Anxiety Sucks…

So when I first started this blog, I stated that it would do double duty as a journal (of sorts) since I found it so hard to actually journal. This post is one that may or may not be beneficial to the reader…but hopefully beneficial for me.

So anxiety…I have it, and it is often triggered by specific situations and people. What I am learning more and more, and it was a huge lesson for me yesterday, is that my anxiety and the things/people that trigger me are mine. I take full responsibility for MY anxiety and MY triggers.

Yesterday my anxiety was triggered, and I responded as I normally do (in an unhealthy way). In an attempt to get a hold of myself I went for a run.

Sidebar: you know how on TV when people are experiencing some sense of stress and they go for a run and if fuels them? That’s fully what I was expecting to happen…it didn’t.

So I went for a run in an attempt to clear my head and rid my physical body of the affects of my anxiety. Somewhere in the midst of my run I realized I wasn’t trying to run the anxiety off, I was trying to run from it. At this point my thoughts changed…I was faced with the task of directly addressing my issues, which eventually led me to come up with some affirmations specifically tailored to combat my anxiety. Here are some of my takeaways from this run…

  • this anxiety is yours…you cannot hold others hostage to the responsibility of managing or preventing it
  • these triggers are yours…while they may be directly connected to specific people, or even the cause of what you experienced with specific people, they(the people) are not to blame
  • my present situations are not my past situations
  • my current relationships are not a duplicate of my past relationships
  • the people in my life now are not the people who hurt me then
  • I am loved and needed…but also wanted

As I ran, and these affirmations came to mind, I had to fight back tears, and almost broke down several times. I keep assigning what happened to what is, and it interferes with my ability to heal and be free.

Last night I surprisingly went to bed with little effort, but awoke (before my alarm) to that sizzling, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Anxiety. As I laid there I wondered what it was that was still holding me hostage…why, after my time of reflection, was I still anxious? I got up and prepared for my morning run. Normally when I run I listen to music. This morning I decided to listen to a sermon from one of my favorite preachers (Steven Furtick). I was looking…well actually I was planning to look for a good sermon to listen to, but the first sermon at the top of the list was one titled Why Am I Anxious…go figure. Of course I chose that one.

That sermon was ordained by God for me to listen to this morning at this particular time. It was so good and so relevant that I literally listened to it back to back. I was running the first time and wasn’t able to keep note of the things I knew I needed to be keeping note of. Some takeaways from this sermon…

  • Him: nothing changes until I do
    • me: I can’t expect things to be different if I’m doing the same things that I know cause me anxiety
  • it’s not what is happening that’s causing me anxiety, it’s how I am thinking that is causing me anxiety
    • nothing has been done TO me…I’m allowing my mind to take me to a place of offense, which triggers the anxiety
  • there are some ways in me that are making me vulnerable to the way things are and allowing me to remain anxious
    • it’s not all external…it’s mostly internal. I can’t (always) change the stimulus, but I can always control my response
  • what am I taking in? how full am I of what?
    • I’m certainly not taking in enough to make me emotionally/mentally/spiritually strong
  • what hope do I have to have peace, if I don’t make a place for it
    • I spend far too much time thinking (and in some cases obsessing) over the wrong things…my mind is often consumed with unhealthy thoughts
  • we have faith that we don’t feed, and then we don’t have access to the strength that we would have if we did feed it(faith)
    • your’e slacking…you’ve not been feeding your faith
  • before I change what i take in, I need to know what I take in
    • as much as I hate doing it, I need to take better inventory of my thoughts and disconnect more from frivolous or unhealthy stimuli (including social media, music, tv)
  • if you let the enemy in, and then pray for God to drive him out, it creates a cycle where you are creating your own state of mind that you are trying to pray away
    • this is so me…it’s exactly what I do. I need to stop.
  • some of the people we allow in our lives are draining our faith
    • as much as I enjoy and love them…if it’s causing me spiritual/mental/emotional weakness, I need to decrease (and in some cases cease) interactions

All of this was easy to hear…none of this will be easy to implement/change. I recognize I have a task ahead of me, but a necessary one, nonetheless. I’m exhausted…

If you’re interested in listening to the sermon on anxiety (I highly recommend), here is the link Why Am I Anxious

 

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Be Present

If there was ever a worrier, I am she. For as far back as I can remember (which is about the age of 3…yes 3) I have been a worrier. As a small child, I would sit quietly and think of random scenarios of something horrible happening to my parents, and then I’d cry. There was never any indication that my parents were in any danger…but I had to prepare my mind just in case something did happen to them. 

