How to Overcome Anxiety
Hi, my name is Taylor Martin and I am not always the person I portray myself to be on social media. My hair is not always perfect...like even on the days it looks really good, I have tons of knots in it. My lips get chapped way too often. (Gross? Yeah, maybe a little bit.) I consistently tell myself I want to lose fifteen pounds, and then not even four seconds after that I mention how good Chinese food sounds. I am moody, unlike anyone you've ever known. I feel everything very intensely, or I don't feel anything at all. I can't multitask to save my life and I can be very, very lazy. Oh, and another thing? I battle with anxiety.
Since I was in middle school (and honestly probably even before that), I'd wake up with a sick feeling in my stomach - every single morning. I dreaded school to the point of feeling physically ill. I was shy (which, if you know me now, may be very hard for you to believe), I was intimidated, easily influenced. "But what child isn't at that age?" you say, and I agree. But I know my case was different. I knew other kids didn't deal with not wanting to go to sleep at night because it meant waking up to go to school the next morning. I knew other students weren't petrified of speaking in front of their classmates the way I was. I never talked in class, never went out of my way to make new friends unless they approached me first.
As I've gotten older, my anxiety has become less social (though I still hate the thought of going to the grocery store by myself), and more about everything else in my life. I'm not a walking disaster, I assure you. But I worry. I worry about everything. Even if there's no reason to worry about it, I will find a reason or I will create a reason. I'm great at creating reasons.
I have learned that it is more than sweaty palms and that nervous feeling you get when you send a risky text. It is nights upon nights of not being able to sleep, not being able to eat or, in some cases, not being able to stop eating. It's a "my heart is about to come straight out of my chest, I think I might have a panic attack" type of feeling. It's the feeling of going over a situation in your head, hoping you can solve your way out of the bad ending you think is coming, only to find that another situation finds its way into your head and you have to overanalyze that one now, too.
I remember when I first realized I dealt with anxiety. I thought I was just a worry-wart. But I watched as I would worry about something, and then what I worried about didn't happen. In fact, it turned out great. I aced a test. I talked to a guy I liked. I did great on a presentation. My flight home wasn't delayed and hey, no turbulence. I didn't have to talk to anyone in the store. I would breathe a sigh of relief. But of course, my mind got bored and I'd start to come up with another thing to worry about. You think I did it on purpose or something with how often the wheels in my head started turning.
I fear death. I fear sickness. I fear the people I love leaving me. I fear God leaving me. I fear the people I love the most in my life walking out on me; giving up on me. I fear car accidents and fires and cancer. I fear plane crashes. I fear arguments and confrontation and people being upset with me -- even if they have no reason to be. I fear someone excelling in something I hold valuable, because maybe that means I'll be seen as less than. I fear finally giving my heart over to someone only to have them change their mind and leave me.
I know we all fear these things, because they are all possibilities - every single one of them. But for someone that is prone to be anxious, it's what their mind clings to when they're alone and their thoughts are the only things left to fill the silence. It's the place their minds go when they're at a party and they've tuned everybody else out, but those thoughts remain. It's where they resort to when they're driving down the road and there's no music playing, or maybe there is, but they've forgotten to listen to the words.
It's that empty, hollow place no one can coax you out of because, in your mind, the fears are too real. In your mind, you've already gone to the place where you've been left, or a loved one has died, or you've been forgotten. In your mind, it's already too real. And that's why you lay awake at night, because you're trying to figure out how your life will go on after something like that happens.
I think that everyone who battles with anxiety experiences it in different ways, at different capacities. People cope with it differently, just like anything else.
I'm not sure if it's something I'll ever overcome, if I'm just being honest with you. I don't think you can ever fully "pray away" anxiety, as much as a well-meaning saint might tell you that you can. I am weak. I am frail. I am human. I'm a sinner. It will be something, most likely, I battle with for the rest of my time here on this earth. It is something I will have to place on the altar of my heart daily, as I earnestly seek the face of Jesus to help me with it. I will have to daily surrender my thoughts, my mind, my heart, my will, and my emotions over to Jesus as "I die daily" becomes more and more real to me.
I am turning my "I'm so scared" moments into "God, I need you to help me be okay with whatever result" moments. I am turning my sleepless nights filled anxiety and worry into times of prayer, and encouraging myself in the Word of God. I am turning those moments of fear that creep up in those still moments throughout my day, into moments where I allow the peace of God to crash over me like a wave from the ocean I love so much.
I guess the title of this blog post is a little misleading, because like I said, I don't know if I will ever "overcome" anxiety. Don't be so quick to say, "You can overcome anything if you really want to." Because though this is the very thing that could lead me farther from God, it is also the very thing that keeps me exceedingly dependent upon Him. I have to find myself at the feet of Jesus every single moment of every single day. I have to surrender. I have to forget those thoughts that tell me "worry, doubt, fear, feel paralyzed" and I have to allow Jesus to place His peace into my heart. I have to fight for that. I am learning, so slowly but surely, to turn my worry into total dependency on Jesus Christ.
It is a journey - a daily journey. Even as I type this, I worry that I might find myself at a place tomorrow where fear tries to creep into my heart. I'm expecting things to happen, situations to occur, that are out of my control, that could shake my foundations. But I put a hand to my beating heart, and speak the peace of Jesus over my worrying mind. And I feel it. I feel a deep breath rising up, my heart stops its pounding beats to a more slow, steady pace, and my fists unclench. Jesus is with me.
Anxiety was my normal, but now this is my new normal.
If anxiety is something you deal with, I'd like to hear your thoughts. It's different for everyone, like I mentioned in my post. I'd love to hear your coping mechanisms, what you've discovered about yourself on this journey, or even some advice you'd like to share with me or others. Thank you. xoxo