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I'm Caught Between My Anxiety Disorder & Religion, Here’s How I Cope

Having anxiety is hard. Having anxiety and being a Christian is even harder.

Her Voice

I never thought that I would be sharing my experiences with anxiety while being a Christian. One reason being, I never thought or knew I had an official anxiety disorder until March of 2018. All this time I thought I was one strange individual. I oftentimes kept my weird quirky behavior to myself because of sheer embarrassment and the people closest to me thought most of my behavior was funny or some sort of joke. Although I did try to make light of a lot of my experiences, there is definitely nothing funny about anxiety when you are in the midst of a full-on attack.

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Having anxiety is hard. Having anxiety and being a Christian is even harder. How many times have we heard someone say:

"You have to trust in God."

"God will make a way girl, don't worry."

"You need to just give it all to God and pray."

"The Bible says we shouldn't be anxious and to have faith. Your faith is not strong enough."

I have heard this and more, far too many times than I would like to talk about. Each and every time I've heard it, a little part of me died inside and I just rolled my eyes and chalked it up to pseudo Christian ignorance. What most people don't understand is Christians who suffer with anxiety often feel guilty for suffering.

We are taught to be the "best" Christian; we're supposed to have unwavering faith and believe. We deal with so much pressure to have faith and believe in God's goodness, on top of battling frightening intrusive thoughts. Ultimately, the pressure manifests itself into more anxiety.

We start to constantly worry about not demonstrating enough faith and because of said "lack of faith", we continue to suffer. What does this mean for the ones who try their hardest to manage their anxiety and have faith but come up short as soon as an attack hits?

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I would have to say God created us and sent us Jesus and the gift of communion with the Holy Spirit because God knows the mind is a battlefield. Your faith should never be in question. I mean if we want to look at the bible and get technical, ya boy David was stressed out to the max! Either that or he was just hella dramatic and was exploring his creative writing talents. His psalms are a mixture of praise and worship and most of all crying out in times of stress and anxiousness. Take for instance Psalms 6:1–10, David was in full on meltdown mode, screaming like Wyclef, SOMEONE PLEASE CALL 911. His anxiousness started to manifest itself in his body physically. While I feel terribly bad for all that David had to go through, this was comforting to me because it lets me know I am not alone.

We are not alone. God equipped me to defeat and overcome this and He equipped you to overcome this as well.

I know the first thing you thought reading that was, it's easier said than done. Trust me, I have been through hell and back in my mind, dealing with depression and anxiety at the same time, all while feeling like I was not a real human being, living in an altered existence. Imagine taking a bad trip on some drugs and never coming down off of them. Well, that is exactly how I felt 24/7 for months. I had been experiencing an awful symptom of anxiety called depersonalization. I was able to come to terms with my anxiety disorder and I picked up a few tools and grounding techniques that are Christian folk-friendly.

This isn't at all about religion, this is about the way you develop your relationship with God and how doing that will help you to overcome and heal your anxiety and if not fully heal, you absolutely will be able to cope much better than you ever have been able to do before.

One of the most powerful things that helped me to push through and win this battle was using scriptures as affirmations.

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If you're anything like me, you may say some affirmations and then close your eyes and hope that there will be a change. You open your eyes and you see that life is still the same. Disappointing, I know. I started to think more on the exercise of using affirmations. Just saying them won't do much but what does work is speaking out your affirmations, and pushing yourself even if only for a split second to get into the feeling of the affirmation being said. We all are capable of doing that, no matter how depressed or anxious we are. I've noticed that sometimes my mind can wonder and forget about the anxious state I am in and once I realized I've forgotten, my mind is like, 'Wait a minute, we are supposed to be depressed, yep, let's go back to that.'

Once I realized that was happening, it dawned on me: I can get into the feelings of my affirmations.

During my darkest moments with anxiety and depersonalization, I was given the scripture 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I would repeat that verse to myself and for a couple seconds, imagine what I would feel like if I could feel normal again, and not bound down by so many morbid thoughts and fear. Eventually, I started to gain the courage to step out of my room, return to work, and be in social settings. So, I say try for one minute today to speak a positive healing affirmation of your choosing, and for 60 seconds, imagine what it would feel like when that affirmation comes true. Test my theory, do it for 7 days, and see if you start to feel a difference in how you handle your fears.

The comfort that can be found in structure and routines.

