If You're Anxious & You Know It, Raise Your Hand!
Hello, my name is Carly, and I’m anxious. (I’ve been to all kinds of group therapy, so it’s okay for me to make that joke ☺) I’m a hypochondriac, a homebody, and a consistent over-thinker. That isn’t all of me. I have good qualities too. But for the past five or six years, those have been my defining characteristics, and I’ve struggled. Hard. When I say struggle, I really do mean it. Neck and neck fights with worry where I’m ahead for a round, then anxiety finds a weak spot and knocks me out. When I come to, I get back up and hopefully have some prayer power, will power, and tools from my therapist to fight it. I’m writing this to dispel some myths for those of you who are anxious and to be vulnerable about my life right now. It’s gonna get raw, it’s gonna get real, so strap in, sisters!
I can give you a 99.9% accurate promise that you are NOT in fact dying. Here’s a list of symptoms I’ve felt close to 1,000 times that are real in the moment (hear that) but are literally nothing but anxiety (hear that a little louder now).
Call me WebMD, but I listed these so you know that I understand you. Also so I can come back to this when I’m anxious. I’ll probably have to do that this week. I know you feel these things and get really freaked out. Anxiety can manifest itself in nearly every kind of symptom. It’s a freaking SHAPESHIFTER, y’all. Who made that okay?
Just Get Over It
“Pray and get over it. You aren’t believing enough. Just stop being so negative and realize nothing’s wrong with you.” Don’t say any of that to an anxious person. We may be some of the most devoted prayer warriors considering we’re scared and asking for healing all the time. It’s hurtful to assume that our relationship with God isn’t as strong as yours. As a disclaimer though, I will say that as believers we’re called to not be afraid. Part of anxiety’s cause is placing more hope in ourselves, our medications, and our routines to fix our problems instead of trusting God with them. We’ve got to get our priorities in order. Place it at the feet of Jesus first - as vulnerably as possible. Weep over it. Scream about it. Be real with Him. Don’t forget that He knows you better than anyone in your life, and thanks be to Him that He’s really the only One with the ability to heal it long-term. Even when hope seems lost, you must hold on to Jesus. Literally hold your Bible if you need to. Memorize scripture with a friend. Don’t get caught empty handed in the fight. Get your David on and ready some stones to take down the anxiety giant. If you have no weapon to fight with, you’re probably going to lose. Get in the Word and get it in you.
You know who the worst party pooper of all is? Anxiety. I need to confess right here on the internet that I’ve said ‘no’ to and cancelled so many dinners and coffees over the past several months because I was ‘sick’ aka anxious. Potential relationships ruined, mentoring opportunities missed out on, precious time with friends gone. This is a topic I still don’t know what to do with. I don’t have answers to offer, but I have honesty. I’ve tried to woman up and go to the dinner, even if I’m feeling anxious. Sometimes I forget anxiety and have an amazing time. Sometimes I’m miserably anxious, can’t breathe, and start experiencing any or all of the symptoms above - making me want to never leave the house again. It happens onstage at shows, when I’m leading worship at church - everywhere, with anyone, at any given time. My usual fix is finding a way to get home, and getting curled up in bed as tightly as I can. It is miserable, and it feels like torture sometimes. I definitely go through days of depression because of it. I pray/beg God for relief, and almost every time I find myself here, I pray for relief for everyone else in the world who has anxiety. Big prayer? Yes. Big God? Definitely yes. I’m not afraid to pray and believe for that to be answered.
Writing this feels like part self-help guide, part diary. My prayer in writing this is that you’ll feel understood and breathe a little easier today if you’re anxious too. And hopefully realize you aren’t dying, but most of all see this - you are not alone. Your weird symptoms are someone else’s weird symptoms. Your reclusive tendencies are someone else’s reclusive tendencies. Listen to this though before you read on - the enemy is real. He is out to snatch our joy, our giftings, and ultimately our faith. I can’t help but believe fear is one of his tools to keep us from an enormously important calling from God. Why else would he be so persistent? Why attack us when we’re out living in our calling (me leading worship, for example)? The voice you hear that speaks anything other than peace, love, understanding, forgiveness, and grace is a voice to be ignored. I pray we silence it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As a reminder of how important it is to be vulnerable about your struggles, I’ll leave you with this story from last week:
I was sitting in the chair at my salon, probably talking about Julianne Hough’s hair, with my stylist and another stylist (let’s call her Angie) when anxiety came up. I told them I’d struggled with it for years, and Angie confessed that she had too. She mentioned that it happened to her every day in the car on her way home from work. She’d get short of breath, freak out a bit, start to get more anxious, and feel it escalate until she got home and out of the car. She still wasn’t totally convinced it was anxiety because her symptoms were telling of a stroke, heart attack or something similarly awful. But that’s how anxiety started for me too. I’d get short of breath in my car on the way to and from college every day my freshman year, sometimes hyperventilating and almost passing out. I had never met anyone with that same story. I still kind of thought I was having some kind of health issue. When I told her that, I could see her eyes get wide as she said, “you’re kidding - I thought I was the only one.”
Don’t let anxiety get you alone in a dark alley of your mind and beat you up. Tell your friends. Get a therapist and talk it out with them. Tell people who care about you, ask for a hug, a girls night in instead of out, whatever you need to start re-entering your relationships and your normal way of life. Darkness loses its power when it’s brought into the light. Shine a spotlight on it, and let’s all get a little more free.