“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5.
Throughout my life, there have been many times where God has helped me get through tough and hard times and I have found light in the darkness. But one particular time I want to talk about is a time where I was at my lowest, a time where I was struggling and I couldn’t see a way through. I had anxiety, OCD and depression. It was there in the morning as soon as I woke up, it was there throughout the day and it was there when I went to bed at night. As my mental health got worse, it felt as though I would never get better.
A few years ago I went through some of the worst and darkest times with my mental health. My thoughts became filled with anxiety and fear. I stopped socialising, going out and I became afraid. I can’t pinpoint the exact time that all of this came on, but it developed over a period of time until it got to the point where I was no longer able to drive, go for a walk, my confidence dropped and I started to distance myself from everyone. All I could think about was ‘what if this happens’ or ‘what if that happens’. There were a lot of ‘what if’s’.
I was studying full time at uni and working part time during this time, and with all of these emotions that I was feeling I felt so overwhelmed. I was constantly tired, felt frustrated and my work and studies started to suffer. I had very low energy levels and I had lost all motivation. I would come home from work and cry. I can also remember at one point trying to go out in my car just local up the road, I was a little way away from where I live, when fear struck. I pulled over in my car and I just sat there and cried, and came straight back home. It was only when I began to feel too scared to even get into my car and go for a walk by myself, that I knew I needed help.
Finding light in the darkness
After seeking help, I started CBT sessions for my anxiety, which I had for several weeks. Each week we would go through the different ways to challenge and change unhelpful thinking, and I was given work to do at home each week after each session. These sessions definitely helped me to challenge myself and slowly I started to have hope. I spoke and prayed to God and asked for his help. I knew that I couldn’t do this alone and I needed His help. I put my full trust in God that I would get better from this darkness that I was experiencing. I wasn’t going to let it consume me.
In some of my notes that I have from when I was having CBT sessions, I kept a daily list of the things that I was proud of and the things that I enjoyed doing. Although they were very small things at the time, they felt huge and it allowed me to see the light that was shining through. On a Monday I wrote ‘Successful tutorial at Uni’. On Tuesday I wrote ‘ Meeting my dad for tea. Not feeling as anxious on train.’ Wednesday and Thursday I wrote that I had spent the day with loved ones and on Friday I wrote ‘ Not feeling as anxious on train.’ They were tiny but at the same time huge achievements.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
A Bible verse, which is a favourite of mine, it’s one that I always go to during tough and uncertain times. It’s a short verse, but a powerful one. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” It’s a verse that I quickly memorised and repeated to myself when I was feeling anxious and afraid. I had it in my notebook, on my phone and highlighted in my Bible. Whatever I was doing, the Bible verse was there in front of me. A reminder that through Christ I am strengthened. With God, I will get through this.
God helped me so much through this difficult time that I was going through. Through the CBT sessions, I realised just how much I was letting the anxious thoughts and fear control me. That in my mind I was imagining everything that could possibly go wrong and having a very negative outlook. I realised that I needed to give all of these thoughts and feelings over to God.
I recently read a quote that says “We will always learn something from what we go through, even if it’s to be thankful to breathe and have no pain.” And although at the time I had no idea why I was going through this and why this was happening, through anxiety, OCD and depression, I learned to be thankful for the small things in life, the small achievements and to put my full trust in God. It taught me to be thankful for happy and fun days and it especially taught me that no matter what I may be going through, no matter how hard life gets, God is with me and through Him all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26.)
There are still times now when I feel that fear creeping in, in the back of my mind. But when I do feel that fear, I talk to God, I pray and I ask for His help. By doing this and putting my full trust in God, I instantly feel a wave of calmness cover me. I tell the anxiety and fear that it will not win and that God is with me. I enjoy driving again, I go for long walks on my own, I love meeting up with friends and I love going for days out. I found light in the darkness.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.
For my third year project at Uni, I decided to create a piece of audio on having anxiety, to help spread awareness and for people to understand what it is like living with it, but to also let people know that they are not alone. I wanted to use what I went through to help other people who are experiencing the same. You can listen to it below.
When in times of darkness, never give up hope and remember that God is with you. Nothing is too big or scary for Him. God wants to help you and like it says in 1 Peter 5:7, God wants you to cast all of your fear, worries and anxiety on Him because He cares. If you feel yourself starting to worry, turn your worries into prayers. Just let God know how you are feeling and what’s on your mind, even if like me you end up rambling on, He doesn’t mind at all. Let God know all of the prayers that are on your heart, all the fears and worries that are building up inside of you and all of the ‘what if’s.’ Give them all to God. (Philippians 4:6) Let Him be your strength and take you deeper into His presence and love.
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.” Psalm 34:4-5
We can waste so much time being anxious, worried and afraid. I know I have! When going through a season of doubt, I like to think back to all of the times when I felt that whatever the situation I was going through, was not going to get better, or something hadn’t gone quite to plan and I was expecting the worst possible outcome. I made it through all of those tough times. It may not feel like it now, but at some point in the near future, you will look back at this moment and see just how far you have come and that you made it through.
“However today finds you, know that God’s hand is on you and that He sent His Son, just for you, for just such a time. Your world needs you.” Just Such A Time by Lindsay Bruce.
*The pink jacket in this post was very kindly gifted to me by Lighthouse.