*Disclaimer: this is not meant to replace professional mental health help. If you are experiencing symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, or another mental illness, please seek professional help.

“I’ve been here before. Why does it feel so much harder this time?”

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Maybe you’re trying to lose weight or kick an addiction (which you’ve managed to do successfully in the past), or perhaps you live with a chronic mental health condition that ebbs and flows.

Some seasons may be particularly challenging while others may feel more manageable. During the more difficult seasons, you may say to yourself, “I’ve overcome this before. Why does it feel different this time?”

The Netflix show Ginny and Georgia (which I highly recommend!) described this situation beautifully. Ginny’s boyfriend, Marcus, lives with depression and during a depressive episode, he says:

“I remember it’s bad…but it’s different to feel it again. It’s the difference between remembering what a room looks like and actually walking through the door…I’ve been here before, gotten out before, but the getting out part becomes that room that you remember but aren’t in. And that’s what’s scary.”

If you’re dealing with a mental health condition or any other recurring challenge in your life that just feels harder this time around, there are a number of possible reasons why it’s more difficult this time. I want to offer one possible reason that you probably haven’t considered.

YOU have changed. You are not the same person you were two years ago the last time your anxiety disorder flared up this intensely. You’ve had two years of new experiences which have literally changed your brain (this is called neuroplasticity).

Over the past couple of years, your brain has formed new neural pathways and you’ve picked up some new thoughts that you didn’t have two years ago…some of those thoughts may actually be very helpful, but others are not and are likely keeping you stuck.

(If you need help identifying and changing those thoughts, check out my favorite podcast, Better Than Happy. Nothing against therapy – I think it can be very useful – but this podcast has helped me personally much more than therapy ever has).

Stop beating yourself up by telling yourself you “should” be handling things better. Start paying attention to your thoughts instead. Notice them without judgment – approach them with curiosity and compassion. Awareness is the first step to changing unhelpful thoughts.

I’ll leave you with this…you will change and seasons will change, but God remains constant. He is always with you – in every challenge and every season.

“I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” – Psalm 16:8