Being in a battle with the mean monster of anxiety can be paralyzing.
Like stand-there-and stare paralyzing.
Like I-need-to-lay-down paralyzing.
Like help-me-to-get-away-from-my-brain paralyzing.
I used to beat myself up on top of it all when it reared it's ugly head and I had to get out my "mental sword" to fight it.
Now, I speak these gentle truths over and over and over and over so that I don't add insult to injury, shame jumping in as the terrible cherry on top of an already YUCKY "fear sundae."
#1 Anxiety can come out of nowhere.
I am going along just fine and out of the blue, I have thoughts that are absolutely ridiculous and filled with worst-case-scenario fears.
["My husband didn't pick up the phone when I called. In fact, it's been about 20 minutes since I texted him. I wonder if he's had a heart attack and is laying on the floor trying to reach for his phone and and and..."]
This may have come on the heels of enjoying a nice breakfast out with a friend while drinking chamomile tea.
#2 Anxiety usually passes.
After years of watching myself on the anxiety treadmill, I have come to realize that it doesn’t usually last. The same way it roars into my life, it often makes its way out.
I hold onto this lifeline in the throes of the battle.
["It might take some time, but it won’t be like this forever. I will be okay."]
#3 Anxiety isn’t about trusting God.
We had a very "nervous-nelly" type dog for nine years. One day, she was just beside herself. It might have been a thunderstorm. She was pacing and panting, wide-eyed and whining.
In a moment of clarity, I said to her (very tongue-in-cheek), “Autumn, you just need to trust God more.”
For years, I berated myself about not trusting God enough. I memorized verses about fear, the “do not fear” ones especially (and yes, I do know that here are 365 verses about fear, one for every day…I would imagine you might sense the sarcasm).
I promise you. If memorizing these verses and trying really hard to “trust God more” would have done the trick and that formula could have worked, I would be all over it, preaching it from the mountaintops.
If it were only that easy. But the hard truth is it’s not.
Anxiety is a neurological disorder. Anxiety is when a person’s central nervous system is telling them there is an emergency even when there isn’t one.
Yes, we can feed it and make it worse (learned all about those neurons firing and giant pathways being created in my Physiology class in college). I am an expert at this (yikes)!
And also yes, new pathways can be formed that bring calm to the nervous system. I am in the process of feeding those new pathways and have been for many years (which has helped tremendously).
In the end, it’s all very complicated and I am not an expert in the field. But that’s not the point.
Here is the point. For those of you who don’t struggle, please don’t tell the person in the middle of it to “trust God more.” I promise you it won’t help. It may just heap more frustration and shame on the person and send them deeper into the battle.
And for those of you, like me, who have this monster hounding them on many days and during many seasons, think about my dog.
Give yourself some grace.
Tell yourself some truth.
It’s just as ridiculous to say “trust God more” to yourself as it was to my dog.
#4 Anxiety dissipates by being “held.”
The best gift we can receive (when we are anxious) is for another to come close. We need someone to listen to our fears, be gentle and kind to us and most of all, hold us until it passes (this can be emotional or physical). My favorite words in the whole world are, “You are not alone. I'm with you.”
I know some BIG QUESTIONS loom large...
What if there is not someone tangible to hold us?
Can we go to God?
Will He calm our hearts?
It’s not magic and certainly not a quick-fix formula, but I promise you a few things...
He cares for you.
He loves you.
He is kind and tender.
He will NEVER shame you.
He speaks peace.
He sings over you.
He will quiet you with His love.
He will comfort you.
He will fight for you.
HE IS FOR YOU!
I hate having this ugly, mean monster in my life.
I hate that you might battle it as well.
It's not fun. NOT FUN AT ALL.
But I keep clinging to HOPE.
The HOPE that reminds me that it's not my whole story OR the end of my story.
There are lots and lots of pages in the book of my life, some really beautiful ones yet to be written.