Depression, Health and Faith with Emily Elliot
How I met Emily was one of the first exciting things that happened with Her Progress, and it happened in stages. Firstly, she sent an encouraging message through Instagram followed by a tap on my should at one of the night services at church. Before you know it, we set a coffee date and had the privilege to hear her powerful story about her health.
I hope and pray that you open you heart as you read Emily's story and her progress.
Let’s get started! So Emily, tell us more about yourself - your hobbies, passions, work - and pretty much everything else in between.
I am a 25-year-old creative and an excessive adventurer. I enjoy all things creative and am passionate about music, particularly worship. I am also passionate about being able to showcase the world in a way that someone can connect to – whether that’s through music, photo, art, written words, etc. I am super spontaneous, but on the same token, I like organisation, schedules, numbers and strategy. Yeah, I am a bit of a mix!
As for hobbies, I obviously love music. I spend hours and hours playing the piano, worshipping and writing songs every week. I play the bass guitar and sing on the worship team at church.
I am obsessed with the outdoors and running. I like to get outdoors at least everyday – rain or shine!
I could still remember the time that you scraped both of your knees running down Mount Kaukau.
*laughs together* Yep. Yep. Yep. I just need that outdoors element where you get some fresh air. It’s my thinking and prayer time where I can realign my perspective. It doesn’t matter if I’m near the sea or up on the mountain, it is always so refreshing.
And I looooove people. I love just being able to see people and their potential, and foster and encourage them until they become the person that I already see them as which they don’t often see themselves.
What an amazing detailed summary and a nutshell of who Emily is. Anyways, the last time we caught up was in Felix before church last year. During that catch up, you’ve shared a really powerful testimony about your health. Tell us more about that.
Yes, sure. I was always a healthy person. But I went through quite a lot in a year which at the time I didn’t realise. During then, I kept pushing things aside thinking that I’ll be fine and I’ll get through this.
Six months later, I noticed I had put on a whole bunch of weight, often had headaches, was really lethargic and had trouble concentrating. Then, I just started becoming really ill and drained. I would not be able to get through the day without feeling nauseous or dizzy.
Long story short, I got it checked out and ended up seeing a whole bunch of specialists and going through a lot of food trials. I also ended up at the hospital a few times and I went on so many types of medications which ended up giving me severe, severe anxiety and depression.
It was a three year long journey and it was only in the last year that I’ve been able to come off all of my medications and no longer have anxiety or depression. I am slowly on the path of good health. I‘ve got all my energy back, twice more than I had before. I am able to get through a normal day which is amazing!
In regards to the food, I still have to manage that but it has become a lot easier because I know now what I can and can’t eat.
If you don’t mind me asking, what was the health problem again?
It’s still kind of undiagnosed but doctors called it really severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I went through so many blood tests, but in the end, I have to do a certain diet to manage my gut health – and it still doesn’t really work, but that’s okay!
Actually, my physical health went first and because of that, my mental, emotional and spiritual health declined in that order. Pretty much hit rock bottom.
From rock bottom, what was your God moment that was the turning to this whole experience?
My rock bottom moment happened just before Arise Conference last year. Prior to that, I had to stop work and, being the very ambitious person that I am who doesn’t like to stop ever, I decided to study. But, I couldn’t study either and so I stopped that. During the whole experience, I lost a lot of friendships and my relationship. I also lost my connection with my family. I pushed them so far away that I didn’t know how to talk to them.
My health was an absolute mess. I was in a state of bad depression and I was crippled with anxiety. I had frequent anxiety attacks (a few times a day) and panic attacks about once or twice a week. My third ever panic attack was when I realised I had hit rock bottom, and it was hard to take in because in my head I used to be like Beyoncé – unstoppable. I prayed to God a couple of times to just take me home, back to heaven, to be honest.
Arise Conference happened and I went with an expectation that in this rock bottom moment, I needed something from God, even just a little. My expectation wasn’t huge but I knew I needed SOMETHING from God.
During Samuel Rodriguez’s message, he preached about being a ship in a storm and we often put down an anchor which means we end up stuck in the storm. During the whole message, I was crying and halfway through it, I knew it was for me, so I stood up and raised my arms. As soon as I did, I felt this incredible weight off me and also a peaceful weight of the Holy Spirit on me. I was crying and on my knees.
