Your heart drops. Your heart starts pounding. You start sweating. Your breath quickens. A thousand thoughts are racing through your head. Nope. I’m not talking about walking up The Hill. I’m talking about anxiety.
It’s about to get personal.
Buckle your seat belts, everybody.
I want to preface this by saying that I haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. But I’m fairly certain I have one, but even if I don’t, I definitely have anxiety and I’d be willing to bet that it’s more than the average person. I’d also like to point out that anxiety and worrying is different for everyone. This is it to me. From my perspective and from my experience. It doesn’t mean that this is how it is or feels to anyone else.
I’ve always been a worrier. For as long as I can remember, my dad has called me a worry wart. When I was young, it was simple things like when someone got hurt, I’d ask them over and over if they were sure they were okay. I still do that, but it’s more than that now. I worry about simple things like I used to. But I also worry about the future (a lot). For example, I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life and it scares me to death. I also have anxiety in social situations especially when it involves talking in front of a large group. Meeting new people or going to a place I’ve never been before makes me nervous. Phone calls give make me nervous. I have irrational fears that make absolutely no sense. I also have some normal phobias too like spiders and heights. I worry about the way others perceive me. I worry about other people’s well being. I worry about my dogs (and cat). I worry about myself. And truthfully, I could go on. It honestly feels like I worry about everything. Those people who are super calm and relaxed in any situation confuse me. I literally don’t understand it. I’d love to be them, though.
I’ve always looked at this worry and anxiety as sin. The Bible never explicitly says that worry is a sin, but because it means you’re not trusting God, it’s a sin… right? Well, this is my problem. I’m not denying that the lack of trust in God is a sin because it definitely is. I’m not even saying that worrying is not a sin. I’m saying this. When I’m worrying about something, I typically pray about it. I’m not going to lie and say I pray every time I worry, but for the most part, I do. Do you know what happens after I pray? I might feel at peace for a split moment, but then I still worry about it. This results in repetitive prayers for whatever I’m worrying about AND for forgiveness. These repetitive prayers solve nothing. I use it as a way of coping with my anxiety, but it’s not a way of trusting God. The thing is, I do trust God. I don’t trust Him enough. I doubt Him. But I try to trust Him, and I don’t think that my anxiety is a direct result of not trusting Him. There are times when I worry because I don’t trust Him, but there are also times where I worry because I honestly can’t help it. Because it’s the way my brain works.
I don’t want you to get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that reading my Bible and praying doesn’t help. They help immensely. I’m currently reading a book called Worry Less So You Can Live More. The chapter I just read said this: “God never intended for us to bite off more than one day’s worth of food, or life. Gather enough for the day, God says. Daily bread. Don’t try to gather more than you need for one day. Don’t worry about tomorrow, says Jesus. We’ve heard it so often it’s become trite. But seriously? If we store up, like the hoarded manna, those worries will rot our delight, and our relationships, leaving us writhing with the maggots of fear and discouragement and anxiety. It’s a disgusting image. But the picture reminds me, when I catapult myself forward into the worries of tomorrow (or next month or next year), that I am stashing, storing up, a rotting collection. I remember, then: bread of the presence. See your face. Today. I need to just watch, today, because God is watching, and God is present.” It’s when I read things like this that I remember. I forget, you see. I forget that God will provide. He is here. I am in His hands. I forget, but when I read and pray, I remember. My anxiety won’t go away completely. But I remember for a little while at least.
Seriously though, I think anxiety makes me forgetful. Or maybe my horrendous memory is unrelated. It’s weird… the things I remember and the things I forget. I remember painfully embarrassing moments. I remember people’s birthdays. I remember the overall memories of fun or happy moments, but not the details. I forget things I read. I forget things I learn. I forget what I write. I forget what I watch. I don’t remember basically anything from before middle school. I forget to do things often. I forget. A lot. It’s annoying.
During the summer and breaks from school, my overall anxiety level is generally better. But as school is quickly approaching and I’m thinking about all of the stuff I have to do this semester, I can feel anxiety coming. It’s like a tidal wave that I can see out in the ocean barreling right at me, but there’s no where to go and nothing to do except to stand there and watch it until it crashes over me. Anxiety is a weird feeling. It’s a feeling that I usually push away by distractions. Instead of being productive and trying to complete whatever it is causing anxiety, I distract myself from it by watching Netflix or something. I’m the type of person who sits and waits for a decision to pass by so I don’t have to make it. Distracting myself from anxiety like this is probably the reason I am such a terrible procrastinator. If only I’d realize that procrastinating makes it worse… And that distracting myself perpetuates my anxiety. It just allows it to fester until it boils over into a breakdown.
Another weird thing is the fact that I can usually sleep pretty good. Often times when someone has anxiety, they have difficulty shutting their brain off so they can sleep. It takes me about thirty minutes to an hour to turn my brain off, but after that I’m usually pretty solid. But I think it goes back to distractions… I use sleep as a distraction. When I’m sleeping, I can’t worry. This is also why I go to bed before I finish my homework instead of pulling all nighters on a frequent basis.
I read Philippians 4 often. It helps me remember that I know God has got this all under control. I know that with Him nothing is impossible. I know His plans are perfect. I know everything will work out. But I still worry. And maybe I don’t like it, but it’s okay. God made me a worrier, and I am strong despite it. I can’t let it defeat me, and I won’t. Worrier can easily be changed to warrior.
Anxiety makes me retreat. It makes me sit. It makes me miss out. I put myself in a box and refuse to come out. But movement heals. Getting out there helps. Stepping outside of my comfort zone- my box- isn’t actually as bad as I think it is. So I will try. I will try to step out, and with God, I know I will.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 ESV)
I leave you with an article that’s pretty great. You should read it.
(I didn’t say the word “stress” at all in this post… strange.)