My life has been filled with many joys, and my struggle with anxiety doesn’t mean that I’ve lived a sad life, far from it. But it is a part of my life, and in order to be vulnerable, honesty is neccessary. I dislike being so personal online, but for some time, something has been urging me to write openly about this. I don’t know if it will help anybody, but I at least hope it will raise some awareness.
Where to even begin…?
I guess I’ll start with little Rachel, somewhere around age five or six.
I remember always being agitated while sleeping. My legs wouldn’t stand still, and an intense shiver like sensation took over my body. It made me restless and it affected my sleep quite a bit.
After a doctor’s appointment we found out that my brain activity would not shut down during nighttime, and that it was just as active as in the daytime. That’s all I remember, but I know my mother was very worried.
As I grew a bit older, around eight or nine years old, I remember worrying a lot. Whenever anything would go wrong in my life or around, I felt personally affected. If I had done something wrong especially, or not well enough, I would be very worried and hard on myself. I remember this one time, somewhere around third grade, sitting in the bathroom on the floor, counting all of the things I was worried about on my fingers, and figuring out solutions, and trying to find ways to resolve them, to “cross them off the list”, for I knew that that was the only way I could stop the nausious like sensations I was feeling.
For many years I had no idea what it was I was feeling; that particular feeling that was the same each time, whenever there was lack of harmony, trouble or simply uncertainty. I would call it “my Thing”, and I remember thinking to myself how strange I was from everyone else, because I had never seen or heard of anyone feeling things like I was. I thought it to be very strange, it was fear mixed with a guilt like sensation, a pounding in my chest and a car sick feeling all at once. Nausious, restless and with no appetite to eat, often for no apparent reason.
I didn’t know how to describe it to others, so I never even tried telling anyone. I thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously anyway. As a kid, I often felt like adults didn’t take children seriously. So that was that.
The years went by, and I didn’t pay much attention to it, I accepted the fact that that was how it was and coped with it. It got easier too. I don’t remember it being a constant struggle back then; more like an episode that would come up now and again.
In 8th grade, one of the youtubers I followed, made a video about a topic called “Anxiety”. Now, I had previously heard the term, but that was all I knew of it. As I watched her video, and as she explained what anxiety was and how it manifested itself, I remember bursting into tears, for I finally felt understood. Cliché as that might sound, it felt good to be understood, and to know that I wasn’t alone and peculiar.
It has always helped me to give names to things, so that I could know where to put them and how to approach them. So, having a name for what I felt, and finding out it is common, and many struggle with this, gave me so much relief.
In spite of this new found clarity, I still never told anyone.
Eventhough I now had a name for it, and coud better describe it, I still thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I thought I would come off as overdramatic and attention seeking. I had been called exhuberant and dramatic before, so I thought if I told anybody, they would think I’m exagerating. Plus, it was just easier to keep it to myself. That way I felt safe, that was how I had grown accustomed to do it.
I never had panic attacks until highschool. Now whenever my anxiety would peak, I’d have one.
My anxiety began to revolve around feeling overwhelmed with how insufficient I felt in my looks, school and relationships. These fears made me project immense worry into the future, always anxious weather or not I’d be good enough to make it in the end.
I still didn’t let others find out…
My parents began to realise that I was becoming more and more stressed out, for it was beginning to be quite evident.
I was beginning to get tired of keeping it inside too. It felt exhausting.
My dad asked me a few times, while seeing me in states of stress and intense panic, if I felt this way frequently, and I told him I did.
One night while we were on vacation in the States, and after several nights of insomnia, I had a breakdown, and eventhough by now, my fammily knew something was wrong, I made it clear.
Since then, things have been pretty much the same. Some days are better than others.
By now, I know what triggers it most of the time, (anxiety or panic can sometimes strike out of the blue with no aparent reason or cause) and I have learned how to cope with it.
Getting out of the house and going in the garden to breathe fresh air helps, deep breaths help, music helps, worship helps, writting things down helps, exercising helps, talking about it with someone else helps.
And while these things help tone it down, and sometimes eliminate it momentarily, it always comes back, and these things don’t always work.
Through it all, God is sovereign and more than anything, His steadfast love is what keeps me going. My most effective tool in fighting with anxiety has been letting go, and letting Him take control. He is my peace. And though I tend to rely on my own strength, it never takes long to remember how little strength I have on my own.
If you struggle with anxiety, I hope you could relate to some things, and I hope you found at least some encouragement. If not, let this be your encouragement:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27
I promise you there is light out there to be found.