By Christy Boulware
Brave Women Series - Christy's Story
Being discharged from the hospital should have made me feel better. After all, I had somewhat of a diagnosis now: panic and anxiety disorder. The solution seemed to be a drug designed to calm my out-of-control body and follow-up with my primary care physician for more treatment options.
There is a standard of care in the United States that assumes releasing someone from the hospital means they should be in a stable condition. It’s easy to measure stability when it’s physical because the medical professionals have vital signs and pain measurements, but how about when it’s mental? I was never asked, “How is your thought life?” I was asked, “Do you want to harm yourself?” At that moment, I didn’t, and I believe I would have been honest about the first question if someone had dared ask me.
"It’s easy to measure stability when it’s physical because the medical professionals have vital signs and pain measurements, but how about when it’s mental? I was never asked, “How is your thought life?” I was asked, “Do you want to harm yourself?”"
“Horrible!” I would have replied. “I’m scared, I can’t focus, and frankly, I have no idea how to stop the scary thoughts that are relentlessly taking me under. I feel like I’m drowning with no end in sight.”
Our hospital systems are pretty good at identifying the physical symptoms we experience and prescribing medications to fix them, but they fail to recognize that our thoughts also lead to physical symptoms. Could there be a correlation between mental, physical, and spiritual wellness that a balanced approach could measure? What if we began to treat the entire person, body, soul and spirit, instead of just the physical body?
"What if we began to treat the entire person, body, soul and spirit, instead of just the physical body?"
Treating the Holistic Person
In Caroline Leaf’s book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, she says, “We can go three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without oxygen—but we can’t even go for three seconds without thinking.” With the thought avalanche engulfing me, I was being buried alive with no escape. Yet, I made no connection between my thoughts and my physical symptoms, and neither did the health-care professionals.
I interpret Leaf’s words as: your thoughts matter. If we can’t go three seconds without thinking, then we think many thoughts per day. Can negative thoughts hurt your body? Do positive thoughts contribute to a healthier you?
Leaf continues with a mind-staggering fact:
"When our thinking is toxic, it can mess up the stress response, which then starts working against us instead of for us. This, in turn, can make us more vulnerable to disease, which is why many researchers now believe that toxic stress is responsible for up to approximately 90 percent of illness, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Only 5–10 percent of disease is said to come from genetic factors alone.
If only 5–10 percent of diseases come from genetic factors, how much disease comes from toxic stress that derives from striving, hustling, trying to prove your worth, feeling bitter, and being unable to forgive?
"If only 5–10 percent of diseases come from genetic factors, how much disease comes from toxic stress that derives from striving, hustling, trying to prove your worth, feeling bitter, and being unable to forgive?"
Can you imagine an intake form that not only asks about physical symptoms but also about your mental and spiritual well-being? These questions would ask you about your work–home–life balance, nutrition, sleep hygiene, friendships, marriage, parenting, faith, and finances. Then you would dig deeply to evaluate if you are unwilling to forgive anyone. It would end by asking you to take inventory of the negative thoughts you’re thinking. Once completed, a doctor, a mental health professional, and a spiritually wise Christian leader would review the information and work together to treat your illness.
Unfortunately, our health-care system does not work this way. Separating our physical, spiritual, and mental health is not working. If it were, would anxiety and depression be at all-time highs? Would the suicide rates be climbing?
"Separating our physical, spiritual, and mental health is not working. If it were, would anxiety and depression be at all-time highs? Would the suicide rates be climbing?"
The facts don’t lie. “Nearly eight hundred thousand people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every forty seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally for those ages fifteen to twenty-four. Unmanaged depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.” You can’t read alarming statistics of that nature and wonder how we got here.
Looking at the pandemic of fear, anxiety, toxic stress, and depression differently is the only way out of this mess. Keeping church for Sunday mornings, doctors for offices and hospitals, and psychiatrists and psychologists coined for comfy couches is only doing a major disservice to our lives.
Jesus, seeing a doctor, and Christian therapy are the top three things I credit that helped me overcome severe panic and anxiety disorder.
What brave move can you make today to unpack what is happening in your body, soul and spirit?
"Jesus, seeing a doctor, and Christian therapy are the top three things I credit that helped me overcome severe panic and anxiety disorder. What brave move can you make today to unpack what is happening in your body, soul and spirit?"
Review 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How can you balance out the time and attention you give each part of how God made you equally?
** Excerpt from Nervous Breakthrough: Finding Freedom From Fear and Anxiety in a World That Feeds it
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Christy Boulware suffered a nervous breakdown caused by severe panic and anxiety disorder in 2011. Her pain turned into purpose, and she founded Fearless Unite, a non-profit organization. She is an international speaker, author of Nervous Breakthrough, podcast host, bible study creator, and leader. Christy's biggest passion in life is to see men and women of all ages overcome fear and anxiety by stepping into their God-given purpose and identity.
She is happily married to the love of her life, Troy. They have three beautiful children together. Connect more with Christy on her website christyboulware.com.