This one hurts me to write. And it hurts because it forces me to dig down to the very depths of my soul. Down to the fears, the stress, the dark stuff that I have done everything I can to keep buried down there. But at some point, inevitably, it all finally surfaces. The waters get just a little too high. And this time, I thought I was drowning.
I’ve tried to describe anxiety before. In fact, I think my last post had something to do with it. But when it begins to consume my whole life, there isn’t much else I have to say. And if my words, even just one sentence of them, can be related to by someone in need of them, then I will continue. But this time, I want to talk about coping with anxiety. Because you know I have it. You know I worry, stress, obsess, and repeat. That I am guilty of “what if-ing” until everyone arounds me wants to pull their ears off. So I will tell you the “why” of this anxiety, and then the “what” I’m going to do about it.
It’s so funny to me when people think of anxiety. Many people think it’s something preventable. Like gaining weight. Wanna stay fit? Work out. Want to fix anxiety? “Just stop. Just don’t worry. Let it go.” Ah, what a novel idea! Now that you’ve told me to let it go it’s all just magically gone. (If you aren’t getting the sarcasm well then let me just tell you… I am being sarcastic.) And then there are those that want so bad to understand. But they don’t. Because it doesn’t stress them out when the TV and music are blaring, and people are talking. It doesn’t panic them to eat with a fork that touched the table. They don’t have the desire to fix the entire world, knowing that you don’t have the means to do it. So, my solution for so many years has been to internalize it. Sleep a lot. And take out my frustration on those close to me. For those of you struggling with the same things, let me give you a hint, those “coping mechanisms” are the perfect recipe for the perfect storm. My anxiety really rears its ugly head when it comes to nursing. Because I want to be perfect. I want my patients to come in, get better, go home. I want everything to run smoothly, no surprises. And the kicker: I want to do it all by myself. Now my logical brains knows that I cannot be a one woman show when it comes to someone’s care. But the other part of my brain, the anxious part, takes work home with me. Obsessing over if each and every patient I’ve ever seen is okay. And that is too much for one brain, no matter how smart you may be. They tell you in nursing school “you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of your patients.” I always thought that was baloney. “I’m fine,” I thought, “the patients are sick. So I can ignore myself and help them. all of them.” And for a while this was okay. Until I started depleting my own strength. I started skipping meals, because food could wait. I started laying awake all night, watching a rerun of the previous day in my head on repeat. And finally, I began to drown. It felt sudden, like the straw that broke the camels back. But when I look back, the water had been rising for months.
So thats the story. That is the struggle. But this time I have allowed the anxiety to build for so long that my usual “coping” skills couldn’t touch this panic. And sitting on rock bottom, there was only one hand reaching for me. Now let me say, it is HARD for me to trust Jesus. And it is hard for me to admit it. I have a scientific brain. I want to touch, feel, see, and hear something before I trust it. And that is just the opposite of what Jesus wants from me. So he let me keep trying to do it one my own, using my own strength to get by, and I just know that it broke his heart to see me struggling. But finally, finally I opened a Bible. Truly opened it. And I opened it with a new goal. Not just to look for random verses that comfort me, but to read about my Jesus. Who he is, how he loves me, and what that means. I had to go back to my basics, and i had to learn a very hard truth. My anxiety is a sin. The sin of unbelief. The anxiety comes from me telling God, “I’ve got this. My way is best. I don’t know your plan, so I just want to do things my way.” And when it doesn’t work, when I can’t do it all, the anxiety is my body saying “Enough. You need something else.” So this blog is not going to end with a resolution. Because this is new and I’m just beginning my journey of releasing control. (And for a type A like myself, you might need to stay tuned for a while..” Its an hour by hour decision for me. Rewiring my brain to trust Jesus rather than plan and worry and obsess. But even on my worst day, I am still forgiven. When I come to Jesus absolutely defeated, I am met by mercy. I am covered in grace. Over and over again. This part of my life is temporary.