It’s been two whole years. Two whole years I wish never existed on my worst days. Two hard years of growing. Two magnificent years of learning to be gracious to myself. Two stinking years– and still begging for full healing.
This girl above. She existed two years ago. She was full of life- or so she thought. Resilient. Beautiful. Strong.
Until one November night after I went up to my room, while I was living at home before Ryan and I got married, and I remember briefly, my heartbeat dropping, then racing, then feeling like I couldn’t stand because the dizziness and the pain was too much. So I let it pass and went downstairs to ask my mom if I could crawl in by her because I thought I just had an “almost fainting” moment. She graciously agreed. I thought, “huh, what a weird thing”. What I didn’t know is that that “almost fainting” would be my reality for the next…hmm..nine months. For the entire month of December I fought loads of anxiety- mostly induced from compassion fatigue, or secondhand trauma, and some of the own pieces of my story too near to me to fully expose. And then, one day in December it happened again- another “scariest moment ever” in my small twenty-four-year-old heart, when I blacked out at Target. I lost all my bearings, knelt in an aisle, sobbed, and waited for someone to help me to my feet and then get to my vehicle. And Christmas came and it was probably my worst day, yet. Sobbing through church service so afraid I was going to blackout or actually lose all consciousness..like forever. The next month would lead to night terrors- breaking out in a complete body sweat, shaking uncontrollably until I’d have to go to the bathroom or lose my bowels. Now, I know you may be thinking, “sounds like you were living with a lot of anxiety”. But I had no common ground to think that all of this hardship was really just anxiety. I was meeting with my doctor, finding counselors, and needing to take a mental health day almost once a week. On February 4th, after three months of battling these horrible nights of sleep, horrible demons of stress and fear, I got married to my dream guy! It should’ve been the most amazing day of my life- and in many ways, it was, but what I can also remember, are the breathless sobs and the many times throughout the night where I’d check my pulse to make sure I was breathing. Friends, this was a tough battle, but can I share something with you?
In the summer following our wedding (2017), I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I was anxious. I had quit my job and gotten hired at a new school (sometimes I joke that Foster saved my life!). The thing that changed everything for me? I consulted my doctor. She recommended an option I was completely afraid of. My mind and heart were broken, “I shouldn’t need M*********. I’m a woman of faith. I love Jesus. I feel like He has good plans for me.” But I did it anyways. I did the thing I was most afraid of and followed it with nine months of intensive counseling where I was reminded of how resilient I was, how steadfast I was for healing, and how marveled I was at who I could become and what could happen if I really got help and healed.
I am now two years into my journey. An anxiety label. A panic disorder label. A PTSD label. And can I tell you what? I’ve outlived it all. I’m not completely done with it, but I’m on the other side of the worst days of my life. I share this not to weigh you down with my journey of anxiety, but to share with you who I am, where I came from, and the things I think I can teach you about where to go. Are you ready?
The Five Best Anxiety Tips…Almost Nobody Told Me.
- Everyone will ask you if you’re praying enough. You are. Trust me. There’s no meter for “enough” prayer. There are going to be days where you can’t pray and that’s my first point- community. Saturate yourself with community. Drench your days and nights with people praying for you. Ask them specifically, “Will you pray for my healing on Tuesdays?” or “Will you pray for me to sleep well?” All the answers won’t always happen when you need them to, but my faith has taught me that I can believe God with expectancy.
- You will have to make changes in order to change. I had to stop being the Energizer Bunny and start saying goodbye to the million commitments that were placed in front of me. Sometimes that looks like taking a mental health day when I find myself in that familiar spot of constantly trying to catch my breath. Sometimes it looks like cancelling plans, even if I know the person on the other end will be devastated.
- Rest. Sleep like your life depends on it- because it does. When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t think wholly or fully. You’re more on edge. You lose patience quicker. Rest. I remember napping almost every night after school because I couldn’t even comprehend how exhausted I was from being anxious and thinking anxious thoughts all day.
- Be vulnerable- as vulnerable as you can. I would tell my husband almost every day, “I’m worried I’m going to die. I’m worried I’m not going to make it.” I wasn’t thinking of self-harming myself, but I was certainly thinking something deeper had to be wrong. Nothing was. Nothing deeper. I was anxious. My thoughts were consuming me. Telling Ryan this was wonderful because he could say things back to me that confirmed TRUTH.
- Be gracious with yourself. And then a little more gracious. When I had to change so much of who I was, I remember feeling horrible. Feeling like I was letting everyone down. I may have been letting some people DOWN, but I was rising UP. Praise the Lord! ❤ I started setting firm boundaries- things I could and couldn’t do. And guess what? I look back now and am so thankful.
- (This is for my friend’s of faith in God.) Trust Him! Trust that He cares for you. That He wants you. That He longs for your healing. Because HE DOES. He delights in your being. He sees every anxious thought you have and I believe He feels them for us. Trust Him, dear friend, trust Him.
Who am I now? I’m brave. I’m fierce. I’m resilient. I’m a boundary setter.
I still have anxiety, but anxiety does NOT have me. I rest in the fullness that God is NOT finished with my story, yet. And that gives me all the Hope I need for tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. If you have questions revolving around my anxiousness, I’d love to answer them for you- over coffee or on the telephone! ❤