ashamed when I didn’t know something or made a mistake (Thinking others would think I was stupid. And who doesn’t make mistakes?) Oh, how I wished I could be and look like so and so. I often asked God why He didn’t give me a better body, more talent, make me smarter, funnier, happier – and the list goes on.
I like what Joyce Meyer said, “Just make peace with your thighs. God gave you what He gave you, accept it.” So I began to make peace with me right where I was. But shame and fear of not being enough continued to haunt me, when it didn’t need to. I know that now as I look back. Some of the things I used to worry about seem silly now. Then I began to feel shame about how long it took me to realize how much time I wasted being ashamed. Ok, I can laugh at that one. I make plenty of mistakes and when I do – well now I say, “so what.” We all falter. When I observe others making mistakes or not knowledgeable in some area, I never think less of them. It’s really no big deal. It’s not humanly possible to live a perfect life anyway (how dull that would be) and not slip up now and then.
I want to be open with my readers. There were times when I wanted to end it all. I didn’t want to really commit suicide, I just wanted the toxic thoughts to stop and the pain of them to go away. I wanted it all to stop. Ending it did cross my mind, but something inside me quickly rejected the idea and I pushed on. I believe it was God and the idea of leaving the bad example of taking the coward’s way out for others to follow. I imagined God talking to me and saying, “Anna your victory was just around the corner. If you had only held on a little while longer you have seen your life turn around. You knew the right things to do, you just weren’t consistent enough to follow them through. You didn’t persevere. You gave up too easily.” So I hung in there searching, praying and seeing a professional counselor (best money I ever spent).
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12.
I learned a lot about me from my counselor and so my journey continued on a more positive note. But I still wasn’t out of the woods yet. Then I found science, neuroplasticity and believe it or not quantum physics. That’s where I saw Jesus – in the field of possibilities. (The invisible realm, where anything and everything is possible). Somehow it made sense to me. But that’s another blog. I began to see God’s work everywhere- in science, movies, in the everyday stuff of life. Slowly I was able to pull my legs out of the heavy muck, one at a time. Often they slipped right back in. But I kept hearing God tell me, “Anna don’t give up, you’re victory is coming.” This kept me moving forward – one step in front of the other.
Depression is serious and real. I know, I lived with it for years under a smiling mask, most of the time. It’s not easy just to change your thinking. Depressed thinking is complex. I am not a psychologist. I’m not trying to fix any anyone. I’m just sharing what worked for me. It took years for me to turn my thinking around. I’d take two steps forward and five backward. However, I’ve heard it said enough times that if you don’t quit you will succeed; that if you make the decision to accomplish something you can; that winners never quit and quitters never win; the Bible states multiple times “fear not and be anxious for nothing.” “For God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7. I love that verse. I repeat it daily where it has sunk deep into my heart and soul. I was created magnificently and so were you. We all were, warts and all.
For me it all boiled down to making a decision to turn my thinking around. Like I said in my other blogs, with resolve, determination and faith in God, anything is possible. My journey is still on-going, I may never fully arrive, but I’m on my way.
I still have moments were I have to get my thinking right, but instead of ruminating on the negative thoughts and old scripts, that keep trying to hold onto precious cerebral real estate in my head, I pray. But I also allow those thoughts to sit for a few seconds. I don’t judge them. I don’t yell at them (anymore) to go way. I don’t hide from them them or push them down. I don’t get upset at them (try not to). I just watch them – thinking about what I’m thinking about – look them straight in the eye and gently say, “no thank you,” then release them. I envision them flying away like a balloon or a butterfly with no judgement or condemnation.
Thoughts, new and old, will cross you mind daily. We generate about 30,000+ thoughts a day. Don’t fight the ones you don’t like and don’t judge yourself for having them. It’s what you do with those thoughts that make a difference in your life. The more you fight them, they more they become real. It has the opposite affect than what you want when you fight against them. Thoughts will come, that’s a sure thing. But they don’t have to rule over you. YOU can rule over them. Gently release the ones that don’t serve you well and nourish the ones that do. This process will have to be done over and over and over and over again, until it’s a habit. (Please read my earlier blogs on neuroplasticity and changing your thinking).
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on such things.” Philippians 4:8.
Please talk with a professional counselor or your priest, pastor or minister if needed. There’s no shame in that. And please don’t go on your journey alone, it will only get darker and longer. You’re not alone. At one time I felt I was alone in my shame and fear. But I learned differently. There are many people who feel lost and alone in their depression, negative and toxic thinking. We all have something to overcome and all to varying degrees and in different areas. Trust God, because He made you. The same power that is keeping you alive is keeping us all alive. God is good and love, therefore you are too.
So back to my original question. Does change come down to making a decision? Yes. But it’s a daily decision to keep on keepin’ on the path to healthy thinking, peace and happiness. Never give up! Could it really be that easy? No. It takes hard work, determination, faith and God to stay the course. And yes, it will get easier with time, if you persevere.
Please leave a comment, questions or any suggestions you would like to share on conquering depression, negative, toxic and unhealthy thinking. I would like to know. We learn from each other. Learning is a life-long process and we need each other to grow in Christ to live a happy and purposeful life.