Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Journey Through Anxiety: The Spiritual Component

I have had it in my heart to share more details about my journey through anxiety, but couldn't work up the courage to do so for fear of offending anyone. Please hear me very clearly.  This is MY story. This is not a step-by-step get well program, nor am I suggesting  that  what worked for me will work the same way for you. I don't believe in formulas for  freedom and wellness. I'm also not a medical professional; if you feel that you are depressed or suffer from anxiety, please get help. I hope you'll read this with an open mind and heart. And I pray that you'll find encouragement and hope through these posts.

If you're just joining me, here are links to the complete series:
Part II: The First Steps
Part III: The Spiritual Component
Part IV: The Shame Factor
Part V: My New World

The Spiritual Component

After talking to my doctor and conducting my own research, I absolutely knew that I had a brain chemistry problem. And I was learning healthier ways to cope with stress and anxiety. I was supporting my body through nutrition, and the medication and homeopathic remedies were definitely helping. I was addressing the physiological issues that aroused the panic response. But I still had the gut feeling that there was a missing piece to the puzzle.
Throughout my journey, I had well-meaning people tell me that this was simply a spiritual issue (denying the very real, physiological causes). The implication, of course, is that if I just did whatever they thought I should do (read my Bible more, pray more, attend church more regularly, etc.) that I could get free from anxiety. But all that did was pile more shame and guilt on an already overloaded heart.
One day, while reading the Bible, I came across this scripture:

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing 
raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking 
every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB

I had a moment of clarity where "renewing the mind" started to make sense. I started actively dealing with thoughts that entered my head. I realized that just because a thought entered my mind, I didn't have to meditate on it. If I started feeling anxious, I would say OUT LOUD, "Anxiety, I see you and I'm not going to partner with you. I take the thought that (named what it was) captive and I lead it to the obedience of Christ Jesus. Jesus, what truth you want me to know right now?" And I would wait and listen to what he had to say. 

In the beginning, I had to do this multiple times per day. 20, 30 times per day you'd find me talking out loud, renouncing that agreement with fear. But over time, I noticed a difference. I FELT more free.  Slowly but surely, I was breaking the habit of being anxious.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I got the shock of my life when God gave me very clear instructions to start sharing about my struggles with anxiety. By this point I wasn't so afraid of talking about it, but where he instructed me to share wasn't what I wanted to hear: on Facebook. Honestly, I fought him over it for a few weeks. "Absolutely not. There's no way I'm pouring my heart out about something so painful and personal when people can be so cruel." But his direction was clear. This was the next step.

I started out by writing a blog post (on my old blog) about it and sharing that post. I figured people might not immediately connect that I was the writer. But a few people read it and made the connection. They had kind responses and it was just the impetus I needed to keep going. I didn't make every post about my struggles, but if I was having a rough day or had a panic attack, I would reach out, ask for prayer, etc. 

People started asking how I was doing, both online and in person. I started getting private messages saying things like, "I've dealt with this too. You aren't alone." or "I'm struggling with this too and your vulnerability is encouraging." I started opening up about it with my family more and reaching out when I really needed extra support. 

That's when I realized that my recovery seemed to jump on the fast track. I had more down time between panic attacks. I felt more like myself than I had, maybe ever. I was making art again, I was playing with my kids more. I even went to an out-of-state conference with my work and remained anxiety free the entire trip. That was a HUGE milestone for me! I felt such a shift in my outlook, in my spirit, that I really began asking the Lord what the "trick" was...what had made such a huge difference? I hadn't changed much of what I was doing from before (I was still taking my meds, still using some natural remedies, still praying, still eating healthier)...the only thing I'd added to the mix was that I was being more open about my struggles. I was reaching out for help when I needed it.

As it turns out, THAT was the key component. Bringing my struggles out into the light of day struck a death blow to the shame that had so entwined itself with the anxiety and depression. Killing shame was the key to my freedom.

Find out more about how shame was working in the shadows in Part IV.


No comments:

Post a Comment