Sunday, February 2, 2014

Getting a New Perspective on Depression’s Fearful Thoughts

If suffering from depression, it is common to be troubled by particular irrational fearful thoughts that come back time and again until they become a mental obsession. When these obsessive fears confront us, a mental battle of epic proportions ensues as we examine, debate and work through them in a vain attempt to find relief and release. This process can take hours, days, or longer.

This is not surprising, as our mind is so exhausted that it has lost the flexibility of a healthy mind, which could dismiss such irrational fears out of hand.

Try as we might, we cannot shake free of these fears and in the end, we can no longer see them from any other perspective. We lose the ability to differentiate between what we fear, and what is real, and come to believe that the fearful perspective is the only perspective.

I finally found the courage to share some of my irrational fears with the Christian lady who was counselling me, and she gently helped me to see such fearful thoughts from another perspective – the true perspective.

At first, I could not feel the truth of a new perspective, but I accepted it, and kept it in my mind. And when those fears returned, instead of going through the exhausting process of trying to work through them again, I recalled the new perspective given me by my counsellor, and accepted it and believed it. I then learned to live with the fearful thoughts simmering away at the back of my mind, without fearing or fighting them, while continually reminding myself of the new perspective. And as I let time pass, the new perspective, the truth, finally won out.

Sometimes we can embrace the new perspective quickly, but if severely depressed, it can be some time before the truth sinks in, and when it does, we receive relief and freedom. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

In the book “Self Help for your Nerves,” Dr Weekes explains the importance of finding someone suitable to help us find 'the other point of view.' “Let it be your wisest and not just your nearest friend…If you have no such friend, find a suitable minister, priest or doctor.” p68. A professional therapist/health care worker is of course another possibility. The lady who counselled me had experienced and overcome depression, and understood what I was going through.

To help me with this process of learning to see and embrace new perspectives, I wrote each new perspective on the back of a business card or scrap of paper, which I kept in my pocket or wallet. And when that fear reared its ugly head again, I pulled out the card and read it.

As I continued to recover from depression, I was able to work through such fears and find the new perspective myself, with the assistance of prayer and God's Word. In many of these cases, I continued to write the new perspectives on flashcards. This saved me a lot of mental anguish of trying to work through things again that I had already worked through in the past.

Here is an example of finding a new perspective regarding a very powerful fear. I had the misfortune of having a car crash while recovering from severe depression. My exhausted mind, already struggling with anxiety, was swamped by fears that assured me I was going to have heaps of car crashes, starting with the loan car, and then in every car I got in for the next two weeks, regardless of whose car it was. These fears were so fresh and powerful that they felt real.

Remembering what I had learned, I sought the new perspective to have towards this irrational fear, and this was:
1. These thoughts that say I am going to have lots of car crashes are not real.
2. These thoughts are not what is going to happen, they are only what I am afraid is going to happen.
3. Jesus said to let not my heart be troubled, but trust in God and in Him. John 14:1
4. Therefore I will get in these cars and trust Him to keep me safe. Psalm 18:2

And regarding the fears that I was going to suffer many car crashes over those two weeks, this is what I wrote in my diary afterwards: "Nothing happened."


(All verses from the NIV.)

19 comments:

  1. You explain it so well, thank you.
    I am grateful for you today, and God. And the strength this brings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amen to those verses you posted!

    I see it from inmates who are battling depression. It is sad to see them suffer that way that what's not real is so very real to them. Even harder that they don't know the victory that comes from our Lord Jesus. You continue to inspire for His glory! God bless you and may He protect you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Carrie @ comfortedbyGod.blogspot.com

    Peter,
    You've written an honest and vulnerable perspective about the realities of depression, but you've also offered glorious hope. I like your practical suggestions about how to conquer fearful thoughts. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Peter,
    Hope you don't mind. I added a link to your blog on arise 2 write.

    Your blog is a blessing to so many. Thank you!! Many times I don't leave a comment. I am going to have to do better at that.

    Blessings, andrea

    ReplyDelete
  5. "I then learned to live with the fearful thoughts simmering away at the back of my mind, without fearing or fighting them, while continually reminding myself of the new perspective."

    Thanks Peter, I needed to hear that this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Peter for visiting my blog and leaving your nice comment. It looks like God is using you and your trials and blog to minister encouragement and victory to others.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for visiting me. You are inspiring to many people here, and in the stories you write on your other blog. I'm glad to have met you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Peter, thank you for sharing once again your heart. God uses your blog mightly! Your experiences help many out there in blogland. Blessings to you this day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Peter,

    I believe God uses your blog as a powerful tool for healing. As Andrea said above, I too have a link to the blog on my own. I also wanted to let you know that you have an award at my blog: http://glasshouseministries.blogspot.com/2010/02/prolific-blogger-award.html

    Please don't feel pressured to "pass it on." I just want to encourage you, because I feel your blog fits the criteria for being a Prolific Blog.

    Blessings, my friend,
    Cheri

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am just so depressed I want to die. No one likes me, I am ugly and dress weird. No one wants to hang out with me, and I am an outsider. I keep trying, but to no avail. I just want to kill myself, but I feel guilty about that. I am just so crazy in my head, I wish I could just live in a mental institution forever.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dear Anonymous,
    Depression is an illness that isolates us and also distorts the truth, please do not believes its lies.
    Remember that God created you in His image, and that means that you have significance. That Jesus died to save you from sins shows just how much you mean to Him.
    As to the crazy thoughts in your head, and what you are going through, are you receiving help? From a counselor or therapist? Have you seen a doctor about medication?
    Please never give up, there is always hope, Jesus is the One who heals the broken hearted.
    God bless
    Peter

