Stress. What if it is not out there? What if it is inside of me…being birthed in some fertile breeding grounds where circumstances are mutated into stress? I invite you to journey with me to my inner breeding grounds where stress is birthed…and where it finds it’s faithful companion anxiety. It is in these well fertilized breeding grounds that stress and anxiety, left unchecked, can so easily grow into burnout. And finally metastasize into the darkness of depression.
I know. I have journeyed this road…all the way until darkness was my only companion (1). It was not a quick journey. They seldom are. Perhaps never. The nutrient rich bogs where stress and anxiety can begin to send out their roots and malicious tentacles take time to develop. They need a lot of fertilizer…toxic fertilizer. They need to become places where the tentacles of lies and untruths can grow strong enough to twist and turn the circumstances of life into ugly and threatening monsters.
The lies were planted early. In my youth. I carried them with me and fertilized them for decades allowing them to cause me to live in a continual state of stress. The stress was so familiar often I did not recognize it. But continually defending myself against the accusations of the well rooted lies was exhausting. Then, all it took, was the right circumstance where my lies grew into horrible threats and I was camped at the doors of burnout. Fighting those heightened threats took so much energy that it was as if those doors offered no resistance. I ushered myself into severe burnout. The psychological, the physical, and the behavioral symptoms of severe burnout were all there. It wasn’t long until I found myself in the dark woods of depression.
It was deep, dark, and intensely frightening. I was unfunctionable. I was given sick leave from work. I was in desperate need of medical intervention. Then intensive counseling. At the six-month point I decided I could cope with work again and returned to the office. I lasted one day. That one day gave me another six months of sick leave.
Stress. Anxiety. Burnout. Depression. I have journeyed the road. I have been there. In the coming weeks I want to take you with me and show you the toxic breeding grounds where the circumstances of life were twisted into lies about who I was. About my identity. About my worth. I have a number of noxious bogs to share with you. And then I want to take you with me from the darkness into the marvelous light that only the truth of the gospel can bring.
Hang on and fasten your seat belt. Some segments of the journey may be frightening for you because they are going to be very familiar to you. Like you have been there. They may look like places you frequently return to. I think you will relate. Actually I know you will. We have a common enemy with common tactics. He is not only a master of fine-tuned lies, he is the originator and the father of lies (John 8:44).
Here is a prayer you may want to insert into your Bible or copy in your journal and make a regular prayer as we journey together in the coming weeks.
“Lord, you know the deep inner patterns of my life that keep me from wholeness, that keep me filled with stress. Would you please do a restorative work in my life…set me free from the sin and the lies that hold me captive. Take my foolish living away. Would you please help trust the truth that you speak to me.”
A PSALM TO PONDER: Ponder Psalm 91 in one of your quiet times this week. Note all the ways the Psalmist kept circumstances from turning into stress. Is there a foundational principle here that you could articulate and write out?
AN ACTION TO TAKE: You are not the only victim of stress. We are all surrounded by friends whose lives are filled with anxiety. Invite them to be a part of our journey by sharing this blog with them.
(1) Kathyrn Greene-McCreight has written an insightful account of her battle with depression in Darkness Is My Only Companion.