Last night, I cried while sitting with my husband in the Taco Bell drive-thru line about something that happened 13 years ago.
This is what having anxiety is like.
It’s much more than ‘just stress’.
It’s very much like being in a plane with turbulence.
That loss of control.
Like being in a burning building, and you only have a cup of water.
On a ship in the hurricane, with no land in sight.
If you think this is an exaggeration, I’d wager you don’t have an issue with this. Those that do, know that what I’m saying is dead on.
I have an anxiety issue. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder 10 years ago. This is no secret to people in my life, in fact, it is probably painfully obvious to strangers if they observe me long enough. This issue has often caused people to not take me seriously, and discredit concerns I find to be legitimate. I have difficulty making eye-contact and I think this often makes me look ‘weak’ to others. This is because I have difficulty ‘facing’ people. Now this all sounds fine and dandy to some, but there have been nights where I have cried and begged God to end my life. I’ve had my butt dragged down to the E.R. due to a nervous breakdown.
My issues began on September 11th, 2001.
I was in 7th grade and was at school when I watched all those people die horrifically on live T.V., and it impacted me in an extremely negative way. It was the first time my world had really been rocked. When compared to the generations before me that experienced large-scale wars, disasters, etc; I had just never had anything like that happen in my life up to that point and all of a sudden, the safe worldview I had was taken from me. Even 18 years later, if a plane flies overhead and I don’t think it ‘sounds right’, my heart goes out of rhythm. Ever since that infamous day, I just haven’t been the same. I literally was not the same person ever again. It was like a breaker tripped. A few weeks later I started having panic attacks at random times, and it escalated throughout the years into me having them on a near weekly basis by the time we rolled around to 2015.
To add fuel to the fire, I experienced a form of betrayal from every friend I ever had growing up. This was a double-whammy because I grew up in a preacher’s house and witnessed all kinds of additional betrayal. I can’t win I tell you. Lol. I also went through a MAJOR breakup over 10 years ago now that still to this day, affects me in a very negative way – despite being now happily married.
The final nail in my coffin came when I worked in the prison system and learned just how depraved people can be (I read a crime version once where a guy sexually assaulted a woman that was walking in a parking lot by forcing his arm in her – up to his ELBOW… and another about how a grandfather raped his 3 month old grandson…) – yet we walk among these people DAILY. It blew my mind, and made me fear for my safety even in ‘normal’ situations even long after I quit working there.
My anxiety manifests itself in the form of chronic fatigue and panic episodes. I have sought help from doctors looking for an answer to ending the fatigue, and have found none. I have changed meds, diets, activity levels, jobs, took vitamins, and I sleep just fine, but regardless, I feel like i’m in a body that is 75. As far as panic attacks go, when they happen, I feel tension rising in my chest and I start into cold sweats, coupled with intense fear and crying, and often screaming. I cant explain what having an episode feels like on the inside except one word: terror. You feel like you are dying, or as if someone has just told you your child had been killed in an accident. That OVERWHELMING feeling in your heart, chest, and whole body – it just takes over and you’re not able to collect yourself. My body has a fight or flight response OUT OF NOWHERE sometimes. When this happens, I’m unable to stop it. It is terrifying. I haven’t been able to identify what my ‘triggers’ for these attacks are specifically, but I think they have to do with feeling unsafe, being overwhelmed, or having to deal with a huge change. I, thankfully, no longer have these ‘episodes’ near as often as I used to… I think they’ve been greatly reduced by the introduction of the birth control pill into my life when I got married. My hormone levels were tested in the past, and everything was normal each time. I cannot explain it, but those stupid pills helped me more than anything I had ever tried before. I have been very fortunate for something so simple to have helped this area of concern for me. They still occur, but not often.
My anxiety; luckily, doesn’t affect my ABILITY to work, but it DOES affect how I navigate my daily tasks, & how I’m perceived by my coworkers… I am greatful for having a high-functioning level of anxiety. Im able to work, go to church, go shopping, etc. But my fear of failure is so high, I have become a perfectionist to the T. People do not often perceive me as a strong woman, and this has led to me being targeted by mean coworkers in the past at previous jobs I’ve had. I have been successful in every position I’ve ever had, and if you read my About Me tab, you’ll see that I’ve worked in some INSANELY stressful situations. In order for me to manage the stress that has come with these jobs, I have to really stay on it, and figure out ways to ‘organize my job’ in my mind and prioritize. God knew that I would need these skills in order to work a job and still carry the weight of my issue. My work has come with many tears and many panic episodes over the years, don’t get me wrong. One of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had at a job was when I was working at DSS and I had just applied for my current job. I felt I would be offered the job, and I felt myself going into a MAJOR panic about it. I e-mailed my boss (totally unprofessional, but I was beginning to get into a position where I couldn’t talk), and I grabbed my stuff and ran out of there. I drove nearby to my Dad’s workplace and had an EXTREME meltdown. I cried and cried about it. I had come to completely hate my job at DSS, so I applied for another one, and here I was – PANICKING over the possibility of getting out of there… It made no sense to me at all. I felt a lot of pressure to stay, in order to help my supervisor and coworkers pull the load. I felt like I was abandoning ship. I had friends at work – I just hated my job. I hated the person it had made me into. I did what I had to do, but I felt guilt about leaving… I ended up getting through it, and I was offered the job as I had predicted, but man that was a BAD time… I psyched out about simply a choice I was going to have to make. Change has always been very difficult for me.
