I have made it no secret that anxiety and depression are twin enemies of mine. It's been a long journey since realizing that the way I felt wasn't just "normal" and that I didn't just have to put on a smile and be a "good Christian." It's been over 10 years, in fact.
I'm a people person, and when I am with people, I am at my best. I thrive on interaction with others. So maybe you haven't noticed that I've been fighting a battle with anxiety and depression. You're not alone-- they go pretty invisible when I'm out and about. And when they come to call, I usually stay at home, away from other people. It's not that I'm trying to fool anyone and hide the symptoms; it's just that when I am anxious and/or depressed, it's too hard to be around other people.
Being a stay-at-home mom with lots of little kids has been a hard season for me. I love my kids so much, but they are not the most encouraging bunch. The whining gets to me. The housekeeping (lack there of) gets to me. The laundry gets to me. Yes, they get to every parent. But for me, it can be soul-crushing. Suffocating. I know I'm not alone, but it is just so hard to talk about. Will people understand me? Or will they just push me back with advice about trying harder?
I've been in a rough spot for a few days. Enough to cause me some concern. This morning, I dragged myself out of bed and put on a genuine smile for my kids. (They are always happy when I come in to get them out of bed in the morning. It's a genuine smile.) They were really kind and sweet this morning, and I felt encouraged. I even felt a little happy, and a little hope filled the bottom tip of my heart--not too much, but I definitely knew my heart wasn't all the way on empty.
I decided to turn on some music. I love music, but it's strange--I rarely think to play it in the mornings when my kids are milling about and I am putting away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. I thought I wanted the bright notes of Audrey Assad's first album, The House You're Building, but as I flipped through my cds to find the disc, another album caught my eye.
Audio Adrenaline's 5th full-length album from 1999: Underdog.
"Yes," I thought. "This is morning dish-washing music. I can dance and maybe get the kids to dance and take a video to send to my sister." The album just happens to contain "Get Down," a song that my little sister loved dearly as a pre-teen. I thought it'd be fun.
But after I cranked up the volume and stood at the sink (because I actually left the dishes from last night and had a lot to scrub), tears filled my eyes. Just the opening chords of an electric guitar took me back to tenth grade. The lyrics of an old favorite album pierced my heart and made me weep, my tears intermingling with the sudsy sink water.
"Flooded by an ocean
Of some mixed emotions
They got you down again...
He can put back pieces that you lack
Make you whole again...
Help is on the way...yeah yeah yeah
Help is on the way..."
"Been beat up, been broken down
Nowhere but up when you're face down
On the ground
I'm in last place, if I place at all
But there's hope for this under dog..."
"I have the only key to your heart...
Let my love open the door..."
I know that some of the lyrics are overly simplified, but I didn't come to the album looking for salvation. I had forgotten what a well-produced record Underdog is. How much I loved Audio Adrenaline. How hard I rocked when I saw them in concert at Six Flags. What the album did for me was take me back to a simpler time, when life was less complicated and I didn't have the responsibility of running a house and keeping four small people alive. It's not that it was easier--the weight of anxiety and depression had started to plague me by then (thought it would be years before I was diagnosed)--it was not easier for a 15-year-old girl to feel the pressure of anxiety and depression. But I was freer to fall into the arms of Jesus then. I was learning the basics of his love for me. I was falling in love with a God who loved me back. And listening to this album took me back there. It took me back to a place of learning how loved I was and how kind He is. I desperately needed that reminder this morning.
This isn't a new thought for me--that memories of the past can pull me out of the dark spiral of depression. I like to call it 'prophetic memory'--looking back at my relationship with God and see just how far I have come and to remember the reasons I decided (and have continued to decide) to follow Him with all that I am.
The Israelites did this in the Psalms. They remembered what God had done for them--leading them out of Egypt, taking them through the sea, setting them up (finally) in the land God had promised to Abraham. They reminded themselves at least once a year with the Passover, too, declaring through their actions and collective memory, "This is who God is! He is the one who rescues us from the hands of the oppressor! He provides food for us in the wilderness! He conquers nations to establish His people in the land."
Without that prophetic memory--reaching into the past and seeing the faithful companionship of God--they suffered. They forgot who it was who led them out of Egypt. And when I get into the dark hole of depression and anxiety, I forget how many times I have been here before and how faithful God has been to see me through it, to walk with me in the valley of the shadow of death.
And so today, I'm thankful for that 1999 album Underdog of reminding me of what hope can look like.
Peace to you all.
**Many of us have traumatic memories that are challenging and devastating to remember. If you haven't, I encourage you to seek professional counseling to walk through those memories. I know I need it and there is no shame in needing help from someone trained in this. To find a counselor in your area, you can visit https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/. (Not an endorsement, just a practical resource to start getting help.)**