Fear, depression, and anxiety can sometimes feel like quicksand, pulling you down and down. If you struggle to get out of it, it pulls you deeper. If you do nothing, it continues to suck you down. You’re completely bogged down and your thoughts become totally all-consuming, taking over every aspect of your life.
In those instances, we have a choice. Grab a hold of the rope that can pull us out of our fear or accept our fate and hope that maybe the quicksand will eventually spit us out. It seems like an obvious choice.
But honestly, I am so bad for wallowing. It is a bad trait that I am becoming more aware of in myself.
I’m a weird one and I enjoy movies and books that have bittersweet endings (or just straight up miserable endings). If a TV show can make me sob for hours on end, it is pretty much guaranteed to be a favourite of mine. (*cough*Doctor Who*cough*)
As far as fictional worlds go, maybe it’s a bit odd, but it’s fine to enjoy that. However, when that characteristic bleeds over into my real life, it becomes incredibly harmful.
When bad things happen, when I’m feeling down, I can sometimes sit in those feelings. Sometimes I even revel in my misery! It’s okay to have a bad day and feel sad. It is NOT okay to feel sad and continue to feed those sad feelings. My mind gets stuck in fear and sadness and I make a choice (even if it’s unconscious) to stay there.
It’s easier to sit and wallow and feel sorry for myself than to actually DO something to lift myself up out of that.
(Note: The fear and sadness I am talking about here is the kind that is requiring a mindset change on your part to get out of. I know there are instances where that sort of thing seems so out of your hands, and you need some outside assistance in the form of medication or therapy to help you regain that control. And that’s okay.)
Now it’s time to get a little sarcastic...
Out of my vast life experience and expertise in wallowing, I can now share with you how to be just like me and totally immerse yourself in misery! Here are five things you can do to remain trapped in fear and sadness:
1) Don’t Pray
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6 NIV
First things first: do not pray.
I cannot emphasize this enough. God is definitely with you, waiting for you to turn to Him. He will listen. He cares. If you want to remain in your sorrow, don’t talk to Him about it! You want to avoid God at all costs – He can bring peace, clarity, and a way out, and that is not what you want.
2) Continue to Think About How Big Your Problem Is
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. – Psalm 55:22 NIV
Maybe you messed up on #1 and you actually prayed. That’s okay, it’s not too late. Just make sure that you didn’t actually release your problem to God. You want to keep thinking and ruminating on how big your problem is. Maybe you know that God is bigger than your problem and totally able to take care of it. Don’t think about that. Make sure you fix your eyes on your problem. When it’s the only thing you look at, it seems much bigger and inescapable. Focusing on your problem ensures you stay trapped in those negative emotions.
3) Talk About Your Problem to Everyone (Except God)
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. – Psalm 118:8 NIV
Building off of both #1 and #2 – avoid talking to God, but continue to build up the size of your problem by telling everyone you meet about it. Make sure your problem dominates all of the conversations you have with friends. But make sure you’re just talking and complaining about it – if your friend tries to give you advice about trusting God and turning to Him, ignore them. They want to see you free and happy, and you just don’t need advice like that.
Talking about your problems can extend to acquaintances and even total strangers as well. You run into a casual acquaintance at the bank? Make sure they know what you’re going through. The cashier at the grocery store asks how you are? Tell them everything! The more people you can tell and squeeze sympathy out of, the better.
4) Don’t Read Your Bible or Worship
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16:11 NIV
Okay, this one should seem like a no brainer. But maybe you made the horrible mistake of praying or took your friend’s advice to turn to God. For the love of your sadness, STOP! Hopefully you’re not too far gone and there’s still time to really wriggle yourself back down into the depths. In your Bible and in worship, you can find truth – truth about your situation and truth about God. Spending time reading your Bible and worshiping God despite your fear and sadness can actually trick you into remembering how good God is and recognizing all His blessings. You don’t want to be tricked into joy. Stay away from declarations of truth!
5) Make Fear Your Defining Characteristic
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Here’s your main takeaway. If you want to stay firmly planted in your fear, depression, anxiety and sadness make it your defining characteristic. (For example: “Hi, I’m Shaneen, and I have anxiety!”) You really want this to be the thing that people immediately associate with you. You want this to be how you describe yourself. You want this to be your excuse for everything – the way you think, the way you act, the decisions you make. You can’t help it, you’re depressed! You want this to be the reason you don’t do things, the reason you aren’t moving forward. It’s not you – it’s the fear. If it wasn’t your defining characteristic, you might realize that it doesn’t control you and you can have power over it. You might realize that you can live totally free. But when it’s a part of you, there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way it is. That’s just who you are.
Remain in Fear and Sadness
Wow. That was a long list of things to do and not do. But I really hope it helps you stay stuck in your fear and sadness. Sometimes all it takes to get out is a little change in mindset and a tiny action step on your part. Be careful not to fall into the trap. You risk living a life of freedom, peace, and joy.
Do you see any of these habits in yourself? What do you do to get unstuck?