A Scared Little Girl
Is there a blessing in anxiety? People that have anxiety know that it mostly feels like a curse. When I was a little girl, I was afraid of things in stages. First, I was afraid of bugs of all kinds, then ghosts, and finally, fire. I still don’t like bugs, but the fear of ghosts and fire were brought on by Scooby Doo cartoons, and a mini series my parents were watching on tv called Rich Man, Poor Man. I watched in horror as the arm of an actor from Happy Days (he played Potsie Weber), my favorite tv show, caught on fire.
After I went through puberty, my fears went away. I was bullet-proof until after the birth of my first child. From the time she was about 4 months old, until she reached her first birthday, my anxiety was at its height. I felt nervous in the car, nervous in the mountains, and just about everywhere else. By the time she reached 18 months, I felt normal again, but never connected the anxiety to my hormones. After the pattern repeated itself with each baby, I finally realized that it was related to childbirth.
Horrible Hormones and the Curse of Anxiety
My gynecologist told me that I was having a hormone drop after introducing solid food when breastfeeding. After the hormones leveled out, I would be normal again. Through all of my anxiety trials, I’ve chosen not to take medication, because I know the hormones will eventually settle down. My 5th and last child refused to drink out of a bottle, whether I tried filling it with breast milk or formula. As a result, I didn’t have anxiety after she was born. Since she was our last baby, I thought I’d kissed anxiety goodbye.
In 2015, I skipped a few periods. I was 46, so I figured perimenopause was beginning. I didn’t know that anxiety, my old frenemy, would come along with it. My son was on a big travel team in upstate South Carolina that year. That meant lots of interstate driving for me. While I’ve struggled with the lack of a sense of direction all my life, I’ve never been as afraid of the highway as I was then. Many times I felt like I was on a roller coaster, even when someone else was driving. At times, darkness and heavy traffic compounded my discomfort.
No one told me that I was going to experience a long, drawn out encore of the same symptoms I experienced after childbirth, during perimenopause. My 17 year-old son was (and still is) the type of child that wanted food five exits and 29 Mack trucks from wherever we were. People would ask me why I didn’t just let him drive. I was afraid that if I moved over into the passenger’s seat, I would never want to drive again.
Four years later, my anxiety (and my period) still comes and goes, although it isn’t as bad as it was. It mostly rears its head when I’m on a busy interstate. I’ve had it so long this time, on bad days I’m truly afraid that my anxiety will never completely go away. How does a Christian woman cope with this situation?
The Blessing of Anxiety
Lately I’ve been looking for the blessing in my anxiety. First of all, I’m thankful that I have a husband who is not afraid to drive on traffic-filled interstates. He is afraid to fly-but that’s another story. I also have older children that help me navigate and keep me calm when I’m feeling anxiety. Hurricane evacuations are rough, as far as traffic goes, here on the coast. My husband has to stay here when we evacuate because of his job, but my amazing kids go with me, and help me not to freak out over the hurricane and the traffic.
Other than my family, I am blessed to have many examples of overcomers in the Bible. At times I’m tempted to say, “Lord, why do I have to have this?” Then, I think about Paul, and how the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh.
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Although I haven’t been given revelations like Paul, I know the Lord gives us weaknesses to keep us from exalting ourselves. Having a big problem-whether it’s a learning disability, a prodigal child, or anxiety-keeps you humble. I’m certainly not going to belittle someone about their fear of needles or germs when I have my own stuff to worry about.
Also, I can take comfort that God’s grace is sufficient for me. If we were perfect, why would we need a savior? If you think about it, all earthly power is fleeting anyway. Power is deceitful, health wanes, beauty fades, and even wealth does not endure from generation to generation.
For now, we’re stuck here on earth, bearing with one another, and our wretched selves. As for me, one day I’m rising to the challenge of my anxiety, and the next day I’m thinking I’ll never get on I-85 again. As a side note, it’s really hard to write about, and be honest about my anxiety. One problem with bringing it out a problem is that other people bring it up when they want to bring you down. They may even use it against you, or make you feel bad about it. However, I’m choosing not to worry about those types of people, because I know that His power is perfected in my weakness.
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