Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits, #2
What thoughts fill your head as the darkness of depression descends? What lies repeat in your anxiety, over and over, so familiar they must be true?
I’m not good enough…
No one understands… No one cares…
Things will never get better… it’s hopeless.
I’m trapped… helpless…
I’m useless… worse than useless… I’m bad for the people around me… I’m toxic… They’d be better off without me.
When a lie gets hold of your mind, it can be very difficult to shake loose. And, let’s face it, the world is far more full of lies than of God’s Truth.
Lies are not only difficult to get rid of, they also make us vulnerable to believing other lies and letting them take hold of our minds.
Last week I mentioned the importance of thinking about what were thinking about. This week I’d like to take a bit closer look at some of the self-defeating, depression- and anxiety-inducing thoughts – the lies – we get stuck on.
Some of us, thanks to genetics or trauma, are more vulnerable to falling victim to the darkest lies, to believing that our lives are not worth living, that they should never have begun in the first place, that the sooner they end the better it will be for those we will only damage more in the long run.
The lies are powerful. In the darkness they seem more rational than any that carry hope. My delusion in the darkest times? That I am beyond grace. After all, how many times can I mess up, before God leaves me where I fall? How many times can I turn my back on grace before the Source of all that is good turns His back on me?
Knowing my brain is broken makes it all the more important for me to make healthy choices to stay as well as possible. One thing we all need to do, whether or not we suffer from depression, is take control of our thought lives. Our thoughts mold us. As we think, we do. Sooner or later, our thoughts are revealed in our actions and then behavior; our actions reinforce our thoughts. It’s a vicious cycle, creating habitual patterns that are difficult to break.
Listening to lies not only makes us vulnerable to depression and anxiety, it makes us vulnerable to temptation and giving in to sin.
I’m not good enough. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. But that doesn’t mean we’re not good enough. And good enough for what exactly? I frequently struggle with doubt and insecurity; I feel inadequate in almost every area of my life. Since my fall into major depressive disorder, I still haven’t regained my ability to trust my judgement. But do you know what? I’m still good enough for whatever God calls me to do. You are, too. Although we are not all we will be, we are what we need to be for this moment and God will give us all we need to take on the next. We just need to accept it. We need to let go of being concerned about whether or not we’re good enough for temporal things to accept how God created us and submit to His molding in Christlikeness.
You can’t really love me. This goes along with the previous. We often feel unworthy of love. At some point in our lives, when we were forming out beliefs about our worth, we felt rejected or abandoned and it has tainted all our relationships since. We doubt the love of others and we doubt the love of God. But the Truth is, God loves us more than we can understand or imagine. He loves you. He loves me. So much so that Jesus Christ came do suffer in our place so we could become God’s children. You are worthy.
If you let me down, you don’t love me. Unfortunately, we sometimes justify our mistrust of others by misjudging them or placing unreal expectations on them. People will let you down, because they’re human. Don’t let yourself think that they don’t care about you if they don’t give you everything you think you need, when you think you need it. It can be far easier to push someone away than stay invested in the messiness of relationship. When you are tempted to accuse someone, be willing to examine yourself. Don’t expect others to fix or complete you. The only one who can truly fulfill you is God.
This lie is particularly difficult when paired with If I let you down it’s not my fault; I can’t help it.
I’d feel better if so-and-so or such-and-such changed. Maybe. But it will only be temporary. We set ourselves up for a whole lot of frustration and pain if we think we can change someone else. The only person you can change is you. And the only way you can change yourself to become all you were created to be is through God’s strength and grace. While we are “good enough” for what God calls us to, and we are worthy of love, we can always grow and in growing become healthier. Although circumstances can have a significant effect on our emotions, we need to rely on something beyond them, God, to have joy and peace independent of what’s going on around us, or even inside us.
The Mind and the SoulAt the heart of all the lies we fall victim to is a misunderstanding of God's character Click To Tweet
At the heart of all the lies we fall victim to is a misunderstanding of God’s character, His design for humanity, and His love for us. We can’t think properly if we if we ignore God’s Truth revealed to us in the Bible. Think about what you are thinking about to keep lies from becoming your “truth.” Consider what you believe and compare it to what your actions and behavior reveal about what you actually believe. Evaluate them in light of Scripture. As I stated last week, you may or may not be aware of faulty thinking that distorts your vision. Don’t be afraid to accept help in assessing your perception of reality, and underlying false beliefs that put your mind and heart with God’s Truth – with reality.
Most of the time, you have the ability to argue with the negative thoughts – the lies that can overwhelm us.
Don’t let yourself off the hook when it comes to evaluating whether you’re responding to circumstances and people as they are, or to a misconception.
Words aren’t coming easily this week, and I’ve been feeling like last week’s post and this week’s are insufficient. They just scratch the surface. But we all need to start somewhere. And, maybe you’re like me – regularly in need of being reminded to remember the basics. So, here we are.
If you’re just starting up the mountain of taking responsibility for your mental health, here’s a good place to start. If you’re reading this thinking it’s not what you need, pause and take the opportunity to consider if any of your thoughts need adjusting. I’ve never been in a place of being completely in line with God’s perspective; I’ve never reached the end of learning more about His character. He’s infinite; we’re finite. There’s only so much revelation of Him and so much insight into our need for growth that we can handle at any given time.
So… I’m glad you’ve found your way here, and I hope you’ve found something useful for yourself, or in understanding a loved one struggling with mental illness and the ability to accept his or her value.
I’m struggling this week. But God is bigger. Grace is stronger. Always.
New for 2017: Listen When He Speaks, A Scripture Reading and Writing Plan. Reading and writing God’s Word to learn it and live it.
Check out the rest of the Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits series!