living with anxiety…

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.

 

finding the joy connections…

So it’s been a while.

No real excuses other than life happening. And life right now – even with some wonderful times – is a challenge in various ways.  The need for self-care is high, and self-care can look like many different things, and can vary at different times.

One way I’m tapping into self-care is consciously finding what I call the joy connections.

Joy connections are those things, even tiny or seemingly unremarkable things, that connect me with joy.

One very small example that relates to this blog is making the decision to change my tagline and switch my header font color back to blue – because it’s my absolute favorite color, and looking at it brings me joy.

Another joy connection for me is painting. I’ve been deliberately making the space and the choice to spend time at the easel. Because painting on large canvases grounds me, calms me, and brings me joy.

Joy connection for me definitely involves those I love.

Including our sweet kitty…

And I’ve been remembering and reconnecting with things I love, things I used to do, but have put away or pushed aside – or somehow thought I couldn’t have in my life anymore.

Like our old 35mm film camera.

I always loved using this camera so much. Whether changing lenses, or focusing, or simply just holding it in my hands and the feel of it, this camera always made me feel connected to my creativity and to my joy.

But for years, this camera has been put away. Just because it’s not digital.

And then a couple of weeks ago while I was telling a friend in a text about how I never used this camera anymore, it hit me: There’s absolutely no reason for me to stop using something I love, something that’s brought me so much joy.

No reason at all. Sure, it’s less convenient than digital. But the point is the joy it gives me.

So I got the camera out of its case, put in new batteries and film, got reacquainted with its various lenses and settings… and now it’s part of my life again.

It’s a little thing to give myself permission to get out a put-away object I love, and start using it again.

It’s a little thing to take just a few minutes to stand at the canvas and paint a few strokes.

It’s a little thing to give our kitty a cuddle or reach out to hold my husband’s hand.

But sometimes it’s those little things that can connect us with deep joy.

Being aware of what brings joy – and then consciously, deliberately, intentionally bringing those things into a day or a week – it can make such a difference.

And this is one way self-care looks. By choosing to find (and make) those joy connections.

writing, faith, life ~ latest update…

My experiment with updating each area in my blog’s tagline ( writing ~ faith ~ life ) took a twist, because early last month I decided a weekly update wasn’t the way I wanted to go. I thought, instead, maybe a couple of times a month – but then I ended up not even doing a second one last month.

So…  the experiment continues, but with no certain schedule or frequency. At least not right now. As happens with experiments, though, it’s all subject to change.

And now on to the latest updates with writing, and faith, and life.

W R I T I N G

I’m close to being finished with the current draft of the novel, and that feels good.

Really good.

Finishing this draft won’t mean being finished with the novel, but this a big step. My self-imposed deadline is the end of the month. Really, though, I’m hoping it will take less time.

The anthology I was putting together is on hold for now. I’m waiting for clear guidance about going forward with it. Or not.

And the plan I discussed in my last update – based on my realization that I need to work on fiction in the mornings – is going well.

The writing is getting done.

Not always as fast as what I consider ideal..

But it’s getting done.

F A I T H

Last month, I wrote out the book of Philippians, one of my all-time favorite books of the Bible. Its reminders to focus on joy and thanksgiving – always helpful for me to remember – held some special importance the past weeks.

With November and writing Philippians both over, I wanted to continue writing out entire books of Scripture because the practice has been such a blessing to me. John is the book I’ve been guided to next and I started writing it at the beginning of the month.

This isn’t a December challenge for myself, though. I don’t want to rush through the Gospel of John (which is another very meaningful book for me personally) and so I probably won’t be finished by the end of the month.

And that’s okay.

I’ve also started writing out the book of Psalms, using a different journal than I’ve been using to write the other books, and writing one Psalm every few days. This is an ongoing project and I have no idea when I’ll be finished.

And that’s okay too.

The important thing about all of this Scripture writing isn’t how quickly I can get it done and over with. It’s about spending time with the Lord and in the Word.

L I F E

One thing I’m not fond of this time of year is the early darkness. And all the cloudy (or flat-out rainy) days we’ve been having.

My body, my mind, my emotions… all of ME seems to do best when there’s sunshine.

I also do best when it’s not too cold and not too hot.

Since I can’t control the weather, I try to find ways to make difficult weather easier for me to deal with. When we had a cold snap that made before-mid-November feel like the middle of winter, and I found myself struggling with the cold temperatures and the dreary skies, and I was wondering how in the world I was going to cope with the weather over the coming months if it was already having such a negative impact… I knew I needed to get very intentional about putting some strategies into place.

I set about rearranging a few things in the eating space of our kitchen (where I keep my table-top easel to paint on canvas) to uptick the cozy comfort of the area even more than it was.

I added more strands of fairy lights around the house. We have them all over the place, and use them all year long, but I realized more strands would be even better – and they’re being turned on even more than usual.

I made the decision to spend more time in certain rooms on cloudy days, to take advantage of the natural light those rooms get.

I created even more little spaces of cozy-comfort with throws and pillows and light… small nooks in corners or near chairs that feel inviting and warm.

It truly has been a very intentional process. And as I get more ideas of things that might help, I’ll put those into place too.

With writing, with my faith, with my life in general… I’m being reminded, again and even more, of how I need to be conscious and deliberate and intentional when it comes to doing things that can make a positive difference.

And it matters because it really does make a difference, even if it’s sometimes a small difference.

But you know what? Sometimes even a small difference is enough to make the difference.