I’ve been put on a variety of medications since 2006, including Zoloft, Prozac, Pristiq, Ativan, Xanax, Cymbalta… none of which really helped to be honest. I now no longer take anything. I went to counseling on & off for years. My therapists name at the time was Kambi. Insurance blunders kept screwing up my progress & I had to stop going; which eventually just led to me returning later and starting all over again.
I’m go to therapy again now – It helps to talk to someone openly and admit all the horrendous things you feel inside, no matter how bad they are. It’s like going to a confessional. Lol I’ve told my poor therapist how much I despise certain people, and the worst things I’ve ever done in my life. I talk to God about these things of course too, but I also have found it helpful to get direct audible feedback from a human. God has put me in touch with a wonderful ‘care team’ consisting of a therapist, and several doctors (not related to psychology) to assist me and help me navigate through my anxiety/health issues. I am a huge advocate for therapy. A lot of folks despise the idea, but I find it to be very releasing. Its okay to have Jesus AND a therapist. Its also to be a Christian AND suffer from depression. Some folks will tell you different – don’t believe them. God can put people in your life to help you along the way to a better you.
Now that you know the story of my issues, I am going to tell you what I’ve learned, and I hope it offers you some encouragement in your struggles.
In the Bible, Paul asks God 3 times to remove an infirmity, a ‘thorn in his side’ – and God does not. I often wonder what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was… I believe God choose to let this thorn trouble Paul in order for him to continue to call out to Him. The Bible tells us it was left to keep Paul from becoming conceited. That might sound selfish to us, but our sense of justice is not more developed than God’s.
My thorn is anxiety.
I do not like my thorn.
I am not comfortable with it.
I want it out.
I want it gone.
But yet, here we are.
Rev. Craig Edwards cites in his book, “What Christians Need to Know About Depression, a segment regarding the thorn.
“God in essence told Paul, ‘My grace will be bigger than the thorn, and greater than the pain.’ – and to be honest, it’s worth the pain and suffering just to experience His grace. Paul then says, ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ my rest upon me.’ God doesn’t always save us FROM the storm; sometimes, he saves us IN the storm. Paul discovered that his thorn had produced a rose, and that rose was power. The secret to Paul’s power with God was in that thorn.”
(If you are interested in this book, please send $8.00 [covers book and shipping] to the following address: Rev. Craig Edwards. 373 Pratt Rd. Dobson, NC 27017 with your name, return address, and a note requesting the book.)
There is a purpose in your thorn.
Although I hate my thorn, I know without it, I wouldn’t be ‘put in my place’ like I need to be. I’d be on my high horse and acting like an idiot. The thorn reminds me I’m not in control of anything, and that it makes me have to trust that God will guide me through each day, and he continually does. In my misery, I have to cry out to God. Without the thorn, I wouldn’t have the relationship with God I have now.
People will say, “Well, God didn’t HAVE to give you the thorn. What kind of God does that?” To answer that question, I will ask you a question.
Do you know how a pearl is formed?
It’s formed by an irritant. 🙂
A grain of sand, or a foreign object, gets inside the oyster, and it causes the oyster pain. In order to protect itself, the oyster will begin to cover the irritant in layers of calcium and conchiolin. Over time, a pearl is formed. Pearls have value because they take time (6-8 years, or more!) and a living thing has to suffer to create it.
Sometimes, the most valuable things can come from pain. We learn many things about ourselves, others, how to treat others, how to NOT treat others, and whats really valuable in life… and sometimes we go through things, in order to help others that are going through the same things. God is also not the only source of pain in our lives – a lot of pain in our lives comes from simply living in a fallen world, or from our own bad choices.
Thorns cause irritation and pain; however, they also provide protection for the rose. My anxiety causes me to be on my toes a lot, and especially given my job now – which consists of helping protect children via interaction with the public in the main office – it serves a good purpose. I am vigilant and recognize when something is ‘off’ quickly with a supposed family member. God may have allowed my thorn to exist in order to help me help others. That’s an odd spin, but it helps me get through it when I’m feeling sorry for myself.
Our redemption was bought by a man that wore a crown full of thorns.
Thorns entered the world as a result of man’s sin, so it’s significant to me that Jesus had a crown made from them.
Another thing that brings me comfort in my struggles is knowing there’s a God who understands. The bible says that He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. No one on earth has been more misunderstood, or probably felt more alone, than Jesus. (If He could feel forsaken, I bet He felt alone too.)
You may be a rose blooming from the midst of thorns. 🙂
Keep truckin’ my anxiety peeps.