Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Time to Be Honest

For some reason, anxiety sufferers seem to think that they need to suffer alone. I know. I was there. "If anyone knew what I was thinking, what I was afraid of, they would think I am crazy," I thought to myself. Thus, I learned to hide it well, or so I thought. I tried to keep it from my family and friends and kept myself rather ostricized when I felt an attack coming on. Sometimes it would cause me to avoid situations where I would be nervous all together. Sometimes it meant backing out at the last minute with a fake illness, something I forgot to do, or a legit reason that could possibly wait, but I was making a bigger deal out of it than need be. With that came feelings of self-loathing. I really began to hate the person I was becoming because I wouldn't take risks like other people. I felt like I couldn't and at the same time I was upset at myself for not being able to. Even fun sleepovers when I was younger usually meant not a lot of sleep, not because we were up all night having fun, but because I stayed awake worrying long after everyone else was peacefully asleep. Truthfully, I was embarrassed by who I was. This caused me to pull in further. When normal situations arose that I couldn't handle, the anger got deeper within me.

Lucky for me, this all happened before I was medicated. When my breaking point happened, and I finally decided that I needed to reach out for help to deal with this debilitating anxiety, I remember thinking to myself, "Whether they commit me or not, anything is better than the way I feel." For the first time, I talked to my doctor about my fears. I didn't just talk about the situational ones like the fact that I have a phobia to needles and blood, I told her symptoms, anxiety attacks that plagued me even in the seemingly calm situations. It was honest and it was freeing. Another person heard my pain, my grief, my struggle, and they didn't lock me away and throw away the key.

I was in college when this happened, and I didn't really have a church home or a father confessor to confide in and confess my sins. However, it was during that time that I learned the most about God's love and grace, because I finally talked to my mother. Truthfully, she knew long before I told her, but she wasn't completely sure what to do about it. I had taken that burden off of her by taking the first step and getting myself help. Now, she was able to assure me of God's love no matter what was happening in life. Each fear was met with love, reassurance, and understanding. She would reassure me that I am still baptized and the blessings and faith of that baptism are not made invalid by anxiety, worry, or death. In those waters of baptism, I was given faith. I didn't have to reach out for it or make a decision for it, which could be doubted by the fears I had within me, it was given to me without me doing a thing.

Soon, I was under the care of a pastor. I confessed my sins in private confession, including my anxiety, and the pastor heard my fears, my worries, my doubts about God, and absolved me in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were no doubts that perhaps the pastor wouldn't forgive me in corperate confession if he actually knew the sin I was confessing. I was absolved. What a freeing feeling! I was right with God, not because of what I had done, but because of what Christ had done on the cross for me. It was all a gift of God!

There are times that I must hide my disorder because people just don't understand it. There are times I can't tell because it would cause more harm than good. But, when it comes to spiritual welfare and relationships, it's time to be honest.