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The anxious mind hates routines and normally when anxiousness senses routines happening, it tends to dissipate. Start by setting small goals for your routines. I never had any routines, I was a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl. To an extent, I still am and could use some tuning up. However, when I was at my worst, anxiety-wise, I put myself on a schedule. I woke up early, I forced myself to get out bed, and I focused on the daily tasks I set for myself. I also joined a gym and took evening classes so that kept me out late in the evenings. Less time to be home alone with my thoughts.

When I got home I would shower and use every lavender product I had in the house on my body and sheets so that I would have the most comfortable sleep. I also made sure not to fall asleep with the television on during this time. As our subconscious mind is so impressionable and I didn't want to chance feeding my subconscious anything that would aggravate the anxiety. So, my point is, what kind of routine can you begin in your day to day activities? It could be setting a time to wake up every morning and going to exercise or have breakfast. Or you set time aside at work twice a day to do some grounding meditation. Create more structure in your day to day. The mind is so vulnerable and moldable and will eventually fall in line with what you tell it to do.

Journaling is one of the most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves.

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I used to be so discouraged from journaling because of trauma in my childhood and feelings of not being a good enough writer. It wasn't until I said to myself, who cares if it's horrible writing, no one will see it, that I began to write. I wrote about my innermost secrets, painful experiences, my mistakes, and every little thing I was too ashamed to talk about with anyone. It became a time of meditation and prayer. What began to happen was a breakthrough. I started to see where and how my thoughts came to be so negative and how anxiety has always been a part of my life and why it was so overbearing.

The journaling helped me process like I had never processed before with no judgement from anyone, not even myself.

I believe that was the work of the Holy Spirit sitting with me and communing with me. The Holy Spirit is here to help us process and give us the words to speak on our behalf to God the Father. Make a decision to commit to journaling and see where it takes you. If you're like me and you struggle with inconsistency, set small goals in the beginning. Try saying to yourself if I'm feeling stuck, sad, or completely disconnected, I will write. It doesn't matter how long or how much, just the action alone will help you move closer to your goal of healing and recovery.

Taking a walk or just sitting outside can be so calming.

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Lately on Saturday mornings, I go for a walk and find a bench and people-watch. It's something about seeing life happening in front of you that reconnects you. As I'm sitting, I truly believe it's a moment of being still in God's presence. Throughout my worst moments of feeling so disconnected with earth and my own body, just sitting and taking in fresh air and feeling the breeze hit my skin would reconnect me, even if only for a moment. I would get up and walk sometimes and begin to talk with God and tell Him all about how weird and disconnected I was feeling and how bad I wanted to get back to normal. It took time but I eventually got back to normal and I truly believe it was the work of God. The walking and people-watching and being out in nature was grounding for me and it could be a great grounding technique for you.

Get out and be around people.

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I know if you are having constant panic attacks or you have been highly anxious and it's causing depression, the last thing you want to do is be around people. I was the same way, in fact, I was irritated when people would come around because they either had no idea what I was going through or I would explain it to them and they would look at me like I had morphed into an alien right before their eyes. As if what I was going through wasn't stressful enough! First thing to remember is this, people will be people and most of the time, I say this with no malice, we are absolutely ridiculous. However, this doesn't mean people don't mean well or they don't try to comprehend the best way they know how.

Have compassion for yourself around your people and have compassion for their lack of understanding.

Find someone you can trust and share with them. You might realize you are not alone and some of the people closest to you could be struggling with their mental health as well. It wasn't until I started to express to one of my close friends what I was going through that she revealed she had the very same experience and never told anyone. I can say I have had far more positive experiences than negative when I began to open up and share what I was going through. I began to push myself to go out in social settings again and reintegrate with people around me. If I ever began to feel off or way too disconnected, I would use my breathing and grounding tools to calm myself down or I would just call it a night and go home. The idea here is to take one step at a time, and just getting out of the house is a big one!

It's so easy for me to sit behind this laptop and tell you what to do, but it was much harder for me to step out on faith and do it. So, I know your struggle! I want to assure you that I am rebuilding my emotional well-being because of the tools I have shared with you. I did a lot of meditation, quiet time, journaling, and therapy. They all helped me but the most important thing as Christians we must not forget, is that through all our suffering, God still wants a relationship with you and He most certainly hasn't abandoned you. I look back now and realize I was using that time of isolation to get closer to God. The closer I got to Him, the closer I got to healing. I encourage you to do the same if you haven't started already.

Do you have any coping tools you'd like to share? Comment below I'd love to hear your thoughts.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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