What anxiety is teaching me

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I wrote in a previous blog of “the crisis,” and how less than 24 hours after learning some big news and my life being thrown into crisis mode how I was on the phone with a counselor from the states. He was/is an incredible guy. We met weekly with him through Skype and couldn’t be more grateful for his ministry to our family to those very first few dark months. As we met, it started becoming evident that chemically speaking my brain wasn’t functioning the way it should. In fact, it probably hasn’t for much of my life! The counselor posed a question for me during one of our sessions. He said, “anxiety has taught you many negative things in your life… What are some positives your anxiety could be teaching you?”

We had been speaking about how my anxiety had taught me to build walls, to distrust others, how to cope, overcompensate, but with this new question, that it could actually provide something positive was beyond me.

This question has been rolling around in my mind for months. Learning I have generalized anxiety has been like a light bulb going off for me. There are many great articles about anxiety being connected to an overactive amygdala- the part of the brain that processes our thoughts and emotions. In the darkness, I fumbled through my mind, always questioning, inwardly if everyone else’s minds functioned as chaotic, disconnected, and often neurotic 🙂 as mine.

My mind would play tricks on me, and go into hyperdrive. I believed many wrong things and suffered greatly at the doing of my own mind. I believed everyone talked behind my back, that secretly they laughed at me and all I was. I questioned even my truest friends.

In ministry, I never felt I measured up. I was always a step behind everyone else. Even when I was invited to be a part of the Executive Team and serve at the highest level, I always felt second class. A step behind.

If only I had a college degree
If only I were more eloquent or a better public speaker
If only I were more proficient in my Bible
If only I could teach or write or have some unique gift that could set me apart

But those aren’t my gifts.
I have the gift of hard work.

I come from a long line of self-taught. Hard working.
Self-made is in our bones.
We are a family of second chances. My family has done well. Hard work at the core of our values.
I come from a line of miners, steel workers, construction- in essence- blood, sweat, and dedication (not tears, we do not cry). We are makers. We take this life, and no matter what it’s “dealt us” we make it into something great.

But that’s just the problem, the making. Everyone is still working towards the making, the faulty thinking that this life owes us and it’s ours for the taking… as long as we keep working hard and proving and striving, we’ll eventually make it. We’ll eventually prove our worth.

Forever hustling, forever making, forever living under the tyrannic rule of stress, production, achievement, self survival. This is all I ever saw. Until I saw Jesus.

Not fully understanding my past, even after I met the Lord and began a friendship with Jesus, I carried these traits and it became my thing as I grew in my position and role, add in the anxiety and I was headed for destruction. One can only strive and self destruct in their minds for so long.

Learning to deal with my anxiety is teaching me to relearn what it means to have a friendship with Jesus. He is drawing me closer to him as he is teaching me how to both stop striving to find my worth, and a continual process of remembering truth against what my brain is telling me and honestly, medicine has helped with this greatly. I have no shame in admitting that I take anxiety medication.

One morning not too long ago, I sat on the couch early in the morning. I lit a candle and began my morning soul care. This time, I visually imagined what it would be like if Jesus was truly in the flesh on the couch next to me and just as the Jewish rulers and priests of Jesus’ time could not see their coming King, for a time, my anxiety stripped me of being able to see Jesus’ love for me. I could not see the King and who he was in the lives of those around me, but most importantly, I couldn’t see him right next to me and in me.

As I imagined him sitting next to me that morning, I closed my eyes and practiced looking at him and taking in how he saw me, the longing for me to know him, the pain I saw in his eyes as they locked with mine, the compassion, his arms outstretched and I fall into them, tears streaming, his grace fills me, the black sludge begins running out and instead of covering everything in it’s path, it is disappearing. There’s a lot of it, so it may take quite a bit of time as his grace shows me new areas inside where this sludge has pooled up, but right now, time is all I’ve got.

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