I’m going to be honest with you. Maybe brutally so.
I have almost never struggled with anxiety.
That’s a big however. Something happened to me that caused me extreme anxiety. This is the story (in part) of that time in my life, including some things that I learned, that I hope will resonate with you.
When life gets crazy, anxiety is normal. However, it doesn’t feel normal. It feels scary. And out of control. It feels like your skin is crawling, and like you might have to jump out of it … it feels awful.
My husband Pete was hospitalized in 2015 with a disease that kills about 60% of those who contract it. It was the scariest time of my life. I drove constantly between our home here in Shippensburg and Hershey Medical Center. I slept with my phone in case the hospital called. I haunted his bedside nearly every day to be with him, even though he slept most of the time. I developed a huge case of anxiety.
Now, you might be saying that this showed a lack of faith. Not so. At the same time, I launched a huge Facebook campaign to get prayer for him. I asked everyone, all the time, to pray for him. I begged God on my own to bring him back to me. I would leave our home in the early morning singing Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons,” and return in the dead of night, singing the same song. In the meantime, I prayed. And loved Pete. And prayed some more. And felt anxious.
“I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” says God, and I felt this at the core of my being at this time. My mantra had become Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I did that. Over and over.
In the middle of it all, I called our family doctor and asked for a rescue anxiety drug (this is a drug you take only when your anxiety spikes, as opposed to a daily dose) for the moments when it all got to be too much. Being familiar with our circumstances, he gave it to me without question. It was a lifesaver, even though I only took it four times. Don’t be afraid to get this kind of help if you need it. There is no shame in knowing you need help and getting it.
I tried all the things I had been telling people for years to do for anxiety – the diaphragmatic breathing. The progressive muscle relaxation. The peaceful scene visualization. Nothing really worked all that well. It was, honestly, a revelation to me.
One thing that did work was exercise. I often stopped at Planet Fitness on my way home from Hershey, late at night. That helped.
Journaling – mine was all public, on Facebook – helped too.
What probably helped me the most was the support of family and friends. My best friend was with me about 10 weeks of the time that Pete was hospitalized. That was an immeasurable help. All those people reading my Facebook “blog” and praying for Pete were hugely helpful – some of them visited me in Hershey, or brought meals or both. Also very helpful. ALL of them, at one time or another, sent me encouraging posts that made me know others were praying, not just for Pete, but also for me.
Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” SO true.
My Bible and my copy of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling were also helpful.
Please don’t take this short blog as a substitute for therapy or as the final word in what works for those anxious moments … but just know this: anxiety is normal. It, too, will pass. It’s helpful to have others around you to hold you up when you can’t do it yourself. No one can get through this life without others, and that is especially true of anxious times. We all need “a little help from our friends.”
By all means, try journaling. Pray. Do diaphragmatic breathing. Visualize your safe place and practice progressive muscle relaxation. I can tell you more about those things if you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) Exercise. Eat right. Meditate. Study your Bible.
But remember it’s the relationships in your life that may, like me, give you the greatest relief. Your relationship with the God of the universe, who holds all your life, even your worries, in His hand. Your relationship with others who help you along the path. In the short and the long run, it’s the connections you have with others that makes life worth living, even in the times when anxiety nearly cripples you.
Thank you for listening to this slice from my life. I’d welcome your comments – how do YOU overcome anxiety?