Anxiety is a real thing. I didn't know it was a real thing until about 4 years ago. I have a ton to say about this topic so I'm not going to waste any time getting into it. Let me first say that anxiety is strange and different for every person. I can't speak for anyone else so I'm just going to talk about what it's like for me. Okay? Cool.
The first time I had ever experienced anxiety in any way was like I said about 4 years ago. I had a night class at Columbus State's Bolton Field campus (I still find it random that they have classes there). Anyways, I was in class and was hit with an overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen to me. Just to be clear by something bad I mean I literally thought someone was going to kill me. If you have ever had a panic attack you know this feeling all too well. I couldn't pin point exactly what was going to happen I just had an off feeling. I was sitting there trying to listen to my professor but I couldn't stop shaking. My hands were sweaty, my legs wouldn't stop twitching, my heart was racing and I was jumping at the slightest noise around me. I started texting my parents and Luke (who was just my boyfriend at this point) telling them that I felt like something was going to happen to me and I was really worried. This went on for about an hour until I couldn't take it anymore. Luke had been hanging out with his friend up at Polaris and told his friend he had to go and sped to meet me at my class. Let's all just take a moment to appreciate how amazing Luke is. Okay, moments over, he's awesome. My class took a break half way through and praise the Lord for that break because I had reached my limit. I walked out of class and ran to the parking lot to find Luke looking the most worried I had ever seen him. I burst into tears and just couldn't explain what was happening .
I remember this night so ridiculously well for a couple of reasons. One, it was the scariest night of my life. Two, it's when anxiety first entered my brain and it has never seemed to find the exit door. I was a little shook for a couple days after that night. I was unusually aware of my surroundings and I thought that everything was out to get me. The thing that sticks out most in my head though is that I was scared to death, scared to tell anyone about what happened because I felt like a crazy person. No one had ever talked to me about anxiety before and it was so foreign to me. To me it was something that was only in my mind and if I told anyone they were going to have me examined. I know now that this logic is crazy because here I am writing it for everyone to see!
I'm not going to sit here and tell you about every time I have felt anxious because quite frankly you would be reading this all night. I'm going to get to the point.
My anxiety attack that I was explaining earlier happened on a Wednesday. That following Sunday at church our head Pastor, Pastor Travis asked if I wanted to meet with him and talk about what had happened, I think my mother in law told him about it which I'm super grateful for. I met with him later that week and he probably doesn't even remember this because he meets with a million people but he said something to me that I have not been able to forget since. He told me that anxiety was not in my head. He said he knew people were probably telling me it's all in my head and that was wrong. It's not in my head, it's real. This was huge for me, so many people had told me that everything was just in my head and I just needed not to think about it. I really wish it was that easy. Of course I knew the thoughts were in my head but they felt and still feel very real in moments of anxiousness.
After talking to him and a few people about all the thoughts and feelings it was getting easier. The more people that don't look at you like your crazy when you tell them you sometimes feel like you are going to die that day, the easier it is to share. It didn't just become easier to share in fact something even crazier happened, I started to hear people telling their own stories that sounded scary similar to mine. I lead student ministry at my church and week after week a new student would be talking about how they were struggling with anxiety. At small group I would be talking to a friend and their own struggles with anxious thoughts would come up. Something that a few months before I had never heard of suddenly became the theme of every conversation. Even some of my own family members opened up to me about how they have dealt with it for some time. There is this weird thing I've noticed happens whenever you go through something. People come out of nowhere and open up to you about how they have gone through it too. People you have known your whole life will literally be like, hey heard this crappy thing happened to you, same thing happened to me years ago! I have experienced this again with something my husband and I have walked through recently but I'll save that for another blog post.
I'm a firm believer that God doesn't bring you through things for no reason. By opening up about anxiety to people I have been able to have community in a way that you would not believe. No one is going to understand how you feel unless they have been through it themselves. I have had many coffee dates spilling my deepest darkest fears out to people to only have them do the same back. It's freeing sharing how you feel with people who get you. That's why if you are reading this and can relate on any level I would encourage you to reach out, if not to me than somebody. This first few months of thinking I was alone in my thoughts were the most lonely and scary of my life and it would break my heart thinking someone else is out there thinking they are alone in this because you aren't, trust me.
I really wish I could sit here and say that years later I have found the magic answer to rid yourself of anxiety. I have read books, I've talked to people who have had it longer than I have, I've read blogs and articles online about it and I still got nothing to offer you. For me my anxiety comes from my lack of trust. I'm terrified that something awful will happen to me or even worse I'll lose Luke, yeah that's a big one for me. It's so far out of my control that it scares me to the core. When I focus on that instead of focusing on the one who holds our futures anxiety creeps in. Just a few weeks ago I was on vacation in Colorado. New places always make me a little anxious, not knowing what to expect. One morning I was talking to God asking him to watch over me and it was almost as clear as day I could hear him saying, "Ally, don't you trust me?" If I was God I would be so dang frustrated with me. It hit me in that moment (not for the first time might I add) but it's like how many times does God have to prove himself trustworthy for me to fully give him my trust? I know that God loves me and cares for me but my thoughts are constantly overriding those known truths. Trust is a hard thing to let go of and I'm still daily learning how to relinquish it all to the one deserves it all. I have found out though how much I need God through anxious time after anxious time. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't need him protecting my mind. I am thankful for his patience with me and his unfailing grace as I learn to walk in faith.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”