When the Waves Keep Crashing: How to Stay Afloat When Anxiety Weighs You Down

People often have a hard time understanding something they’ve never experienced. My husband recently read an article about loving someone with anxiety, it was eye opening for him, and for me. It made me realize I’ve never explained my struggles in my own words. I hope this will help someone dealing with anxiety or empathize with a loved one who struggles.

I’ve always had anxiety, I just didn’t know what it was.

I thought everyone went to the bathroom to cry at school after a teacher embarrassed her. I thought everyone dealt with shaking hands during a presentation or social event. I thought all introverts felt like I did. I thought most people felt lost as soon as they left their house, but I was wrong.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started to understand that my racing heart, short temper, pacing back and forth, and shortness of breath during times of stress was actually a panic attack.

Sometimes I know what brings them on, like an upcoming social event, my grieving heart or a difficult sudden circumstance, but sometimes I have no idea why the physical side of anxiety hits me. My heart races and I start to recognize that familiar feeling, yet even my mind wonders why.

When I lay down to go to sleep, my mind taunts me with overthinking, negativity and worry.

I overthink conversations I had, wondering if I said something wrong. I’m defensive and I am constantly reminding myself to seek my identity and self esteem in Christ, not the world.

I don’t like to leave my house, but I do.

I don’t like to go to big gatherings, but I do.

I try to hide how I’m feeling, but I can’t. Those that love me, see it like a stamp on my forehead.

I wish I could change the way I feel, the way I think, and the way I am, but I can’t. I beg and plead for God to remove this thorn in my side, yet it remains.

Despite my prayers God doesn’t take it from me, and I may never understand why – but I do understand Him. He is good, He is all knowing, and He will use it to mold me. He uses it to teach me, refine me, and change me into what He wants me to be someday. It’s not just a thorn in my side, it’s a way to transform me into His vessel for His work. I was created for His purposes, not my own.

I described these feelings to my counselor one day, as a feeling of “drowning.” She smiled warmly and told me that a powerful image formed in her mind when I said that. When someone is drowning, they often flail around trying to stay afloat until eventually they let go and surrender. They finally succumb to the difficulty and let go. We let go, but God never let’s go. “Even when you’re drowning, God still has a hold of you,” she said wisely. “He never let’s go of your hand, even when you let go.”

We often think our feelings are facts, but that is such a huge lie we’ve let ourselves believe. Our feelings are indicators, not dictators. God is our source of peace, NOT our oh-so fragile feelings.

As painful as anxiety is to go through, it keeps me dependent on the Lord. Someday I may understand, but honestly, I don’t need an explanation from the creator of the universe. All I need is a source of peace to survive this, and that, God has never withheld from me – never.

All I need to know is that God knows the “why’s” that often taunt me, and He will hold me no matter how much the waves crash down around me. I can try to fix myself, or I can surrender to the waves and rest in His arms. I may crumble, I may fall apart at times, but He won’t. He will help me rise again. I don’t have to be strong, because God already is, and that is enough for me.

If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, the best you can do is listen and love them. You can pray for them, but prayer is NOT a way to get what we want, it’s a way to stay dependent on God. Never tell someone to pray away their troubles, tell them to keep going to God, and tell them to keep on getting back up when they fall. Because trust me if I could pray away my anxiety, it would be a distant memory. I can, however, surrender my struggles at God’s feet and rest assured that even if I let go amongst the heavy waves, He never will.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

-2 Corinthians 12:9,10

 

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