Anxiety, My Silent Enemy

My studies have suffered the past week, thanks to new developments in my parents’ story, which you can kind of read about here. If it were all my story to tell, I’d have out with it and just be done, but since it’s a whole group of stories within stories, I have to quietly contain them. Yes, it’s really helping my anxiety (please hear the sarcasm in my voice.)

A few things have emerged in myself that I can share, though. This situation has made me look very hard at myself and admit to a few things I didn’t want to think about. Mostly because I would never seek a professional diagnosis. Too scared of what it would be. So, I diagnose myself and deal with it myself.

I have suffered from bouts of depression since I was twelve-years-old. Maybe before that, but the first episode that I remember was on my twelfth birthday. My uncle died, and I was very angry at myself for being hurt that my birthday wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I spent the whole day beating myself up and feeling guilty. The. Whole. Day.

It was by no means constant, so I usually overlooked it, until I got married. I wanted a baby. Month after month, I thought it would happen, and it didn’t. Then it did, and I thought it was all better, but it came back in the form of anxiety. “Is my baby okay?” “Will I be a good parent?” I was convinced that everything I was doing was hurting my growing child. I would go off sugar for a couple of days, get anxious, binge on candy. It was a vicious cycle that didn’t end with that pregnancy, but continued into the next and the next.

My parents’ situation has forced me to realize that depression is a thing, and it’s a deep thing. And just because it’s not a constant cloud of doom, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in the back of my mind.

It’s not bad enough that I’m thinking of hurting myself or anyone else. It’s mostly the anxiety. Every time my toddlers tumble, every time they get a fever, every time they act out, I find myself crippled by anxiety. Afraid my discipline will be too severe, afraid it’s not enough, afraid that I’m disconnecting completely and avoiding dealing with the problem.

I watch every bite of cereal–because their dad has a love for cereal that they share–thinking, “I’m not doing this right. They shouldn’t be eating cereal.” “They shouldn’t be drinking that sugary drink. It has artificial colors.” “They should have vaccinations.” “They shouldn’t have vaccinations.” “Why am I even trying? Give me a soda.”

I’m stuck in the “What ifs?” So paranoid that I’m going to do something wrong that I don’t do anything. I smile, listening to the people around me fuss at my kids, then feel this terrified, “They think I need to do something about my kids jumping on the couch. My kids should probably not jump on the couch.”

I don’t demand that my kids eat vegetables. I don’t demand that they not eat candy. I don’t demand that they obey. I don’t demand anything, because I don’t feel worthy of being obeyed or overseeing anything they do. At least, I didn’t.

But… I’m dealing with it now. It’s got to stop. I’m tired of suffering heart palpitations when talking to people I should view as my peers. Tired of holding my hurt feelings in, because other people “might be” offended if I share them. Tired of avoiding the questions. Tired of questioning myself to this extent. (Not that I’ll ever stop questioning myself, but could I at least have the courage to believe in what I’m doing?) I’m tired of not sleeping, because my fears keep me awake.

I want to own who I am. To say what I think, hopefully in love, but without the crippling fear of the repercussions. I’m tired of worrying that other people will be offended by the way I parent, by the way I eat, by the way I do anything.

I’m so tired of the anxiety that I’ve shoved to the back of my mind for so long.

My obsession with nutrition, aromatherapy, and herbalism originally stemmed from wanting to be sure of myself. Wanting to be the right weight. Wanting to know that I’m making the right choices for my children. But, it can’t be like that. Because there are too many conflicting sources.

I’m a mom on a mission. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the focus of my mission.

I’ve been obsessed with the idea that modern medicine and natural medicine both have the potential to harm. I’ve been obsessed with what other people thought about how I choose to act upon the research I’ve done. I’ve been obsessed with the idea that diets make or break us. I’ve been obsessed with the idea that there is a fine line between doing right and wrong, and I’ve forced myself to walk it for too long.

Frankincense has helped clear my head these past few days. It’s what I’m giving partial credit to. I finally broke down and diffused it, even though it’s so expensive. Frankincense, Jesus, and two adults who can’t seem to understand that their behaviors toward each other also influences their relationships with their children.

I’m going to be open about my anxiety, because I finally feel like being heard. My silence wasn’t because I thought nobody wanted to hear it, but because I felt petty. Like I didn’t deserve to be heard, because other people have bigger problems.

Now, I research aromatherapy–not just because I love the idea of essential oils, but because it has helped me. I’ve used it to ease my physical pains. I’ve used it to calm my mind. I’ve used it to relieve that crippling tension that has had my stomach in a constant knot for the past month and a half. (I even discovered that Ylang Ylang eased my heart palpitations. That’s been an amazing helper.)

