I want to share a little bit of my story. This is raw, unfiltered, and where I’m at right now. I’ve always been a worrier and the one who is hesitant to try anything new because, what if something went wrong? But recently, it hasn’t just been that sort of anxiety. I’m talking about the type of anxiety that seems to latch on to a particular thought like an anchor that drops me into an ocean of panic. My first panic attack was earlier this year, when I couldn’t find a job, and it terrified me. I had never experienced such a physically debilitating reaction to a thought in my head. My chest got tight, my breathing became inconsistent and short, and I became lightheaded. At first I didn’t even recognize it as a panic attack, but I knew something was physically wrong…and I had zero control over it. I have continued to have panic attacks since then, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.
First, panic attacks aren’t a choice (and if they were, I assure you I would never choose them.) Sometimes I can feel myself sinking into the anxiety little by little, and other times it’s sudden and unexpected. They’re far from convenient and never quite fit into my beloved daily planner. I love having a plan – five year, next year, this month, this week, and even down to the hour. After I had a couple of panic attacks, I realized I would have to loosen my grip on having a minute-by-minute plan, otherwise I would push myself closer to an attack by worrying about when the next one would come. It was a vicious cycle I knew I had to give up. I’ve learned to relax and to take each anxious thought as they come, deal with them then, and put my planner on hold.
Second, anxiety holds hands with depression. I’m generally an upbeat, positive person, so experiencing symptoms of depression was completely new to me. Waking up with zero desire to get out of bed, no motivation to work towards even the smallest goals, and absolutely drained at the thought of faking it and putting on a smile for people worried me. It’s not consistent, or predictable, but there are still days like this; where I wake up to that dark cloud looming above my head that I have to fight from the moment I get up so that it doesn’t dictate my day. It’s a conscious decision to not let it control me.
Third, and this may go without saying, I need people. In the midst of anxiety and depression, I was ashamed. I was embarrassed that I, a firm believer in Jesus Christ, the Giver of joy and the One who calms our fears, was struggling daily with anxiety and depression. I felt like I was doing something wrong, so I wanted to keep quiet about it. My mom sat beside me and talked me through my first panic attack, and then led me through options for getting help. I was in the Word of God every single day. It wasn’t as though I was neglecting my relationship with the Lord and hoping this would go away; no. I was seeking Him everyday, looking for answers. I needed people alongside me, guiding me through this. Setting my pride aside, I told a couple of close friends about my struggle. I, then, started seeing a biblical counselor every week. And you know what? They pointed me back to the cross. They didn’t see me as a “bad Christian”, but rather, as someone in desperate need of Jesus. It hasn’t taken away the struggle of anxiety, but it helps tremendously to know I have people in my life who are praying with me and for me.
Fourth, and lastly, I’m not alone. Other people face this everyday, and are learning to live with it. I’m learning from people who have been there, how to better deal with anxiety on a daily basis. But bigger than the people on this earth, my Savior lived and walked on this earth, and knows exactly where I am. Even in this dark place, He still finds me and wraps me up in His embrace. I may feel like a failure after each panic attack, or like I’m doing something wrong that I still wake up some days unable to find motivation, but God still sees me as His child whom He loved enough to send a solution to my problem. Anxiety and depression are of my flesh, but I have been made new by Jesus which means that I am not defined by my flesh. Yes, while I live on this earth, I will battle my flesh. But He has already won! My life is a reflection of Him now. Whether in anxiety, or depression, or whatever other season of life I may face, may God be ever glorified through me. He is worthy.
To anyone who has struggled, or still struggles with anxiety, please know that I’m praying. Not only praying for relief from the swarm of anxious thoughts, but praying that Jesus’ name be lifted high through it. We aren’t defined by this – if we are His, we are already living in victory.