Not only do I usually ride the “It definitely will not be okay” train, but I often conduct it.
There are special stops on the way: The Town of Worst Case Scenarios, Obsession Land, Self Doubt Central, The Village of What Ifs (it is SO easy to get lost there!) and my personal favorite, Replay City. There, every conversation I have ever been a part of gets replayed over and over and over again, sometimes with the “should have saids” until I can’t even remember what actually happened and what is a figment of my imagination.
A true thrill ride. Especially for my husband who usually gets put on the train against his will but patiently accompanies me to each destination. He tries to gently steer us to the Land of Reason, Logic, and Positive Thinking, but my itinerary is pretty rigid.
It’s an exhausting job, conducting this Runaway Train, but I take my job seriously.
Making sure I visit all the charming little towns in my extensive travels.
Oftentimes, I visit them all in one day. In one hour. In 15 minutes.
I have gone through many, many seasons of my anxiety in the past 28 years. In some of the seasons, I have seen the doctors, taken the medications, talked with the therapists, and in other seasons, I have enjoyed relief and lived life how it’s meant to be lived: in freedom. I’ve been able to thrive without any of the previous mentioned supports.
Up until the last few months, I had been enjoying my longest season of stability and freedom from anxiety – so long even, that I forgot what it was like to live in constant fear and anxiety.
Of course I still occasionally visited those old familiar towns, because any one with chronic anxiety knows that even when it’s good, it’s never gone.
Change in my life has historically provoked seasons of high anxiety that interferes with my work, relationships and sense of self.
I’ve hated change since childhood, and the pattern of my anxiety is that when a major life change occurs, I flail frantically in the waters of the unknown, trying desperately to cling to any sort of control or familiarity.
Work anxiety is pretty new to me, actually. This is year 7 of teaching and year 1 in a new position. While the previous 6 years absolutely had their own set of challenges, the type of anxiety I am experiencing related to work is brand new to me.
Questioning everything I do or say. Begging for reassurance everywhere I turn. Completely certain I have royally screwed it up and preparing myself for disaster constantly. Convinced that this one point on this student’s one assignment will certainly be the difference in whether they graduate or not, and I carry the weight of that on my shoulders.
I steer the train, from town to town, making the rounds, covering the map.
As I gear up to conquer the “Thanksgiving-Christmas” stretch, I know that something’s gotta give.
I absolutely love my job, but there have been moments these past few months where I wondered if I simply am not cut out for what it takes of me emotionally.
I don’t want to hold my breath when I open my email fearing the worst news. I don’t want to obsess over student situations while eating dinner with my husband. I don’t want to visit the Town of Worst Case Scenarios every day.
This “It’s Definitely Not Going to Be Okay” train is not how Jesus calls me to live and I exist in that tension of knowing that He has called me to so much more, but fighting the very real existence of anxiety in my life.
I am not here to say there is an easy fix or solution to anxiety. Trust me, if it existed, I would have found it. It is not for lack of effort that I am here again.
But I do know that the last few months, that very “effort” of my own did nothing but tire me out even more.
I have white-knuckled the steering wheel (do trains have these?) of this train of anxiety.
I’ve known that I needed to surrender, but at times felt unable or unwilling.
Instead of living with open-hands, fully trusting God with whatever situation lies ahead, I’ve decided that I should cling tighter as I conduct this train, because at least then I can control the stops.
Last week I told my husband that something that I think would be helpful for me when I start taking the train for a late night drive would be him speaking Scripture over me.
The Word of God can be used like a weapon against the lies of the enemy, and while I don’t think this will always “cure” my anxiety in that moment or with the snap of my fingers take away this thorn from my side, it is more powerful than I ever treat it.
Even if it doesn’t provide instant relief, it slows down the train long enough to hear the voice of God instead of my own.
It pumps the brakes of the Runaway Train and forces me to confront myself with His Word and what He says about fear.
It might help for a minute, or it might help forever, but at the minimum for those moments , I am taking a break from me and centering myself around what God says.
I’m not sure if you have ever conducted, ridden or accompanied someone on the Anxiety Train. Maybe it is a foreign vehicle to you and for that I am grateful.
But, if you have experienced anxiety in this way, I would love for you to share what Scriptures you meditate on in those times.
The Lord has given us many options for support for those of us who struggle with intense anxiety, and His Word is one of those.
Here are a few of my favorites:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
*Photo credit to Brittny Brennan Photography