When I was growing up as a shy, introverted, and mostly-nervous girl, the word anxiety wasn’t something I heard often. It wasn’t acknowledged or discussed as much as it is these days. But later on – as an adult looking back – I could see how anxiety was always part of my life, always something I struggled against, always something I tried to work around.
And always something I lived with.
During periods of time (sometimes long periods), thanks to combinations of life circumstances and anxiety-reducing-or-coping tools, the anxiety eases a little or a lot. There have been times it hasn’t been much of a struggle at all… And I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for those times.
But mostly, it is there. Mostly, my life has been spent living with anxiety – in spite of all the tools and techniques, the faith journey, the oh-so-many prayers, the coping mechanisms.
And sometimes, the anxiety roars to the surface with a vengeance. The past several years have contained a lot of that. Not constantly or unremittingly. But enough to majorly impact my life.
A couple of weeks ago, I put this on my instagram:
Today looks and feels beautiful, with blue sky and sunshine and 70-something warmth. This was book club day, and there was pizza and brownies and book-talk and general-talk and soooo much hearty laughter. It was good. So good. I’m glad I went, although I was back-and-forth about whether to go or just stay home, and my indecision continued until I actually left the house.
I almost didn’t go because of anxiety – I’ve been going to book club since early last summer, and it’s easier now than the very first time but it’s still not easy. Social anxiety is a real thing. And I almost didn’t go because of symptoms flaring from this long-slow-gradual-med-taper. But my ultimate decision was to go, to get out of the house, breathe some fresh air, feel the sunshine, and enjoy the talk and food and laughter and company of book club.
Some days I can’t go out, even if I want to. But today I could, and I did. And I’m so glad.
When I wrote “some days I can’t go out, even if I want to” I’m referring to health challenges I’ve had for a few years now. Those health issues have led to increased isolation because of not being able to get out as much – and those health issues, plus the increased isolation, have fueled the anxiety… including the social anxiety and agoraphobia-type anxiety, which, in turn, make it more difficult to go out even at times when the physical issues aren’t flaring up.
This sort of thing can become a vicious cycle. And that’s what I’ve been faced with for the last while.
If anyone tells you anxiety isn’t a real problem – or that you should simply be able to get over it, or think more positively, or pray harder (or better) – I’d say that person has never dealt with a true anxiety problem, and has never experienced life with having (or a close loved one having) an anxiety disorder.
The struggle is real.
But when I have those times of inner calm with no anxious edges… when I can find laughter and love in spite of the struggle… when I’m able to focus on the joy more than the fear…
I take deep breaths of gratitude.
And I hold on as long as I can.