Revive Our Hearts Podcast

An Honest Look at Emotions

Leslie Basham: Here’s Elyse Fitzpatrick getting honest about real life and emotions.

Elyse Fitzpatrick: I think one of the problems that we have is that we have a belief, perhaps among us as Christians, that we’re not ever supposed to feel bad. You see, if you have the Lord, then you ought to be joyful all the time. But that’s really not the picture that we have in the Bible of anyone who was walking with the Lord.

Leslie: It’s Friday, December 1st, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Yesterday, we heard from Kathy Weiler on how getting treated for headaches turned into a dependence on anti-depressants.

Kathy Weiler: I was going to doctor after doctor after doctor, and one put me on an anti-depressant because none of the other medications that they tried were helping with my headaches.

Elyse: People are given anti-depressants even when they’re not depressed.

Leslie: Elyse Fitzpatrick is the author of Will Medicine Stop the Pain?

Elyse: What usually happens is that an anti-depressant is prescribed, and perhaps for a short period of time the person feels better because there’s a placebo affect. Other times, the person may feel better because they actually do feel better from the medicine. But, after a very short period of time, the effects of the medicine tend to poop out. Then you have to up the dosage of the medicine and add other meds—which Kathy, I understand is what happened to you.

Leslie: We also heard from Holly Elliff who helped Kathy deal with some issues of unforgiveness that hadn’t been dealt with in the first place.

Holly Elliff: She began to make choices to forgive those things; to realize that that root was there and then to choose forgiveness rather than control. She had spent years trying to control those things and keep them from hurting her. Now, she began to let those things go, to surrender those issues to the Lord, to give Him control over that area of her life.

She had some tough family relationships because a lot of her family members are not believers. She began to release those things into God’s hands.

Leslie: Today, we’ll hear what Kathy did with her anti-depressants once she started dealing with the root causes of some of these issues. Yesterday, we heard how emotional pain is like sitting on a tack. You can either remove the tack or put a Band-Aid over it. That’s effectively what Kathy did. We’ll hear today how she finally removed the source of her pain.

I hope you’ll listen to Kathy’s story. Please, don’t rush off to get off anti-depressants without first getting help from your doctor. Also, if you’re on medication for a psychotic condition, we’re not saying you should stop. Now, here’s Kathy.

Kathy: At that point I knew I needed to go to my psychiatrist and tell him what I felt like God wanted me to do.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Which was?

Kathy: To get off of the anti-depressant that I was taking—completely. I went to him.

Nancy: You didn’t do this on your own.

Kathy: No, I didn’t do it on my own. I knew . . . I was wise enough I think to know that if I just quit cold turkey I was going to have major problems because I was on the maximum amount.

Nancy: Do you agree with that Elyse?

Elyse: Absolutely. Let's just make sure that our listeners really hear that statement. We are encouraging people to re-evaluate what they're doing with their medicines. But we do not want, at any point, for any woman to stop taking her medication without being under the care and supervision of her physician. Stopping these medicines can produce very, very serious side affects.

Nancy: Through this process, Kathy, there were periods of time when you actually had, what you described as severe anxiety and panic attacks that lasted up to weeks. What was that like and what did you do during those times?

Kathy: I felt very overwhelmed with the circumstances in life. I felt like I was out of control. I felt like the panic was, “Oh my goodness. I’m going to die.” Basically, that was how I felt. In reality, I really wasn’t going to die, but that’s how I felt.

What I would do . . . It usually took me a few days before I would call Holly or call a friend and say, “I’m really dealing with some anxiety. It’s been a few days, so could you just pray for me?” Holly would usually talk to me and encourage me to get into the Word.

One Scripture passage that was said to me over and over again was Ephesians 6: we were fighting those fiery darts that the devil was hurling at me. Basically, that’s what was going on. Satan was encouraging me to dwell on thoughts that were negative. I was dwelling on those thoughts at times.

The anxiety would rise up within me, and I would feel out of control. As I called a friend and asked them to pray, I got that secret out into the open, and Satan couldn’t use that against me as easily at that point.

Elyse: How long was it that you felt like you were experiencing basically withdrawal and then the difficulties of being off the meds? How long did it take you before you got to the place where you felt like, “I’m back; I feel like myself again?”

