There’s something that needs to be said about anxiety.
Anxiety is a cruel, uninvited monster that changes how you feel, how you see yourself, and how you see the world. Life is beautiful, and you know that, but anxiety tells you to fear. Anxiety leads your thoughts to places beyond what you understand. It’s no longer rational thought, but irrational fear. Before you know it, your nervous system has kicked into overdrive to prepare for the worst. You aren’t just anxious to the point that it helps you focus and prepare. You are anxious to the point you can’t walk out of your front door without feeling as if you can’t breathe.
I feel this every single day. I try to leave my house and I feel this drop in my stomach, then my breath is shortened. My heart starts to beat faster and faster. I can’t take a step back, I must keep going. I have to get my little girl in the car seat, I have somewhere to be! I have things to do! I can’t let this control me!
But it does. And I run back inside because my stomach is sick. I have to pull over to catch my breath and keep myself from a stomach upset. There are places I can’t go without being sick at my stomach because I cannot handle it. This leads to feeling as if I have no energy left to give. I am in a constant state of “fight or flight” and I can’t seem to rest my mind. Sleep becomes a distant need. I find myself shut off to the world outside so I can feel “comfortable”. And, just like that, my view of myself begins to change. I think, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I just relax? Am I a terrible wife? Am I a terrible mother? Will I pass my anxious habits onto my little girl? What does she think when she sees that I can’t control my thoughts?”
I’ll let you in on how anxiety works.
I was only 10 years old, in 5th grade, going through a family crisis of divorce. I had an innocent mind and pure heart, but I was sad. My life at home took a change for the worst and I felt alone. This is when OCD came in the picture. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a type of anxiety, comes in many shapes and forms. It started with counting my steps. I didn’t know what this meant, but the urge got more demanding. I had to count them at certain points in the hallway. Then it got obsessive. My handwriting, taking steps, breathing, flipping light switches, everything became a system of counting and I had to do it until I felt at ease. But I was never at ease. Life goes on and this monster just demands more and more of me. Sports come in the picture, and the superstition is unbearable. I kept myself away from people because I had to fulfill rituals to ensure I would play well.
It never ceased to amaze me, that no matter if I played good or bad, it was always contributed to OCD. If I played well, “That’s what happens when you obey.” If I played badly, “Remember not stepping four times? Bet you’ll do that from now on.” I had this voice in my head I couldn’t get rid of. It was this monster on my shoulder that no one could see. And if I tried to tell anyone, they wouldn’t understand. They would think I was crazy.
I quietly dealt with OCD for eight years. I never spoke to anyone who could help me. There was never a therapist involved. I was in my head, constantly, all the time.
For a long time, I blamed God. Why would He let such an innocent child take on such a destructive disorder? I mean, it led to so many bad habits and loss of self-control. How could He? I’m supposed to trust in Him? But that’s just it, I didn’t trust in Him. I had no truth to my life for eight years. I didn’t know the meaning of an unconditional love that could bring me out of this darkness.
I can tell you, He never gave up.
I can tell you, He was there all along.
I can tell you, He’s helping me get past my OCD.
One night as I’m about to get a bath, I notice a shampoo bottle is facing backward, so the back label is facing me. This typically doesn’t fly with me – everything must be facing the front. I reach to spin the bottle around, and something stops me. I have this strength suddenly to keep myself from going forward with this compulsion. The anxiety was gone. I smiled, and instantly I knew. It’s Him. I felt tears stream down my cheeks. I was so overjoyed I didn’t know what to do but laugh. I felt God for the first time in my life.
He loves me. I can do this. I can do this because of Him. You see, when I relied on my own strength, it was never enough. Feeding a monster who is never satisfied leaves you empty, with nothing to give. Leaning on God who is satisfied with you helps you overcome. You have strength in Him. “My beloved,” He calls you.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” – Philippians 4:6, MSG
There’s something that needs to be said about anxiety: you are not alone.
As secluded as you may feel in your mind, there is always someone to help you talk through what’s going on. I thought there wasn’t anyone who would understand what I was going through. For eight years, I didn’t have someone I could confide in. I met my husband when I was eighteen years old. He listens, he tries to understand, and he brings my focus back to who can help me defeat anxiety. There are several options now that can help you overcome what you’re going through:
- Relationship: Take time to nourish your relationship with God. Talk to Him about what’s going on. Put yourself in an environment where you can easily listen to what He tells you. Sit in silence and ask God to lead your direction. Allow yourself to completely surrender.
- Professional: I am currently seeking extra help through the professional world. I’m seeing a psychologist so that I can talk about anything. What’s in my head can come out, and begin the process of healing. I’m working with a dear friend who is a licensed massage therapist, as well as reiki practitioner, and she has helped tremendously. I’ve been the most relaxed I’ve ever been! I take myself back to how I felt during my session and I’m able to breathe through the anxiety.
- Self-help: As a massage therapist, I’ve seen first-hand how massage therapy can help clients who deal with anxiety. Stress-relief is an amazing side-effect of massage therapy. Yoga is also an incredible option! I have the honor of working alongside yoga instructors (as well as massage therapists) and they have taught me how to breathe! This sounds crazy, I know. How can someone forget how to breathe? Well, with anxiety, I never breathe in completely and breathe out completely. This leads to my heart beating faster and contributes to the anxiety. I have been able to suppress the symptoms of anxiety just by practicing breathing!
- Self-love: A friend of mine once asked me, “Do you remember the last time you were stress-free? How old were you? What would you do?” I laughed, thinking, “Yeah, that’s hilarious,” but I took a second to remember. I remembered when I was young, how I went outside all the time. I would exhaust myself by running, playing with my dogs, jumping on the trampoline. Then, I would lay on the trampoline and just stare in amazement at the sky. I would wonder what God was thinking when He designed our beautiful planet. I would wonder and allow my mind to take me places that edified my spirit. Until my reiki session most recently, I haven’t felt that same relaxation. It took me back to a place I felt like myself. Take time to remember what you would do when you were free of stress. Get yourself back to that place. Speak life into yourself! Throw out the thoughts of defeat with thoughts of overcoming. You will love yourself because you realize how loved you are by God.
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. – Psalm 71:8, NIV
There’s something that needs to be said about anxiety: you are not your anxiety.
You are a loved child of God. You are meant to prosper and enjoy this life! Defeat, stress, and anxiety have no place in your life. Separate yourself from what you deal with, and you begin to see that you have control. Take the steps listed above and make yourself and your relationship with God a priority.
Anxiety is not mine.
I am a child of God.
I am meant to thrive.
You can do this,