I don't really want to write this. It is hard and embarrassing to share this part of my story. People I knew in real life during this time might see it. What will they think?
But I am learning to find my identity in the One who created me, not in the ones who judge me. And I am trying to embrace the calling He gave me to use my experience to help point others to Him and the grace and healing He offers. So, I pray, "Jesus, make me brave," and I begin to type.
As I grew into a teenager my childhood anxiety (read about that in Part 1) grew with me. What started as fears of bad things happening combined with my feelings of never being good enough, and took on a life of it's own.
The teen years bring their own doubts, fears, and identity struggles. It's a time of figuring out who we are, where we fit in the world, and what our value is.
For me, as for so many others, it was a time of begging for answers to the questions: Do I matter? Am I lovable? Am I loved? Do I fit?
I tried to find my answers in relationships with boys. If I could find a boyfriend to answer yes to these questions then my heart would be okay. There are so many issues with this approach, which I will address another time, but in reality my heart would never be okay until I learned to find the answers in Jesus. The One who created us is the One who gets to determine our value.
I didn't know that then, and for now I want to focus on how my anxiety turned my search to answer those questions into obsession...with boys.
My anxiety has a way of turning a thought into a mental grenade. If something triggers it, it explodes and imbeds shrapnel in every crevice and corner of my mind. Once that happens 90% of my mental energy focuses on removing the debris and finding relief for the pain. The other 10% is reserved for basic life functions like barely breathing and putting on a mask to get through the day.
So in high school, the grenade was my identity and self-worth. Of course, I didn't know I was asking all of these questions, or that I was trying to find answers in unhealthy ways. That realization came from later reflection. What I knew was that I was hurting, and that when I had a boyfriend who I thought loved me I hurt less. Until he hurt me, then I hurt more. Until he loved me again, then I hurt less. And it was a vicious spiral with the hurt getting deeper, and the less getting lesser. But it turned into obsession, usually with one particular boy, although there were a few others mixed in. I was only okay, when I had a boyfriend.
But, I wasn't really okay then either. Sure I felt a little better, but then there was the constant fear of losing him again, and the fact that a guy will never be enough to fill that deep empty longing in our souls. There is only One who can fill that place. One who loves us unconditionally. One who loves us enough to die for us. But that truth hadn't invaded my heart yet, so I was obsessed with filling that void and trying to remove the shrapnel in my mind and heart.
The truth is, boys are not the only thing I've obsessed about in this anxiety battle. Throughout my life it's been different things. And again, like in part 1 it would get worse before it got better. In part 3, I'll talk about how it paralyzed me in my early adult life.
Is your anxiety like a mental grenade? Is it causing you to obsess about something? Boys? Girls? Popularity? Your looks? Sports? Your family? Your job? Your children? Your ministry? Anything?
You are not alone. I have met the One who will defuse the grenade. He wants to defuse yours too. It is my hope and prayer you will find hope and healing in Jesus through this series, and through the free resource I am creating for you. It is almost ready, and if you would like to be among the first to know when it's available please subscribe below. I will happily send you an email when it's ready.