Let’s talk about Anxiety.
But let’s also talk about dealing with anxiety. And learning to overcome it.
Because otherwise, this would be a very one-sided tale.
In my last post, I spoke a little about the feelings I was experiencing in the lead up to going away. In particular, about what happens when I’ve been faced with the unknown, or lack of control.
That said, the word that probably most accurately sums those feelings up, is anxiety. Yet, I was, and still am, somewhat reluctant to use that word.
In today’s society, at least in the social media circles I’m aware of, there has been an increase in conversation about mental health. I’m all for this – and definitely understand and encourage the need to talk about these things. As a bottler myself, I’ve learnt this year just how valuable it is to reach out, seek help and talk.
However, while the rise of mental health in the media is generally a positive one, I also feel like it’s had its drawbacks. I’m aware of the ‘tensions’ of people using certain words, and the antagonism that can be caused when people use terms such as anxiety, or depressed, without so much of a thought about what it actually is like for those whom those words are reality.
As a result, I’d grown to fear using the word anxiety.
For a long time, I felt as if by using the word, I was over-exaggerating how I was feeling; making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
But in reality, and it’s taken me a long time to realise this – I wasn’t over-exaggerating, or making things up. The way I’ve been feeling is actually real, and I’m right to feel like this is something I need to work on, talk about, and acknowledge.
Mental health is a difficult thing to talk about, because first and foremost, it’s personal. While physical health is too – somehow there’s a difference between describing a strained muscle, and the inner turmoil that may be going on inside your head whenever a certain situation arises.
And at least for me, it can be really hard to pin point. I was more than happy to try and get by with ignoring the situation – or at least squashing down emotions, persevering with life, and just trying to ‘survive’.
This by no means was healthy, and while it worked for a little while: it really wasn’t sustainable.
I guess then, this is the point where I share a little bit more of my story. This year has been one for learning – and it’s been painful, challenging, and probably a whole load more that I’ll come to in a post coming soon. But ultimately, it’s been eye-opening.
It had had enough – both mentally, and physically.
One thing led to another, and eventually, I had to acknowledge what was going on. It involved a doctor’s appointment, a lot of courage, and ultimately, using this year to recover, learn more about myself, and stop.
In the run up to my trip, a lot of the anxiety and overwhelming fears that had been more common last year, reared their head again. I was worried about eating, and food in the strange location; I was anxious about team dynamics, as I was essentially going with a team of strangers; I was concerned about travel, and the intricacies of foreign places, especially somewhere like Israel.
That’s right, I’ve recently come back from a trip to the Holy Land, and it was eye-opening, challenging, and amazing, all at the same time. There’s more on that to come soon, but for now, I’d like to talk about how the trip in general represents a breakthrough for me.
In all the things I was worried about, or anxious about, I had experiences while away that I can now say:
“Look Hannah, you did it.”
I’ve proven to myself that I can do that.
Whether that be making friends, holding conversations with strangers, traveling to new places, or eating out, especially with people I don’t know, teaching, and dealing with small children – in each and every one of these, I succeeded.
Now – that’s not to say it was plain sailing. The lead up was awful; three weeks before, it hit me like a tonne of bricks what I was about to do. My eating went funny, and my brain was working overdrive trying to comprehend what I was about to do. While I was there, there were a few moments where it hit me. I had a little cry to myself at one point; but was able to ground myself, work out some context, and rationalise the anxiety. And when I needed to avoid tears, because it would have made the situation worse, I did it.
It doesn’t sound like much, but for me, these felt like huge steps. When I look at the next few months, and what they hold – it’s so much more important that I’ve had some ‘positives’, and can truly say to myself – Han, you can do this.
And I also know, that I didn’t do this on my own. God was working in anything and everything. From random song choices on the plane there, to being able to serve myself at mealtimes (for the most part); in the people I met, and the peace that descended when standing in the airport trying to come home, and His incredible timing to make people appear at JUST the right time – I have absolutely no doubt that I couldn’t have done it alone.
In everything we do, we’re called to trust God – and that’s wholeheartedly. Worry stems from fear, and we’re explicitly told ‘Do not fear’, because when we do, we doubt God’s plans for us. Written in black and white – this is hard to deal with, and I’m currently processing, and working through this myself.
I also know, that anxiety as a mental health concern falls into a different bracket – something I’m also trying to work out, and slot into its correct place.
But what I do know, is this.
- I suffer from anxiety, in certain areas.
- Some things phase me more than others, and at those times, anxiety can rear up, even when I’m not expecting it.
- This year, I’ve had occasions that have challenged this – but have come out with positive outcomes.
- But above all, greater than anything I can do, I have a God whose bigger than it all.
As I sung multiple times while I was out there (complete with actions…)
“My God is so big and so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing that my God can’t do.”
That, is truth. And when things get too much – I’m doing my best to remind myself of that. It doesn’t always work, but when faced with challenges in the future (moving to university now being the most pressing), I’m trusting, slowing down, and listening.
Because God’s got me.
And he’s got you.
And he’s never going to let us down.
That’s all from me today, and until next time, my hope is that we can learn to take strides in trusting God: in the highs and the lows.