What do you get when you cross a Free Spirit and an Anxiety Disorder?
That’s what you get.
I’m a pretty happy person--a true “Free Spirit” according to a free online personality test. I love meeting other people, encouraging them, and laughing as often as possible. Although my circumstances aren’t always perfect, they are pretty darn good right now. I’m a mom, wife, and am living my dream job as a speaker and writer.
But something wasn’t right with me this summer. Feelings of despondency had been building all spring; I felt panicked all of the time. I’d pray about it, but man. The thoughts and feelings just wouldn’t stop. The feelings continued until one day in June when the thought of all I had to do was just too much. I couldn’t get out of bed. To top it all off, I felt guilty that my circumstances didn’t warrant such desperation.
Because of a story on Lane of Roses (Emily Crout), I knew I needed to go talk to someone before the situation got any worse. I’m so glad I did.
I thought a black tidal wave of fear in the back of your head, looming over you, until your heart races and you can’t breathe was normal. As a kid, it took me hours to fall asleep. I’d lie there, imagine all of the millions of ways the monsters under my bed would rip me apart, and I’d sweat my guts out. Maybe my hyper-vigilance would prevent the worst from happening.
As an adult, whenever a trip--or anything out of my normal routine--came up, I felt like that little kid sweating it out under the covers waiting for the boogeyman. I thought to combat my incessant, nagging fears I should fight my bad thoughts with good ones. I’ve been fighting bad thoughts with good ones since 1980.
This summer, I was tired of fighting.
When I went to see a counselor (which I have over the years about various other struggles), she recommended I see a--gasp--psychiatrist. I was nervous about going, but it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I have not one, but two anxiety disorders (Generalized Anxiety & OCD), and honestly--finding out was a huge relief.
For me, I need medicine (at least for now) to boost my low levels of serotonin. Anxiety is every bit as “real” as depression. I had no idea my mind could feel calm. Until recently, my mind churned. It raced. Now, it can just rest. I’m painting for the first time in fifteen years, able to deviate from my routine without panicking, and even went on a much-needed trip with my husband to Key West. It was the time of my life. I finally feel like the real me.
If you’re beating yourself up for how much you suck, hating yourself for no good reason, or embarrassed about how dark your thoughts are, well--I get that. You’re not alone. But please take a lesson from me:
Sometimes you don’t feel okay even though your circumstances are okay.
Sometimes you feel less than.
Sometimes all of the above makes you feel incredibly guilty.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help. Just make sure the help is the right kind--and no, WebMD doesn’t count. Remember how I spent years “fighting” my fears? That’s a coping mechanism for depression, not anxiety.
My prayers weren’t broken (and God certainly wasn’t broken) when I felt panicky and desperate. No, my chemistry was off--not God. Now that I’m thinking clearly, and feel like myself, I can recognize the signs and people God sent my way to make sure I’m the best version of myself.
I’m learning to feel the black tidal wave of anxiety coming, and ride the wave. I can’t stop my anxious thoughts--there’s no need fighting a tidal wave. Instead, I tell myself, “Okay, what’s happening isn’t fun, but it won’t kill me,” and I’m finally able to move on. I couldn’t do that before, my thoughts would get stuck on a doom loop & no amount of “good thoughts” helped.
Some of my anxious thoughts were so dark, I felt ashamed of them. If this is you, don’t feel ashamed, but do check out the counselors below for a consultation.
Resources for Anxiety:
Counseling. Oh my gosh, I can’t recommend counseling enough.
Lexington, KY Counseling Centers:
Nationwide Counseling Websites:
Books. I beg you to find a therapist, because when I WebMD’d myself I treated my anxiety with depression techniques--the exact opposite of what I was supposed to do!
Give Yourself a Break by Kim Frederick
This book is amazing. Even though I write self-helpy kinds of books, I don’t necessarily read them (insert awkward emoji). I read this one in a couple of hours it was so good.
Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus & Marie Chapian
This book is about trading lies for truth & has a section on anxiety.
The 10 Best Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg
This book is more of a cerebral read. It is not faith-based, but gives helpful information on how anxiety affects the brain.