Right Side Up
This is a shout out to all of you that live with anxiety. Anxiety isn't my usual state of being, so when I do experience it, it can rock my world. I was a ball of anxiety Saturday and Sunday and it turned me inside out, upside down, sideways - you name it, I felt every which way except right side up. I felt that gut-wrenching impending doom, like I will never amount to anything, I will fail at everything I'm trying to do, and questioning if I'm making the right choice quitting my job to follow my dreams. It made me withdraw from those around me, retreat into my self imposed prison of isolation which allowed the bad feelings to feel even worse, recognizing that and not being able to do anything about it. Knowing I should probably reach out to someone and tell them how I feel, knowing that if nothing else, pain shared is pain lessened. And still, I was paralyzed. Three different people close to me noticed and reached out to me, asking if I was okay. And still, I was paralyzed. I couldn't form the words to say, "I need help." Instead I sat in it. And sitting in it creates a breeding ground for even more negative feelings. Newton's First Law is that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. That one negative thought gets the ball rolling and the rest is just physics. I think that's what's so scary about anxiety - it forces you to suffer in silence. At least for me.
I tossed and turned all night. Imagining every single scenario that could potentially play out for my future. And as each different possibility flashed before my eyes, the knot in my stomach got tighter and tighter. It twisted in ways I could only imagine, as if to slowly close off access to my lungs while simultaneously drowning me in the self pity of "what if." As if when I got to a particular vision, the tape would stop rolling and the narrator of my life would grandly announce that we had arrived at the actual scene that would play out. And only then I would feel as if I could properly prepare.
As I'm sitting in the bathtub Monday morning, the fog cleared just enough to have a moment of clarity. I remembered that the previous night Jeffrey asked me if I had prayed about it. I hadn't. If there's any way to be more vulnerable than bowing before God, quite literally stark naked, I'm not sure what it is. But I was desperate. I couldn't stand the way I was feeling and I was willing to do whatever it took to get rid of it. I prayed for faith and humility and peace of heart to rest easy knowing that no matter what God has my back. And yet, I didn't feel any better.
I worked up the courage to explain to Jeffrey my fears without actually getting into all the extra nonsense that anxiety brings along because that's what it's sole purpose is. Anxiety is a way to disguise the exact nature of the problem because as long as the exact nature is disguised, I can't get to the root. And if I can't get to the root, then I can't do anything about it. And as long as I can't do anything about it, I continue to live in anxiety. And as long as I continue to live in anxiety, I'm fighting a losing battle.
So, still sitting in the tub, still stark naked and still vulnerable, I say, "I think we need to decide what our priority is right now. Is it having kids or is it quitting my job so I can work on growing our page? Because WHAT IF I do get pregnant and then we find the page isn't making the money we need, I won't be able to get a job at 6 months pregnant. Literally no one is going to hire me. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't be so worried about it. So maybe we put off trying for a little while, or we don't, but I keep my job."
And without hesitation, Jeffrey said, "Or you just quit your job to do what you love, and we leave the rest up to God."
It wasn't until that moment that my anxiety started to dissipate. Not completely and not quickly, but enough to allow one grain of hope to slip through. Enough to know that everything is already okay. Enough to come to terms, once again, with the fact that I'm not in control. Enough to recognize that God answered my prayers through my husband. And with that one grain of hope - an object in motion tends to stay in motion - I allowed it to grow.
Now, I know this isn't the end all, be all of anxiety. I know that I will once again be faced with this same exact dilemma, this same exact feeling of trying to claw my way out of a dark pit. But its all because I try to take back the reigns and get the bright idea that I can somehow control it again. I say I have faith, but am I acting on that faith?
And I also know that what helps me is simply that - it's what helps me. I share with you because maybe, just maybe, it will help provide relief for someone else. And if not, that's okay too. But for those of you that live with this feeling day in and day out, my heart breaks for you. And my heart breaks for you because after just two days of it, I was ready to give up. I can't imagine the complete and utter exhaustion I would feel trying to just keep my head above water on any given day, much less trying to achieve an okay day.
My Unsolicited Advice is about the seeming "magic" of prayer. So often we think, "Well, that won't work for me." But maybe it's because we're focused on the wrong part. While it most definitely starts with talking to God, that's not where you find it. It isn't in the talking to God, it's in the listening to God.
Start small. If it feels weird and awkward and cumbersome, well then you're doing it right. Then be still. Be still and listen.
"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10