March 2, 2018
Every Monday and Wednesday morning at 8:17, the Park N Ride bus in Westlake pulls out and heads for downtown Cleveland. Every Monday and Wednesday, I am on that bus, earbuds in, more than likely blasting TWICE to drown out the jitters that creep in my stomach. It’s never easy to get on that bus, but I don’t complain, because I feel less anxiety getting on the bus than getting in my car to drive the 22 miles to Cleveland State.
I’m always afraid that I’m going to miss my stop. It’s the second to last stop on the route and there are other CSU students on the bus, so it’s incredibly unlikely that I will ever miss my stop. However, that’s anxiety for you. It’s hovering every minute, waiting for something to go wrong, no matter the day or time. If nothing goes wrong, then it creates something. If something does go wrong, then it’s choruses of “I told you so” dancing around my brain. You would think that by now I would have found a way to shut it down, but nothing works for long.
I turn to music. I turn to studying. I turn to YouTube. I turn to reading. I turn to daydreams. I turn to printing pages from Google Images and coloring them in my journal. Speaking of, I turn to journaling. Recently, I started watching Panda Cams at the Atlanta Zoo and the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C. (I have a theory that pandas would give great hugs and make great service animals. You know, if they weren’t so big.)
Did you notice something that wasn’t on my list?
On my list, I didn’t put that I turn to God. Because, honestly, that’s not my first instinct. Trust me, I do that, but it truly isn’t my first instinct. My first instinct is to turn away, to hide (fight v. flight). I have quite the habit of hiding.
This flight feeling or desire to hide has become such a numb feeling that I hardly even think about it anymore. I do what I have to do, and when I’m finally able to leave the triggering place, everything feels okay again.
I have had people say to me before, “Can’t you just pray the anxiety away and feel better?” “Can’t you just read scripture and feel better?”
Yes, I can pray and I can read scripture and find comfort in it. But no, it does not make me “better” and it does not fix what I’m feeling. Only leaving the situation makes me feel normal again. I do mix in a bit of Jesus with a pinch of coloring and a whole lot of good music and feel hopeful again, but it’s hard when my brain wants to shut down. The whole thing is a strange obstacle course that even now I’m having trouble fully describing.
* * *
The reality of being a Christian with anxiety is that it’s not easy. Some might think that because I believe in and love Jesus that that alone makes anything I’m feeling irrelevant or can instantly make those feelings go away. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t work like that.
My faith in Jesus does, however, give me hope that I will able to continue to challenge myself and grow to live a great life where anxiety doesn’t hold me back. I keep that in mind with every decision I make and every hope I have for the future. I know I won’t be able to do anything apart from Him, especially overcome this anxiety.
Someone recently told me that it’s good that I am challenging myself with big goals to achieve that anxiety wants to hold me back from. That statement changed the way I look at every day. I now look at every day as a challenge. Every day that I complete, that I conquer, and even days that I am the loser, is a step forward. And Jesus is
dragging walking me through all of them.
* * *
I’ve been in this strange mindset since I finished the fall semester at BGSU. I have felt so broken since coming home from BGSU. Some days I feel like I’m watching myself go through the motions of the day, like a parallel universe Emily is experiencing things and I’m not. Going there really turned and twisted me all up and I’m still working on the untwisting. I have a feeling I’ll be working on it for a while. For some reason though, I think that I had to go to BGSU and get all twisted up. I learned a lot going there, and I’m learning a lot in this recovery stage.
I have a cake metaphor here for what I’ve learned (because who doesn’t love cake?):
At the beginning of Fall 2017, I thought I had the correct ingredients to make a great cake. So, I put the cake in the oven and turned the heat to 350 degrees. I waited patiently, or so I thought I had. But when it came out, it was flat, it was cracked, it was dry. It wasn’t the fluffy cake with perfectly golden edges that I expected. Looking back, I hadn’t taken the time to check my ingredients. I had too much pride and not enough love for myself. I had a less than adequate amount of focus on what I wanted instead of what I needed. Now I know: you have to take the time to check each ingredient – ensure it’s the correct one, the correct brand, the correct amount – or else your cake will be less than desirable.
I’m starting over. I’m entering the kitchen, albeit hesitantly, gathering my ingredients, and I’m slowly adding each one. I have great opportunities ahead of me. I have great people around me. And I have a great God who loves me endlessly. I’m confident in this cake and I’m confident that it will be everything I want it to be, a little of what I don’t want it to be, and so much more than I thought it could be.
Romans 5:3-5: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.