I grew up in the home of an IFB preacher/pastor/prison missionary. We had strict standards, attended a certain camp meeting 3 times a year. I had always heard that if you weren’t IFB then you weren’t right. Not from my household, but from the preaching that I had grown up all my life hearing.
We were in a church that up until almost 2 years ago that we believed to be one of the best churches in our greater area.
I was diagnosed almost 4 years ago with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, and PTSD after a massive panic attack while driving. It took me months to get back to even halfway to okay. I was having repetitive panic attacks, trying different medications, and just trying to make it in the car longer than two minutes down the road. I felt like I was dying inside. I went through a bout of depression because I had heard all my saved life that if you had depression, or anxiety that you had a spiritual problem. There was sin in your life somewhere that you needed to get right, and this anxiety, and panic attacks were chastisement from God. His way of bringing you back.
After praying, studying, and begging God to forgive me…nothing was changing. I was feeling like a spiritual failure. The pastor had told me that if I would just go back to church, I would start to do better. If there was anywhere I needed to be, it was church. So, I forced myself to go. I struggled through many panic attacks in the pews, walking out of services, bawling my eyes out through Sunday School lessons…because being in church was going to make this better. I got some better through the process of fighting through, but the problem remained. I was still having panic attacks.
For 3 years the pastor would mention anxiety from the pulpit on a regular basis. “If you have anxiety, you aren’t praying enough.”, “You can’t trust God and pop pills for your anxiety at the same time.”. This was a smaller church. It was evident what was going on. People knew. It was getting unbearable to hear it from the pulpit over, and over, and over again.
I started my own studies on anxiety in the Bible…and what I found opened my eyes up! David, boy did I study David. David suffered from anxiety…and on occasion, panic attacks. Look how God used him! I knew that God has a reason for what I am going through. Like Paul, this was my thorn that God is allowing to stay in my life…not for me, but for Him…and “for such a time as this”.
I started my own blog, and began to open speak about what I was going through as a saved christian with a mental illness diagnosis. That did not go over very well. I was being told that I was focusing too much on the bad in my life, and that I was not going to get better as long as I kept talking about it.
I eventually got to a place where I told my husband that I needed a break, I couldn’t keep going there. My husband had a meeting with the pastor. During the meeting some things that were said were…
“If they can’t find a medical reason for her anxiety, it must be a spiritual issue.”
“She needs to stop writing about it, she is only doing it for attention.”
“If y’all would get more involved in the church…”
That meeting opened the eyes of my husband, and we have never been back.
I still struggle to this day with my GAD, panic attacks, and PTSD, but God has placed us in a wonderful church with a pastor, and pastor’s wife that are open to listening when I need to talk about my struggles.
There is a very real stigma within the IFB movement when it comes to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. And I intend to keep raising my voice in an effort to make a difference in breaking that stigma of being saved, and anxious.