My body can’t tell the difference between YIKES and YAY. Fear and excitement both set off the same alarm bells in my lousy nervous system. Statistics say that’s true for nearly 25% of us now. The chemical and cultural stresses of our fallen world are upping the figures all the time. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” and “Panic Disorder” and lotsa other UNhelpful labels abound.
The horrid thing about “ANXIETY” is it’s INVISIBLE to others. And they think they know what you need to do about it.
Yeah. About like we know what THEY should do about their jock itch and anal fissures. NO!
For one thing, the docs need a new NAME for it, in my opinion. Instead of the dismissive little hand pat “there there, it’s just anxiety”. Because now science has proven there is an inborn GENETIC reason for a lot of it. It’s the way some bodies process chemicals, foods, meds, adrenaline, etc. People think “anxious” means you are scared. Or nervous. Or “think too much.” Or worry too much. Wound up too tight.
Well, sure, that could be true sometimes. But LOTS of “normal” folks do ALL of that and do NOT suffer from “anxiety disorder” or “panic disorder.” Those of us who DO know the difference. HUGE difference. The hardest part of which? That “they” do NOT. At least if you have a broken leg you get to wear a cast and get autographs on it. Sympathy. Not “The Look.”
Anxiety is mostly the skid marks the traumas of life left on our nervous system. Your nightmares echo your darkest sensory abuses from childhood, and every slight of daily life is a fresh bloody wound. Complicated by iffy genes in some of us too. NOT the hyper, Type-A, overachiever, worrywart thing most people THINK it is.
It’s hard to live in the “make a list” world, even in ministry, when you never know WHEN your nervous system is gonna go off. So you find yourself backing out of life in iffy ways. Lonely in spite of desire to serve, a need for people. Wanting to DO more, lucky to be DOING at all.
Worst is, because of the “stigma” of the “mental” sticker, we never just say it out loud. Keep it more secret than hemorrhoids or “female trouble.” We call in sick to work or say we stopped to feed homeless people on the way to church. Because how to say “I’m scared to leave home?? Or “I think I’m having a heart attack but the ER tells me it’s ‘just anxiety’.” Or that you’d LOOOVE to go…but trapped on an airplane 4 hours would stop your heart?
99% of the anxiety tips on the internet are ways to relieve “stress.” NOT the same. WE know it, those of us too ashamed to just “call in scared.” We’ve worried about bills or life or kids and NOT had anxiety. We do know the difference. “Anxiety” is WORSE and it doesn’t go away when life’s problems do. It’s a DISEASE and it would help if they’d give it an honorable scientific NAME. But the Lord’s got His ways of keepin’ us humble.
There’s so many good verses in scripture about “fear” or “worry” or “anxiety”… and memorizing them helps fill that toxic void our traumatized brains will fill with if we aren’t careful. But most of THOSE are actually talking about “worry” too. Not to WORRY about the stresses of life. How that shows a lack of faith, mainly. And those of us with the YIKES n YAY Syndrome know we have OUR illness whether we have things to worry about or NOT.
So even us believers gotta be careful or we end up thinking God is mad at us or something. I myself have memorized most the fear verses over the years. But usually end up settling on “WHEN I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3). Because accepting that it IS gonna come is part of the RELIEF for it. Trusting His Love to be there at the other end of each dark tunnel of unreasonable fear and physical symptoms.
The MOST helpful way to use what we learn in scripture is that He can turn ANYTHING to GOOD (Romans 8:28). Hey, we’ve seen quadriplegics turn their suffering to God’s use in glorious ways. Why not ours? And that we can fight the flesh (and sometimes demon whispering) that tells us God must not like us or we must not have “enough” faith. Bullcorn. It MEANS that THIS is what we have and HE LOVES US and PROMISES to TURN IT TO GOOD.
I have trouble being grateful for the crummy genes myself. Not to mention the painful childhood scars. But can sometimes work up a holy gratitude for genes I DON’T have….and the blessings I DO. Because I have to admit, there’s worse genes, worse burdens, worse suffering. And many who wouldn’t recognize a blessing.
Our biggest blessing? When each fresh onslaught is over, we have to admit it HAS kept us closer to Him. Clinging to His love, His Word, His faithfulness. Close enough to Him day and night that only a whisper from Him turns us to His good purposes. We are never far from Him. We NEED Him. And have noticed, over the years, that the anxiety FREE days are not as holy in our steps as the HARD ones. Be honest. When we feel good we turn to good times. When we don’t, we cling to Him. Hard, simple, eternal truth.
So THANK You for these hellacious sensations in our bodies, Lord. The ones that keep us from doing something “else.” That keep us humble, skulking out of ERs and calling in to work. That keep us looking UP. That teach us about Your faithfulness. Thank you. Maybe not while we are sobbing or taking our pulse outside the ER or looking for the right pill. But all the holy space around it that we have filled with YOU. Because we know, more than most, we are entirely lost without You. Thank You, Lord. Turn it all to good, Lord. So grateful for Your gifts—righteousness, sanctification, redemption—that do NOT depend on what WE can or cannot do. Only on what You already did.
Whew. Thank You.