Anxiety | The Bridesmaid Dress Series
I can't breathe.
I can't think, it's like a cord wrapped around my throat.
I don't know where to turn. What to do.
Am I dying?
I can't do that.
The power anxiety holds is insane.
We live trapped in a world telling us we can't, we shouldn't, we're about to meet our end. Its lies are slimy but feel trustworthy. We listen to its siren call. It takes over, cancelling our plans, calling in sick, staying at home in bed.
I remember as a child, sitting in panic at a piano recital, my breath caught in my throat. I couldn't find the strength to exhale. Anxiety sat down on my chest and took my air from me.
I remember being a young teenager feeling like I was dying. I couldn't do the thing, this very simple thing all my peers were doing. Anxiety laid its hands on me and wrapped its fingers around my vocal cords. Made me stay silent and feel like I couldn't.
I remember being in college, crying uncontrollably in my car. The university sat in front of me, familiar yet so dangerous. I couldn't make myself go in, couldn't even turn off the car. I couldn't even drive back home. I didn't understand why I felt so powerless as I sat there bawling and hyperventilating.
I don't know how old I was when I first experienced anxiety. But I know it was a long time before I realized what anxiety actually is. For years this thing claimed my life, twisting the truth into lies and safety into the most dangerous place. Sometimes I fought against it, but honestly, for the most part I gave in. I told myself "this is who I am, and I can't change it." I lied to myself so consistently that I didn't recognize what was real and what wasn't. That's what anxiety does, it twists things up and mangles them until you can't see past the very slender view of panic. It makes us feel lost in our own bodies and minds, unsure what to trust. It's a very overwhelming and overpowering thing, especially when we let it run rampant.
It's the all-too-known excuse. I didn't show up because my anxiety...I couldn't meet the deadline or take the test because my anxiety...
It's too painful, too confusing, too scary. I rationalized in my head why I was saying no to the world, to life, to freedom. "It's anxiety making it happen, and anxiety's fault." But anxiety was lying to me all along. Over the years, I've come to know the truth. And it only came once I was able to see what anxiety was doing to me, and how I was allowing it to perpetuate.
Anxiety was safe--it was the thing protecting me in an otherwise unknown world. Because it told me I was safe with it, so I listened and went along with what it wanted.
It's the perfect crime, I didn't even realize I was saying yes to being an accomplice.
It's the bully on the schoolyard who tells us enough times we're dirt, we finally believe it and stop questioning him. We stop pushing back.
What if we push back?
What if we stop accepting our fate and look this thing in its ugly eye? What if we choose to identify it not as the world we live in, but the roadblock on our way to the real world? A world that's full of beautiful things, a world so much more loving than what our anxiety tells us. What if anxiety can't control us when we choose freedom from it?
What if we tried?
I didn't know how much power I had, because I was giving all of it away. It was being taken out of my hands and I just watched from my shell of a mind while anxiety stripped me of everything. The thing is, I was just letting it happen.
But then, God.
Not in a cosmic "BOOM YOU SHALL BE HEALED AND WILL NO MORE EVER STRUGGLE WITH ANYTHING AGAIN" type of way. Heck, not even in a way that felt really cool. But I recognized one day that I wasn't alone in that car at school. I wasn't alone in the corner, watching my peers do all the things. I wasn't alone at that piano recital. Never, in fact, was I ever alone.
I recognized that the God who is Creator over all, the Savior who took our sin upon Himself and defeated death, that guy was with me. Always. In fact, He's promised it. So if I believed in a God powerful enough to make the universe and save me from my sins, how could I not think He was able to handle this?
It's a long process. It's messy, uncomfortable, and sometimes I just don't want to do it. But I chose to give my anxiety over to Him. I had to release from the cycle I was allowing myself to stay in. I had to take that cord wrapped around my neck off and let it go.
Because I couldn't live like that any more. I couldn't let the anxiety stay in my life. I had no life left to speak of because of it.
I had to give it over to God, and let Him take care of it. The thing is, I wasn't big enough to handle it on my own. I had to trust that He had my best interests in mind; He was big enough to take on the bully. It meant taking a look at my life and recognizing the lies, looking them in the face, and smacking them with the miraculous truth.
It took giving myself grace when I missed the mark, because God's grace covers over me. But it also took hard work and discipline, because we can't change a pattern of behavior without putting in some time to make a new one. It took confessing when I was anxious, and turning back to God and saying, "but I know You're bigger than my anxiety. And I trust you more than I trust this thing." It took lots of practice, learning new breathing techniques, opening up about anxiety to other people and letting them pray over me and help me through it.
When anxiety lies, I stand in the truth of what God has said. I'm His, I'm beloved, worthy, and He has called me to a life that does not include anxiety. Instead, He's invited me to bring all my requests, my worries, and my cares to Him. Because He'll deal with them!
When anxiety lies, I rest knowing that God is the God of my future, not just my present. He's already there, whatever is ahead. And because He is with me, I have no need for anxiety ruling over my mind.
Before I let God into my life of anxiety, it ran rampant and left destruction in its wake. But giving my struggles over to the One who can handle them has brought freedom into areas I hadn't thought possible.
Will we always struggle with anxiety?
Maybe. I know I still do.
But are we slaves?
No. We are no longer slaves to anxiety, or anything else for that matter. Nothing can hold us back from the Love of Christ who has set us free.
So what I'm trying to do is walk in that freedom and continue to give the lies to God.
P.S. All of these photos were taken by my amazingly creative and talented friend Emma. You can find her on social media here and I highly recommend you follow her if you don't already!