Usually if I was at home, watching a movie, with Bryan-I would be okay. Not this time. None of my tricks were working. I was curled up in the fetal position. Sobbing. I had never felt so desperate. At the time, there was a popular worship song that had repeating lyrics that said “I, I, I’m desperate for you.” In that moment I thought, “This is what it feels like to truly be desperate. All those times I had repeated those words were just lip service.”
It was the end of a 5-day mission trip. I had taken 8 girls to an Indian Reservation and all of sudden I felt sick. I was exhausted and I was sure that I was going to throw up. I ran to bathroom and nothing came out. I began to panic. I had a full out panic attack in front of hundreds of people, and I didn’t stop panicking until we arrived home. Four hours later. I have never been so embarrassed.
I would find myself rushing home to curl into a ball and cry in between meetings. And just as I would reach to my phone to call and cancel my next meeting, I would somehow muster enough strength to get up and make it through the next hour.
It all started when I was asked to travel for work. When I first heard that I would be gone for two weeks for training in Colorado, I was excited. But the closer that I got to the date of departure, I found myself feeling really hesitant to go. My “what ifs” spoke louder and louder and I became very anxious about the trip.
I went on the trip. I survived. I did it, but it was hard. And I came back different. Something shifted in me. Life all of a sudden felt less certain. I felt a lot less safe. I found myself a lot more cautious. Up until that point I had prided myself in how independent I was. That was no longer the case. All of a sudden, I really liked being with Bryan. A lot. Okay, all the time. He was my rock. He was my safe place.
I had dealt with separation anxiety as a kid. We moved to the Twin Cities when I was 12. Everyone was worried that I would react poorly. I did great and it was almost as if I was miraculously healed. For years I lived with no fear. I traveled all over and made bold, risky decisions. I didn’t even experience anxiety for several years after my transplant. After the suddenness of my transplant, no one would have blamed me at the time if I put myself in a glass container and stayed home for at least a year.
But it wasn’t until 5 years after my transplant that it hit me. It really caught me off guard. It took the wind out my sails. It cost me a job that I loved. It cost me relationships. It cost me credibility. It was an incredibly painful time in my life. It wasn’t just painful for me, it was very painful for Bryan and those around me.
Before I move on, I want to clarify something. I am over simplifying my anxiety for the sake of making my grief journey relatable and understandable. My anxiety is much more complex than I am making it sound. Although I do believe that where I was at in my grief journey was the catalyst to re-introduce my anxiety, I also strongly believe I am predisposed to anxiety and have a chemical imbalance that is also at play.
In the midst of all the pain, I kept wondering, “Why now? Why not five years ago when everyone would understand?”
I wish I could tell you with great confidence why I didn’t struggle with anxiety 5 years earlier when it would have felt acceptable. I don’t know exactly why taking a trip, when I generally loved to travel, was the tipping point for me. I don’t know for sure, but I think I understand at least a part of it…
Life had become a bit more normal. It became more predictable. I didn’t feel like I was at death’s door anymore. Bryan and I were married. I was doing what I felt like God had created me to do. I was growing up. I was still angry at times and I continued to bargain with God, but I actually kind of felt like a normal person, doing normal things.
It was no longer just about what happened in the past or what I wanted God to do in the future. I was here. I was alive. And for the first time in a long time, I thought that it was going to stay that way.
I was here…
I was alive….
It seemed like it might stay that way….
That felt very unsettling.
For years I had spent my energy outside of my currently reality. Denial had allowed me to believe that things were not different, I could stay in a world that had not changed. Anger had pushed my emotions out on to the people I loved. It wasn’t about me. Bargaining with God gave me an illusion of control. It kept me in the future.
Anxiety anchored me to today.
An anchor is designed to secure your position. It’s designed to keep you in place no matter what is going on around you.
Before I knew it, I found myself anchored to anxiety.
I felt it. I experienced it. It had an all-consuming grip on my reality.
And while I could write a whole blog, even a whole book, about anchors, I will spare you a sermon, and maybe years of heartache. Anxiety hooks are deep and ruthless. I can guarantee your position will be secured. I’m still digging myself out.
I know I don’t belong in denial, which made me long for the past. I don’t belong to anger because it allowed me to ignore my today. I don’t belong in bargaining because it kept me trying to control my future. But I also don’t belong anchored by anxiety today.
Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”
That is where I belong. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not today.
Anchored in hope. Anchored in forever.
This has been a long journey for me, one I am still on. But these days in those moments where all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, God has given me a new song to sing. It has taken me awhile, but I’m finally starting to whisper……
I have this hope As an anchor for my soul Through every storm I will hold to You
Anxiety is not for the faint of heart my friends. May God give you a new song….
Ps. Traditionally people recognize depression as the 4th stage of grief. The woman that coined the 5 stages was referring to people that were on their deathbed. The more I have researched I think that there is something to be said about that it would make sense for people to feel depression with a hopeless diagnosis. People who have experienced loss and have to create a new reality may experience higher levels of anxiety as they try to make sense of their new world. I identify anxiety as my 4th stage of grief. Just a thought…