Let's Talk About Anxiety

10/27/2017

I was sixteen when I had my first panic attack.

I remember exactly where I was sitting. I remember exactly what I was wearing. And I also remember thinking in the back of my brain - this is a long time coming. 

I didn't know then what anxiety was or what it meant to struggle with mental illness. What I did know was that I wasn't normal, though. I really, really hoped I wasn't normal. Because if everyone felt like this, how are they keeping it together? And if everyone doesn't feel like this, how in the world am I supposed to keep it together?

I'm not very good at being imperfect. Imperfection is threatening. So I overachieve. I overcompensate. I am meticulous. I avoid things that I can't be perfect at, I withdraw from situations that remind me that I'm flawed and very, very human.

After that panic attack at sixteen, my very wise, very loving, and very woke mother suggested therapy (I loved my therapist. She had these big, gorgeous red earrings and a knack for wearing neutral turtlenecks). At least I loved her until things started getting deep. Guys, I am the master at chit chat. I am the master at banter and relatability and charisma. Just don't ask me about my childhood. Or heartbreak. Or the really, really irrational things that keep me awake at night, and the fear that ties strings around my mouth so that I can never open it to ask for help. 

It wasn't until I was eighteen years old that I grew absolutely desperate. I was really tired of limiting myself. I was really tired of not sleeping, not being able to do things that the people I loved counted on me for, and I was really tired of feeling distant from Jesus. I wanted the joy and peace and hope that everyone talked about.

I will always look back at that year as the year I climbed mountains. Figuratively and literally. I made so many big decisions that year. I fell hard, in love with Jesus that year. I got serious about working to become the person I knew God wanted me to be that year. And by the end of it, I thought I had cured myself. I was softer. I was more vulnerable. I didn't shame others for being soft and vulnerable anymore, either. I loved, I loved, I loved my close friends and family to the fullest. I had learned to ask for help. I was so full of joy. And the anxiety? Huh? New phone who dis?

It wasn't until this past summer when I let myself burnout, it wasn't until the cries for help poorly disguised as "bad decisions", and the resulting panic attacks after years of feeling free that I realized I'm not my own healer. I can delve into the deepest pits of my soul and dig at my hurt until there's none left, I can read dozens and dozens of self-help books with doves and cups of well-staged coffee on them, and yet somehow it's never gonna make me fully new. My newness doesn't come from me. It comes from something much, much bigger.

If you've been struggling with anxiety, if you're in a relapse, you are not a failure. You are not too sick, too scared, too far gone to be reached. You are not a burden to your church or to your family. You are not too much or too little for somebody to love you. You're gonna be okay. Deep breaths. Nothing is ever too big.

Reach out to somebody. Become the kind of person that others can reach out to, be the safe haven that you would have needed. You're going to be amazed at how many people know exactly what it's like to go through what you've gone through. 

Anxiety is not a death sentence to be carried out alone. Anxiety is not going to have power over you forever. Anxiety is not bigger than the One Who Loves Most. If you don't know anybody safe in your life to talk about how you're feeling, or if you aren't ready to talk about it yet with the people closest to you, my inbox is always open. You can reach me here.


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