On anxiety and wrestling down monsters.

In eleventh grade, I got nauseous every Thursday.

Like clockwork, I could tell the day of the week by the lump in my throat and the queasiness of my stomach. My teachers had decided that Thursdays were test days, and it was the first year of my life, and maybe the last time too, that I worried about my abilities to do well on each and every test.

Halfway through the first semester, I had started to dread Thursdays, which would bring the lump and the queasiness a day early, and then I dreaded Wednesdays. And it never quite went away until after school on Fridays but then there were lots of social interactions that came with the weekends, and high school was just not my place, and I did my best to be actively against the underage drinking that got most kids through it, and so the lump and the queasiness was there on the weekends too. Sunday would come around and I may get a day off from the mind-racing but typically there were meetings for that high school sorority I just “had to” be a part of—and now I kind of agree with a commercial I saw recently where a guy said that women in groups is typically a bad thing, that they couldn’t ever pull off Oceans Eleven because two of them would have to keep stopping to talk about the other nine—and so there was anxiety on Sundays too.

And eleventh grade came and went, and at the end we burned all the pages of work that had caused the queasiness and the lump, and I thanked the heavens that it was all over… for the time being anyway.

Anxiety. It’s this silent wrecking ball that dangles its crushing force above my head when life gets overwhelming.

And sometimes, like ninth grade and Katrina and losing best friends because I couldn’t be civil when all the mess was up in my head and sophomore year of college when the world ran too fast and all the commitments became exhausting, I have believed the lies that rule my mind and I have let them wreck my world.

After Katrina, I starting seeing a counselor for the first time—which, by the way, if you ever tell me you have any type of problem, I’ll probably suggest a counselor. They’re lifesavers and best friends and moms and—best of all—they’re impartial. And everyone needs a good one for the times that the waves get high. And she told my mom that I wasn’t depressed but I was anxious. A year and a half later—after a long period of denial on my part—I started taking anxiety medicine. It got me through that junior year of grade anxiety and test anxiety and social anxiety and all the other anxieties wrapped into one, and that summer I went off to work at YoungLife camp and finally felt free once again. I stopped needing the medicine because there wasn’t anything to be anxious about, and senior year was a breeze compared to junior and the medicine got tossed out when it expired unused. And somewhere in there, I believed my fight with anxiety was over.

But what noone told me—or I never really “heard”—was that anxiety is a lifelong battle. And so when life got hard sophomore year and senior year and my first year out of college, I blamed it on the people around me or on God or my poor decision making abilities, not on anxiety.

Just recently I’ve been learning that the fight is on-going and it is daily. I’ve been learning that I get to control my walk with anxiety if I make it a priority. If I give it to Jesus. And I don’t want to hyper-spiritualize it. Because giving it to Jesus looks less like simply handing it over in my mind and a lot more like WWE with KLove in the background. It’s listening to Christian music when all day CNN at the office has made me question the world.

It’s reading my Bible when I do not want to. Going to the truth in scripture when my to-do list is a thousand items long and everything inside me tells me that it would be checking off items that would make me less anxious, not sitting seemingly idle and reading a book—even one that I know has life-changing power. It’s being in community and asking hard questions and giving hard answers when the questions are asked of me. It’s having people and sending quick text messages in the midst of the storm and then sometimes it’s laying in a hammock in our front yard and reading a book because “why not?”. Recognizing what I’m doing with Dot is good and great and wonderful, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it, but recognizing it’s not meant to be my entire life. Because then I’m back to eleventh grade when school and acing the social world was my life and that caused anxiety Wednesday to Sunday, and I simply don’t have time for that anymore.

—Hallie

(I’m starting this new thing where I write everyday, partly wrestling down the anxiety monster, partly because I really love writing. So if you’re subscribed, prepare to get more emails in your inbox. I’m also trying this new thing where I don’t apologize for things that don’t need apologies, so instead of saying “Sorry!” for the emails and posts, I’ll say “I hope you enjoy them!”.)
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