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am a 43 year old woman that has battled depression and anxiety most of my life. It came to a crisis point when I finally broke off from an abusive relationship with my "boyfriend". I have now entered a season of the darkest days, and have begun medication that leaves me foggy, and numbs the anxiety but it is still present. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe anxiety. It is a physical anxiety that cant possibly be real, but my mind is oh so strong and powerful and the enemy has thrown in his power to keep me in bondage to this as well. I work in law enforcement of all jobs and that provides additional stress, however I must have a job and it affords me the great health insurance that enables me to see the doctors. I am a Christian and love Jesus with all my heart. I am tired, and irritable all the time, have let myself go and just struggle to make it through the day. I have had such irrational thoughts of cutting myself open to make sure that there is nothing growing inside me. I understand people that are hurting and want to take their lives. Ive been there. God Bless all of you that are hurting. Amanda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Amanda
      Thank you for sharing what you've been going through, and you have been through so much. But the good news is that Jesus is with you all the time, and He understands exactly what you are going through. You mentioned that the physical anxiety can't possibly be real, and certainly that's the case with the fears - they are one big trick, a con. However, a fearful response to the anxieties floods our system with negative adrenalin, and these do cause tangible, physical symptoms. I understand also your reaction. Some depression sufferers think their are things crawling beneath their skin, but that sensation is also caused by too much adrenlin.

      If you have time, please download this blog's pdf booklet. I believe it can help you further to deal with the anxieties. Also, grab a copy of "Self Help for your Nerves" by Dr Weekes if you can. It is in many public libraries or Amazon UK. Numbing the anxiety is an important step, but learning to break the negative adrenlin cycle is very important too. I am guessing that you are already able to get counseling/therapy?

      God bless
      Peter

      Delete
  13. Hi Peter,
    Do you still still use the email you have linked on your blogger profile?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Peter ,

    may i ask you please if you had or experienced one of these fearful thoughts , i am stuck in health anxiety regarding my heart , i am 25 ,before i had my first panic attack i never controlled my body i was free i never thought of death,now i am sunk in depression , now my fearful thoughts go around my heart between one another second may stop and i can die or have a heart attack ,or my heart may stop . i don't have anymore that certainty in life that i might live for long and work for my future and be like anyone , i am suffering from horrible thoughts like a lot of young people die why it will not be me ,what i have better than them??i have been visited by cardiologist and told me my heart is fine,but i keep thinking how many young get visited by docotors and than die, its weird i don't know why i got to this point, i have images the whole day how my heart beats ,the idea that we are alive only because this organ is working inside us ,and if it simply stops than we will die. i may seem so weird and strange with these thoughts , but i tried to share them with my psychiatrist she never managed to give any other perspective or explaining why i am living this,she cared only to give me antidperessants and she told me no you will not die .is it because i am depressed and nervously finished i am like this ?? how can i find a new perspective and work on it ??
    i thank you very much .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous,
      What you have described here is what I call 'obsessive fearful thinking.' During depression it is normal for our mind to find one fearful topic and become completely obsessed with it. In your case, it is your heart. (And I have spoken with others who have had the same fear.)

      Now you say that a cardiologist has confirmed that your heart is fine. This is great news.
      So this is the perspective you need to focus on - Your heart is healthy, there is nothing wrong with it.
      Don't worry about the fearful thoughts bouncing around in your head about your heart, just let them be there for now. Don't fight them or fear them. But when they come, just remind yourself of the true perspective - your heart is healthy. As you continue to do this over time, the fears will fade and the true perspective will become your only perspective.

      Something to also bear in mind. Anxiety/depression will cause our heart to do all sorts of strange things - all caused by the over abundance of adrenalin in our system. Our heart might palpitate, it could race, it may have 'missed' heart beats. None of these symptoms can harm your heart, they are completely harmless, and normal for anxiety sufferers. As the anxiety goes, so will they.

      God bless
      Peter

      Delete
  15. Hello Peter,
    I had been totally committed to helping my dad and siblings before he died. Shortly after my father's death, I started to read about kidney failure and felt that my father could have died because he had irregular dialysis. Then I began to think that I killed him. This thought has been there for over two years and keeps me awake at night. Added to the thought is the fear that God will punish me and send me to hell since I killed my dad. I now also suddenly fear everything. Darkness, knock at the door and imagine all the terrible things happening to me. I have tried to speak to all sorts of people and what happens is that I get temporary relief and fall back to the thoughts. This has kept my life stranded for 2 years now as I cannot apply my mind to anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous,
      The first thing I want you to know, is that you can be set free from this fearful perspective that is terrorizing you and live a normal life again.

      The first thing you need to know is that all of your thoughts in this area are just that, thoughts - fearful thoughts. They are not the truth. The truth is that you had nothing to do with his death. You did not kill him, and if I understand you correctly, he was ill, and that's what lead to his death. God is not angry with you, will not punish you, and you are not going to hell.

      First question, have you seen a doctor to see if you are suffering from depression? If so, are you taking medications?

      And that aside, to be set free from this fearful perspective you need to:
      write down on a piece of paper, or in your phone, the true perspective.
      when you wake every morning, read the true perspective. And through out each day, when the fearful thoughts come in, remind yourself of the true perspective.

      And then slowly over time, the true perspective will grow, and the fearful one will diminish.
      And you must not be afraid of the fearful perspective anymore, or try to fight it. Acknowledge to yourself that it is there, and let it slip to the back of your mind, don't try to force it to go. But let it be like background music in your mind while you focus on the true perspective, and that will be something like this:
      My dad was ill,
      I did my best to look after him,
      I did NOT do anything that lead to his death.
      I will not listen to "but what if..?" fearful thoughts
      God is pleased with me, I am precious to Him
      God will not punish me
      I am going to heaven because I believe in Jesus
      Jesus is with me today, holding my hand.
      He will never let go.

      God bless
      Peter

      Delete