So it’s no secret to anyone that I write about stuff that some people don’t wanna say, and that I’m very personal about living with anxiety, intercultural transitions, my struggle with…everything and so on. But this post is going to be VERY personal. And if its too much in any way (*trigger alert*) than stop reading, of course. But I think we can encourage others by sharing our stories and so here is a piece of my own story.
When I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder I was also diagnosed with depression. It is fairly common for a person with one mental illness to experience symptoms of other disorders and I was scoring some high numbers on a few scales. There’s a funny story about my counselor asking how I felt about being clinically psychotic but that’s for another time. Anyways, I was put on anti-depressants and slowly but surely, my panic attacks decreased in intensity and frequency and it seemed that everything was just fine.
Though doctors go over a bunch of side-effects of various medications, ALL drugs affect various people differently. Some people experience all kinds of crazy side-effects and others don’t experience anything at all. On my particular medication I only experienced two: exhaustion and weight gain. Which seems really not too extreme compared to three or four panic attacks a day and perpetual phobias. Especially for the people around me. But actually, sometimes those side-effects just made everything worse.
See, I had anxiety waaaayyyy before I was diagnosed, probably as a kid. More funny stories there from my various run-ins with my anxiety during my childhood. One of the ways my anxiety manifested itself was in high school when I was so stressed out about everything, but also about how I looked that I started having panic attacks around food, which then led to avoiding meals, working out for two or more hours a day and a whole lot of general panic. I would run six miles, come back and work out in the basement for another hour and then eat like nothing…typical mental illness stuff. I remember there were certain foods I wouldn’t even touch. I knew the caloric intake of everything. I hated pictures of myself. It was gross.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an eating disorder. My struggles with food came from my anxiety and needing to control everything. But that doesn’t mean that my anxiety doesn’t flare up around body image and what people think of how I look. And even though NOT having panic attacks all the time is AMAZING!…being tired all the time is not. It scares the crap out of me. I feel like I have to choose the lesser of two evils: being unhealthy, or being insane. Literally.
So lately as summer has been approaching and everyone (okay mostly girls) are talking constantly about how their bodies look, I get anxious and insecure, because of the many choices I have to make about the way MINE looks. Holy cow as if we don’t already judge ourselves enough. This week after some really terrible moments doubting my own ability to survive MYSELF and refusing to take my pills because “they make me fat and tired” I had a heart to heart with Jesus. It went something like this:
“Okay Jesus, I am sick of this. I know that making hard choices is just part of being an adult but why do I have to choose between being unhealthy and being anxious? I don’t know what you want from me. How am I supposed to move forward in all these insecurities? And where are you? Aren’t you supposed to be present in these things? Why do you let these things happen to me? Why are there some people who are pretty AND happy? Why do I have to choose?”
Yes friends I know. You think that I don’t have to choose. I have plenty of people in my life who think I don’t have REAL anxiety and I’m NOT ugly. But give me a break…I know you have things in your life that seem real to you but not to other people. So pipe down. It’s not like we don’t all have these conversations in some form:
“God, why do other people get to be smart AND popular, when I can barely pass classes and spend all my free time studying?”
“God, why do other people have TWO fantastic parents and the one I have doesn’t ever call me?”
“God, why do other people get to have kids and I don’t even have a boyfriend?”
Granted, all these situations are different and some are more extreme than others but I think we can all relate. And how does God meet us in those places? Usually, he answers by showing us our problems aren’t really all that fantastic in comparison to his love for us. He shows us he has equipped us to press on, even if that means things don’t get better. He gives us peace and grace for where we are, even if it’s not where we want to be. And then…Sometimes…he takes us to a place we haven’t been before and didn’t expect going. Closer to where he is. Always closer to where he is.
I don’t feel particularly close to God right now. But I do feel like that somewhere in the craziness God has some kind of place he’s trying to take me. I’m up for the adventure. How about you?