Scary thoughts

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’ve been having flashes of fear. Sudden bursts in my mind of catastrophic situations. It’s been going on for a month now.

Several weeks ago, I was in town with my daughter; we were in her car running errands, and I had a flash of being broadsided by a black truck. The glass was shattered and flying, the car was crumpled and spinning. Like slow motion from a movie scene. I was shocked by how vivid the picture was – like a daytime dream.

And like a dream, I came back to reason and shook my head. I then quoted the above verse to myself.

Today, I needed to run to a doctor’s appointment, and my husband was on the phone, working from home. It flashed across my mind, as I walked into the garage, that I hadn’t kissed him goodbye, and what a shame that would be if I died while I was out. Again, I shook my head and quoted part of that verse: “we have not been given a spirit of fear…”

Those are the two examples that stand out the most starkly in my mind, but I know there have been more, because I’ve quoted this verse to myself nearly a dozen times in the past month.

I’ve had nightmares lately, too. The kind where I wake up in a cold clammy sweat, afraid to get out of bed, in case the monsters are real, and afraid to close my eyes again, lest I fall back into the scary dream. I reach over to be sure my hubby is there, and I try to focus on his breathing, inhale and exhale. I wake enough to realize I’m safe, then pray my way back to sleep.

What is this? Why the sudden fear?

It started in a joyous time – celebrating family and friends at a wedding. Am I dreading the future of what might befall my loved ones?

I’m in the process of moving across the country. Am I fearing the isolation of being alone?

My mom was very sick this Spring. Am I afraid of the past repeating itself?

The last time I had major catastrophic thoughts, I was badly depressed. I’ve determined that I’m not headed there again!

Actually, it probably doesn’t matter what it is. Or even why it is. Because God’s truth is still truth:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I need not fear nor be timid. I have the power of the risen Christ in me (Ephesians 1:19-20), I am surrounded by God’s love (Romans 8:39), and I can be self-disciplined to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), even the scary ones.

Depression tells me lies

I wish I had been able to write this last Wednesday. But I couldn’t – I was restrained by the voices of depression.

Those voices tell me lots of things, and none of them are nice. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not hearing audible voices. These voices are actually just thoughts in my head. You know, the way I talk to myself. And I don’t say very nice things. I’m full of negative self-talk, and I judge myself very harshly. Even without depression, I talk to myself like this a little bit. But with depression, the voices are loud – they fill my ears and echo around in my head.

I didn’t write on Wednesday because my thoughts said that I have nothing to write about. I have absolutely nothing that anyone would want to read. I’ve read others’ blogs – they’re more eloquent, they’ve said all that needs to be said,… I have nothing of value to add.

[Side note: I’ve had several friends suggest that I write a book. But the depression voices tell me that I have nothing to write that hasn’t already been written. I should know – I’ve read lots of books about depression. I have nothing else to say, and certainly nothing original.]

The depression voices on Wednesday told me that all I could do was sit on the couch. They told me that I have nothing to do, nothing that I can do, no one to do anything with, and no one would want to do anything with me anyway. I played with my kitten and watched hours of TV, binging on Netflix, and playing ridiculous games on my iPad, one after the other. I had no interest in doing anything productive, in knitting, drawing, writing in my journal, going for a walk to take pictures, not even coloring a mandala pattern. Even though those are things that I used to enjoy, I can’t – I’m depressed.

The voices told me I wasn’t hungry, except when I was famished. But don’t worry about what to eat – it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m already fat and round, and therefore unattractive. No different diet, no change in wardrobe, no exercise, nothing will change the fact that my appearance is, well, maybe not ugly, but also not good looking. Don’t worry about eating healthy, don’t go for a swim or to the workout center – it won’t make a difference.

I don’t want to do anything – not see new friends on Thursday, not go out on Friday to meet a WI friend passing through town. I will do that, though – it will be good to connect with a sandbag.  But where should we meet? The depression voices remind me that even though I’ve been here 5.5 months, I don’t know my way around. What was the name of that place? Should I just invite them over here? Oh goodness, no! How do I decide? The voices point out that I can’t even make a simple decision – I need someone to tell me what to do.

I feel guilty about not exercising, not doing anything on my to-do list, about my non-activity and non-contribution. I’m lazy (“rotten, good-for-nothing…” – sounds like Yosemite Sam, but the sentence always completes itself as my own thought). I’m stupid. I’m selfish. I’m unattractive. I’m helpless. I’m better off staying by myself ’cause I’ll only bring others down. These thoughts go on and on and on.

BUT THESE ARE ALL LIES!

This negative self-talk is not truth. It is depression talking. And once I let the depressive voices start whispering to me, I can quickly descend into harsh self-judgement. I start believing the lies. They feed on each other, and I spiral quickly downward, further into the dark cavern of depression.

I’ve discovered that the key to silencing these thoughts comes when I recognize them as “not me.” And I have to be firm as I expose them. Not a wishy-washy “stop that.” No, I have to say “Stop! These are not your thoughts! This is not how God sees you! And what God sees and says is truth. So This Is Not Truth!”

When God looks at me, He sees the absolute opposite of these thoughts. He is full of compassion. Psalm 116:5 NIV.  He is gentle – He knows I’m hurting from the depression. Matthew 11:29 NIV  He loves me completely, entirely, passionately. I John 3:1a NIV  He says I am the apple of His eye. Psalm 17:8 NIV  He delights in me. Psalm 18:19 NLT. He rejoices over me with singing! Zephaniah 3:17  I am not helpless – I have His Spirit living in me; the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead – in me! Romans 8:11a NLT  And He has words He wants me to say, words that might bring comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT) or healing to someone who struggles with depression, maybe even with these same thoughts.

I have been told many times by both of my psych docs, by both of my therapists and by my husband, “Be gentle with yourself.” Cut myself some slack. Take the time I need to heal. Talk to myself as I would speak with a friend, not harshly judging.

Depression is an illness, and it brings negative thinking and harsh self judgement. But those thoughts are not mine; they are depression talking, telling me lies about myself. I can replace them with truth. And truth is what the Bible says about me as a Christ follower. Truth is obeying God. Truth is

… taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5b NASB.