I had the privilege of interviewing Shelly Rainey, a mom, motivational speaker and author.  Shelly shares with us her journey through anxiety, grief and loss and how she relied on her faith.

  • Going through a deep, dark depression and how God carried her through.
  • Learning to deal with her situation differently.
  • Seeking professional help for her anxiety and depression
  • How God slowly restored her. 
  • Inspiring others through her book, The Fragile Heart. 

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Shelly Rainey
The Fragile Heart

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Transcript of Episode 39

Hope for Anxiety and OCD, episode 39.  On today’s episode, we have a personal story with Shelly Rainey. Shelly has a pretty amazing story about the connection between anxiety and grief and loss. I was blown away by her story and how much she has overcome with the help of the Lord. So without further ado, let’s get into the interview.

Carrie: Shelly, welcome to the show and tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Shelly: Well first, thank you so much, Carrie for having me on your show. I really appreciate it.  Well about me. Let’s see. I am a mom of a beautiful 16-year-old daughter, a wife of a super amazing husband. And I’m also the author of the inspirational book.

The Fragile Heart and hosted The Turning Point Podcast. And recently I launched The Inspired Life by SLR and basically, all that is, is just a ministry that’s geared towards women who are trying to navigate through pain and depression and grief and all of that. And what I do is I offer a resource. And the community to help during those rough times because you know, when you’re going through hard times like that, the worst feeling is the fact that you feel like you’re alone. Right. What I try to do is just basically say you’re not alone. 

We have a whole community here that we’re basically wanting to help in any way we can, whether it’s through an encouraging blog, or some of the free resources that I have through eBooks or the podcast or anything.

And, yeah, it’s great. And I just launched it while maybe three weeks ago. So it’s brand new. 

Carrie: Wow. That is. Yes. Okay. So you wanted to come on and tell us a little bit about your own personal experience with anxiety and depression. Yes. I basically have experienced anxiety and depression at different points in my life. And I can just remember dealing with a little bit of it when I was a teenager around the age of 16. And I don’t know if that was just like a typical thing to just have these depressing moments, but I did. And that was like the first time. But most of the time I can say that feelings of depression and all of that and anxiety was usually attached to for me traumatic situation. And for me, I’ve lost three children. 

I remember I was about 27 when I lost my first daughter. She was still born when I was about seven and a half months pregnant. And I recall that was one of the worst times for me when it comes to dealing with depression because it lasts such a long time.

And it had gotten to the point where I was tired of dealing with the pain and the sadness, and I just wanted it to go away, but I was at a dangerous point. I was at a dangerous point with it where I actually considered suicide. And because I just wanted the pain to stop. Of course, you know, I grew up in a family where we were taught to rely on our faith, you know, and trust God through all of the hard circumstances.

And, you know, watching my parents, they were like the living examples. When hard times hit, you know, you just rely on your faith and God carries you through. But for me, that was just a dark time for me. And I felt like it was kind of difficult to rely on my faith and the foundation that I grew up in because it was just, it felt like I was overwhelmed by the grief, by the sadness, by the depression, the anxiety, all of it.

And it was pretty difficult. And I can recall just getting to that point where I was like I can’t take it anymore, but it’s something how, when you’re in the darkest place and it’s like your foundation that comes back to you. I can recall sitting down in the floor with a bottle of pills and I just stopped and I began to pray and I said, God, please help me.

That’s all I could do. Please help me and let me just tell you instantly, it’s just like I felt overwhelming sense of peace and I’m like, wow. I was like, I was getting a big hug at that moment. I was like, wow, this is a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time.  And I can recall, you know, just going through that and having the support of my family and everything where I was able to come up out of it, of course, but it just took a long time.

And then as time went on, I had a miscarriage maybe two and a half years later, and I felt a little bit of depression coming back. But it wasn’t something that basically overtook me because I was getting married three weeks later. I’m getting married and my life-changing. I think that kind of overshadowed my feelings, where I was able to tuck them away and compartmentalize.

And focused on my wedding, you know what I mean? And  I was good, but of course, every now and again, the sadness will come back up. And with me, I was going through a situation where the doctor said I could not have children, and it wasn’t too long after my husband and I were married.

I found out I was pregnant again, and I was petrified. And I was like I can’t endure that again. I can not go through another loss. I’ve already had two. Have an enemy to do another one. And so we prayed and let me just tell you, it was like, God carried me through that entire pregnancy because even though it was rough and I was on bed rest almost the entire time, but that’s where our miracle daughter. She was born healthy and she’s like I said, she’s 16 now. Yes. Yes. And so it’s just like, everything is going along just great. But I remember back in 2008, I found out we were expecting again, and this time it was a little bit different because although I delivered very early, I think we were about seven and a half months pregnant again.

