Updated: Sep 16, 2018
The pages felt thin between my fingers and it was difficult to just turn one page at a time. I scanned each page desperately searching for an answer. I jumped from one chapter to the next. Then I went on to the next book in a hopeless frenzy, yet still nothing. The answer must be there. I just was not seeing it and I would not give up. I was tired and I needed an answer, I needed direction. I did not know whether to cry or scream, so I did both. After a good cry I normally felt my body release some of my pent up emotions but not this time. This time, my anxiety was sailing the ship. I was afraid and it was not fair.
From childhood through my late twenties I felt like there was always another shoe waiting to drop. I tried to fight it. I tried to have a daily quiet time. I would spend fifteen minutes reading my Bible and then fifteen minutes praying.
I believed it was my guarantee that God would make everything okay. I knew it would not make each day perfect, but it would keep all the “really bad” things from happening to me. Yet why did life seem to always be an uphill battle?
Early in our marriage my husband would frequently ask, “Why are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop?” What I know now is that seeing things not working out; a job, a relationship, a business opportunity, had become my default expectation. I had been told that if I just believed in God enough, prayed enough, and followed enough of the rules, that positive outcomes would surely come my way. I believed that I was ultimately not in charge of my life’s direction and the only thing I could do about it was pray and trust. I was in a constant state of powerlessness. Through this state of powerlessness, anxiety became my daily companion. You know that feeling of relief when the one thing you have been worrying about turns out in the best possible way? My relief may have outwardly appeared to go on for hours or maybe days, inwardly it had disappeared within seconds. My anxiety needed a thing, a situation, or a place to reside in my head. Imagine a movie about aliens who need a human host to survive in earth’s atmosphere; my anxiety does not need an entire human body, just a worry or two to survive.
I have learned over the last decade that if one big worry has been eliminated in my life, my anxiety goes on the hunt for the next one. I was extremely worried about what elementary school our first born would get into, he got a spot at a top charter school which should equal relief but only a few days later I found myself worrying and snapping at my husband. When he asked why I could not come up with a reason, until it dawned on me that my anxiety was looking for a new emotional host.
As a child, I was told to stop worrying a thousand times, to trust, to let go, to pray, and just believe things will be okay. Yet as an adult, I have learned that if I tell anxiety to go away, she will only fight harder to stay. Now I invite her in, ask her to pull up a chair, and hear what she has to say. When I sit with her and acknowledge that there is no shame in her existence, she and I are both able to take a breath and walk forward. For after all she desires the same peace I do.