This Is Gonna Disqualify Me

By Justin K. Hughes, MA, LPC
In Hope & Healing
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“This is Gonna Disqualify Me.”

Have you ever had that thought? It’s what I pondered when I completed my training as a mental health therapist and was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Dysthymia (Persistent Depression). The latter meant that I had been suffering worse than I had realized (because the diagnosis requires two years of active symptoms). How could this be?

“How can I help people when I haven’t gotten over my anxiety?” It’s a thought that hit me during my “coming to terms” with mental illness. Getting diagnosed with two disorders while starting to treat them for others was not the opportunity I asked for.

Blessings typically bloom out of suffering - and that has certainly been true in my life. God accomplishes His purposes not despite suffering but typically through it.

When anxiety and depression landed, many factors were going well in life (getting the degree, the job, “flying” on my own) alongside some not going so well. At the time, my toolkit for dealing with issues was to be perfect and work harder. What follows were - and are - three essentials for me getting unstuck.

#1 - The Grace of Being Shown I Have A Problem

What is translated as "Good News" (or gospel) in our Bibles is built squarely on having a big problem we can't solve ourselves. Good news is not good news if it doesn't provide us a solution to either a problem we have or something we lack - or both. The better the news, the harsher the reality that exists prior (Luke 7:47).

I'm not entirely sure most people like being told they have a problem. I don't either. Most of my significant growth in life came at the initial cost of a weighty revelation (some good, some bad):

  • Job loss
  • Running a business where I’m responsible for risks and decisions
  • Breakup (both my own and others)
  • Loneliness and longing for connection
  • Cancer (of a family member)
  • Wife’s brain surgery
  • Fully responsible as an adult
  • Extra responsibilities as a husband and father

I couldn't magically wish away anxiety or depression any more than I could wish away job loss or cancer or loneliness or big responsibilities. Once I could genuinely admit that I had a problem with my mental health, I could be open to solutions.

#2 - The Solution Was Not One Fix

For me, the solution was not one solution. My journey has involved therapy, medication, support groups, church, prayer, journaling, relaxation, mindfulness, nutrition, exercise, supplements, family and friends, service to others, 12 steps, exposures, cognitive restructuring, identifying my purpose, psychological testing, marriage, having children, and more.

The most significant initial contributors towards getting on a good path were these:

  1. Truly being honest with myself that I was struggling
  2. Therapy, which facilitated my diagnosis and realization of many of my problems and offered me some solutions to them
  3. Incorporating community - friends, mentorship, family
  4. Medication (SSRIs, particularly)
  5. The 12 Steps
  6. Staying steady with faith commitments even when I didn’t feel like it (church involvement, prayer, Bible study, discipleship of others, etc.)

#3 - Faith Over Fear Had to Be Applied Daily

My disorders made the journey harder than necessary and kept me from much joy. I can see how some might just give up altogether on their walk with Christ. Please don’t. Fortunately, God was near each time I sought him (and was genuinely honest). I didn’t know I needed to seek him in my anxiety and depression because I hadn’t owned that yet.

The icing on the cake is that now many clients and readers have stated how impactful and validating it is to hear that I, too, am human. This was not the opportunity I sought but the opportunity God used. I learned I didn’t have to be perfect to be imperfectly “perfect” for how God wants to work through me (2 Corinthians 4:7). By the grace of God, I am able to keep up some aspect of mental health recovery every day so that I can stay recovered. Striving for certainty and getting it right (perfectionism) is a false god which blocks me from receiving God’s help and grace. It is faith that lets the imperfection and uncertainty still be there and let God be enough. God is enough.

Article shared with permission from The Grace Alliance and the author.

Justin K. Hughes, MA, LPC

CBT & Exposure Therapy Specialist

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