Identity

Anxiety Becomes Obsession - My Anxiety Story: Part 2

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.

I Don't Remember Not Having Anxiety - My Anxiety Story: Part 1

"No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?"

"Right"

"I love you"

"I love you too"

"Good Night"

"Good Night"

"No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?"

"Right"

"I love you"

"I love you too"

"Good Night"

"Good Night"

"No thunderstorms..."

This was the routine repeated over and over again during my childhood bedtime. I would continue to repeat the cycle as Mom or Dad walked out of the room, down the hallway, down the stairs (depending on whose house I was at that night), and out of range.

Thunderstorms, bad dreams, and doctor shows were my biggest fears. I was terrified of doctors because of a traumatic hospitilization for Cellulitus when I was 3 years old, and was, therefore, also terrified of doctor shows.

So, at some point I apparently decided that saying "No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?" and having my mom or dad assure me with the word "right" meant that those things would not exist that night.

Totally logical right?... No? Well, that's how anxiety works.

This in and of itself is enough to show there was anxiety brewing in that little mind and heart of mine, but the repetition of it is much more telling.

Why did I need to repeat it over and over again?

Because I could never decide which was the most important part to say last. If I didn't say "I love you" last, and I died, or they died then "I love you" wouldn't have been our last words to each other. If I didn't say "No thunderstorms, no dreams, no doctor shows, right?" last then mabye it wouldn't be true for that night. So it became part of the bed time routine and one of the first coping mechanisms I had.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (basically anxious about all the things, all the time disorder) and panic attacks. I was diagnosed in high school when the panic attacks started, but I do not remember a time in my life prior to that when I wasn't anxious about something.

Fear and anxiety were a big part of my life. They dominated my emotions, and controlled many aspects of my life and my decisions, especially as I got older. But that'll be for Part 2.

The biggest thing that I remember about my anxiety as a child, is that the things I would worry about were so far removed from what I should have been concerned about at that age.

I remember once making my dad prove to me that the smoke alarm worked because I was afraid the house would catch on fire.

I remember being really scared when I went to bed and my dad was in the rec-room in the basement. My bedroom was on the 2nd floor, and the front door was right by the stairs. So that meant that if an intruder came in to get me, he would be entering between where I was and where Dad was. They could get to me to hurt me before Dad would be able to get to me to protect me.

Of course, Dad would have been up those stairs and tackling the "bad guy" long before he could get to me, but my anxious heart didn't know that. And I didn't let my parents know just how anxious my heart was.

I wish I would have told them more about my anxiety sooner. First of all, then they could have gotten me help sooner. But also because I'm learning that talking about it helps. When we keep the monsters in our heads hidden in the darkness, they can only grow. But when we bring them into the light by talking about them, they start to shrink and eventually die.

I had fears, worries, and anxieties as a child, more than probably most kids, but as I got older the anxiety monster got bigger and more intense. Anxiety began to manifest as obsessions late in middle school. 9/11 happened during high school, and that triggered the start of full blown panic attacks.

It got a lot worse before it got better. But it is better. So much better. I still have it, but it doesn't control me anymore. God is healing me, and showing me tools to help me fight the anxiety battle and win. I have peace now a lot of the time, and when the fear comes it's not as intense, doesn't last as long, and isn't paralyzing.

It is my hope that through this series, and some free resources I am working on, you too will be able to find healing, hope, and freedom in the One who offers it to you.

Anxiety Is A Battle, But Not Against Yourself

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist. I am a person with diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder (which basically means anxious about everything all the time), and panic attacks. By the grace of God, He is healing me, and I endeavor to share my journey with you, and what I am learning in hopes that it will help you too.

But let me make very clear what I am not saying in this or anything I write: I am NOT saying that if you suffer anxiety you don’t have enough faith. I have heard that before and it is a big fat lie. I am NOT saying that you should not seek professional help, and/or take medication if you need it. Anxiety is a real disease with real symptoms and real medical treatment available. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting that treatment. I have also learned that there is another element to anxiety, and that is a spiritual element. That is the area which I wish to discuss, with no intention of minimizing medical treatment or therapy.

If you have anxiety in any form, whether it’s been diagnosed or not, you are in a battle. You may be in a season where it is a daily battle, an hourly battle, or even a constant battle.

I know the battle all too well. I still have to fight it. I’m fighting right now in fact because a funny thing happens when I try to write about anxiety. My anxiety kicks up.

