Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Charlie Clayton

The hour before the storm

It was 10:00pm

In one hour I would be at the prayer room ready to lead 10 - 20 people in prayer and mission in the west end of San Antonio, Ibiza

Everything in me didn't want to go. Quite a problem if you lead the work!

Please don't get me wrong, I LOVED our vocation in Ibiza, especially the street work and prayer room that had impacted thousands of people across the world. Each night we would get to experience God in weird and wonderful ways, have loads of fun with our local resident friends and find ourselves in random situations in our service of helping people who were lost, injured, intoxicated or vulnerable.

It was random, it was chaotic, it was beautiful.

And yet, in spite of a life giving experience, my coping mechanisms made things far from straight forward.

You see, for someone experiencing anxiety and depression, to spend the next 6 hours of the night (lack of sleep), leading mission teams (relying on me to turn up) into a potentially unsafe situation (fear), not knowing what we were going to face (unpredictable), and having no ability to govern what would happen (control) is a perfect storm!

Every single sense needed to be heightened, every single fear need to be quietened, every ounce of my remaining energy since being awake was required. It was going to take everything to get through the night.

For those that don't suffer with anxiety and depression, the seasonal work is gruelling enough - teams will tell you over the years that although it is life changing, it's not for the faint hearted. But for those who do suffer, it can be another level completely.

And so for the final hour before the start, I would watch the clock, sometimes try to nap, sugar junk, control my breathing, and then step out into another night on the streets, wondering how on earth I would get through the night.

The most amazing thing is that although every night my anxieties would take me through this pre-session warm up, I would always end the evening thankful and peaceful that I had got to experience those hours in the streets of San An.

The storm I encountered in my mind never materialised.

I would get lost in the prayer room as people cried out to God for his love to be made known that night. My anxieties would quieten as I listened to people tell their story and pray with them that God would move into their life. My sense of fear completely gone when facing violent situations and unpredictable people; the willingness to let go and trust in God would overtake any need to control.

In stepping out to serve, my control loosening, having no choice but to rely on Him, I found that He was faithful to be my strength and peace when I needed it.

The sense of dread before a night never went away. Why would it? I wasn't healed from anxiety and depression. My underlying cycles of thinking, emotional damage and spiritual confusion were still very live. The journey that would lead to healing hadn't really begun yet and medication was far from my mind.

In many ways, the most challenging part of the night work was leaving my house.

And that is often the case with anxiety and depression. I think that for many sufferers, it is not the challenge of the work they do, but the challenge within the self, that is most demanding. The silent struggle to get to work. Finding the energy to get up, put your shoes on and get out the door often feels more demanding than the job itself, however challenging the work situation may be. I never dreaded the work itself but was drained from the anxiety within me. The nights were tiring but living with anxiety and depression was tiring me much more.

How grateful I am for the teams, the community and a gracious God who saw me through and gave me life in the middle of it all every single night.

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