Kathy: I would say, at least six months probably. I got off the anti-depressant in August, and it was probably January or February before I felt some kind of normalcy.

Elyse: How long have you been without the meds?

Kathy: Almost six years.

Elyse: Congratulations. That’s really wonderful. During those six years, I’m sure that there have been times when you’ve felt depressed or overwhelmed or anxious.

Nancy: No, she’s never been depressed since. (all laugh)

Kathy, I know one of those periods when you went through the situation with the loss of your dad. That was a very stressful and tense time. Tell us a little bit about that period.

Kathy: Yes, that was very hard. My dad was in nursing home for six years, and I was his primary caregiver at that time. The last two weeks of his life were very, very difficult. I was at the nursing home pretty much non-stop. I would go home and rest at times, but I knew he was in the dying process.

My emotions were very raw at that time. I didn’t know how to deal with all those emotions that I was feeling because not only was I losing my dad, but I was also losing an opportunity to ever really have a great relationship with my dad. All of those emotions just rose up within me.

I felt like I had to be in charge and be in control that week and during the following weeks after he died because I had helped get his funeral orchestrated and all of those things. It was very hard.

I called friends and I would tell them, “I’m having a really hard time,” and talked through that with them. Often times they would pray for me or pray with me and just encourage me to continue to be in God’s Word.

After my dad died, there were at least six months, probably, that I just grieved the loss of my dad and the loss of a relationship with him. Those were very hard months as well.

At that time, I also got into the Psalms. I read in Ephesians, and it was talking about being a child of God and all the things I had as His child. It gave me a new perspective of who I was in Christ, and that God was my Father and that He could meet all those needs that my earthly father could not meet.

Holly: I think one thing that Kathy wrestled with a lot after being on the medication for so long was suddenly having all these emotions that she had not had. We would have conversations where she would say, “I am so sad,” or, “I feel heavy today. Is that okay?” Because she had gone so long being numb, that when she began to feel all these things again it was frightening.

Nancy: It seemed like something was wrong.

Holly: Right. Elyse, I know you see this all the time in women who have been numb for so long. Normal emotions that most of us—who are not on any kind of medication—feel often and get to God with, become huge. Those feelings make you very fearful when you suddenly feel those things that you have not felt for a long period of time.

Elyse: That’s one of the things that anti-depressants tend to do when they actually work in you: They numb you to your emotional pain. In some ways that might seem like it would be a good thing. But again, we have to remember that God gave us our emotions for a reason. One of the main reasons that God gave us our emotions was to drive us to Himself.

Just like Kathy experienced difficult but proper emotions with the passing away of her dad, it is proper for a person to grieve over that, and to grieve for a significant amount of time.

I think one of the problems that we have is that we have a belief, perhaps among us as Christians, that we’re not ever supposed to feel bad.

Nancy: Or we’re not ever supposed to feel sad.

Elyse: People tend to think that if you have the Lord, then you ought to be joyful all the time. But that’s really not the picture that we have in the Bible of anybody who was walking with the Lord. Do we have the joy of the Lord in the midst of trial and difficulty? Yes. But we also suffer grief and sorrow and we live in a fallen world. Part of what that means is that I’m not going to be happy here—the way in which I’m going to be happy when I’m there, when I’m standing with the Lord.

It’s so important for us just to remember that yes—perhaps the anti-depressants are making it so that we’re not feeling those raw, painful emotions. But those emotions are given to us by God to drive us to Himself and then to force us to ask questions about our faith and about the way that we’re living and thinking and responding to things.

Kathy, I’m so encouraged listening to your story how the Lord ministered to you through friends—through the Body of Christ, which is one of the primary means that God uses to minister to people—through other Christians and then also through His Word.

Nancy: Where would any of us be if we had not had others in the Body of Christ to help us get to God and to His grace at times when we didn’t know how to lay hold of it ourselves? I’m looking at Holly here and thinking of a time in my life after a significant loss when I for months just felt so very, very heavy.