And our daughter, Victoria, she was one pound four and a half ounces. She was very tiny, but the doctor said she had a strong heart and everything was going great. And I was just so excited because I’m like, yes, another miracle. God did it again. This is just great. 21 days later, she took a turn for the worst and she passed away. And let me just tell you. I’m at a different place in my life when this was going on because I. relied on my faith more. My faith had increased three years, you know what I mean? 

Carrie: So it was different going through that loss than going through the earlier loss things. 

Shelly: Exactly. And I think with God showing me the miracle of my daughter had a lot to do with that.

You know what I mean? And so after this loss, I didn’t feel hopeless,  but sadness was still there, you know, depression didn’t grip me the same way, but it kinda saw that I had my moments and I said, you know what? I’m going to deal with this situation a little bit differently. And that just began to write just because I couldn’t sleep at night. I’d set up with cry a lot and the question came to my mind. It seemed like Lord, you chosen me to endure a lot of pain and I don’t understand why. And I just began to write and write and write and write. And next thing I know, actually finished my first book, which is The Fragile Heart. And I said, you know what I want to do with this situation? And all we know that healing, it’s a process, right?

It doesn’t happen overnight. But I figure if I just continue to move forward with something that I could eventually get to the place of his. And so, you know, after the book was released and everything, I remember God telling me, just share your story. And so I just began speaking at conferences and events, and I had a lot of book signings and it’s just like God just kept me busy for a couple of years with that.

And just sharing my story and just watching the effect that it had on it. A lot of different people, I’m just like, wow. You know, and it’s like, as time went on, I began to understand a little bit of why, just a little bit. And I would get out there Carrie, and I would just speak to large crowds and just get out there and talk about hope and healing and restoration and go back to my hotel room and just collapsed in tears.

Because I’m sharing my story and I’m believing it and I trust God, but that goes to show you it’s a process because I was not fully delivered myself. I was still dealing with those times. And with God showed me something through all that. It’s like my faith increased each time and I found that I had to lean on him more and more, even more so than before.

And with that, if you can imagine just feeling like you’re totally broken, but bit by bit God was slowly but surely restoring me. But in the end, it was just like I was the stronger person with more determination, more substance. It was just like, he made me all over again and that’s the awesome part about it.

And so now when I look back being on the other side of it, I’m like, okay, God, you actually really revealed the why. So I get it. It was bigger than me, basically. It was much bigger than me.

Carrie: How do you deal with going through that publicly. I know there are a lot of women out there that have miscarriages very early. And so they don’t necessarily have to tell anyone and they tend to suffer in silence. I think more and more women are being more open about pregnancy loss, which is a beautiful thing because a lot of women go through it. However, when you’re seven and a half months along, people are already doing things like throwing you showers, probably you have baby stuff in your house. And now all of a sudden you have to tell these people that Hey. Our child is passed away. What was the element of everything going through it publicly hard. 

Shelly: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And with my family, we’re very close-knit family. We have a very large family and it’s like, they have gone through the entire process with me.

And so, you know, with everyone knows my history and everything I had gone through. It’s like they were kind of sold on pins and needles, of course, but with my daughter, Victoria, after she was born, I mean, my great, my grandparents flew in from Texas and different people flew in just to meet her because they knew that I endured so much.

So it was a beautiful time in the beginning, but like you said, having to walk that out publicly. It was hard. And with me, I am the type of person I’ll put on a smile and unless you know me, you would think I’m okay. And so I would have this instant thing where I’m okay. I don’t want you to be sad about it. It’s okay. I’m going to be all right. I will go into that very quickly. 

Carrie: Yeah. The brave face that you put on for everybody. 

Shelly: Absolutely. So that’s how I dealt with it publicly put on the brave face and when they see me, they’re like, okay, she’s all right. She’s going to be fine. But in private I fall in the pieces.

And so, yeah, it was pretty tough, but I think the hardest part for me, especially when we lost Victoria, was my daughter. Hannah was so excited about being a big sister. She’s like, I’m a big sister. And she used to wear this one shirt all every day. She wanted to wear it every day. It’s like, she says I’m going to be a big sister.

