Welcome to the very first episode of the Overcoming Anxiety Through Faith Podcast.
Three years ago I found myself lying on my back in a hospital bed unable to breathe.
God used pneumonia to force me to be still so He could reveal some things to me that I could not see. He allowed me to be physically unable to breathe, but emotionally I had not truly been breathing for at least ten years.
During that hospital stay, I had time to think; and in the quiet, God was able to deal with my anxious heart. He revealed to me that my anxiety had been holding me captive in an emotional jail, and He broke chains that I had put on myself for years.
Every day for ten years, my anxiety and my need for control ruled my life. There was hardly a minute in my day that I wasn’t consumed with anxiety. It colored how I made all decisions. The anxiety ruled.
One of the areas where anxiety controlled the most was money. I was in charge of the finances in our household; and though they provided hundreds of hours of stress, I could not let go and allow my husband to help me with, or even take over the finances because I had anxiety about what that might mean.
As a result, I did everything based on how it affected us financially. I always wondered why money was such a big deal to me, since I’m not a materialistic person, and I eventually learned that money wasn’t the problem: the problem was needing to control the money. My anxious thoughts about our finances made me feel out of control; so in my mind, if I could control my money, I could control my life.
My anxious thoughts also controlled my marriage. My husband has never given me any indication of wanting to leave or divorce me, yet that was my biggest fear. My most frequently occurring nightmare involved my husband leaving.
In my mind, I had determined that if I did not do a good job with the finances, he would divorce me. You see when we were newly married I had overheard a conversation between my husband and his co-worker who had divorced his wife due to finances. I thought my husband was in agreement that he should have done so and therefore would divorce me too if I ever caused us issues with finances.
So instead of letting him do the finances, I did them and kept things covered, because I knew that we didn’t always have enough money to pay all our bills. That is what consumed my anxious thoughts – the constant struggle of figuring out which Peter I would rob to pay Paul. It occupied my mind full-time.
I never wanted to have to say, “No, we don’t have the money,” to my husband when he would ask to go out to eat. So, instead, I’d allow us to go out and then worry, fret and work my tail off to make up the difference. This made for an exhausting cycle of always working harder and harder to make more money; and there was never enough, so I never stopped.
On top of my anxieties over finances and my marriage, I also allowed the anxious thoughts to invade my parenting. I wanted my children to be happy; to do so, I spoiled them. I did everything for them, from fixing drinks to working even harder so I could buy them the latest desires of their little hearts.
This had me physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, unable to breathe -just like pneumonia that landed me in the hospital. And what was it that had landed me there? My anxious thoughts. I was so worn out from worry that my body could no longer fight to stay healthy.
I had been so consumed with taking care of everything and everyone else, trying to keep it all from falling down around me, that I hadn’t taken care of myself. This included not having health insurance. I hadn’t had health insurance since my son was born 9 years before, so I avoided the doctor (and the dreaded doctor bill!) like the plague. Because of my constant anxiety over finances, I didn’t think I could afford health insurance; so I did without, choosing instead to work hard to pay for private school and other things for my children.
I wore myself out, literally.
It was after that hospital stay that I knew I had to change something about the way I was dealing with my anxiety. Pushing it aside or burying it was no longer working well. Even the medication I was taking was not making a difference in the way I was experiencing anxiety.
I also knew I was supposed to write a book about my journey with anxiety. It has been a lifelong one that I know other people have experienced too. The hospital stay revealed to me that my anxiety journey was to be shared with others in an effort to help them to break the chains anxiety may have on their lives.
I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since I was a small child. As a small child, thunderstorms were a source of anxiety for me. Every time the sky would turn gray, the thunder clouds began to form and the lightning started to strike. I became anxious. This anxiety was enhanced even more if the thunderstorm rolled in during the school day when I was away from my parents.
My mother was an elementary art teacher when I was in elementary school. She was actually on campus with me every single day, but that didn’t seem to keep the racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, and queasy stomach away when a thunderstorm would bear down on our small town.
And it wasn’t just that I also had this irrational fear that my mom would leave me behind at school at the end of the day. This was an irrational fear because she had never done so before and had never given me any reason to believe that she would.
When I was in the 3rd grade, I was diagnosed with anxiety. The psychologist told my parents I would always struggle with it. I, as a result, believed that I would always suffer from it.
As I entered my teen years a new set of circumstances would begin to produce anxiety for me. It usually reared its ugly head when I had to perform in front of a crowd, answer a question in class, or thought that a friend was upset with me.
Beginning to date was another source of constant anxiety for me. I had the same sort of irrational fears that I had with my mother. I always feared that the person I was dating would break up with me, but even worse than that was when I started college. I was married at the time so I commuted to school my junior and senior years. I drove 70 miles one way three days a week.
My anxiety ever since I was a small child has caused me to get physically ill. Normally feeling nauseous, which made it very difficult to drive to college classes. On my first day on campus of the university I attended I found myself in a dark, hidden bathroom stall I found in a random building on campus. I didn’t think I was going to be able to drive home.
I was 37 years old before I realized that what that doctor had said wasn’t true. I have spent the past three years learning what has actually allowed me to overcome anxiety.
You see, unintentionally the doctor had lied to me and I had believed the lie. That lie was just the first of many lies that I would believe over the next twenty-plus years. The liar however was not a man, but Satan. Satan continually whispered lies into my mind. Lies that I believed were my own thoughts.
And if I let down my guard or fail to dress in my armor daily he will weasel his lies into my thoughts at any given moment. You may have experienced the same scenario, but maybe you still believe the negative thoughts are somehow of your own doing. You feel powerless to stop them. You are concerned that the way you feel right now is the way it will always be.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way, there is hope for overcoming your anxiety. It will not always be easy. It requires daily action on your part, but it will 100% be worth it. Would you like me to tell you how?
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