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles, it empties today of it’s strength.” 

As I reread what I’m typing, it looks so crazy that I was doing that. What’s even more crazy is that I still do this today…30 years later. Any idle time I have where my mind has an opportunity to wander (I’m a masterful multi-tasker and daydreamer, so this is quite often) I’m usually thinking about all kinds of things that aren’t true, and probably never will be. Not always necessarily bad things…but also not necessarily healthy either.

I spend a great deal of time thinking up scenarios that I wish would be the circumstance of my current life, or thinking forward in what-ifs and the possibilities of what could bes. Oftentimes I’ll go so deep into this, that I get extremely irritated when real life people interrupt my thoughts by engaging me in conversation. The other thing I do is think up something so imaginative and ideal, that once I do snap out of it, I’m immensely disappointed at what actually is.

This is so counterproductive to living a happy life full of gratefulness. I cannot enjoy and be grateful for what is, if I am constantly existing in what if.

Though I still struggle with controlling my thoughts, I will say that over the past few years I’ve learned to counter these thoughts with scripture. When I catch myself and actually exercise my mental muscles, I’ll stop and remind myself of scriptures like Isaiah 6:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” and Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” 

Everything we do, everything we experience, everything we are begins in our minds. I can’t really afford to waste mental energy on unhealthy thinking patterns. I’m missing out on what’s right in front of me. I’m not saying don’t dream or have goals. What I’m saying is worrying and wishing that life was different or better in some way that you honestly and truly don’t believe will happen for you shouldn’t be common practice.

When we seek God’s will for our lives, it doesn’t matter too much what we wish could be, because we will never be able to imagine anything better than what He has planned for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The truth is, sometimes what God has blessed us with is actually better than what we want, but we can’t accept it because He didn’t give it to us the way we wanted it. It’s hard to appreciate the greatness of a blessing when we are so focused on what we didn’t get or what isn’t happening.

“Never let the things you want, make you forget the things you have.”

My goal is to be present. Present in every moment of my life, appreciating where I am, what I’m experiencing, and what I have. Looking forward to what will be, but not in an attempt to dictate or fabricate a future outside of what is really meant for me. How do I do this? By trusting God.

Isaiah 49:23 “…Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

I encourage you to do the same. Mind your thoughts…easier said than done, but absolutely doable. God bless!

Good Grief

I don’t think Charles Shultz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoons, really knew how true the words “good grief” are when he wrote them as a coined phrase for Charlie Brown. And I guess, when you think about it, the phrase in itself seems oxymoronic. How could anything be good about grief?

Now unless you’re a masochist, most people are uncomfortable with pain. We tend to be especially uncomfortable with the mental/emotional pain of other people. The awkwardness of not knowing what to do when someone breaks down and cries in your presence…do you cry too, hug them? What? Typically, there’s an issue that you probably can’t fix. No one likes to be put in that position. A lot of times, the person not grieving may say or do some real problematic things that they’re not even aware are problematic.

It’s problematic to tell someone hurting to “be strong.” It’s problematic to not allow the griever the opportunity to grieve, even when we think the cause of grief is not warranted.

Which really brings me to something that I had never considered before this morning. I just recently began a devotional on my Bible app dealing with depression (Depression: A Devotional for the Wounded Spirit). Today’s devotion dealt with grief, but this particular paragraph really spoke to me…

“You may be in a situation, however, where what you lost wasn’t necessarily good for you, but there’s still a gnawing hurt and weightiness in your soul…Today you may find yourself torn over whether it’s healthy to grieve the loss of something that was unhealthy. Grieving is a natural process that even the savior of the world engaged in. Don’t block your feelings. Perhaps it’s time to grieve.”

