Whether you believe in God or not, anxiety is still a beast. It consumes minds and bodies of kids and adults like never before. One third of all absences from work are due to anxiety and stress, and we know that relationships and long-term health also suffer. Anxiety wasn’t supposed to be part of my story, but it is. As a Christian and a church worker diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I’ve learned both practical and spiritual things about anxiety that are worth sharing with those who struggle with worry, stress & fear.
On the outside, I was lovely. Strong. Capable. Gifted.
On the inside, I was slowly dissolving to pieces. And nobody knew. Not even me.
That’s the thing about anxiety. It charades as a sneaky thief.
I planned for the worst to be prepared.
I was “wise.”
I strove for perfection in parenting, in relationships, at work, in acts of service.
I was “valuable.”
I kept my promises and over-delivered
I was “respected.”
There’s nothing wrong with these characteristics, but they are markers for a mind that is busy, a body that is weary, and a soul that is striving.
A human being cannot live this way forever. Something will eventually break.
And that’s what happened to me at the age of 37. I broke. I found myself frozen in a chair at country club where I was in charge of a large fundraiser. I hadn’t slept for days. I was nauseous constantly. My mind raced with to-dos and what-ifs and should’ve, could’ve, would’ves. The room bustled with activity and I (the girl with the golden touch) shattered into a million pieces.
It was both the most devastating and the most incredible thing to ever happen to me.
Nobody knew what to do with this new, broken version of Laura. Least of all, me. I was the one who fixed things and took care of others. I had traveled the world and climbed the corporate ladder. I was raising two beautiful daughters. I counseled people, shifted my career to the non-profit world and currently worked at a church. Yet now I was screaming of fear in my bed and having panic attacks on the bathroom floor.
And I was a Christian. Wasn’t I supposed to have peace that surpasses all understanding? Lay my burdens down at Christ’s feet? Be still and know that He is God?
Where was God in this battle and how could I reconcile these fears with the power of His Promises?
There’s not a simple answer, but there are several encouraging truths that I want you to know.
1. IT’S NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Anxiety becomes a physical illness as much as emotional, spiritual, and mental. When we stress or worry and don’t give our body the physical and mental rest it needs to recover, there are dozens of very real, physical responses that occur in our body. The effects of these responses (like insomnia, nausea, racing thoughts, shaking, etc) often cause us even more anxiety and a vicious cycle begins.The good news is that early recognition, intervention and even medication are helpful options (provided by God) for managing anxiety and helping our bodies recover from stressful symptoms. There is no shame in seeking counsel of a pastor, loved-one, doctor and/or taking medication. In fact, the sooner you seek help, the easier it is to feel the positive impact.
2. ASKING FOR HELP IS BRAVE & BIBLICAL
Take one look at scripture and you’ll notice that God worked through humans all the time. He didn’t HAVE to, but He did. And He still does today. There are many ways for you to receive help with anxiety through people that God has uniquely placed in your path. Here are the ones I’ve used in my own journey. I proudly call them “my team” and I’m certain they were heaven-sent to be God’s help in my life.
Psychiatrists: a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness (can prescribe medication).
Psychologists: a specialist in mental processes and behavior (does not prescribe medication).
Counselors: a person trained to give guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems.
Inpatient and/or outpatient treatment programs: intensive care consisting of medical, psychological help as well as counseling.