tw – mention of suicide
My therapist thinks that I’ve had anxiety for most of my life. When I was a child, I was described as ‘sensitive’ or ’emotional’. It didn’t matter the situation, I typically responded with big fat crocodile tears or a quick burst of anger that didn’t seem the fit the situation. As quickly as the anger rose, it dissipated, only for me to fall into a puddle of tears and confusion.
I hate having anxiety. I hate when fellow Christians tell me things like ‘you don’t have anxiety! Don’t claim that.”
Oh so the psychiatrist is wrong and the literal chemical imbalance in my brain is made up? For whatever reason, this is the thorn in my side (2 Corinthians 12) and I hate it. I can admit it.
I hate doubting that people actually mean well. I hate having to explain why sending a text or calling someone is just too much for me to handle at times. I hate that I’ve lost friendships because people underestimate the level of care that goes into having a friend with a mental illness.
I’ve seen so many people talk about how we need to be kinder to Kanye and how he needs help but they will disregard their mentally ill friend who is trying to open up and make sense of their world.
I got into a disagreement with a friend recently. I did something and she quickly replied that it triggered her. I told her that I was joking, not really understanding if she was being serious or not. Once it was clear that she was offended, I tried to apologize. She kept cutting me off and cutting into me. I literally couldn’t get the apology in. I felt horrible because I know what it is like to be triggered but the way she was speaking to me hurt more than I could handle. I eventually just hung up the call.
It hurt so much but I felt like I brought it upon myself. If you’ve ever wondered what anxiety is like, imagine a car crash. A deer darts out and you swerve to hit it but slam into a tree. You’re alive but your car is totaled. You began to berate yourself for not handling the situation differently. You try to rationalize how you should’ve slammed on your brakes instead or how you could’ve just hit the deer head-on.
Now take a step back – there is literally nothing wrong with swerving to avoid hitting a deer. You made, in a split second, the decision that you thought would save your life.
That is what anxiety feels like. Literally everything I do feels like a split-second decision to keep my head above water. It doesn’t matter if I make the right decision for that situation, I still feel like I did something wrong or made a mistake.
I often feel like I don’t deserve having friends or even my family. Even on my good days, I feel low. It is crazy because I spend SO much time with God. I have prayed over my anxiety and I have learned how to combat anxiety attacks through therapy but I often feel like that scared 23-year-old who was ready to cut her wrists and end it all.
Granted, I’m not suicidal anymore and I am so grateful to God that He has delivered me from that struggle but the pain and anxiety I felt back then hovers over me like a swollen storm cloud. Ready to burst at any moment.
I understand that I have something inside of me that terrifies Hell and all of its occupants. I understand that God has placed something on the inside of me that is maturing and growing. All the while I understand this, I sometimes feel like God picked the wrong person.
Remember that scene in Moana where she gives the heart of Te Fiti back to the ocean? With tears in her eyes, she tells the ocean that they chose the wrong girl and that she couldn’t accomplish the mission. A few moments later, (without spoiling it for those that haven’t seen it) she is encouraged to keep going.
I sometimes compare myself to Moana when moments like this arise. I don’t always feel like God picked the right person for the job. I feel like God made a mistake by asking me to follow His plan.
Then I take a step back and look at God’s track record.
He has used a liar (Abraham- Genesis 12:10-20), a stuttering murderer (Moses – Exodus 2:11-12 & 4:10-13), a suicidal prophet (Elijah – 1 Kings 19:3-5), a bitter widow (Naomi – Ruth 1:20-21), a prostitute (Rahab – Joshua 2), an anxious friend (Martha – Luke 10:41), a lying disciple (Peter – Luke 22:54-62) and a literal persecutor of His very people (Paul – Acts 9:1-31) to tell His story and to advance His kingdom.
The more I study scripture, the more I see myself represented. Elijah sat under a tree and asked God to take his life. I sat in a bathroom with a pair of scissors and my therapist had to talk me down. Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. I’ve lied about … a lot. Naomi changed her name because she was so bitter about her circumstances. I was bitter and jealous for a long time because I was single and no one wanted me. Martha was so anxious about making sure that everything was perfect for Jesus that she missed out on time to just sit in His presence. I’ve been so anxious lately that my production at work has slipped.
I see myself in their flaws and in their darkest moments. I see myself in their hard times. I am refreshed because I can imagine myself in their successes.
So maybe, for the time being, my anxiety is the thorn in my side. It hurts, it makes me cry (often) and it frustrates me deeply. However, if this thorn is what God uses to execute His will in my life and is what He needs for me to be fully dependent on Him, then so be it.
Paul pleaded with God to remove it from him but God reassured him that His grace is sufficient in our weakness.
I can almost hear it.
“Imani, my grace is sufficient in your weakness, in your anxiety, in your doubts and in your fears. My power is made perfect in your imperfection.”
So I echo Paul when I say ‘that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.’