A few weeks ago, my boyfriend said to me, “I feel like you’re just anxious about being anxious right now…”
And I replied, “Welcome to my brain. Please stay awhile.”
When I told him that I would love to try out his logical, structured, factual engineer brain for a day, he responded, “Does that mean I would have to try yours?” (he wouldn’t last an hour anyways, most would fall due to exhaustion).
Anxiety has always been a part of who I am. It is not WHO I am, but is is a part of me.
My brain is awesome, but it can also be terrifying.
My family tells stories of me as a 6 year old, standing in the corner wringing her hands as we were dropping off my sister at summer camp.
My dad had to physically carry me (and as you see in the above picture, that was no easy task) into my first day of 1st grade, my first tennis lesson and my first time ice skating. I’m actually surprised no one contacted authorities over the amount of times I was transported into activities against my will (but for my own good).
( In my parents’ defense, I would BEG for them to sign me up for these events, have them register and pay for me and THEN refuse to go once I got there. I was a joy and a breeze to raise.)
Every major disruptive change in my life (good or bad) typically results in some level of an anxious response.
While “certainty” and “known” are my favorite words, “uncertainty” and “unknown” are my worst enemies.
There are times that fear and anxiety absolutely control my life.
Not to discredit all the “worrywarts” out there who get moderately stressed or nervous on occasion, but I am talking about deep, paralyzing anxiety that stops you in your tracks.
Anxiety and fear that envelopes you and sometimes you don’t even know why.
Panic and dread that come over you and make it hard to breathe, let alone explain how you’re feeling.
A racing mind that only slows down enough to find another thought to become obsessed with.
If you have never struggled with anxiety, you are probably reading this thinking I am absolutely crazy (no argument there).
If you have struggled with anxiety, you’re reading this in relief saying “Thank the Lord I’m not the only one.”
Everyone’s anxiety is different and manifests itself in different ways and with different triggers, but most anxiety is rooted in uncertainty and losing control.
If you’re bored one day and feel like messing with an anxious person’s head (that is a psychotic thing to do and if that sounds appealing to you, please stop reading here), there are two surefire words to spiral them into a frenzied panic:
A few months ago, I was struggling through an intense time of anxiety and had gone home for the weekend to be doted on by my loving parents (because I’m still 12). On my way back to Grand Rapids, I spent my time wrestling with my thoughts WWE style.
Fear was attempting to take over as I obsessed about the what if’s of an unknown future.
But then I felt God say to me, in a way that was so much different than the voice of anxiety and so contrasting to the emotional ups and downs I was experiencing:
Why are you so afraid of my plans for you. What do you know about me?
I need you to get to a point where EVEN IF I lead you into unknown territory and EVEN IF your plans are not my plans, you trust me, because you know I am good.
This world is full of uncertainty. I wish I knew exactly what God wanted from me and my life every moment of every day, but I don’t.
The “what if” game has no certain outcome. It has limitless answers and the wilder your imagination, the longer you can play. (Spoiler alert: this is a game where everyone loses).
What if leads me down a road of uncertainty and turmoil.
For example, let’s play this game for kicks and giggles with a pretty shallow what if question:
What if I left my curling iron plugged in? LET’S PLAY.
My apartment could burn down.
I could lose everything.
I would have no where to live.
I would live out of my car and drink river water.
I could be found alone on a street at night sleeping and be kidnapped and forced to work as a gardener (the worst job I could ever have).
I would work long days in the hot sun with no contact with the outside world, harvesting radishes and using my tears as a watering device.
Wasn’t that fun? I started with a curling iron and ended up working as a kidnapped gardener.
So on that car ride, I felt God remind me of His faithfulness. I changed the word “What” to “Even.”
Even if leads me down a road, although maybe unknown, still certain.
Even if forces me to fall back on what I know. Not indulging in my disturbingly vivid imagination of every possibility that could happen.
Even if someone I love abandons me.
Even if that candidate wins the election.
Even if all of my friends have babies that are in seventh grade by the time I get married.
Even if I lose my job.
Even if my apartment burns down.
Even if His plans are different than mine.
What do I know about God? What has He shown me in 25 years that I have rest in?
That He is faithful.
That He has picked me up from ashes before and He would do it again.
That He is sovereign over this world and sovereign over my life.
That He is in control.
That He has placed the best support system on planet earth in my life and I would never be alone.
That He works everything out for my good, regardless of the pain it takes to get me there.
So even if the worst case scenario happens to me in this life, even if I lose everything, I know for certain that He is faithful and His plan WILL come to a beautiful place of redemption that tells a story much bigger than the one I was planning on telling.
There have been seasons in my life of deep grief and heartache. Times where I was so broken I didn’t know how I could ever be restored.
Yet faithfully, He put the broken pieces back together and created something more beautiful than I could ever imagine.
“Even if” changed so much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have devoted years of my life to learning to live with anxiety and this one phrase was not the magic cure. It helped to change a pattern of thinking, yet I am very aware that anxiety is much deeper and can be much more severe.
God has supplied me with many different tools, people and support to live freely and joyfully. If you have any questions about my journey with anxiety, I would love to talk with you. I am so open on my blog, but there are obviously personal details about my life and my journey that I keep private, but if you are someone who struggles with anxiety and wants more of my story, email me any time 🙂 My dream is to start some kind of anxiety support group 😉 #forrealthough
8 Comments Add yours
Great post Jenna. I don’t know if I have anxiety, because it doesn’t completely shut me down like you and others I’ve been told about, but I do get anxious a lot. And I do overload my brain a lot with What if. And this post has given me the way to switch that all around and I believe if you do that, you will see God take over when you need Him. I love that you changed not only the world but the perspective from being in your own thoughts to let God into them.
Anxiety is anxiety is anxiety. Yes, being stressed about a presentation is different than living with anxiety every day, but if you’ve experienced it once, you understand. Fortunately God has given me many many tools to deal with my anxiety so it very rarely shuts me down anymore, but when it does, even if it’s just once every few years, it feels like a lifetime. Thank you for your encouragement- your comments are so thoughtful and not bitter at all!! Ha ha
That is so comforting to know that you have found a way to deal with it, especially relying on God. He is the only one that can give us comfort sometimes and always the one to turn to with our troubles when no one else will listen. It’s nice to see how strong your faith is.
I cannot express how much I needed to read this today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙂
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Oh dear Jenna do you remember
The bit of anxiety during your summer
In Ecuador, dear girl you have come a
Long way! I’m so glad you stuck out the summer and let us help you through those anxious moments! You are a blessing and God is using you dear one in Great ways! Keep it up and keep
Trusting and following Him!He is faithful!!!! Hugs from Ecuador 😁 Jen
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Do I remember? Ohhhhh how I remember. Lol you guys were the heroes of Ecuador. I could not have made it without you. I have come very far since then but his faithfulness reminds me every time that “this too shall pass”. Thanks for the sweet comment and kiss that adorable baby’s head for me ❤️
I have lived there more than I want to admit. Like set up camp and lived there. Love you, Girlie!!!! 😘 It’s a process to move out for sure. But, God’s plans are good and He will keep his promises to love, protect, and shield ❤️ You are AWESOME!!!!!!!!
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I’m struggling with a lot of anxiety right now. I’ve had so so many difficult things happen in the last 2 years. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for your honesty.
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