I remember out of a period of just great despair Holly coming across my path and giving me . . . Holly, I don’t even know if you remember this conversation. But I left that conversation hearing what you had said and believing that God had grace that I needed for that moment, and that’s all I needed: grace for that moment.

It just gave me a ray of hope; hope is what I needed at the moment. God used . . . It didn’t get me through the whole situation that I was grieving at the time, but it got me to the next step. Then I realized that God’s grace is sufficient for this step, and that got me to the next step. I just kept holding onto little steps—baby steps—God’s grace one step, each step, of the way.

The time came when the clouds cleared and the heaviness lifted. But it was God’s grace. And to have friends who point us to the grace of God . . .  But then I’m reminded, Kathy, as I think about your story, that friends can’t do it for us. They can point us to God’s grace.

One of the things I appreciate about your testimony and your story you’ve shared is that you realize you’ve had to make choices. You went through major open-heart surgery not too long ago. You’re hardly coming out of the surgery before they’re trying to put you back on anti-depressants.

Kathy: That’s right.

Nancy: Because they knew that depression was likely to be a natural result of the physical trauma your body had been through. Yet as you faced that period, and I was talking and walking with you during that period of time, it was hard. It was very hard. But you decided you were going to make some choices apart from those anti-depressants.

Kathy: Right. It actually started even before my heart surgery because I was naturally having a little anxiety before they were going to open my heart, open up my chest.

Nancy: About having it!

Kathy: Yes, about having open-heart surgery. So the doctor . . . I just mentioned to him that I was really having some anxiety and so he wrote me a prescription. I got home with that prescription and I thought, “I don’t recognize the name of this medication. Let me look it up on the Internet.” It was an anti-depressant, and it was one I would have to take all the time, every day.

I called Holly and I said, “Holly, he gave me a prescription for an anti-depressant. I’m not going to pick it up. I don’t want to take this every day. She said, “You don’t have to. You don’t have to take that drug every day.” So with the anxiety I said, “Okay, God.”

I had a lot of anxieties about a lot of things that were going to happen. Because I’m single, I needed people who were going to take care of me. I needed time off work that I didn’t have built up. I only had three days worth of time off, I think, that would have been paid. I was anxious about all of those things.

One thing that Holly had taught me to do is write things down on piece of paper and look at them in black and white because they don’t seem as huge when you do that. Although when I wrote them on paper it was still pretty huge.

Nancy: It was quite a list.

Kathy: Yes, it was. I said, “Okay, God, these are things I have no control over. I can’t do anything about them, but I’m going to trust You because You’re my Father and You’re my Husband, and You promised me that You’re going to meet my every need. These are my needs, and I’m just going to leave them in Your hands.”

It was really cool because after heart surgery I went back to that list, and God had met every one of those needs on that list.

Nancy: Then you faced coming out of surgery some natural physical and emotional aftermath—post-surgery effects. It’s been so neat to watch you continue to make the choices, realizing that you have the choice to move into a pit of despair or to cry out to God and to get His grace—which doesn’t make all the hard feelings go away, but helps you face them.

Holly: One thing that Kathy and I have talked about a lot is the fact that the enemy loves to get us to a place where we have no grace. If he takes us into next week or next month or next year, there are fears there, and they look huge because we do not have God’s grace for that place. We only have God’s grace for this moment, for where we are today.

Kathy and I have talked a lot about pulling those boundaries in and living in the presence of God in this moment with my current circumstances because that’s where His grace is sufficient—not some place where I’m not living. Kathy has been so faithful to apply God’s grace to this moment of her life. One way she’s done that so much is to choose to get outside herself, to not just focus on her life, but to look at ways that she can minister to other people so that her focus is not—as a single especially—not just on her own need.

She has been so faithful to do that.

Nancy: A great example.

Holly: Kathy, what would you say to the woman who is where you were six or seven years ago as far as the benefit of getting to the root?

Kathy: The benefit of getting to the root of the issue is that you pull it out of the ground, and it’s not there anymore. You can live a life of freedom and not have to go back to that issue again.

Holly: It takes a lot of courage to take that step because it does not feel safe.

Nancy: It also means there’s going to be the hard work of having to work through these issues and deal with . . . It’s one thing to pick a tack up off your chair. It’s another thing to deal with years of abuse or broken family relationships or ways that you’ve been sinned against or traumatic experiences in your childhood. I mean, that’s a huge effort.

