This post has been a long time coming, and I have a lot to say on the topic. So please bear with me.
I’ve been anxious, or at least my understanding of the word, for as far back as I can remember. My mom says that when I was a baby she would try to drive me around to help me fall asleep. Instead, when she looked into the back seat, she would find me wide-eyed and seemingly overwhelmed by my surroundings. Growing up, I accepted this trait as normal. Overstudying for tests just made me “studious.” Cleaning and organizing all of my belongings obsessively made me “neat.” And so on.
In high school, I got much worse. In fact, every single time I would go out with friends, I came home feeling so anxious that I couldn’t sleep. My brain would replay the entire night, conversation by conversation, as I critiqued my every move. Yes, it was that bad. It seemed like the more I tried to control things, the more stressful my life became. I even began making lists for the following day before I could go to sleep, planning each task hour by hour. And then the panic attacks started. They come on suddenly, and it feels like the word just gets too loud and too much to handle. You know the feeling you get when you wake up from a dream where you’re falling? Those first few seconds when you gasp and then can’t catch your breath, heart pounding? Imagine that amount of adrenaline multiplied by 15 and you have something like a panic attack. To put it simply, I was freaking out.
When I finally saw a doctor, he told me two things: You have anxiety disorder, and your brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s. It took me a long time before I finally realized that he was right about only one of those things. My brain does not work like anyone else’s. But I don’t think I have anxiety disorder. And here is why.
We were each born with a fabulous gift. Something that we bring to the equation that no one else could. Our own imprint on the world that adds to the Lord’s masterpiece. So no, our brains do not all work the same. Satan knows this, and it deeply troubles him. You see, the closer we get to discovering and using our gifts to impact our world, the harder Satan tries to deter us. Ever wonder why the closer you get to your goals, the more roadblocks you seem to encounter? All of these years I blamed anxiety disorder, using it as a crutch and excuse as to why I couldn’t live my life fully and with purpose. Satan had found my weak spot, and used it as a foothold in my life. I have now believed the lie that I am not good enough or strong enough for far too long. I was under the illusion that I was faulty merchandise. And when I really think about it, I believe he used social media to drive his point home. Too many of us believe that a picture on Instagram or a post on Facebook describes the life of another person. We post on social media only the snapshots of our lives that make it look happy and put together. We see highlights of someone else’s life, and we see the behind the scenes of our own. That is enough to make anyone feel inadequate. So that left me with a question.
But what if I don’t have anxiety disorder? What if I have just lost sight of what a blessing each breath is? I do have anxious qualities, yes. But they come from trying to control things that are not in my grasp. I was not put on this earth to control it, but to enhance it. Now hear me when I say this, I am not saying that diseases and disorders do not exist. Being in the medical field I understand that they do; However, I now do not believe that they can control my life. Each day when I wake up I pray for liberation from my worry. I pray that the Lord will pull me from my pit of self pity, and that my liberation will call others into action. And its HARD. Don’t let this post make you think that I just woke up one day and was strong enough to fix myself. You’re missing the point. I have no control over my worry. My Savior on the other hand, has complete control. And the moment I fix my eyes on him instead of my weakness, is the moment I rise from the mess I’ve made of my life.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I have to believe that promise. God did not put verses about worry in the Bible by mistake, or as an afterthought. He knew people like me would struggle with control, anxiety, stress, and the desire to be perfect. So he left me with words that speak to my heart, if I will only listen to them.