Truth to be told, I regularly feel guilty for admitting I battle with anxiety. I have a really wonderful life, I am surrounded by loving people, I have healthy children, a warm home, food to eat, and Christ’s never ending love for me. Yet, I still suffer daily with heavy chest pain and unsettling fear. This is the exact reason I felt so inclined to write this blog post today, because we all suffer. We suffer differently, our journeys vary, but throughout our lives we will ache.
My first notable experience with anxiety was when I started first grade at a school. We had just moved, and I didn’t know my new address. I asked my teacher if I could just call my mom and check in. Knowing full well, I was only a few years removed from the trauma of losing a parent, she agreed. My mom didn’t answer. I spent the rest of the day, clammy. I couldn’t shake the feeling she was dead and I was consequently an orphan. As a child, I worried non-stop, about things I could and could not control. As I got older, I developed coping mechanisms to adapt.
I found creating things like lists, schedules, waking up early. Often people compliment me and say they wish they had my energy, but the irony is that I wish I could rest. I wish I could settle my mind. When I was younger, people thought my “worry wort” tendencies were cute. These days, as an adult, I wrestle privately with a critical voice inside my head. Sometimes, when I can’t keep it in any longer I will admit I’m struggling. People try to understand, but I think until you’ve felt the rubber band of despair tighten around your heart over something as simple as a doctor’s appointment, it can be really hard to fathom this kind of lifestyle. As a religious person, I often struggle to tell fellow believers I struggle with anxiety, because I fear they will question my trust in God. I worry my kids will grow up to be riddled with anxiety, so I never mention it around them. I worry I was too anxious postpartum, and their development has been stunted forever. I worry my friends will get tired of my anxious thoughts and move on to someone whose more relaxed and fun. I worry I’ll drive my husband up the metaphorical wall obsessing over things that I can’t change or prevent.
So, what do I do?
I use the coping mechanisms I’ve self taught myself. I remind myself of my good qualities, of the healthy people in my life, and of my countless other blessings. I try to write a list of all the things going right for me instead of fixating on anything that can go wrong and preparing my heart for those ramifications. I will sip water to try to soothe my anxiety induced dry mouth or rub my feet together until they blister. I’ll be extra funny to compensate for any negativity I’ll inevitably spew. I’ll tell you how important you are to me, because I have the unwavering gift and simultaneous curse of knowing life is precious and moments are fleeting.
I guess what I’m trying to say in the most round about way.
If your heart is heavy, send me an email. I’d love to be there for you. You are not alone!