Although I didn't always have a name for how I felt, I have always struggled with anxiety. When looking at a new situation some people say, "What's the worst thing that can happen?" Never say that to a person with anxiety, but they can tell you. (a.) A sinkhole could open up and swallow us all. (b.) We could be involved in a freak accident and we could get severely injured. (c.) Our house could be on fire right now. (d.) Maybe there was a problem with the insurance claim and we'll loose everything. Whew, deeeeeeep breath, calm.
Now, let me address something that really gets under my skin. When I express my struggles with anxiety, some people throw out a well-meaning "I Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety (cares) on him because he cares for you." I get it. I really do. I do give my anxieties to God. I don't dwell on them and obsesses over these thoughts doubting his care, love, or protection. But they pop up like a demented Jack-in-the-box without warning and they pop up often. I'll be just be having a normal morning then BOOM I think about a drunk driving incident that happened as I'm sending Logan off to school with the neighbors. I pray he'll be okay then move on. Walk in the door and BOOM I remember a post I saw about a perfectly healthy person dying from a heart attack. My body releases an adrenaline rush, then I pray and move on. I get a text and I'm not sure what to say back. Afraid of saying the wrong thing, I say nothing. More praying. For those of you who get frustrated that people with anxiety don't just give it all to God, consider this: I do give it all to God, but all that giving is exhausting. Think of it this way. An average person may get some large packages of stress delivered occasionally and then then remove them by giving them over to God through prayer and dedication. My brain is always dropping off little packages. Multiple times an hour my brain finds something to deliver. It says, "Hey! You haven't thought about the AIDS crisis in Africa lately." or "What are you going to get Jason for Christmas?" (Note: It's currently April.) It slows me down because I have to deal with each new crazy thought before moving on with my day. (Often, I just push them aside then because I have so many undealt with things I get depressed.)
Now that I've let you into my head a little, I'll tell you about a pattern I noticed in my dealings with anxiety. After several years away from skiing due to some health problems and the fact that I'm a terrible skier, I went skiing again this winter. After moving through all stages listed below I had a good time and the second time we skied this season I went through the stages much quicker. (I still went through them all.) If you struggle with anxiety, my friend, continue to struggle. Don't let the "what ifs" win. Get out there and push yourself. If you are not anxious, but have an anxious loved one, maybe reading this will help you understand the struggle and why your person is so tired after something that gives others energy.
For sake of demonstration I'm going to use this winter's ski trip to demonstrate these stages. The quotations are what I say out loud to my group or to myself. They italicized words are what I hear in my head.
1. Anticipation - "Yay! We're going skiing. I haven't don that in years." You might get hurt. You just got back into running and now you're going to risk skiing? "I'll be fine. It will be fun."
2. Denial - "Look at the weather. Maybe we won't be able to drive up to the ski hill. We probably won't actually go. I have a tickle in my throat. Maybe I should just stay home."
3. Terror - "We're HERE!?! I'm not ready. I can't do this." You'll probably fall and get hurt. Where's the nearest hospital? Let's think about all your friends who tore up their knees while skiing.
4. Self-loathing - "What is wrong with me? Look at all these brave people doing this thing that thousands of people do every day during the winter. Why can't I just pull it together and do it?" Look at all these other people. They are a much better than you. You're just broken in the head. What an embarrassment.
5. Anger - "Why are we doing this? I don't want to be here. I don't like skiing and I don't know how I got talked into being here. It's cold. Why do we willingly go out in this cold?" Could anyone love you and allow you to feel so bad. Your group probably doesn't even care.
6. Acceptance - "Ha! I made it down without falling! I survived. This coat is shockingly warm. I'm actually sweating. I'm going to go down this hill and I will do exactly what I've been taught . . ." Nailed it! Wow, maybe I should not hate everyone who brought me here. Maybe I'm seeing why they love this so much.
7. Enjoyment - "I did it! I didn't fall. I rode the chair lift and swished across the hill with confidence. I STOPPED!" I'm a terrible person for being so mean. This is pretty fun. I can't wait to do this again!
If you're overwhelmed with all the back and forth, I don't blame you. I feel that way too and this is ALWAYS in my head. One more thought to consider about anxiety and activity. Some people participate in activities like skiing or ride roller coasters to get an adrenaline rush. Anxiety sufferers feel an adrenaline rush from normal activities like grocery shopping or getting ready in the morning. The flood of adrenaline I feel while doing something like skiing or riding a roller coaster can make me physically sick.
So, this is me. Part crazy. Part adventurous. All my own unique person. I hope that you can celebrate who you were made to be too!
This is me. Real and unfiltered.
We all dream big and do our best, but putting ourselves out there can be uniting because we realize that we are not alone in our struggles and emotions. This isn't a page where I seek answers, but rather I seek to connect with others and show that we are all works in progress.