Ten Things Anxiety Feels Like
An attempt at verbalizing something you wouldn't understand unless you experience it for yourself - anxiety.
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Can I be honest? I wish I wasn't the one writing this blog. I wish I was just reading it and attempting to empathize and understand my friend who is struggling. I wish this was so foreign to me that I had to read a blog to contemplate the realities of it deeply.
But alas, I am the gal behind the pen. If you feel the weight of all that you're about to read, I'm with you. If you're here to grasp knowledge on what it's like to undergo panic and anxiety, thank you. My experience is not everyone's experience, by any means, but it's been helpful to convey feelings through words. Words connect people and vulnerability deepens relationships. So whether you're here to find a friend in the "me too" of anxiety or you're wondering why your loved one is so unsettled, you are welcome here.
Anxiety feels like all of the following:
1. Have you ever been to Dave and Buster's? There is a game inside that big ol' arena of fun called Big Bass Wheel, I promise I had to look that up, but the premise is to yank down the lever so hard with intense strength behind it, that the wheel inside the fish's mouth spins so immeasurably fast and then lands on the optimal amount of winning tickets. Anxiety is like that, except the wheel is in your head. You didn't yank the wheel, something unexplainable did. You never receive your tickets because the wheel never stops spinning. All the agony and waiting with what feels like no reward.
2. The morning is new and so are the mercies. But your heart rate is fast. Your nightmares contributed to the uneasiness you're feeling as you attempt to salvage the beauty of another chance at twenty-four hours of life.
3. A meeting commences. Your colleagues surround. You wish you were anywhere else. Tears well up in your eyes. You feel like you can't control your emotions. You're the only one in the room who struggles. Why? Why are you like this? You blankly stare out into the parking lot at a last ditch attempt to become invisible.
4. Bricks. Pounds of bricks make their home cemented to the front of your lungs. Your breath becomes shallow like a fountain. Beautiful because there is breath in your lungs and water in the fountain but shallow, unable to acquire properties to give depth and purpose. Are you breathing? They ask. You're trying, you think in response.
5. Questions for God. So many questions for God. Searching the Scriptures and pressing on in faith, in trust, in intentionality, by good grace, by sustaining faith. Coming to the conclusion that He is the constant. The One true constant. The One who knows the beginning and the end. The One who has a purpose. Wrestling.
6. Exercise helps. Doesn't it? What about when you're running and your anxiousness is through the roof so you feel like you might just collapse right there on the sidewalk? Chad on his way to work might have to call 9-1-1 for you! The music increases in volume. That might help drown out the anxiety. Oh wait! The roaring only contributes to the chaos. How about no music? Silence ッ Here I am again with my thoughts.
7. Self care! The world exhibits deafening screams for the reward self care will bring. There you are, in your bubble bath, about hyperventilate because relaxing is no where in your DNA. So much for the care of self. Thanks pop culture.
8. Doubt. What did you do to bring this on yourself? Let's bring the brain back out on the examination board and don't forget to get out those tools to prod around for a bit. If you don't find anything, keep searching! You'll either make something up along the way or something will jump out on you. Keep going and don't give up.
9. Medicine. Maybe this time around it will be good to get something! You have heard them say that people with cancer need radiation and chemo and people with diabetes need insulin. No one tells them "no." That always makes you feel better! The anxiety attack passes though in about a week. Then you have two good months! Yay! You're getting better. Maybe you don't need the medicine after all? *Knock knock knock*
10. Sweet friends. How tired are you sharing the same sentence over and over? It's just my anxiety, you chirp when they ask why you're okay instead of good. You thank them for listening. It means so much. You feel a tad better after getting to explain to them the tumult that is growing inside of you like a weed.
Strangeness lingers as I cap off with number ten from this list. How hopeless do I sound? Is this worth sharing? Anxiety tends to make me extremely self-centered. My heart realizes that and I promise I'm seeking to turn from that. It can be tricky to talk about, especially in a community of faith, because it can sound like you don't trust in Christ "enough." Anxiety is also tricky to talk about, and honestly to think about, because there are so many reasons why I may be subject to anxiety. The Lord may be pruning me. I may be under the loving hand of His discipline, like a Father disciplines the one He loves. I may have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Do you see what I mean?
One thing I know for certain. The Lord uses anxiety to draw me closer to Him. Looking back on the times of emotional and mental turmoil, I want to say I wouldn't trade it. God's faithfulness has been shown to me first hand by the way He sustains me through challenges and how He refines me in the fire. He is closer than a brother. I don't know what I would testify if it weren't for saving faith in Christ and a living hope in Him. He is good. He is worthy. He can be trusted.
I share these ten scenarios in an effort to bring solace to someone struggling. You are not alone. Your faith in Christ, if you're a follower of Him, is no less valid because the war in your head terrorizes you at times. I share these words for the sister, mother, father, boyfriend, brother, boss, friend, teacher, who watches from the outside and desires to draw near, to help, to encourage, to step in.
We all need someone to step in. To call out. To understand. To listen. If you're struggling, seek sound counsel. There are people in your life who genuinely love you. Call upon the Lord. He is compassionate and merciful. He is near the broken hearted.
In closing, I offer up a quote from book entitled Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer with Depression:
Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace. It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that he is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of his tender touch, he holds on to us still. Our feelings of him do not save us. He does. Zack Eswine
Two things. I understand Eswine is speaking of depression. But how often do anxiety and depression bleed so closely together it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins? And two, how thankful are you today someone such as Charles Spurgeon suffered from depression and testified to the faithfulness of God despite our shifting feelings of Him? I'm thankful.
I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages. Charles Spurgeon