I walked out of conference with no anxiety and no depression, and I felt free. At one point, I thought to myself that this might not last but I said, “no, no, Emily, you have to have faith this is a permanent change – it will last.”
So the next day, when situation arose that would usually spark anxiety, I was almost expecting it to come and it didn’t . And then the next day then the next and then the next. Now everytime I am faced with a situation that used to freak me out, I thank God that “yes, God you’ve healed me.” Literally, from that conference moment, I have never had anxiety. My life has been busy and hectic and still haven’t had anxiety whatsoever, and I’ve been going from strength to strength.
I’ve been through some rough stuff along the way but through all of that, I had joy and confidence instead of anxiety. It’s just been amazing.
That’s so awesoooooome! So powerful! Going through it, were there verses of scripture that you held onto during this period?
When I was going through my health stuff, to be honest, I kind of lost sight of God and scripture. I always tried so hard to cling on to it.
One verse of scripture was something that was given to me and I pray over me every night. It says, “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” [Psalms 4:8]. Another was “The Lord is trustworthy to all His Promises and faithful to all He does” [Psalms 145:13].
There are times that I prayed to God, “Come on! Where are you? You are trustworthy and faithful,” and I just kept believing that. I didn’t know what was going on but I always trusted that there was more and that He will come through.
The one that I absolutely clung to when I had all my anxiety was Colossians 1:11, “God will strengthen you with his own great power, so that you will not give up when trouble comes, but you will be patient.”
Awesome! For every verse that you said, I was just telling myself, “Yep, I love that too. And that one.” *laughs together* After experiencing this breakthrough, if you have a chance to speak with someone who is also going through anxiety and depression with a different reason, what will be your one piece of advice?
Oh, wow! I love this! I am really passionate about people who are going through anxiety and depression because I now see that it is literally what the devil uses to stop women, in particular, from fulfilling their destiny.
I would say to her, “I know that you don’t feel like yourself right now, I know that you don’t know who you are right now, and I know that you feel like you are in this dark hole where no one around you knows who you are and you are struggling to connect with them, but cling onto God because He still has your identity in his hand. He knows who you are. He still has a plan for you, and when you cling onto him and run towards him, you fill find your identity in Christ. Anxiety will fall. Depression will fall.”
I think that was the biggest thing that I struggled with: who am I? I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I didn’t know where Emily had gone and it was scary. When I went through all that, I didn’t run to God and I tried so hard for people in my world to fix me, but I also didn’t want them to fix me because I was angry at them for not knowing how to fix me. It was just this awful spiral.
My advice is literally run to God because He has your identity even if you’ve lost it.
That is just so good. I think I will keep this interview handy and whenever I meet someone who’s going through this, I’d be like, “Listen to Emily.” I will just Airdrop it to them or something.
*laughs together* love it!
Now we want to ask you two questions that we ask everyone that we interview in our blog. Firstly, what does being a work in progress mean to you?
I love this! I suppose if you’d asked me this years ago, I would've been like, “oh, it’s just, you know, becoming who God wants you to be.” But having gone through all that I’ve been through, I realise being a work in progress doesn’t just mean God providing for you and going from strength to strength, but also means that God will refine you through fire. Every single fire you will go through will sanctify you and make you more like Him.
Now, it also means that I get excited if I go through valleys, storms and when the waves come crashing over me because I know in that moment that God has something so much bigger for me that I have to go through it. So, my character is developed to handle the greater things that He has for me on the other side of the trial.
Oh so good! Like seriously *snaps*! You tell them what work in progress is! *laughs together* We’re all about self-celebration here in HER. Why is it important to celebrate our progresses in life? Also, how do you celebrate you?
It is so important to celebrate our progress. Every challenge we go through is making us stronger and more like God if we tap into his grace for us during that time. We often don’t pause to reflect how much we’ve grown, but I think we should, not for our own benefit, but to truly understand God’s glory and grasp his faithfulness and grace active and alive in ours lives. Just one year ago I was an absolute mess and was ruining the friendships and relationships in my life, and had no idea who I was and where I was going. To look back and reflect on that is astounding to me, and furthers the trust I place in God to be faithful.
I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of celebrating me. I’ve always been so quick to celebrate others but I shy away from affirming myself. I am super competitive, and not with others, but with the perfect and ideal version of myself I think I should be. The only thing is, God already delights in me! He affirms me, and thinks I am wonderful. So now I’m getting better at loving me and celebrating how far I’ve come.
