The Other Side of Anxiety.
“You hung the stars and move the sea, and still You know me.”
Today is a little bit more personal. This is a not-so-shiny part of my story, the lessons learned, and thankfully, my victory. I wish I could skip the negative and go straight to the good stuff, but lessening the trials only lessons His grace and power that overcame. My prayer is that maybe this will open someone’s eyes to the true possibility of freedom and healing. It’s as close as the mention of His name.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grade is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Before I begin, I want to quickly address something. I firmly believe anxiety and/or depression is just as real as a diagnosis of A-fib or COPD. I believe God gives men and women the ability and gifted minds to be able to create/discover medicines to help treat/lessen the symptoms of these diseases. I also believe God wants us free of them. He wants to heal us. I believe the Lord wants us to be proactive in our healing- just as we change our diet with a diagnosis of diabetes or high cholesterol, we are instructed to care for His temple when we struggle with the diagnosis of anxiety.
That ugly anxiety word. Taboo. Talking about it is like adding ten pounds to your current weight and telling the world exactly what that is. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. You’d just rather, not. (When I say you, I really mean... me.) Nevertheless, here I am. Here I go.
Towards the end of nursing school, I began noticing a difference in my weekly break downs. Everyone who has gone through nursing school, understands that there is absolutely nothing abnormal about weekly mental breakdowns, ha. Instead of crying over an upcoming exam (which was usually over a dozen chapters and two dozen pages of attempted notes from handwritten PowerPoints that no one could read bc our instructor hardly spoke or wrote in English), I began feeling my heart beat out of my chest during a calm moment in my day. Tears would begin stinging the back my eyes and I would suddenly become extremely dizzy, almost disoriented- for no reason at all. Truly, none. I began having difficulty catching my breath at random times, hyperventilating to a point where I became lightheaded and would have to pull over while driving to put my head down. I experienced my first migraine. I remember once while getting dressed for church, I suddenly curled up in a ball in my closet and started crying. I missed church that night, lying in my dark closet instead; a pretty clear metaphor of what was going on internally at this point. Keep in mind, none of these incidents were exam or stress induced. Just, panic attacks out of no where. I didn’t and wouldn’t call them anxiety attacks, because, taboo.
I was still full of smiles. I had great friends. I made good grades. I sang in the choir. I posted pictures of Bible studies to social media. No one knew because I chose to let no one know. Because, taboo.
After months of these symptoms, some of which included having extremely irregular heart rhythms that were becoming way too common (it led to me blacking out in the kitchen- with my dad thankfully catching me), I decided to go to my doctor. I cried to her, let everything spill, and told her I obviously needed a beta blocker because my heart was causing me so much trouble. I needed it to slow down, and chill out. I was in nursing school so obviously I knew exactly what I needed. (Eye roll.)
That precious doctor looked at me, and said, “Baby, we’re going to try something a little different first.” After explaining to me just what this was and how it worked, she handed me a 3 month prescription of a low dose SSRI to help with that taboo word.
After a few rough nights of sleep- I suddenly felt a wonderful, warm numbness flow over me. My heart calmed down. My tears subsided, and there was no more hyperventilating for no reason. I didn’t need to beg God to take away these attacks anymore. I hardly needed Him at all. I remember thinking, “Man, am I living!” Kind of floating, but definitely living again. Gosh, was I wrong.
I was reading about natural disasters with my students the other day- fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, when we got to one that was different than all of the others. Droughts. I read to them that there was one great difference between this and any other “environmental stress.” This main distinguishing factor was that a drought has no definite beginning and ending date. A drought usually begins weeks before anyone even notices, “Wow, we haven’t seen rain in a while,” and it takes more than one single rainfall for a drought to truly be over.
I couldn’t help but have a flashback of my spiritual drought. No, my anxiety wasn’t my drought. My complacency and lack of desire to live out God’s will for my life after I was temporarily “fixed” was my drought.