Now, I research food, because I love food. It’s delicious. It’s an integral part of my personality, because feeding people is my love language. I want all people to be drawn to my table, to feel nourished in my kitchen, to taste and see that the Lord is so good. Good food has been a real delight these past couple of days, as my husband worked his culinary magic on grilled chicken and a seafood gumbo that was so delicious I’ve shared a bite with everybody who would taste it.

IMG_7425God has worked this situation with my parents to my future good. Even when I couldn’t pray or focus on the Bible He’s been right there, shining a light in my darkness, bringing me back to the light. Reminding me of His love through friends and my mother-in-love, who has been a constant friend.

My anxiety will be back. It’s one of those mean friends that hangs around, jumping on you when you don’t expect it. But, for now, there’s peace.

 

 

P.S. I also got a really short haircut like I’ve wanted for years and never been brave enough to go through with. I actually love it. Should’ve done it a long time ago.

Come And See My Jesus

We used to have Bible study on Sunday mornings with my parents, but, as they’re working to reconcile with each other and dealing with their own spiritual chaos, we’ve all been pretty much having to do our own thing. We considered joining a church, but as we’ve never really identified with any denomination in particular, it became a matter of “Well, where would we go?” In our small town, there are no less than ten options.

In the end, we decided that watching Venture Church’s sermons online would be our church. So, for the past three Sundays, my husband and I have gotten our favorite drinks (Last Sunday it was hot tea for me and a Yoohoo for him.), and sat down at the table to listen to Pastor Jeff Clark. We listened to his “Gospel Frontier” series and scrolled through the archives back to his series called “Who Is Jesus?

Today, as I read through John 1, I was reminded of Pastor Jeff’s sermon about coming to see who Jesus is. He referenced the story of Philip going to Nathanael and saying, “We’ve found the Messiah! He’s Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael asked, “How can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip’s response was “Come and see.”

As Christians, we form our own idea of who He is. We decide that He’s a Grandfather in the sky making everything fine and dandy, or a vending machine that–if we push the right buttons and say the right prayers–will give us whatever we desire. Or, we go with God is waiting in the clouds with a baseball bat to knock us over the head the minute we step out of line.

It’s no wonder we have a hard time bringing anybody to Jesus. Because life is ugly. And when you’re lost in your own despair, you need the real Jesus, who comes down to your level, because He knows there’s no way you’re getting to His. The real Jesus who hears the very cry of your heart, when you no longer have any words to speak. The real Jesus who crossed time and space, and the gulf of our sins that separated us from Him, to breathe life into our dying selves.

That’s my Jesus. My Jesus, who looking beyond the shattered, depraved soul that gasped for Life, died for me. Who saw me shrinking in the darkness, to hide my shame at my sin, and ran into the darkness, bringing Light. Who daily, gently molds me into His likeness. That’s my Jesus. My breath. My life. My hope. That’s my Jesus.

Come and see my Jesus.

Real Christianity

My parents are separating.

They’ve been married for twenty-eight years.

I’m sitting at my table. It’s the two o’clock hour. My usual hour to read my Bible and pray. I’ve been really excited about it lately, because my little ones play quietly, and I can drink from the Living Water.

Except today.

Today, I’m skipping rocks across the top of it, instead of drinking it in.

Over the past two weeks, as past hurts and heartaches–which my parents have dealt with throughout their marriage–have come to light, I’ve been in a constant state of sick. Sick, because it seems trivial to an outsider. Sick, because I’m watching these two people that I thought were so in love tear themselves apart. Sick, because I prayed desperately, and it didn’t change anything. Sick, because I have to explain it to my kids. Sick, because my twelve-year-old sister has to deal with it. Sick, because they couldn’t pull it together.

Why, God?

I told You I didn’t know how to intercede. I told You I didn’t know what to pray. And there for a while, I believed it would be all right. You’d give eloquence to my aching heart. I felt You surround me…and it still made a really big mess, and it still hurts.

It’s funny how we think if we follow Jesus we somehow get a free ticket out of pain. People want to say you’ll be blessed if you stay in God’s favor. They want to view Him as that grandfather in the sky who only wants to love you and give you the best for you and make you happy…and that’s not how it is.

Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that life stops being, well, life. It hurts. It falls apart. It’s hollow sometimes. It doesn’t seem worth living sometimes.

We scream, “God, this isn’t fair! Why?!”

Then we see Jesus. God’s own Son that He didn’t spare from pain, because if He had, we would be doomed forever.

We see Jesus…blood…sweat…agony…for us.

And then in the midst of our own pain, we are comforted by that Jesus, who–from the cross–saw that we would need Him and made a way that we would have access to the Throne of Heaven. We see Jesus, who heals us with His stripes…who breaths new life into our broken, depraved little selves.

We see Jesus.

And it’s not that knowing Jesus takes away our burdens.

It’s that He carries them with us, so we don’t have to walk alone.

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