“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14 NKJV
Previously, I shared what I thought and felt about people who struggled with anxiety and panic attacks and how I especially looked down on those who needed medication. I also alluded to the fact I had to learn the hard way just how wrong I was about anxiety and those suffering with it. Well, the truth is I was absolutely humbled and broken, with God making sure there was nothing left of that old mindset! In hindsight, I realize all my life there was at least an underlying level of anxiety but, for the most part, I managed to keep it at arm’s length with minimal noticeable impact in my daily life. It wasn’t until about 1 ½ years after Nathan’s death that my anxiety erupted like a volcano, spewing and spilling into every aspect of my life.
I was already seeing our pastoral counselor at church plus attending the weekly grief support group he was leading for church members and others from the community. As far as the grief was concerned, I had really begun to get my head above water and was beginning to somewhat engage in life again. Then out of the blue, BAM! My life was literally turned upside down with anxiety and panic attacks wreaking havoc almost daily. It got so bad, I felt like I was coming undone and had no choice but to talk to Dr. John Thomas who was a friend, our Sunday School teacher and also a professional counselor. To my utter dismay, he suggested seeing a professional counselor in Charlottesville. I can remember thinking, “I’m THAT bad?!” Reluctantly, I took his advice and started professional counseling, honestly thinking a few weeks and I would be able to put it all behind me. Well, my anxiety only got worse. It was then that it was suggested I try taking medication. Medication?! You have got to be kidding me! ME?!
By this point, I had come a long way in developing a more realistic opinion about anxiety and those who struggled with it, but I still had a huge stigma regarding taking medication for it. In pride, I really felt sorry for those who weren’t as strong as me and needed to rely on meds to get them through the day. I had already agreed to professional counseling, no way would I be totally humiliated by taking medication too! Apparently, my attitude about medication needed to change too. My anxiety got so bad, I finally agreed to at least have the conversation with my family doctor. Even then, I just knew he would agree with me that I was the exception and didn’t need medication. That wasn’t to be the case. After I dissolved into a puddle of tears in the exam room as I explained how out of control my anxiety and life were, he suggested I “try it” and see if it helps. I was strangely reluctant yet also hopeful at the same time. To my surprise and relief, it did work! Placebo affect or not, I felt an almost immediate noticeable difference, though it would take a couple of weeks for the full affect to be noticed. And with my head above the emotional waters of anxiety, I was then able to more fully engage in counseling and do the work that needed to be done in my head and my heart.
Do I believe Jesus can heal without any other means or intervention? ABSOLUTELY! Do I believe He sometimes heals through professional means? YES! And do I believe, at times, Jesus aids our healing with medication? OH, YES, I DO!!! I am a BIG proponent of counseling both professional and pastoral/Biblical. Ideally, there would be both at the same time but that is not always available. I am equally convinced there are times where medication is also needed to address not only anxiety, but also other mental and emotional health issues. Sometimes, the medication is for a season of time and a person is able to eventually be taken off it. Other times, there are certain chemical levels and circumstances that require a person to take medication much longer, maybe even across a life time. There is such a stigma with counseling and especially medication, thankfully not near as much as it once was! I mean we take meds for heart issues, blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Why would we think any different about medication to help us address our mental and emotional health? However, I do agree that sometimes we are far too eager to just “take a pill” and not do the internal work that needs to be done. I also have seen where a person is far too medicated to even function in daily life, much less work on themselves and their issues. So, while I am all for medication, I believe it should be the right med, in the right dose and for the right length of time in addition to getting the counseling we need to go along with it. Medication should simply strengthen and better position us to do the internal work necessary for us to experience the healing and freedom that is ours in Christ. If you are already on medication and you are noticing you are not getting the benefits you once did, it may be time to consider an increase in the dose or maybe a change in medication. Some primary care physicians are very capable of helping with medication for anxiety, however, sometimes it’s best to see a psychiatrist who specializes in medications for mental and emotional health, including anxiety. Everyone is different and everyone’s path must be tailored to meet their own particular situation and needs. What’s important is that you do whatever is needed to take care of your mental and emotional well-being, including counseling, and even medication if necessary. I, for one, am sure glad I did!
*Please note: Even in the midst of quarantine, social distancing and other obstacles to getting help, many counselors (professional/pastoral) and other mental health resources are doing all they can to address the needs of people in many creative and non-traditional means. Don't wait until things calm down. Do what you need to do to take care of your whole person now.