I am, in fact, grieving something that was not healthy for me. For days, I’ve been battling the guilt of even doing so. Why am I so sad…I’m free. This is what I both want and need. It doesn’t matter though…it still hurts. The grieving process is a necessary one, and so many people miss out on being whole because they don’t do it. Faking it until you make it will only work for as long as the pain stays suppressed. The thing is, every time something that comes up to remind you of that situation or that person, you’re faced with the opportunity to feel the pain all over again. Deal with it. Grieve.

In case you’re not familiar with the 7 stages of grief…Image result for stages of grief

Don’t Fill the Void

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Man, look. The loss of a relationship can be seemingly unbearable. Over the past 3 years I’ve experienced the agony accompanied with losing a relationship twice (actually in the process of grieving the loss of a friendship as I type). It sucks! Unfortunately, my current situation was triggering and caused me to fall into episodes of anxiety and bouts of depression. I had to let it go. It hurts, but I have to do what I know is best for me.

In the midst of me letting that friend go…randomly an old friend kind of popped up out of nowhere. Me and this friend’s relationship was almost identical to the one I’d just released, minus the negative emotional affects…though it did come with it’s own unique challenges. Naturally, in my mind, I’m excited to have an old friend back and probably even more excited for the distraction. Eh… So what’s the problem here? I’m, in a way, using my friend to fill the void of the other.

It was necessary that I let that friend go for emotional, mental, and spiritual reasons. Filling that spot with someone else doesn’t give me the opportunity to process, heal, and move forward like I’m supposed to. There are things that I need to focus on and work on for me, so that I can be better. I can’t do that if I’m just doing the same old thing with a different person.

For me, it’s people. For someone else, they may fill their void with substance abuse, sex, shopping, I don’t know…there are a ton of things that may or may not be healthy, but can become unhealthy if misused.

What I’ve learned for myself is that there actually is no void to fill…I made it up. Because I’ve gone on my own and tried to do things my way, it felt like I needed someone/something/a relationship that I actually did not need and was not at all ready for. That fake void has always been filled with God…waiting for me to recognize His presence, His love, His companionship, His comfort…

I was trying to fill a position that was already taken by the only qualified candidate.

I’ve made this mistake, not a ton of times, but more than once is definitely more than enough. I’m really praying that I’ve learned and will respond in wisdom moving forward. I hope and pray, those who read this will also learn what harmful patterns they are repeating and somehow find a healthy way to break the cycle.

I love Jesus…but I’m still depressed

Mental health and the [Black] church are a touchy topic. Actually…I misspoke. It’s an untouched topic most of the time.

So let’s start with what depression is…and is not. Depression is not simply deep sadness anymore than a bad headache is a migraine. Similar symptoms doesn’t qualify the label.

“Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.”

Oftentimes, in the church, prayer is the only way to deal with depression. Let me be clear about this…prayer works. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God can heal anything. I also believe that God gives us tools and methods to help us. Sometimes healing is instant…sometimes healing takes treatment. To tell a person who battles depression to just pray about it is insensitive and unhelpful.

Personally, it has made me feel that I shouldn’t talk about it because I didn’t want my faith questioned. How can a woman of God have depression? Don’t you believe God is a healer? I’m not the supreme authority on this topic, but here is how I deal with it…

In 2014, for the first time in my life, I sought professional help from a therapist. I was diagnosed with anxiety and situational depression. She was actually a Christian therapist, which proved very helpful. She combined prayer and the Bible with the clinical side of things to give me what I really needed. I went through counseling with her for just about a year. There, I learned my triggers (and actually continue to learn them as I interact with people), how to journal, about boundaries, and really how to process what I was thinking and feeling. For all my life, I held what I thought and felt inside…but now, I’ve learned how to express myself in healthy ways.

Other methods that have proved helpful include having a support system who understands my condition, and who I can reach out to when I’m having an episode. They provide support, and don’t make me feel guilty about how I act when I’m struggling. They pray for me and with me, but also have learned when to give me space and when to be there (physically). And then of course there is prayer and saturating my mind with scriptures. I usually pray the most during my spells, and will choose one or two scriptures of encouragement and just meditate on them.

These are things that work for ME…there is no one size fits all solution that will work. Pray and seek the help necessary to see what works best for you.