What an isolating feeling anxiety can be. The best way that I can describe this feeling based on past experiences would be drowning in the chaos of my own internal making.
Looking back, I think what appeared as a “particular, energetic, always on the go, over-achiever, independent, rebellious, resistant against family, forges her own path” type of girl was influenced heavily on what would only be identified years later as an anxiety-based disorder. One that needed to be recognized, addressed, and wrestled with.
And thank God for that. Because I can remember. I can remember the point when it was at it’s worst.
I remember back to days in college where I would go some nights with 1-3 hours of sleep (purposefully) and deem myself “FINE”, waking up the next morning and would go straight for 20 hours from one thing to the next, never to blink an eye or feel that rush of fatigue until days later when I would crash.
I remember spending large amounts of money that I didn’t have in an effort to feel a sense of control over what I felt was spiraling out of my reach. I remember bounced checks. Empty checking accounts. Overdraft fees. Shame. I remember the sobering realization that this only spiraled ME out of control.
I also remember not being able to stop.
I remember being on my hands and knees at 3am scrubbing the counters, bathrooms, and tabletops raw to release all the pent-up energy that I had inside, energy that craved to be released (but of course, only in a way that allowed me to have more control over my environment).
I remember gaining close to 90 pounds from constantly trying to “outrun” my anxiety through taking on commitment after commitment, pushing harder and harder to reach perfection, forsaking anything my body and mind needed, all to think that would give me the sense of peace that I was yearning to feel in the midst of this struggle.
I remember going months without speaking to my parents, because the thought of facing my mother and hearing her say that I wasn’t “measuring up” was more than I could bear. Even the thought of it made me sick.
I remember checking and rechecking the locks on the doors to my apartment, forcing myself to believe that the more I was able to secure them, the more in control of my environment I could be, prohibiting anything unforeseen from happening. I remember not allowing myself to sleep until I did.
I remember saying “yes” to everything in a selfish effort to please everyone else in my life as well as deem myself “capable and worthwhile”. How sick this looks to me now.
I remember racking my brain ragged with thoughts of how I could push further, do more, BE more in order to ease my restless mind and heart.
I remember turning my back away from God and feeling like I had to be the one to be my own solution, along with everyone else’s.
I remember how tired-my gosh, how TIRED-I was, day in and day out. And how hopeless and hard on myself this made me feel. How most days Senior year of college, I would sleep the morning away just trying to grasp on to some small sense of revitalization, only to miss 75% of my 9am classes sessions, and ultimately, not showing up for a final exam. Just didn’t show.
I remember cancelling plans with friends time after time after time because I felt like I just had nothing left in me to give.
I remember feeling like nothing I could ever do would ever be enough. Enough for who? Me? My family? Everyone? All of them?
I had to own this. I HAVE to own this. Because hints of this are still a part of me from time to time.
And how common this is. How truly common this is. I own this now not from a place of shame, but from a place of rawness, recognizing that in the midst of the battle (and from time to time, still on-going battle), God has been able to cultivate beauty even from this chaotic mess. I treasure these truths He has instilled, using my anxiety as a spokesperson in which He was able to speak to the inmost parts of me even when I wasn’t fully ready to listen:
Doing more does not MAKE you more. The world does not push us to believe this is true. God pushes us to believe this is true. It’s not about doing more to be more. Moving on to that next thing and revving up the hustle to achieve that sense of peace? Temporary. Not lasting. In fact, more draining than ever. My anxiety would drive me to be “go go GO” and I thought that was the solution. Slowing down has never felt so good.
Having anxiety does not mean you are a “weak Christian”. This took me a long time to wrap my head around. And I’ll be honest, I have heard loved ones who have told me “I can’t imagine ever feeling that way, I have my faith. You just need to pray more”. I even had a family member tell me this. How shaming that felt to me, without them even knowing. I had to accept that this was their lack of insight, and not the shame of who I was. While anxiety may always be a part of me, it does not fabricate itself from a place of “weak faith”. However, it can be a barrier to me engaging in the blessing of the ever-comforting presence of God, as well as the blessings he has placed around me. Faith is not the problem, but it is the solution.
I have the capabilities to channel my anxiety in a healthy way. God has led me to encourage myself to use my anxiety to stay determined, organized, mindful, assertive, creative, and compassionate toward others who sing with the same battlesong I do. Do I do this daily? Not at all. Can I do this? Yes, through His strength.
You are not everyone’s solution. Period. Here more on my grappling with that here.
He is enough for me. I’d be lying if I said that I embraced this statement daily without hesitation, because that’s not real life. But I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I don’t have to make it all happen; I merely need to step out in faith and listen to His voice as He calls me. No amount of striving, rushing, success, earthly love, family acceptance, financial security, physical health, and even my own goals will compare to what He has to offer me in Him. I’m so convicted in this.
No amount of striving, rushing, success, earthly love, family acceptance, financial security, physical health, and even my own goals will compare to what He has to offer me in Him.
Let’s keep each other accountable in this. You are not alone. You are made for MORE.
So in an extremely counter-intuitive way (because that’s how life tends to work), I thank God for my anxiety. Because while I felt that it stripped and took so much away from me in some seasons of life, it was able to cultivate so much in me. HE was able to cultivate so much in me.
So while anxiety is still very much a part of me, I still feel liberated. I still feel more than it. I still believe He is more than it.
And I embrace that.