What if I’m too depressed or anxious to be in a cell?

In the United States, this really isn’t a surprise that our depressrion or anxiety might . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2001 that one in ten individuals are depressed. That’s an amazing figure. According to the CDC, middle-aged, women, people of color (mainly Black and Latino), unemployed, and people without insurance are most likely to be depressed.

We don’t really know why people get depressed or anxiety. “It is likely that a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors are involved,” according to Kathariya Mokrue, PhD.

NPR reports more than one in four U.S. residents have experienced “great deal of stress in the previous month.” Half of all adults have experienced a major stressful event this past year. That’s 115 million people, and that’s even not accurate because the poll NPR conducted only captures the stress that people are conscious of. Many of us experience stress or anxiety but are unaware of it.

The toll stress and depression take on us are huge. In fact, a recent study suggests that stress and depression may boost the risk of a stroke. It is life threatening if it goes untreated. Simply reacting to it based on our limitations may not be the best option. If we simply think “that’s just how I am” there might be a cost to that, and it could affect one’s very life.

Your consciousness of your emotions is important. Ignoring your feelings, even if you feel bad, doesn’t help them go away. I hope that we can confront them so that we can know we aren’t them. The emotions that we experience are part of us, but they are not the sum of us. That’s a danger with a diagnosis. Though it gives you a chance to name your illness and heal from it, that label may never go away. You might think you are the weather, when you are really the mountain.

The Christian life, filled with sufferings and trials, is bound to make us feel depressed or anxious at some point. Assuming that it won’t is going to cause trouble. We are sufferers. Like the man in black says in the Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” We are going to feel bad. And sometimes it’s not going to go away no matter how much we pray, how loyal we are to God. Healing may come and it may not come. Look at this passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.

Paul, who might be one of the greatest prayers ever, prays that God would remove a thorn from his flesh, what he calls a tormentor from Satan. What is that torment? We don’t know, but it might be depression or anxiety. Paul prayed, pleaded, that God would take it from him, and he didn’t. Paul tells us that The Lord responded with, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul’s point is that if we were perfect—thorn-less—we wouldn’t need God. Christ’s power is shown in us when we are weak and he is strong. I love that language: “Christ’s power may rest on me.” Don’t we all need that rest? Isn’t that exactly what we dream of in the midst of our crippling depression, or paralyzing anxiety?

Paul’s language about “delighting” in his weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties is generous. He is trying to be encouraging. But it’s important to note that it might take time to really believe when you are weak, then you are strong.

It’s hard to really believe that one should delight and feel joy when they really feel sad and overwhelmed. When your trial is a negative feeling, what do you do? How do you respond? Again, what if it keeps you from expressions of community?

Remember, cells and PMs are expressions of our community, not the sum of it. So the guilt about your disconnection may be ultimately more debilitating than the actual reason for your lack of participation. If you feel concerned about not being able to fully participate in PMs or cells or something, I want to reassure you that that is OK. It may not be where you want to be forever, but there isn’t a law that you need to follow.

That’s partly why Paul was delighted to feel his trials, because he was a slave to no one, including his emotions. He certainly wouldn’t feel guilt about his limitations. We are limited people, that’s OK. So if you can’t be at PMs or cells, that’s fine.

Try not to just be complacent, however. It might be easier to avoid the troubles that you feel, the ones that might be keeping you from getting close to God, but don’t ignore the parts in your life that are hard to think about. Your instinct might be not to think about the things that make you anxious, but truly consider them, especially without someone trained to help you work out your stress.

Try to ask the right questions. “What is the cause of my problem?” “Why does this problem persist?” That’s better than just asking stuff like “Why me?” “What is wrong with me?” Try to focus on the root of problem, not just yourself. That separation between who you are and how you feel is important. Differentiate. With yourself. But with others too. Remember, you are your own person, and the temptation to create triangles (among yourself, or with others) will fuel the fire.

Explore your past, consider your current goals and let them lead you, and talk to a professional. Therapy isn’t just for the severely afflicted. It could be helpful to many of us. And buy into it; Circle Counseling has a sliding scale, but paying for therapy and thinking about how you spend your money is an important part of the process. Invest in yourself. If you feel hesitant to do that, you might know why you feel stuck.

Take care of yourself. Sleep enough. Eat well and healthy. Try to set boundaries so that you are not overstimulated. Don’t use drugs that a psychiatrist isn’t talking to you about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the drugs your shrink thinks you need.

Remember, that this isn’t only  personal battle. The community is going to play a part. Talk to your friends about how you are feeling; emote with your spouse. Try to talk through it and see what love you get. In fact, this is a reason you might want to be in a cell even if you instinct tells you otherwise. The Circle Counseling therapists are often saying that those in cells tend to work through their presenting problems more quickly than others. It’s hard to make a causal relationship here, but there is a connection for sure.

More than just a personal or communal process, it is a spiritual one. Remember to rely on God. To cry out to him. Have faith that he will protect you and nourish you, even when you feel like it might not happen. Paul’s words, “for when I am weak, then I am strong,” apply here. That level of faith might change your process.

Try to develop some spiritual resources that change how you see all of the bad stuff that’s happening. When you are at your end, when you burn out, rely on God to fill you up. Beyond mere self-awareness is literal strength from God. Turn to prayer when you are exhausted. Cry out to God with where you are easily injured, damaged, exasperated, or when you want to confront the things that make you want to avoid.

Venting might feel good, but the reason you want to write down some of your stuff, is so you can actually cry out to God at your end. Life is pain, the man in black is right, but to Live is Christ too. What if you’re too depressed to be in a cell or go to a PM? That’s OK. It’s normal to feel that way sometimes—Paul and James did! But take care of yourself, know your limits, be healthy, rely on community, make goals, and rely on God, because he can offer you real strength. He can really make you weakness, strength.

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