This is the second part in a series that tells a story about anxiety and Christian women. To start at the beginning, click here.
Have you heard the term triggers before?
Emotional triggers can be anything that sets you off, both good and bad. Sometimes they can be small things such as a comment someone made that you interpreted differently or they can be much bigger events.
For me and my story in dealing with my anxiety, there are a few notable events that have happened over the past six years that should have set off red flags but because I was in such a pattern of stuffing down, I didn’t give them the attention they needed.
Ironically enough, it hasn’t been until this year when I have finally started to deal with the root causes of my anxiety through counseling did I even consider them to even be triggers.
For me, the major events that sent my anxiety into overdrive were:
- the possibility of a diagnosis for my daughter when I was pregnant with her
- the death of my father from a swift-moving cancer which I never really got a chance to grieve for because a month later, we discovered I was pregnant with our third
- a week-long stint at the NICU after my third was born
and most notably…
- a car accident that involved me and my oldest child last December.
The death of my father and the car accident were obvious to me as traumatic events but it wasn’t until a counseling session earlier this summer did I realize the impact of some of the other events.
I didn’t allow myself the time to grieve, to process, to dig deep and understand why these events were traumatic to me.
If you were sensing a theme in my struggle with anxiety, you would be right.
I’m a stuffer.
I stuff or suppress, emotions down deep because it feels safer to do that than to deal with them. The problem with that is they always come back up to the surface and boil over.
And boil over they did.
The week after Christmas I broke out into what I now know to be stress hives. For almost two weeks, intensely itchy and burning patches of hives would pop up and spread all over my body, then disappear after a few hours only to come back again.
At first, I thought I possibly ate something that was giving me an allergic reaction. Or maybe it was the new lotion I started to use? But slowly after we ruled out possibilities and turned to good old Google 😉the veil was lifted from my eyes.
My body was physically responding to not only the trauma and stress from the car accident but to years of suppressed emotions I had stuffed down.
My pot didn’t just boil over, it completely overflowed.
And God finally used my emotional breakdown to start seeing that my anxiety isn’t something I could stuff down anymore.
I needed to give it a voice, to recognize it for what it was, and finally start dealing with those emotions so I could start healing.
My triggers were somewhat dramatic but I bet if you suffer from anxiety, you can probably see your triggers as well… if you open your eyes and honestly look.
But that’s painful, isn’t it?
It’s easier to put the smile on our face and act like everything is OK then risk our pot to overflow with all the messy junk in our lives.
Recently, I have been reading Growing in Gratitude by Mary K. Mohler (an excellent book by the way) and she points to Paul.
Specifically, his asking of the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh three times. But a few breaths later, he says:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We do not know the specifics of Paul’s thorn but we can probably see the thorn we are inflicted with.
For me, it’s anxiety.
But through my healing journey this year (which I’ll share more about tomorrow) I have developed a greater understanding of my thorn.
In Growing in Gratitude, Mary K. Mohler says this of 2. Corinthians 12:9-10:
Yes, this is the same thorn we read about when Paul asked the Lord three times to remove it. And yes, Paul comes to a point where he is content with it. Yet his contentment and even boasting of it shows Paul’s understanding that the weakness the thorn produces is used by the Lord to show power. He gives us strength when we feel weak. He is accomplishing His purposes in ways that our minds cannot understand. He will be glorified — and He is always working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
This goes in line with something my counselor told me earlier this summer…
Be grateful for your anxiety.
At first, it took me a while to work through that thought but now my eyes are beginning to see how God has been working through me in my struggle with anxiety.
Later on, in the same chapter, Mary K. Mohler says:
There must be a value in the thorn because, otherwise, God would not allow it to exist. He makes no mistakes. He is never mean-spirited or unkind. He sent His only Son to purchase our redemption. We are His!… We trust the heart of our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God even when we don’t understand His purposes. We must trust Him and keep praying, even with groans.“
I do not know if I will ever be completely free of my anxiety this side of Heaven but since I have moved from a place of stuffing and denying, into a place of acceptance and healing, I can clearly see God’s hand at work in my life and in my thorn now.
It’s still a struggle, some days I feel the anxiety rising to the surface but instead of pushing it back down, I now have the tools to recognize it for what it is.
I can finally say I am thankful for my anxiety because even through all of the fear, doubt, and lose, I can see God with me always.
Tomorrow, I’ll continue my story and share specifically the practical steps I have been taking to my road of healing.