Kathy, I’ve watched you. You’ve had to work hard at learning to think biblically about your past, about things that were done to you, learning how to deal with the sad feelings, learning how to live at times with sad feelings. It’s a harder way to live; it’s a harder choice to make than if a physician would just say, “Take these and you’ll feel better.” That sounds like heaven, right? “Get me out of this pain!”

It’s the harder choice, I think is what we’re saying. The willingness to take personal responsibilities and to get in there into the hard process of sanctification, rather than looking for what we want in our Christian culture, which is immediate relief and release from the problems and the pain.

Elyse: I want to comment too. Kathy, listening to you, I would like you to speak, if you can, just for a moment about what you’ve learned about God and Jesus Christ as you’ve done this. You see, it’s important for us to learn about ourselves. It’s important for us to take care of those places in our lives, those roots, that really need to be dealt with.

But, it’s not just about that. It’s also about learning about God. I’d like you just to share, if you can, what you’ve learned about the Lord through this.

Kathy: I’ve learned so many things about the Lord through this whole process. One thing I think that I’ve learned is that God is always with me, and He’s always present with me. When I cry out to Him, He hears me, and He answers me. He may not answer me in a way that I expect or the way that I think, but when I look back I can see ways that He’s answered those prayers over and over and over again.

I’ve realized that God is a faithful God; He really is a good God, that He wants my life. He has a plan for my life and a purpose for my life that I may not always understand. I may not be going through a process for my own sake, but it may be for someone else.

He’s shown me that He can just change my life—He’s really transformed my life. There’s not anything that I worked at doing, as far as being a better person, but it was as I put God’s Word in my heart and into my mind, He transformed my behaviors. It wasn’t anything that I did, except for to make the right choice to put those words into my heart and mind.

Nancy: Kathy, thank you for walking into God’s grace and walking into the pain and for being willing to share your story. I know God’s going to use it to minister grace to a lot of others.

Holly, I wonder if you would, as we join our hearts together, lead us in praying for a woman who’s listening who maybe is where Kathy was six years ago, or may be facing that surgery or the death of a parent or some hard circumstance and needs God’s grace. Let’s join together in praying that that woman will cry out to God and reach out to Him and to His people to find the grace that she needs right now.

Holly: Father, it’s so neat to sit here and give You glory for something you started years ago. We just acknowledge today, Lord, that that could not happen apart from You, apart from Your grace and Your provision in Kathy’s life.

As we talked right before this program today, Kathy and I were talking about the fact that this is not still about her life. But as she shares her story, she is sharing because there is someone listening today who is where Kathy was—and her story gives hope.

If you’re out there today, and you are where Kathy was—maybe your circumstances are not quite the same, but you are in a pit and you do not believe there is a way out. Maybe your only hope at this point is in the medication you’re taking, and this story has just caused you to ask the question: “Does God have something different for me?”

Let me just encourage you to go to the Lord and say, “God, what do You want me to do? In the midst of my pain, in the midst of my circumstance, what do You have for me?”

Then Father, for that woman who wants to make that choice, would You just pour out Your grace on her life so that six years from now she will have a story to tell? We ask that in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Holly Elliff. You’ve heard her on the program before. She’s been explaining how God rescued her friend, Kathy Weiler, from depression and from taking unnecessary medication.

Elyse Fitzpatrick was Nancy’s guest as well. She’s written powerfully on the subject. Her book is called Will Medicine Stop the Pain? You’ll get all kinds of helpful counsel in this book about emotions, actions, and medication. I hope you’ll order a copy by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

That is also where you can participate in our matching challenge. Every gift you give will be doubled up to our challenge amount between now and December 31st.

When you help us with a much needed year-end donation, we’ll say thanks by sending you a bonus gift. It’s a Revive Our Hearts perpetual flip calendar. You can see a picture of this 365 day calendar that can be used year after year and get more details on the matching challenge when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959.

I also hope you’ll join us next week when Nancy takes a close look at Scripture and helps us find out how to deal with depression and doubt from the Psalms. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion