Anxiety… control… two very common threads that we as women deal with. They wreck our hearts, our minds, and our health. What does it take to break the vicious cycle and not allow them to wreak havoc in our lives?
In my case, it was pneumonia and a three day stay in the hospital.
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.
Every day for the past ten years, my anxiety and my need for control had 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. 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; in order 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 actually 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.
Letting go of control . . ..
What does it take?
For me, it took God literally knocking the breath out of me. The day I was released from the hospital I could breathe again, both physically and emotionally. I handed my husband the finances, without exceptions, chains or questions. He gets to make all those decisions. It is out of my control.
Surprisingly, though, I feel more in control of my life now – because now, I can actually live it. I can live in the moment instead of always mentally making money calculations in my brain, or checking my bank account balance to see if we are in danger of overdraft, which was always my fear.
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.
My problem wasn’t being money hungry; my problem was that I desperately wanted to keep my husband happy. Why? Because my biggest fear was his leaving me, although, again, he had never given me any reason to feel this way.
As I thought further, I realized that this stemmed back to my childhood fears of being left alone. In the third grade, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks. The trigger? The fear of my momma leaving me somewhere. Every time she left, regardless of where it was, I feared that she would not come back and get me.
And yet, my momma, just like my husband, had never given me any reason to believe that she would ever leave me. One thing is for sure, I know someone who will never leave us or forsake us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Do you struggle with anxiety? What would it take to make you let go?