On Being Anxious

Today is not a good day.

I don't mean in the "everything is a good and perfect gift," way.  I know every day of life is a good gift from God and today is no exception.  But to me, today is not a good one.  Because I suffer from anxiety and depression.  And today is a bad day for that.

I have been pretty open about my struggle with this for a while, though maybe not writing about it specifically on my blog.  And maybe now, right in the thick of it, is a good time to.  My friend Stephen wrote a great post about mental illness yesterday and maybe I am spurred on by that.  (Yes, I said mental illness.  Despite the ridiculous stigma people STILL bring to that word, I have a mental illness.  It's ok.)  Anyway, after several months of reprieve, I have been having a rough month or so, alternating between some depression and some anxiety symptoms, and today I woke up with it again.  And really? It sucks.

Anxiety is an interesting feeling.  It can be a useful one.  Anxiety can reveal sin in the heart.  It can show me when I am not trusting God.  Sometimes it is just a natural reaction to a stressful situation.  I remember in college being anxious before tests because I wanted to do well.  I was anxious at times during pregnancy because I wanted my babies to be OK and had little control over them.  In those cases, it was good to just acknowledge the anxiety, do the best I could with the situation, and trust God with the rest.  I know that is easier said than done, but it is far less vague and complex with what I am feeling now.

I woke up this morning feeling like I had rested poorly, even though I slept soundly.  I had (and still have) a sick and guilty feeling surrounding my heart, feeling like it is being squeezed ever so slightly but firmly.  My throat feels a little tight, like there is the thinnest veil making it just the tiniest bit harder to breathe (but not enough that I am short of breath or anything), and my neck feels warm like gentle flames are licking at it.  And I am SO.TIRED.  From the moment I woke up this morning, all I wanted to do was go to sleep.  I think in part it is because fatigue is a common symptom of this for me, and also because when I am asleep, I feel less anxious.  The sleep is restless and without peace, but I am not so acutely feeling this unrest in my heart.

When I have days like this, sometimes the feeling just lingers in me all day, but I can still function pretty normally.  I can go about my day like nothing is "wrong" (because really, nothing is wrong), and then I am ready for bed at night.  But days like today, days I have been having more frequently this month, it is physically debilitating.  I feel like I can't function like a normal person.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  The thought of dressing my kids and myself and going to the Y to take a Zumba class feels like it may as well be flying to the moon or climbing Everest.  Heck, going to the kitchen to fix breakfast feels like it should be a 5K.  And there is no.apparent.reason.  I have NO idea where this came from.  I am taking my medicine, I go to therapy, I am relatively stress-free circumstantially, I am happy…and yet this anxiety is like a sickness through my body.  It is like my emotional immune system crashed and I just need to let it do its thing so I can pull it together…but life goes on, and I just have to deal.

On days like today, I have low expectations.  We hang out in our pajamas.  We watch too much t.v.  If someone else is around to play with the kiddos, I welcome it.  If not, we lay low and stay home.  We hang out in the playroom so I can take a rest while they play next to me, and I let my daughter color up and down my legs with washable markers because it lets me lie down.  I count the hours until nap time, and then the hours until daddy comes home.  Yes, I still feed them and bathe them and play with them and discipline them.  There is no neglect.  But it is very much a "going through the motions" day.  And maybe we will have another one soon, but they will be over in a little while.

I have been experiencing days like this for years and years, often more spaced out, but sometimes far FAR worse.  This is a trip to Florida compared to the Post Partum Depression days, which I guess I can write about another time.  I don't understand it.  I don't know why I have them, other than the fact that we live in a sinful world and we are faced with many ailments as a result.   But the thing is, even though I hate depression and anxiety, and would get rid of it if I could, I fully understand that God uses this for His glory.  And if I am going to be afflicted in this way, then I want to be used for God.

I read a quote on my friends' Ian and Larissa's blog that really spoke to me today.
O that we thus walked more in the footsteps of our Lord, cheerfully enduring trial for his sake, promptly and willingly putting away the thought of self and comfort when it would interfere with our finishing the work which he has given us to do. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided. -Charles Spurgeon, emphasis mine.
Now I definitely don't always (or often) endure this trial "cheerfully," and definitely still can be selfish through it, but I have been able to see it more and more as a work of the Lord in my life.  God has refined me in amazing ways through this struggle.  I have been able to experience the word of God and the prayers or the saints as healing balm in the midst of turmoil.  I have been able to empathize with and encourage others whom I otherwise would not be able to relate to.  I have have been met in a low place, like King David, and felt God speak gently to my anxious heart.  I have seen the joy of getting through  low time.  I will see that again.

Dealing with anxiety and depression requires great grace.  It takes grace to get through the day, to take care of my kids, to not be a selfish wretch as I deal with a very personal struggle.  But we have a great God, and He provides that great grace.

So, I guess the last thing I want to say is don't worry about me.  I am OK.  I have coping mechanisms in place.  I can still take care of my family and go through life.  I have an awesome support system, a husband who understands mental illness for what it is, a church that is not judgmental toward afflictions like this, and friends who have walked this themselves and will continue to walk it with me.  I have beautiful children that give me great joy even in the middle of this.  I have a counselor who loves the Lord and medication that I praise Jesus for.  And I have great grace.  That is enough.

And even as I write this, the anxiety lessons.  Praise the Lord.


Andrea Whaley said...

Diana - you are not alone, which I know you know, but it always helps to hear it. You know this is a daily struggle for me as well, especially since I discontinued my meds recently (just in case there is a baby in my semi-near future). I know exactly what you are saying - my physical symptoms are quite the same, and the feeling that you just don't feel like yourself, or like you are watching yourself from outside is so familiar. I am finding that a heavy duty probiotic is helping me, as well as calcium magnesium (like - a lot of it) and viatmin B complex. The probiotic is hugely helpful - weird, I know, but I've been doing a lot of reading and it is very linked to anxiety relief. It's all an imbalance, right? You can do it. Keep the faith - yours is stronger than anyone I know.

Kathryn Wesner said...

Thanks for being honest and vulnerable with weakness. I hate admitting weakness and try to appear I have it all together which is prideful and fake. Admitting my weakness is the first step to relying on Jesus.

I pray you will run to Jesus. He promises that he is a great high priest who is able to sympathize with all our weakness. That is so amazing! He was abandoned and alone on the cross so we would never be. Rest in and run to Jesus!

Jenny said...

Thank you for being so open... I know this will touch a lot of people. I struggled with some debilitating anxiety while I was pregnant with Josh, and remember how physically it affected me. Thank you for sharing!

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