The battle I am fighting now, is much less intense than the battles I fought for most of my life. There was a time where I could not even function. I would sit on the couch for most of the day trying to distract myself on social media or watching TV, but not getting anything productive done. I was paralyzed. There was about a year of my life where I couldn’t even drive on the highway because I would get massive panic attacks and have to pull over or I would die. At least it felt like I would die. That’s what panic does.

Today, I still have anxiety, and I still get panic attacks. I’m still in the battle, but it doesn’t control me anymore. It’s not anywhere near as intense. I am healing from it. I often have joy instead of fear. I am living my life and it is wonderful.

I want you to have that too. So I am endeavoring to write a series of posts, as well as some free resources to share with you how I am healing, Who is healing me, and how you can have it too.

We need to start by acknowledging the battle, and figuring out who the enemy is.

You Are Not Your Enemy

Has anyone ever told you that you are your own worst enemy? I’ve been told that, and I believed it for a long time.

It’s. Not. True.

You are not your enemy.

Does it feel like it sometimes? Sure. Does it feel like you are fighting an internal battle against yourself? Absolutely.

You are in a battle. A very serious battle. And you do have an enemy. But it’s not yourself. I wrote about him in this post, and why he hates us so much. If you missed it please check it out.

Knowing Who You're Fighting

The thing about Satan is that he despises us because he despises God, and we are made in the image of God. His mission every day is to destroy us. Of course, he wants our souls, but once we are in Christ, he can’t have them. So then he turns to distracting and discouraging us. He does not want us to know who we are in Christ. Because, when we do, we will start living out our purpose, and that scares him.

Let me pause here for a moment and speak to those of you reading this who do not believe. Maybe you don’t believe in God, or Jesus. Maybe you don’t believe in Satan, or that he could have a plan to destroy you. I understand, and I am so glad you are here. I would invite you to not dismiss everything, but to stick around and see if there is any merit to anything I have to share. If you have questions or want to have a discussion about what you believe and/or what I believe I would love to talk to you. No judgement, just conversation. I would also like to submit for your consideration that the biggest lie Satan ever told is that he doesn’t exist. If he can convince you that he doesn’t exist, it becomes much easier to destroy you.

Jesus tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The thief is Satan. He has a mission. To steal from us. To kill us. To destroy us.

But what does this have to do with anxiety. He uses it to steal from us. He steals our joy, our purpose, our hope. He uses it to kill pieces of us, and ultimately to try to destroy us.

Satan is a liar. In fact Jesus tells us Satan is the father of lies. “...He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The anxious thoughts never come from God. NEVER. In fact God tells us over and over in the Bible not to be afraid. He cannot contradict Himself, so fear does not come from Him. It comes from Satan. And Satan wants us to believe the anxious thoughts are our own. He wants us to believe that we are our own enemy.

I recently read that when he lies to us he puts it in “I statements.” “I am so stupid.” “I can’t believe I did that.” He does this because if we believe they are our own thoughts, we will be more likely to believe them. If we believe the lies, it becomes easier to destroy us.

Maybe the things I am telling you are scary to hear. I know they can be scary to me too, especially when I first started to learn about this spiritual battle that we are all in. I do not mean to add to your fear. If we are going to battle our anxiety, we need to know who and what we are fighting.

A Warrior Fighting For You

There is good news. Such good news. Now that we know who the enemy is, we can prepare ourselves for the battle, and we can win. It’s important to know too, that we are not in this battle alone. Jesus is fighting for us, and He is so much bigger and more powerful than Satan. We also know that in the end He will defeat Satan and fear, sadness, tears and pain for good. (Revelation 21:4)

Not only that, but He is fighting for us now. Notice the 2nd half of John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus wants you to have a full life. And He has the power to give it to you. He wants to heal you.

He is healing me, and in the process showing me so many truths about Him, about myself, and about how to win the battle against anxiety. It is my heart, that by sharing my experiences and what I am learning, you will begin to heal and win the battle in your life as well.

As I said, I am working on a series of posts to share what I am learning. Soon I will share with you 4 of the ways that I have learned to stop the anxious thoughts that consume my mind and spiral out of control.

I am also putting together a free downloadable resource with specific practical tools to help us all fight those thoughts. I would love your input, so I can make it as helpful for you as possible. Would you please take a few minutes answer some quick questions? It will take less than 5 minutes, and I will send you a thank you gift for your time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Now that we know who we are fighting in this battle, we can be prepared to win. I am taking my life back from the grip of anxiety, and you can too.

Have a fantastic day, and remember you have been Redeemed For More.

3 Reasons A Guy (Or Girl) Will Never Be Enough To Satisfy You

So, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Maybe you are in a great relationship, and you can’t wait to celebrate. Maybe for you it’s Singles Awareness Day. Or perhaps you fall into the camp of “it’s complicated.”

