I am confident girl, funny girl, and never-let-them-see-you-sweat girl. I have five other roommates, a full-time job, and I even got a puppy. My Instagram and Twitter profiles boast that I am the happiest girl in the world!
And yet I am caught up in the most crippling bout with anxiety.
You would never know by looking from the outside because of the aforementioned qualities. I have packaged myself rather nicely and I commend myself for trying really hard. But if I’m being honest, which I really want to be, it's just trying. At this point the trying and still not measuring up is cause for a panic attack that can bring me to my knees. I am terrified of being found out, being discovered, being a fraud, being broken.
Anxiety has often been described as attempting to walk out to sea and being knocked over wave after wave. Every time you try to stand up another wave takes the breath out of you and sends you tumbling over yourself. You are spinning, reeling, trying to get back on your feet when again you spiral out of control.
I think anxiety is more like being lost at sea in the middle of a typhoon at night without a raft. Unlike being in the shallow water and walking out through the crashing waves, from where I sit I cannot see the shore. At least when the waves knock you over you can try to grab on to the bottom, maybe you will scrape a rock along the way. Where I am, in my sea of anxiety, there is nothing to hold on to. It is dark, loud, and yet incredibly alone. When the waves crash in the middle of the ocean there isn’t anything to bump into, just more darkness, more abyss, more nothing. All the while I am trying to hold on for dear life but only coming up with fistfuls of more fear. Even the fear is causing more fear and I sink down in a panic for what feels like the one-hundredth time.
And yet, I know Jesus. I love him a lot. I’ve hitched my wagon to his and I’m rather helplessly in love with him and eternally grateful for his love. I know the verses. I know how many times the Bible says, “fear not.” I know to cast my cares on him; I know he has good plans for me; I know I know I know! But the last thing I want right now is to know anything else. That’s half of the problem. I know I shouldn’t be this way or feel this way and yet I do. I know I should have freedom, but I don’t. And all of this makes me want to hide from my Christian community even more. I am ashamed that my faith isn’t stronger and my identity isn’t more secure.
I don’t need another Bible verse. I need a hug.
If we, as followers of Christ really are called to imitate Christ, then I think the last thing Jesus would do would be to quote Scripture to those of us who battle anxiety. The Jesus I know would wrap me up tight, listen closely, lean in. I’m not denying the importance of truth, but I am wondering if there’s not more truth in just being. If we want to love our anxious and depressed friends then maybe the very thing they need is the opposite of what they’re doing. As a Christian and someone who works in full time ministry I just keep pounding myself over the head with Scripture, Christian writings, formulas to fix it. I’m starting to wonder if what I really need is the body of Christ with open and willing arms, nonjudgmental ears, and quiet lips.
Yes, I am a Christian and I am also battling anxiety.
It is the tension I am living in and trying to be more honest about. One day I’ll say, “I’m a Christian and I’m also fill-in-the-blank” but for now this is my present darkness. For now, I need my community and the Church at large to just love me. For now, that is enough.