My drought was filled with inconsistency. It began with church. I had graduated nursing school, and told myself working twelve hours shifts and showing up for midweek choir practice was just too much. So I quit. I was already missing every other Sunday, and most Wednesdays proved to be just “too difficult” to drive 35 minutes one way with getting up the next day at 4:45am, so I stopped that too. I told myself getting involved in relationships I knew was not covered in His will was just fine, because I could handle it. I told myself listening to worldy music wasn’t affecting my outlook on life. I cut myself some slack for tucking my Bible away and only pulling it out for the perfect instagram shot, because I needed to remind people that all was well. Numb and busy (the worst combination) from life after college and assisted by my “let’s just numb the symptoms, but not fix the underlying issue” medication, I never even saw it coming.
But, God is ever faithful. I was presented with a new Monday-Friday job offer in our Recovery unit, and took it. After two years in the ICU, I was burnt out. Mentally, physically... any way you could be over something, I was there. Just being in the new environment felt overwhelmingly refreshing. I went to church two Sundays in a row for the first time in two years. Then, two more weekends, including a weekend revival. In the altar that Sunday night after a really good, needed breakthrough, it hit me. I felt full for the first time in a long time. Not numb, but the opposite. Full of life and full of HIM. I felt an overwhelmingly heavy weight released once I raised my hands that night. I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I had truly felt that way.
It was time to proclaim healing over my life. It was time to be proactive. I prayed about it, got counsel, and weaned myself off of the medication. I studied my Bible. I showed up to church every time the doors were open. I ONLY listened to worship music. I cut toxic people AND relationships out of my life. I began running 4-5 days a week. For the first time in my life, I prayed for God to give me personal convictions that I would truly know were from HIm. I blocked out any temptation to fit God into the mold of what I thought He should convict me on. He surprised me and the new convictions excited me. Things that had never bothered me, suddenly did... and I knew it was from Him. Throughout this, I found healing. Healing that had been waiting on me.
If you are struggling with anxiety or find yourself in the middle of a drought you never saw coming, I challenge you to evaluate yourself: What do do you consume? What do your hands reach for? Where do you feet go? What do your ears listen to? What do your eyes see? What does your mouth taste? Where does your mind wonder to?
You may be thinking, “What I eat and what I listen to has nothing to do with my anxiety.” But, what if you’re wrong? Why not try?
I challenge you to pick up your Bible and make reading it a routine.
I challenge you to go to the prayer room, sit at the front of every service, take notes and be truly present in your worship when you are there.
I challenge you to avoid going anywhere or be with anyone you feel you have to hide from ANYONE who cares about you.
I challenge you to live a life that is protected safely under the umbrella of your leadership.
I challenge you to ONLY listen to Christian music. After a few months, you will feel convicted to listen to anything else. I promise.
I challenge you to eat more fruits and vegetables and begin walking/running. Love your body more and watch it being to love you back.
I challenge you to be careful what you watch and read. If it doesn’t bring God glory, close the book, turn the show off.
I challenge you to pray for fresh convictions- with no boundaries. Allow your Creator to have His way with you.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:7-8
The day Anthony and I were married, I walked down the aisle to the music of one of my favorite songs, “Holy,” by Jesus Culture. For a second, the room faded and the lyrics played loudly in my mind, “And only one word comes to mind; there’s only one word to describe. Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. There is no one like You. You are Holy, Holy.” I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of God wrapping His arms around me in that moment.
By the grace of God, I climbed my way out of my self-induced drought, and on the other side, I found grace and mercy overflowing. I found a wonderful man who has become the perfect husband. I found a brand new purpose and call from the Lord. I found deliverance from my anxiety, with no need or desire for the medicine that numbed it. I found passion and a new love for people like I’ve never known. I’ve gained a new sense of empathy for people who suffer from anxiety/depression, along with a burden for young people who have found themselves in their own drought.
If you have a testimony similar to mine, I would love to hear it. If you are currently struggling with anything I spoke about, I would love to talk with you and pray for you.