Journaling Through Life's Heartaches and Depression with Priscilla Dobbins

Auntie Anne Beiler
November 02, 2021

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels


Priscilla Dobbins is a three-time widow. Her first husband died of a heart attack when she was just 26 years old. Her second husband died of cancer. And her third husband, Doc, as he was affectionately known, passed away in 2014.

It wasn't until the passing of Doc, though, that Priscilla fell into a deep depression, unlike anything she'd ever experienced. But, she says, "Though the enemy meant it for bad the Lord turned it around and made something good out of it." She believes that "in each one of those marriage instances, God took them and he made something perfect."

This week on Overcome With Auntie Anne, Priscilla Dobbins shares her story of working through, and eventually overcoming, depression. She shares a vital tool she used along the way and the things she learned in the overcoming process.

Listen to the full interview, or keep reading below to catch the highlights.

Falling into depression

Dr. Richard Dobbins, "Doc," was a dear friend of mine and one of the people I attribute to saving my life emotionally and spiritually. As a Christian psychologist, he was my counselor for many years and helped me see so many new truths that transformed me and my life.

His wife, Priscilla, and I have become good friends, and in fact, she was the one who first made me go and see Doc when I was at a very dark place in life. If not for his counseling, I don't know where I’d be. When they got married, she became a part of his ministry, traveling with him throughout the United States and the world.

Although Priscilla had been widowed twice before Doc passed away, it wasn't until his passing that she fell into a deep depression. Up until this point in life, she had never experienced any sort of depression that she knew of. And until you experience it yourself, it's hard to understand what someone who is depressed is going through.

Priscilla uses an analogy to describe her experience: When you walk around New York City, there are big grates that open up and lead down underneath the city. When Doc died, Priscilla says, "the grate of life literally opened up" like the New York City grates, and she fell into it, "sinking lower all the time." For two years, she stayed below the surface.

A life of journaling

One of the practices Priscilla was in the habit of doing prior to falling into depression was journaling. And fortunately, she kept the habit up even while depressed. As Priscilla says, journaling longhand allows something to "flow from the heart, right through the hand it empties our soul to [God]." This is why it's not only a great practice for walking through depression, but also for walking through life.

I look at it like taking out the trash. Sometimes, the world overwhelms us--the troubles, the pain, the struggle--and we fill up. Journaling allows us to unload, to "take out the trash" on a piece of paper, and gives us the opportunity to read what's been inside of our heart and mind--things we may not have known were even there.

One of the assignments Doc gave me while I was working with him was to journal and write out my story. Honestly, I didn't think I had anything to write. But he gave me a legal pad and told me to just start writing. So I did. And that night I wrote nine pages without stopping.

This podcast is all about overcoming. And one of the ways we do that is through confession. I tend to view confession in three forms. The first is bedside prayers where we talk to Jesus and tell him whatever we want. The second is "one to another" confession, which is what we do on this podcast. You see, satan likes to build his strongholds in the secrets of our lives, and he reinforces them with silence. And when we break the silence by telling each other what's going on in our lives, we break the stronghold, and begin to live in freedom.

But the third type of confession is journaling and can be extremely helpful in our journey of overcoming. Because after you're done writing, you can read over what you wrote and see what's really inside of you. You can see your thoughts and read through them, and this practice is one of the things that helps you get through.

It helped Priscilla get through her depression. She says that she has "stacks and stacks of journals." What she loves is that even after time has gone by, she can go back to those old journals, read past entries, and see how God has worked in her life.

Because we live in an instant gratification world, it's natural to want instant results. But life is a process, and overcoming is a process. Journaling allows you to see that process as you read through past entries. It allows you to see how things have changed, see things that maybe weren't apparent in the moment, and ultimately, as Priscilla says, see what God has done and how he's worked in your life.

"He is a miracle worker," she says. "He really is moving [and] he is in us and around us all the time,"

The lessons of overcoming

While Priscilla was walking through her depression, she didn't eat much and didn't really make meals. "I would eat a piece of bread and a cracker," she says. "I was not good." So it was interesting when, one Sunday morning, she decided to make breakfast and started making pancakes. And as she was making the pancakes, she felt like God said to her that she had just passed through the Jordan River just like when God led the Israelites through the Jordan River. She had just "passed through the river of losing Richard" and had come through her deep depression.

In the Bible, the Israelites build a stone altar to God to commemorate their passing through the river. So Priscilla decided to do the same thing and gathered stones of her own to represent that day--the day she came out of depression. As she says, it doesn't mean that everyday after that was great. But it does mean that things started to change from that point on.

I agree with Priscilla when she says that overcoming is a part of life. And the first step, she says, is realizing you need help. Sometimes that realization comes through conflict, but it has to be recognized before we can begin to move into the process of overcoming. The good news is that God is with us in the process.

Priscilla reminded me of Psalm 120:1 to point this out: "I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me" (NIV). It doesn't say "answered," but "answers" as in, here and now. Continually, he will answer us in the present. He's the great "I am." Not "I am tomorrow," or "I was yesterday." But "I am right now."

And that's good news, because whatever we face, as hard as it is, we can take comfort in knowing he's with us. We're not going to be in it forever--there will be a time, friends, when relief comes, and we'll get through. And while we may not know what's around the next corner, we can look back and see how we've already gotten through so much.

Priscilla is one of those people who has gone through so much--widowed three times, living through deep depression, and I'm sure other things we didn't have time to talk about. But at 74, she says she's glad for everything she's gone through. And she sums it up best when she says, "Peel back the veneer and look inside--the pain and the scars have turned into this beautiful mosaic."

Thank you Priscilla for sharing parts of your story and your life with me. I know others will be encouraged by your vulnerability.

Priscilla has used what she's gone through and written a 365-day devotional called Listening to God. I encourage you to check it out on Amazon.

The post Journaling Through Life’s Heartaches and Depression with Priscilla Dobbins appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

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