And the sad part was coming home and having to tell her. Your baby sister’s in heaven. I was in my brain. I’m trying to figure out how do I word this? How do I explain to a three-year-old? And that’s how I put it to her. I’m like she’s not coming home, but she’s an angel and he’s watching over us now. And of course my daughter asks all of the questions.

Well, why can’t I see her? I just saw her the other day, you know, that type of thing. So that was difficult. However, as time went on, we were able to deal with it better. In the older she had gotten, my daughter, she began to really begin to accept and things like that. 

Carrie: So talk to us about maybe the intersection between like anxiety and grief. Obviously, you talked a little bit about anxiety when you would get pregnant again, it was like how is this going to go? 

Shelly: Yes, the anxiety. I think that’s torture. I’m just going to tell you that, that feeling of just anxiousness, just all of the time.

And it was just horrible for me and grief, you know, that’s the sadness, that’s the heaviness, but the anxiousness and the feeling like you’re going to have a panic attack and your breakout and sweats. And it’s just that whole just uneasy. That portion was very, very difficult for me. 

And I actually experienced it recently and about to 2019, I believe because I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and I was put on a lot of different medications in this one particular medication was by way of infusion. And everything totally changed for me and the career I worked in for more than 20 years, I had to stop. And it was just so many different changes going on, but one of the side effects that even of the medication was anxiety and depression. And let me just tell you, on top of dealing with my whole scenario changing and sometimes going through excruciating pain, all of these things and to have anxiety on top of all of that, I felt like, oh my gosh, I felt like I’m losing my mind here. I was just always on edge, you know? And I actually began, of course, I prayed about it and you know, God help me deal with this and please give me peace. But I also began to seek professional help because I’m like I need something to bring this thing under control.

Carrie: Yeah, I think that that’s really important part of a lot of people’s journey. And one of the reasons that we have this podcast in the first place is like to reduce shame surrounding getting help because sometimes people in the church think, well, I have God and God is all I need. I can just talk to the pastor about it and I’m good. And I don’t need like therapy therapies for like, you know, the really crazy people or something. 

Shelly: Yeah, exactly. It’s just like the stigma that comes along with it. And I can recall going to the doctor because I told my doctor, I said I can’t deal with this any longer. And she suggested, and she said, I know you’re a woman of faith.

And she had that talk with me like it’s okay. It does not mean that you’re trusting God any less. The doctors are here to help. Just like you go to the doctor, you come see me. It’s okay to get help. And it’s like, okay. And with her actually helping me get through that whole stigma, which was awesome. It helped. Let me just tell you it helped a lot. 

Carrie: That is awesome. I’m so glad that she was able to kind of point you in that direction. Were there specific things that you learned either in therapy or just through this journey that you found helpful and kind of helping your body calm down?

Shelly: Yes, it was a couple of things and of course, spiritually I’ve learned some.

Things and God’s hands even more because with my personality, like to control everything. I like to be in control of my time and control of everything that’s going on around me. But of course, when you’re dealing with life, sometimes it’s difficult to control and it’s hard to maintain control.

And I find myself having to lean on God and having to relax and have the meditation time and my prayer time and just go into that quiet place in as far as going to therapy, they taught me how to, you know, with the breathing exercises and things like that. Just a little relax.

It’s okay to just allow yourself to relax. And for those times where I just felt like I could not get it together. It’s those are the times I really had to pray hard and said, okay, I need your help here. And he would always show up for me. I have to say that because sometimes we feel like we’re in this battle, especially when you’re laying down and your mind’s racing and everything’s going.

And then when you’re at a place where you say, you know what, God, I’m going to release. I gave it to you. I’m going to leave it there. And I’m just going to relax and get some sleep because if you have it under control. I mean, it just had to be a place where I went to in my faith where I had to totally trust God because sometimes we trust them a little bit, but we’ll give him something, but then we’ll grab it back.

And then we put our hands in it and that was me. Let me just tell you, through dealing with anxiety and depression. It taught me how to really lean and depend on God and trust him to work out the circumstances that were going on around me. 

Carrie: That’s really good. I think there is something to be said about that connection between anxiety and us, trying to control all the elements of our lives.

And it’s impossible. It’s absolutely impossible. We can’t control relationships that we’re in. We can’t control our health. We can’t control life tragedies like you were talking about. And so when we learned that, okay, that control stuff is God’s department and I can really just rest.  He’s king of the universe.

He’s got it under control and I can take that step back and just, just breathe. It helps us so much. Yes, it does. It does.

So, how do you feel like specifically, this journey has grown your faith? I know that you’ve talked about it a little bit, but has it affected how you see God? 

