It has taken me over a month to finish writing this. I actually wanted this to be my first post. This post is about anxiety, and I will share a bit of my story and experiences to give some background. I haven’t put off writing this because I’m not brave enough to open up. I have rewritten this over and over again because a tiny voice in my mind kept telling me that I am not qualified enough to write about anxiety because anxiety is something I still struggle with. However, I know that God can use anybody and their story to bring glory to His name, so here is mine.
I will never forget my first big panic attack. I had a few prior to this one, but they were minor in comparison. I had not known that it was anxiety at first, and, at first, I thought that something was physically wrong with my heart. However, after a couple doctor’s visits, nothing appeared to be wrong. When the word anxiety was used to describe my current state, I didn’t want to accept it. A heart defect is simple enough to explain, even if it is scary. Anxiety is just as scary, but it is difficult to understand. The reason I will never forget the first big panic attack is because I realized that day that something was very wrong. It started with heart palpitations, which I had dealt with before. I knew that all I would have to do was breathe slow, and it would stop. I was at a birthday party for a friend. We were roller skating, and I didn’t want to miss out, so I kept going. Eventually, I became short of breathe and started shaking. Some friends helped me sit down on a bench, and then I fell over onto my side. My head was spinning, and I was grasping at my chest. I was crying, and no one could help me. My mind went fuzzy for a bit, and the next thing I knew, the paramedics were there. My parents got there, and I remember sobbing uncontrollably. I said, “I just wish this was over!” I may have shouted it. That simple statement is one that followed me for years after. My problem was that merely wishing for something to stop happening but not doing anything about it gets you nowhere.
Depression often times comes with anxiety. I spent years with these unwanted “passengers,” and it sucked. I had some good times. I also had some very dark times. I felt bad for myself. I was mad that I was a sophomore in high school, and instead of going out with friends, I was curled up in bed. I was mad that I still had panic attacks after becoming an adult. I was mad that counseling didn’t seem to help me (even though I was the one who chose to not open up). I was furious that God would let me struggle that way while the rest of the world seemed to be moving on just fine.
I wish I could say that I woke up one day and received a huge revelation from God, but I can’t. About two years ago I decided that I was done. I was done living what felt like a double life. I was tired. I started praying every day for God to take away the anxiety so that I could live my life the way I was made to live it. It has taken consistent prayer to get to where I am. I still had moments when I would fall back, but after some coaxing I got back up again. It took some serious soul searching, and prayer. It didn’t happen overnight. I have learned some very important lessons along the way, and I would like to share them with you.
God did not create anxiety, and He did not put inside of you.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. When God created a perfect world, anxiety had no place. As soon as sin entered, so did the things that threaten our mental health. God does not want us to have anxiety. Read that again. He does not want us to have anxiety. He created us to live a life of joy. He did not create us to live in constant fear and panic of what happened in the past, what’s happening in the present, or what will happen in the future.
God will give you peace for the moment.
There were times when praying for God to take away the anxiety didn’t seem to be enough. It wasn’t working fast enough for me. So God whispered to my heart, “I will give you peace for the moment.” (If that sounds familiar, I am almost positive they are lyrics in a song, so if you know which one please feel free to enlighten me). There were times I just needed to feel like I was alright. There were moments that praying about the future didn’t calm the fear I was currently living in. But, when I really prayed for peace for the moment, I felt it.
Prayer is powerful, and prayer works.
Pray boldly. It wasn’t until this past year that I started truly praying. I am talking about the mountain moving prayers. We do not need to be timid at the feet of Jesus. Plead before Him. Ask Him to do things that may seem crazy to you. I’ll let you know that the God I pray to is capable of much more than we will ever be able to comprehend. So even if He seems quiet, pray. I promise you that He hears you.
It is ok to get knocked down, but it is not ok to stay down.
Anxiety for me, is a temptation. Satan uses it to wiggle his way into my soul. And I give in more often than I should. But, when he knocks me down I know that it isn’t ok to stay there. Just when I thought I was starting to get better a year ago, I would get knocked down again. I started to believe that maybe I wasn’t supposed to move on. Maybe I was supposed to live with the misery forever. But, I kept fighting, and truths about who I am started finding their way to my heart. If I had stayed down I may have never heard them.
You need to find the root of your anxiety and depression and deal with it.
This is the hardest part, and it’s the thing nobody wants to do. Its’s hard, and it is painful. But it will help you understand all of the “why’s,” and it can help you figure out what you need to do start healing. My anxiety was deeply rooted in being abandoned by my birth mother. I always felt the need to be validated by those around me, so I was constantly trying to earn it. I am a people pleaser by nature, and I was learning that I couldn’t make everyone happy. I wanted to make my parents proud, so I was hiding some dark and painful secrets from them. It may seem like it was easy for me to give those reasons, but it took a long time to find them. In order to truly heal, you need to put in the work. You need to get messy. It may feel worse than the anxiety itself, but it will be worth it.
You need to feel the emotions. You need to feel something.
I am not writing this post to give you my opinion about whether or not you should take medication. I am not going to tell you that you should or shouldn’t see a therapist. I know some amazing people who take anxiety medication, and some who don’t. I know people who see a therapist regularly and some who hate them. I am going to tell you, though, that when you are ready you need to feel the emotions. We live in a culture that tells us to not “catch the feels” or get too emotional. Well, you need to. It’s healthy, and it is how we learn what we need.
Do not suffer in silence.
So, so, so many people struggle with this. It is understandable to feel alone when it comes to anxiety. As I have said before, it is hard to explain. Trying to talk to someone who hasn’t experienced it before themselves can feel like talking to a rock. But, eventually you will find someone who understands, and when you do you will see it all differently. I promise you that. It won’t go away, but it may put it all into perspective for you.
God has already started using my battle with anxiety for good. I have had people reach out to me for help, and I am always here and available to listen. I will talk you through everything I know. I will pray with and for you. I understand the fear and the hurt.
This has been very difficult to write, but I pray it can give someone a little bit of encouragement and hope. God is good, and He is faithful. Rest peacefully in His arms. He will carry you if you let Him. As always I will close with a verse. Thanks for reading!
Philippians 4:4-6 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.