I'm Caught Between My Anxiety Disorder & Religion, Here’s How I Cope
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image by Shutterstock