I have been praying about this post and asking God to give me the words. I have felt the need to share some of my story about living with anxiety, and having a child that also deals with it. The more I talk to people, the more common I realize it is. So my prayer is that this post encourages someone, comforts someone, and helps someone feel they are not alone.
I guess I’ve always been a “worrier”, but anxiety didn’t really begin to grip me until my late 20’s. I’ve always dealt with social anxiety (I’m a true introvert!) but it seemed to get worse as I got older. I would think about whatever social function I had to attend for days, and on the day of the event, I would be so sick I couldn’t eat all day. Overall, my anxiety has grown and has even been crippling at times. I’ve had panic attacks, chest pains, a sick stomach and ocular migraines- all caused by stress and anxiety. Most of the time it was hard to pinpoint exactly WHAT I was anxious about. I do deal with some irrational fears, but a lot of my worries stem from “what if’s”. I could list a million “what if’s” that have gone through my head, and usually there are a couple of specific “what if’s” that I fixate on for periods of time.
For a while it was school. I began working on my Bachelors degree in 2012 and I was constantly worried about making an “A”. Even after assignments were complete and turned in, I had no sense of relief. I would check my grades online everyday with a nauseous feeling. I was very performance driven because I thought the “A” represented my worth and at least something I was doing right in life. If I didn’t make the grade, I wasn’t good enough. There are many others things that caused that tight feeling in my chest and a nauseous stomach daily. I knew as a child of God I was not called to live this way! But I didn’t know what to do.
Now I want to tell you a little of McKinley’s story, my 11 year old daughter. I have her permission to share, although I won’t share a lot, because this is HER story and will be HER victory to tell in her own time. For many years (since she was in preschool) we have dealt with stomach aches weekly and sometimes daily. We saw doctors and nurses and no one could find anything physically wrong with her. Finally one pediatrician mentioned “anxiety”. I saw an article recently that talked about kids and anxiety and discusses the “brain-gut connection”. It also mentioned that kids can’t tell you they are anxious, they will often tell you their stomach hurts.
Dealing with this myself, I understood how she felt. I have heard the phrase, “God never wastes a hurt”. The last year or so, I have begun to sense that God can use me to help my daughter and other people who are going through this. Someone who doesn’t live with anxiety can’t relate. My husband would often say, “Why are you worried about something like that??”, or “Why do you let little things bother you so much??”. It’s just difficult for some people to understand. For McKinley, I am someone she can talk to and I am a support person for her. Recently, God placed someone in my life who’s daughter is the exact same age as McKinley and is dealing with similar things. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
What Helped Me:
- I sought professional counseling. For a long time I thought I should be able to pray my way through anxiety. It wasn’t working. I could not pray my chest pains, or my nauseous stomach away. While I absolutely believe in the power of prayer and that God heard every word (1 Peter 3:12, Jeremiah 29:12-13), it just wasn’t going away. Then one day while sitting in church, I had the thought, “if I had bronchitis or a physical ailment, I wouldn’t NOT go to the doctor”. That changed the way I felt about talking to a professional. I did see a Christian counselor, and now McKinley is seeing her.
- I memorized scripture. There are tons of verses in the Bible about anxious thoughts, worry, and fear. I have read that “fear not” is mentioned 365 times in some form in the Bible. I chose several verses and wrote them on index cards so I could carry them with me. I love 1 Peter 5:7 (see below). The dictionary defines “cast” as, “throw something forcefully in a specified direction; to discard”. I love that imagery- to “throw” your worries on God, to “discard” your anxiety.
- I Praised Him. However you enjoy to Praise God, do it! I love to sing praise and worship songs and I would turn the volume up in my car and sing as loud as I could. It took my focus off me and put it on Him.
- I journaled. Writing is therapeutic for me, and sometimes just writing my worries down in the form of a prayer, or even listing them helped.
Anxiety still rears it’s ugly head, and I will always deal with it. But, it’s more manageable now. I pray that God will use me to help someone else going through this. I want my story to point to Him. Through God’s power, grace and love, I am better. What are the things that cause anxiety for you? It would be an honor to pray for you, or someone that you know who struggles with this. Leave a comment, or go to my “Contact Me” page.