Whatever your relationship status is, one thing is certain: love and relationships are in our faces this time of year. Everywhere you go there are red and pink hearts, “I Love You” teddy bears, roses, and candy. Society is screaming at us “you need a relationship to be satisfied, to be good enough, to be happy.”

But it’s a big fat lie. The truth is whether we are happily married for 50 years, or single forever, a man will never be enough to fill that deep empty longing inside us.

Sure relationships can be great, and in fact can be very satisfying. I am happily married, so I know how great relationships can be. I have also experienced plenty of heartbreak, and painful relationships in my life. But my husband, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your future significant other will never, can never, be enough to fill that empty place.

3 Reasons A Guy/Girl Cannot Be Enough to Satisfy You

1. He is human.

The thing about that person you are dating, or want to date, is he is human. And the thing about humans is that we are not perfect. We mess up. We hurt each other. No human can love you perfectly, and you cannot love another person perfectly either. Even in the greatest relationships, hurt happens. Yes, there is forgiveness and communication and all of the things that make great relationships great. But at the end of the day if we are relying on another imperfect person to do everything right to fill that hole inside of us, we will be disappointed.

2. It’s too big of a hole.

Can you imagine someone expecting you to meet every single one of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs 24/7? That’s a lot of pressure. And it’s impossible. That deep longing inside of us, that intense desire to be fully known and fully loved, that emptiness, is too big for a person to fill.

3. You Were Created for More.

You were created with this deep desire that we’re talking about. That feeling of wanting to be loved, of wanting someone to know everything about you, and still love you, of wanting a relationship with someone who can fully satisfy you and meet all of your needs, was put inside of you on purpose. Your Creator put it there so you would search for Him. It was never meant to be filled by another human being. Yes it’s true that He designed us to be relational beings, and it is good and necessary for us to have other people in our lives who we can trust, have fun with and do life with. But, that void in you, the one you want to fill with a boyfriend or girlfriend, can only be filled by the One who created you.

He already knows you. He knows everything about you, and He Loves You Enough to Die For You.

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are in a relationship, single, or complicated, will you meet and get to the know the only one who can really fully satisfy you?

Are You Satisfied?

February is a tough month. In fact, this is the first year in almost 30 years, I haven’t been miserable just because it’s February.

3 Reasons February Is Terrible

1. It’s Cold and Wet

The weather in February is just miserable. In fact, CT (where I’m from) is being pelted with snow storm after snow storm this February. In December, and even in January, the snow is fun and the cold is tolerable, but by February we are done. For many of you reading this, you live in an area where February is awful because it’s bone chilling cold, and wet. You know when it’s so cold that your back starts spasming when you get the in car you forgot to warm up (not that that ever happened to me…).

2. It’s Dark

I’m so grateful to have moved to a place with sun in February, but for 29 Februaries I lived where it’s dark and gray. Even during the day it’s gray and icky outside. If you are lucky enough to have a 9-5 type job, it’s dark when you leave for work, and it’s dark when you get home. Where is the sun? Where is the light?

3. Valentine’s Day… A.K.A. Singles Awareness Day

So. Much. Pressure. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. A day of celebration. But let’s be real, whether you are single or attached Valentine’s Day comes with a certain level of expectation and pressure. If your single, (especially if you were dumped right before Valentine’s Day because some boy didn’t want to get you a present, again not that that ever happened to me…) it can be an in your face reminder of the relationship you don’t have. But if you are attached, sometimes it can be full of unmet unrealistic expectations. It has to be perfect. It has to be romantic. It has to satisfy.

For many who live in the North February is miserable because it’s cold, wet and gray. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a very real struggle. Of course, not everyone lives in the north. But even if you live in a warmer climate, there is still something about February that creates a longing for spring. We’re done with the death of winter and ready for the new life of spring. Now, to be fair, some people love Valentine’s Day, but for many it just adds to an already depressing month.

For me, the dissatisfaction of February traditionally lead to evaluating my life and setting out to make changes. For many years I would make life goals about relationships, money, faith, health, etc. I was desperate to find satisfaction, happiness, love, worth in something. Anything.

I couldn’t find it

I couldn’t find it in relationships. I couldn’t find it in a career. I couldn’t find it in money. I couldn’t find it in my kids, a hobby, serving at church, or sex.

I found it in Jesus. He is honestly the ONLY thing that can completely satisfy us.

As I endeavor for the rest of the month to explore the things we look to for satisfaction, let me ask you a question.

Are You Satisfied?

What is one thing you look to for satisfaction that just isn’t coming through for you?