If you have anxiety, or know anyone with anxiety, or want to know what it is like to have anxiety, well you should read this post. I am going to do my best to explain what goes through my head on a daily basis.
I know everyone is different. No case of anxiety looks exactly the same. Our life circumstances and events shape our minds - whether we want them to or not. For me, there are two main things I fight on a daily basis:
1. I automatically jump to the worst case scenario of any given situation. I think this is because I used to think of the worst case scenario sometimes but I could shake it off because it didn't happen. Until it did. Until I had a sinking feeling something was really wrong with my dad. And then he had a tumor. and then that tumor was cancer. and then the tumor came back. The worst case scenario has happened multiple times. I can't tell my mind that isn't going to happen. Because it could. and how do I prepare for that?
2. I have a constant stream of worries playing in the background of my mind. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that if I worry about it, then I can control it from happening. Or at least I will be ready for it if it does happen. There is nothing worse than getting really bad news that you had no idea was coming, or so I think. So if I just think about all the things I don't want to happen - then they are less likely to happen.
This is how my brain looked before I went to counseling:
The yellow circle is the main thought I am trying to deal with. The pink ones are the two competing thoughts that make me worry. The background is the news ticker of worries that I can "feel" in the back of my head. If I give it .01 second of thought I can grab one of those fears and dwell on it.
It was exhausting.
I used to think this was normal. --> then I learned it wasn't
When my dad passed away I enrolled into counseling. After listening to me for a few weeks my counselor asked me what percentage of my life I thought was controlled by anxiety. I said "50%". She said she thought it was a lot more than that. It didn't take long for me to realize it was more like 90% yikes!
One time there was a severe thunderstorm warning in our area. Philip and I looked out the window and watched the storm blow in. I asked him "what are you thinking about right now?" He said "I don't know what I am going to have for dinner" That blew my mind! I said "so you're not thinking about the storm and how our basement could flood, or how a branch might fall on the roof?!?!"
This is what Philip's brain looked:
I used to think this would never go away. --> then it started to get better.
One time I had to write down all of my fears. The things I thought about on daily basis that scared me. Sure, no big deal. They all seemed legit. Until I had to read them out loud. That is when I started realizing some of them were a little, odd. Like "what if I got shot while driving" "what if The Earth fell off its axis". What are the odds of these things happening? Probably pretty slim.
After I wrote them out I had to put them in 3 piles "Things to fix" "Things to fix later" "Things to throw away"
Notice how I didn't get a "things I can worry about" pile. Nope. I had to be able to have control over them to be able to hang onto to them.
Dude - 90% of my fears I had to throw away. Mainly because I can't control them.
Not that this cured me. Because I am far from cured. But it helped! A ton. I think, if I were honest with myself, I would say that now 50% of my life is still controlled by anxiety.
This is what my brain looks like today:
A vast improvement from before. I would LOVE for the background noise to go away. I would love to not to jump to the worst case scenario in .01 seconds. This is where I am, and I have to be proud of it.
This is another reason why I love yoga. For that one hour while I am practicing I am literally thinking about how to inhale and exhale and I don't have the brain capacity to worry. When I leave, at least for a little while, the buzzing in my head is quieter.
I used to think I wasn't a real Christian because I am anxious --> then God showed that I am.
There are hundreds of verses in the Bible about not worrying, trusting God, not being anxious, casting all your cares on Him. So, clearly, since I am not able to do that - I am a failure. Right? Wrong. I can say, read, and dwell on verses about peace when I am scared. I do, actually. I can tell myself "God's Got it!" or "You can't control that, Mary!" And yet there is a buzzing of fears running through my mind all day. So what am I doing wrong? Why am I not better? Am I not praying enough?
No - Some people struggle with anxiety, and that's ok.
I still love God. I trust God. God loves me even though I am an anxious person.
But I don't think God wants me to be anxious. I think He wants me to continue to get better. To continue to read my Bible and dwell on hopeful things. And so I am.
I don't think God wants you to be anxious either.
We, you and I, can't prepare for the unexpected. Life sucks sometimes. Stuff happens that we wish never would. So, take a deep breath - and realize you probably have no control over that worry.
Do you or someone you know struggle with anxiety? What does it look like? What has helped you?