I now tell myself things like, “Wow, Emily, good job for thinking so positively when you could have chosen to be negative,” or “Emily, you showed grace and compassion to that person when the world is telling you that you don’t have to. Good on you.” Celebrate yourself! Because I’m a words person, I’m learning to do it through words. I make sure what I am saying about and to myself lines up with God’s word. We do it easily for others so we need to do it for ourselves!
That’s really amazing! “I make sure what I am saying about and to myself lines up with God’s word.” I love it! We’ve reached the end of the interview. So, where to from here for you, Emily?
Great! I started playing the piano, songwriting and worshipping again. I am making time in a daily basis to seek God and spend time with Him. I also want to keep excelling in my work. I am managing the magazine in my workplace which is also the very thing that one day I want to create, like a beautiful Christian magazine. Ultimately, I want to be able to run a women’s ministry or creative ministry that helps people, not only in the Western world, but also overseas.
It’s funny though because I used to be this girl with the 10-year plan. While I’ve still got that - to build a magazine, write for the nation and help aid developing countries, my attitude has changed so much where every single day is another day to do better and glorify God through what I am doing. Someone special to me once told me, “Emily, make your today better than yesterday.” My where to from here is more like how can I show Jesus today more so than I did yesterday. I constantly ask God to give me opportunities today to showcase His love, joy, hope, peace, grace and forgiveness, and wisdom and discernment to know how to and where I can best glorify Him.
I know it’s kind of random. I’ve let go of my 10-year or 2-year plan and trust that God is in control every single day. God is working behind the scenes and putting me on the right path. I don’t know where my steps are going, but I know I need to be obedient to take the next immediate step He has laid out in front of me.
That’s really good. A lot of people say more on the lines of future plans, which is awesome - don’t get me wrong - but it is amazing to hear someone who sees from here as a moment to moment thing. Just like Matthew 6:34 says not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own worries.
I know you didn’t ask for bible verses but here’s the two verses on why I adopted this attitude. One of them, which I got as a tattoo, is Psalm 27:13-14 “I am confident [certain] that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Be still. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart be courageous. Be still. Wait for the Lord.”
And I realized that God does have goodness for me and a life filled with abundance, and all I need to do is be still. Wait for God. And that it’s okay to have a courageous heart that believes and trust in God. That it is actually okay to dream big, to be bold and imagine things that are unimaginable. So, I got let your heart be courageous tattooed on myself.
The other verse is something that I have had for years and years, which Emma Smith did a beautiful illustration of, and it has been hung up on my wall in every house I’ve lived in. It is Psalms 119:26: “Everything I see has its limits, but your command has none.” Again, it’s that whole dreaming thing. I can actually dream big things and I don’t know what they look like, but I remain steadfast that God’s commands has no limits.
So yeah, my where to from here is I don’t know where. I just know it’s big and exciting. I will continue to believe that God has massive things for me and show me as I go through and remain faithful in my day to day.
That is so awesome! I am seriously learning so much from you right now. Once I listen and read through this again, I will be having my own take home notes and will be thanking you for that. You have so much wisdom in you, Emily.
People just go through so much stuff and we just need to learn from each other, you know?
That I think is the beauty of women and Christian circles. It’s the whole iron sharpens iron.
Seriously, thank you so much for imparting your wisdom and sharing your life with us. Being vulnerable and being open to that part of that struggle…
...like seriously, when I was going through it, people would tell me that it is okay to ask for help but I had all my walls up. The walls of Jericho were nothing compared to the walls I’ve built around my life. One thing that I realised coming out of it now is that vulnerability is the most beautiful gift that you give anyone. If anyone comes up to me and suffers from anything, I am like, “girl, let me tell you my story and pray this over your life.” Vulnerability in either end of the scale too – it’s “hey, I need help” to “this is what I went through”. It can help a lot of people and it’s a beautiful thing.
I couldn’t agree with you more.
Ultimately, I think vulnerability brings joy.
Yes! It allows your heart to be a sponge to be able reciprocate the right response and emotions. Without vulnerability, we just keep having our walls up and the more we keep on doing that, we actually lose the ability to connect and see things from other people’s perspective.
Yes! Yes! And it just gets worse! You keep going on and on in a circle and it is just an awful spiral!
Yaaaas! Girl, so right! I just want to say a final thank you for sharing your life with us!
Oh but really, thank you! This is such a treasured moment. Thank you so much!