“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Apparently there are 365 “do not worry” in the bible, I guess I’ll take it as I am not alone in my struggle with anxiety. Stress has always been something I have battled with my whole life. Situational stress, and at times hypothetical stress (when I worry about the various scenarios that could potentially happen and then stress about them as if they are actually happening).
This week, I found myself struggling with anxiety as a mama like I haven’t experienced before. I remember that very first drive home from the hospital with Harper in the car, all of a sudden paranoid about everyone on the road. Or when she fell of the bed and worrying if she was ok the whole night even after the doctor. But this week was a new battle to conquer.
Long story short, we had a problem with our kitchen pipes. In solving the blockage, we used drain cleaner. There was a serious leak from under the dishwasher and I automatically went to clean it up, with no gloves. I suddenly started realising, after a quarter bucketful of dirty water, that I had been touching chemicals with my barehands. My hands were white and wrinkly, itchy and sticky. And so naturally, I freaked out. I rinsed and washed and rinsed them again and again.
But how anxiety works, for those who suffer from it, is that your mind is able to race a million miles ahead of you flashing areas of worry and concern. The ability to rein it in is tough and requires complete self-control. A pep talk to the extreme.
“My daughter is walking around and I need to contain her so she does not touch the water. How am I going do that? Where do I put her? What if her feet touch it or she crawls in it and then touches her face? She is tired and it is bedtime but I don’t want to touch her bottle in case my hands infect her. Is everything I am touching being infected? What about her jersey that I touched and now she is going to sleep and potentially touch it and it will harm her. Have I ventilated our apartment enough? I can barely hold the spoon of medicine to give her as she stares at me with her leaky eyes and runny nose. I am finding cloths to use to touch her stuff while my hands are sensitive. Do I rinse them and research later? Do I rush to the hospital? Do I demand my husband leaves his function and comes home? Do I stay away from google because it will make it worse? Do I read google to help? My washing is half wet in the machine that I had to stop. My dishes are piling because I cannot wash them in the dishwasher, the kitchen sink is blocked, and the bathroom sinks are too small for a glass to be washed. My floor feels toxic and I cannot clean it because my hands are struggling. I feel like I am not in control and have to sit in the situation feeling dirty, healing and waiting.”
An insight into a second of thought and struggle.
It sounds dramatic to the logical. But to the anxious, it is real.
It is prayer alone that calmed me down, a conversation with my husband and reminder that he takes the best care of me and so his instructions to follow help me and slow down my thoughts, and a FaceTime call with my sister will put me at ease.
I have to have go-to handles to help me. And they do!
Whatever the battle, however serious or superficial, I need to be kind to myself. Realise that anxiety is something that I struggle with, but I am dealing with, and sometimes it is super easy to pull myself out of it, and other times it takes a bit to overcome, but in it all the Holy Spirit helps me conquer. My husband keeps me grounded. My sister encourages me. And my daughter forces me out of my situation and into a moment of carefree breathing.
Anxiety is something I used to be embarrassed and insecure about. I felt ashamed and judged. I knew people thought I as dramatic or weak. It is hard, really hard. If I was able to not panic or stress easily, to play out worst case scenarios, I would. But what I have learnt about anxiety is this: that it may be a “weakness” in some definitions, but to me it has become my strength. It forces me to rely on God. To ask for help. It makes me compassionate. It helps me understand other people’s struggles and respect their journeys in it. It makes me less judgemental. It keeps me humble. But most importantly, it makes me run straight to God in all things, and be able to glorify Him.
If you don’t understand anxiety, I hope this helps you a little, and if you are an anxious person, know that you’re not alone!