SixEight Life

justice.mercy.journey

Changing Myself

My blog has evolved a bit from its original mission. When I began writing, I envisioned a collection of words about social justice. Every blog expert told me to stick with my mission, and to not deviate from it. But in a way, it’s evolved. I am still seeking to proclaim justice and to educate on ways we can make a difference, but ultimately, I’m seeking change. I’m seeking change in society, change in social norms, change in levels of awareness, and change in oppression and bondage.

But I’m also seeking change in me.

So really, this blog is about change. I’m one of those people who like change….. in fact, I get pretty bored when things are stagnant. So I imagine I’ll stir the proverbial social norm pot for the rest of my life. But I don’t want to get so focused on changing situations that I forget to investigate my own need for evolution and change.

That being said, today was a great reminder of how desperately I have needed change in my own life. I go to Passion City Church in Atlanta. I’ve been attending this incredible body of believers since March. And today, Louie (my pastor) spoke about anxiety. He has shared some of his own struggle with anxiety, and he spoke some incredible truths from scripture regarding this subject.

The talk really resonated with me, because I have my own hidden experiences with this nasty little thing called anxiety. I grew up hearing it masked as ‘worry’, because somehow worry was okay, while anxiety wasn’t. But essentially its the same. And I am very prone to anxiety. Not the nagging worry or concern here and there, but intense, mind consuming thoughts that can take me captive and not let go.

Photo Credit: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha (Creative Commons)

After some soul searching and counseling, I believe my struggle with anxiety began to take root in 2005. I experienced ‘vicarious traumatization’ through years of working with traumatized individuals while failing to take care of my own mental and spiritual health. I also believe that my worry began much earlier than that, but 2005 was when this experience began.  I always did pretty good ‘handling’ everything (I was pretty prideful), but in 2010 I lost control.

I don’t want to bore you with the details and all the triggers, but essentially an incredibly stressful and busy few months led me down a path of anxiety. When the busyness subsided, I was left with nothing by my doubts, traumas, and fears. I found myself doubting my faith. Then I found myself doubting God. And then those emotions led to anxiety that kept me up at night. I allowed crazy thoughts to enter my mind. I obsessed about everything you can imagine. I had hypochondriac thoughts and fears. We joke about being hypochondriacs, but anyone who has experienced that form of anxiety knows how painful and scary it can be. I thought I was going crazy. I let my fears get out of control. And I felt completely alone. I didn’t know how to tell people that I felt like I was drowning in fear. I eventually shared some things with few close loved ones, but I kept many of the details to myself. It was embarrassing to admit that I wasn’t in control.

I frequently use the analogy of a bottle to help others conceptualize the need for individuals to process through difficult and stressful experiences. Every time something stressful, painful, or difficult happens, we put that experience in our ‘bottle’. If we don’t deal with these experiences, thoughts and issues, our bottle quickly fills up. Eventually we don’t have any space left in our bottle, and it overflows. Or worse, it explodes. Either way, its usually pretty messy. We all have a “bottle” and we need to empty it regularly.

Through some counseling and a lot of self reflection, I overcame that experience with intense anxiety. I still struggle with those thoughts. I still find myself prone to worry. I utilize some therapy methods, combined with a lot of prayer, to overcome my anxious thoughts. And Louie’s talk today reminded me even more of how much God loves us. God is the exact opposite of anxiety. He cares for us greatly, and wants us to dump our bottle at his feet. Louie had a few main points I want to share, because I imagine that some of you reading this may struggle with anxiety, and you may need to hear this as much as I did:

1. Anxiety is big, but God is bigger

2. You are not alone, and you are NOT crazy.

3. Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help, and you have access to God at all times.

4. God has special interest in us. He’s not just God, he’s OUR God.

Anxiety isn’t easy. And it’s not a simple fix. I don’t want to downplay the fears you may have by just telling you to “Give it to God.” Essentially this process can be that simple, but many times it isn’t. Many times God uses others to support us when we struggle, and that’s okay. I really felt compelled to share part of my struggle in hopes that it may encourage someone reading this. I am constantly on a path towards changing myself to be more like Christ, and to rest in the peace of God’s promises. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. And I want to leave you with a verse that hopefully will bring comfort if this post resonated with you at all.

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ – Isaiah 41:10

(If you want to listen to Louie’s talk, check out the podcast at www.passioncitychurch.com)

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