Just an Update I Guess
Hi, sweet friends. It’s been a few months since I first shared my anxiety story on the blog. A huge weight was lifted that day, and a new world was opened. For pretty much my whole life, I only shared about my mental health with people very very close to me, and then suddenly I gained hundreds of new little pieces of light and warriors of encouragement. So, thank you. And I feel like it’s long overdue to give you an update.
I heard someone recently describe the season of life they were in and they referred to it as a “battle”. I couldn’t put it any better myself, really. Moving to downtown Houston, going to a new school, and living alone made me face my biggest fears, and it really hasn’t been anything more than a battle.
As humans, we learn through experiences. When we are little, we learn not to touch a stove that is on because it is hot and will burn us. A lightbulb goes off in our heads as this cognition is formed and for the rest of our lives, we will know a hot stove = burn to the touch. Some of us might even get curious and touch it for ourselves (I did this with a lightbulb when I was younger), and then we learn the hard way that it is dangerous and painful.
When you struggle with anxiety, your mind forms this cognitions quickly and strongly. Maybe you avoid social situations because you’ve had a bad experience or feel so uncomfortable all the time. Your brain thinks an invitation to a social gathering = must find an excuse. Or one for me is rain. It’s weird to say I’m scared of rain, but I am. I’ve had a bad experience driving in a bad flood and so now when rain falls from the sky my palms get sweaty and I cancel plans of driving in it. Rain = danger.
It’s been tough. It’s been a “battle” because I since I spend so much time on my own, I can’t always get out of these situations that make me feel like my fight or flight response is going off on high alert. I have to drive to classes no matter what the circumstance. I have to take plane rides if I ever want to go visit my boyfriend. I have to drive in traffic 45 minutes if I want to sleep in my own bed. I have to go into rooms of crowded people and talk to them if I want to have more friends and more coffee dates.
So, I spend a lot of days feeling very emotionally drained. Mornings I feel overwhelmed wondering, “What is it that I have to face today?” And that’s a little sad for me. I remember when I used to spring out of bed, play my favorite shows, and get all ready for the day with excitement. But I know I’m still the same person, and I will have that again.
Lately, if I had to name it in one sentence what I’ve dealt it, I would say: Keeping control and relenting control.
Let me explain:
Recently, it’s been hard to control my own emotions. This is truly just a factor of anxiety, depression, or really any mental illness. Chemically, I don’t have the same things swimming around my brain as a “normal” person does. (Someone without an anxiety disorder.) I’m lacking something – presumably serotonin or whatever makes you feel “good”. One little slip in my day – a low test grade, traffic on the way to school, not getting enough sleep – can spike my “blue” levels and I feel paralyzed with sadness or stress. (Or both.)
When I lived in Arkansas with my best friends and boyfriend, this was way easier to manage. Cam knows me so well, and can tell with a look whether I feel stressed, sad, or anxious. If he even ever heard my voice began to quiver, he would put me on the back of his moped and drive me around the city until I was smiling again. He’d get me a flower at the farmer’s market or we’d sniff candles in Target until I’d forgotten all my woes. My friends were always up for a coffee date or a girls night, and it was the best distraction when I needed it.
So, yeah…living alone in a big city where I’m often miles away from my friends is tough.
Now that’s the trouble with keeping control, but how about relenting control?
I’ve had to learn to put pride aside and let someone help me. And there’s two ways this works, and I have to do them both. I have had to be willing to be honest and open with my family and really lean on them. This is hard because I’m 21, and all I want for myself is to be independent and strong. More than I want to be rid of anxiety (because I know it will always be a part of me) is I want to just be able to do what I need to do, when I need to do it, and on my own. But I’ve had to kind of knock myself off my own high horse and just accept that the people that love me the most can really be there for me and are more than willing to be.
The second person I need to relent my control to is God. It’s so silly how long I went putting Him in a box and refusing to let Him speak to me about anxiety. It used to really confuse me. If this ugly anxiety isn’t of God, how can he really take it from me or help me with it? It just didn’t make sense. And it’s still something that I struggle with, but I’ve come to know that God asks me, over and over again, not to fear. To give up everything to Him. Cast my anxieties on Him. And I have to trust that the One who made the floor underneath my feet and the sky above my head can handle my little fears and little insecurities. It’s tough, but I think just spending more time with God each day is opening up my eyes more and more to this truth.
I wish I had more of an update post with some tangible advice, like “How To Stop Listening to Your Anxieties” or “10 Self-Care Activities for Anxiety”, but I’ve learned the importance of accepting where you are at and trying to learn from it, not fight it.
I’m a mess, but I’m a happy mess most days.
I cry a lot, but I’ve also been finding and holding on to the little things that bring me joy. I have struggled with a fair share of body image issues, but I also am loving the way my body produces freckles in the sunshine and wiggling my toes in strappy sandals. I feel sad often, but I also feel so overwhelmingly loved. It’s really a matter of choosing what I’m going to listen to for the day – my anxiety or my heart.
I know I am walking in the right direction. I know that I have everything I need to succeed. God has graciously taught me how important love, family, and a relationship with Him is in this season of life and how unimportant some other things are that I was really holding on to.
If you were looking for more help with your own anxiety (because I know I get a lot of emails and DMs on my best tips and what helps me) I’m just gonna throw a quick list your way if you feel like you need to just take one thing off of it and try it today.
- walking outside in nature. It’s meditative. Count your steps, analyze the leaves you step on, look up at the sky, and breathe deep.
- I love the Joyce Meyer radio podcasts, specifically her ones on “Freedom” which center around freedom from fear, freedom from legalism, etc.
- If you read the Bible, there are so many comforting words in the book of Isaiah. Specifically in chapters 42 and 43!
- When it’s sunny, sit outside and get some Vitamin D. Most people with anxiety disorders lack vitamin D!
- Go get coffee or a meal with a friend. Just talk. Don’t check your phone or bring reading or study material.
- Try cutting out coffee. I’m trying to go without it for a while for now to see how it helps me. Hot tea is great for an anxious mind and tummy.
- Surround yourself with comforting things. Comforting things to me are things that brought me joy when I was a child. For example, I’ve been watching my old favorite movies lately after a long day of school work and I’ve been preparing meals that I used to love as a kid.
- When you feel overwhelmed, do things in 10 minute intervals. Set a timer and try to accomplish one task or part of a task in that time and then take a break for 10 minutes.
Thanks for being with me and I hope this post has helped you in some way.