Shelly: Yes. And it goes back to what I was just saying about trusting him more. I’ve learned to trust the process. I’ve learned to just kind of go with it.

Because in this life there’s a process and it’s like, God has a plan already predestined. He knew back in 2008, when I lost my daughter that I would be in this place right now at this particular moment, sharing that story and all the while when I was going through it, I’m right in the middle of it, I don’t see anything, but what’s in my immediate surrounding and my immediate view. I can’t see down the line, but he can. And so what I’ve learned is basically trust the process. And I could not say that to you some years ago, because back then I know I was like, okay, I don’t understand what’s going on. I need to figure it out. I desperately need to figure it out, but not so much anymore because again, Through time through going through various situations and God’s showing up each time remaining consistent how he is. It’s just like, I’m learning like, okay. If I put it in his hands, he’s got it. He already knows how it’s going to work out in the end.

I don’t know. But you know, eventually, I’ll get there, but it’s just, again, again, for me, I just learned to lean on God more and just trust the process. 

Carrie: Yeah, I think there’s an element too, of thankfulness of what we do have that grows so much when we’ve been through tragedy and loss. 

Shelly: Absolutely. It’s just like for me, the smaller things, just enjoying life, just enjoying family, just making memories, making the most of things that happen because when my dad passed away a couple years ago, one thing I learned from that was just continue to make memories as opposed to trying to always… because sometimes we have this idea and especially when it comes to our parents like they’re going to be here forever.

You don’t fathom that they would actually leave us, you know? And that was the case with when my dad, you know, it was so unexpected, but after, you know, going through that circumstance, it was like, okay, I need to appreciate the small moments now. Every moment that I spend with my mom or my family or whomever, it’s a moment to make memories.

And so I’m more appreciative of time now. Right? 

Carrie: That’s good. I think that that’s really good. And it’s a good reminder and lesson for all of us. Absolutely. So towards the end of the podcast, I like to ask every guest to share a story of hope, which is a time where you received hope from God or another person.

I feel weird asking you that question because I feel like that was our whole episode today. So I don’t know if you have anything else that you want to share, or maybe you can share about what it’s been like speaking to other people and sharing your story.

Monica: Yeah, absolutely. Because I think about this one in particular moment, and I remember I was doing a conference. And just share my story again, like I was talking about earlier and I can recall, you know, just kind of, so they’re going through everything. And at the end, I had this moment where we had music playing and I had everybody just to write down something they were going through and ball it up in a piece of paper and kind of toss it in the basket, in the front of the room.

So we’ve gone around and the music is going and this young lady came up to me afterwards. And she had tears in our eyes and I will never forget her, but she grabbed my hand and she said, I thought that my circumstance was hard. She said, when I came here, I felt hopeless. I felt like I’m just going because my friend invited me.

She was, and she told me, she said, but listening to your story and listening to, you know, she could hear the pain and different things she said, but talking about how. We’re able to overcome. And she said I’m watching that big smile on your face. Now she said, I feel I’m leaving, feeling lighter. I’m leaving feeling with a sense of hope.

And she hugged me. She said I appreciate you for just getting up here and just do your bravery to share your story and thank you so much. And it just gripped my heart because it wasn’t necessarily about me, but I just felt in that moment that, wow, God used me as a vessel to actually help somebody else. And that was just the most amazing part of everything. And this is what it’s all about. You can just reach one person.  It’s worth it.

Carrie:  That’s awesome. Are you essentially in full-time ministry now?

Shelly:  Basically Yes, basically. I just started the new online ministry with the community of women who basically have gone through pain, whether it’s losing a loved one or divorce or.

I mean, because we endure a lot of different heart situations. And it comes from different areas, but it’s all the same pain. And that’s the area of ministry that God has me in.

Carrie: Awesome. We’ll make sure to put links to where people can find you and find the book if they’re interested. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think that that’s going to be impactful to people. 

Shelly: Well, thank you so much again, for having me. I really, really enjoyed being able to share my story and just knowing that it just, hopefully prayerfully will be able to help somebody. 

Do you want to stay most up-to-date about what is happening with Hope for Anxiety and OCD? You can follow us on Instagram. We are at Hope for Anxiety and OCD podcast, which I’m pretty sure is like one of the longer Instagram handles I’ve seen. And we’re also on Facebook as well, facebook.com/hopeforanxietyandocd. Thanks for hanging out and listening today.

Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By The Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing is completed by Benjamin Bynam.

Until next time. May you be comforted by God’s great love for you