I live with extreme anxiety. Almost every day I encounter some kind of tragedy. My kids get injured, my husband dies in a car accident, my home is broken into, or I die suddenly from some freak accident.
No, this doesn’t actually happen, but this is what it’s like to live with anxiety….In case you've ever wondered... this is what it's like to live with anxiety. #mentalhealth #anxiety #mentalillness Click To Tweet
Living with anxiety
Today everything fell into place for me to take a shower. When my kids are busy, and I can steal a few minutes to clean up, I seize that opportunity. After all, I may not get another chance to shower for a few more days.
I left snacks out for the girls and told them I was going to wash up. Their little eyes barely moved from the television screen as they nodded with understanding.
I ran upstairs and stripped off my clothes and stepped into the shower.
No sooner did I lather my hair with shampoo, my mind started to run wild.
Did I lock the door when they came in from playing in the yard? What if the door is unlocked? And then someone comes into the house? What if someone kidnaps my kids or worse yet, hurts them? The shower’s so loud; I would be clueless if anything was happening downstairs.
I stepped out of the shower with my hair full of suds and wrapped a towel around myself.
The kids looked briefly stunned as their sopping wet mom came down the stairs to check the front door.
It was locked… of course it was.
I briefly direct my kids that if anyone rings the doorbell, they are NOT to answer it. They give a nod. I make them repeat my instructions and then trudge back upstairs. Then I step back into the shower to rinse the soap out of my hair, relieved that I didn’t have to think about the door anymore.
No sooner does the water hit my head my mind starts to wander again.
What if one of the girls chokes on their snack? I briefly ponder the crackers I gave them and told myself that one of them would certainly come running up the stairs in a panic if someone was choking. Or would they? They’re so absorbed in their show, would either of them even realize something was wrong with the other one? I shake the thought from my head and convince myself that they will be okay.
Then I lift my leg onto the edge of the tub and start to shave. I imagine losing my balance and falling in the shower.
What if I slip, hit my head, and die? What would my girls do? Panic sets in.
I can’t let my children discover the body of their mom! I begin to cry thinking of my girls growing up without a mom. I’m crushed by the thought of missing any of their lives… graduation, marriage, and grandchildren; I don’t want to miss one second of it.
Suddenly I stop.
What am I doing?!
Friends, I struggle with anxiety. Every day is a battle to stay grounded and not let scenarios, like the ones I just shared, take over my days.
Anxiety is a struggle. It is an every day, win or lose struggle.
My emotions are heightened by the fact that I’m a Christian. I wrestle with my mind silently because I have this perception that others would judge me harshly. I fear that others may perceive my walk with God as flawed or that I’m a failure because, God heals, right? Moreover, I feel like how can I tell others about Jesus if I’m tormented by fleeting thoughts of injury, death, and loss? I feel like an outsider in my spiritual community because I have a mental illness.
I HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS
Yes, I have a mental illness. It’s taken me a long time to write those words.
I’ve shared about my battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, but I’ve been frightened to tell others about the anxiety I deal with. Why? Because I already feel alone in my illness.
I’ve tried medication, and it made me feel worse. Thus, the alternative is that I have to approach the anxiety holistically. So I swim and drown, I sink and float, and I soar and plummet through my days.
STRATEGIES TO MANAGE ANXIETY
I have strategies… an arsenal to fight against the thoughts that sometimes take over my head.
My main strategies are that I read my Bible, I pray and sing worship songs. If my schedule gets busy, and I’m not spending as much time with the Lord, I can immediately feel the anxiety climb. So at a minimum, I try to spend time with God first thing in the morning, after lunch, and near the end of the day.
I avoid watching or reading the news and I try to fill myself with stories that are joyful and uplifting rather than frightening or sad.
Also, I try to eat healthy, I exercise, and I write. If I’m mindful of what I do with my spare time, I can fill my mind with healthy thoughts as opposed to unhealthy ones.
I do what I can to manage the beast in my brain.
Yes, I can go a few days with just the occasional frightening thought, but when I’m not taking care of myself, the anxiety crawls back and seems to be ten times worse.
I haven’t been taking care of myself lately. My recent anxiety attack showed me that I have to reset… and like anything else I do, plan for wellness.
This is a battle. This is a journey.
While I hold onto the hope for healing, I pray that one day the war will be over, and peace will settle in my heart and mind.
Update. My doctor asked me if I wanted to try anxiety medication. I thought I would give it a try and after a couple months, I felt amazing. I can’t believe I lived in this tortured state for so long and truly wish I had sought out medications earlier. If you’re struggling, talk to your doctor. It may take time to find the right medication and dosage but it really is worth it.