Alright y’all, in an effort to #keepitreal here, I’m going to do a post about anxiety. I know I mentioned in the About Me section of my blog that I am an introvert, but for those of you who may have missed that, I’ll say it again. I am introverted. In fact, I have a strong preference of introversion over extraversion (78% to be exact (and I successfully resisted the urge to round that up to a nice round number like 80% for you)). I am currently reading a book called ‘Gaining, The Truth about Life after Eating Disorders’ and I have learned so much from it. Here are some things that are on point with what I am trying to convey in this post.
Everyone experiences three interlocking lives, which together shape his or her individual sense of identity.
- The first is an inner life of emotions, sensations and imagination.
- The second is lived through relationships with family and friends.
- The third is experienced through culture and society.
Ideally, these three lives develop like concentric circles, with one’s inner self secured in the center, strengthened by close relationships and able to respond independently to culture. Well, people who develop eating disorders live “out-of-order” so to speak. They have difficulty trusting their instincts, their relationships make them feel anxious and so instead of engaging with the outer world from a position of internal strength, they substitute the demands of media culture for their core beliefs and in effect, live “outside in.” As a side note here, I haven’t seen the new Pixar movie ‘Inside Out,’ but I’ve heard that it is really good and is very psychologically based. I am guessing that it is touching on this very concept. I really want to see it!
Gaining back a full, healthy life in the wake of an eating disorder is largely a process of restoring these circles to their rightful order. The first challenge is to learn and respect who you are, your biology, your calling, your temperament. Being introverted is a big part of my make up and so I am trying to be more mindful of that and truly understand how it makes me who I am and learn how to deal with the issues that arise because of it. Check out this article about introverts. If you are introverted, you will be all like “Yes!” at least 10 times.
Last week I had a baby shower to go to. Well, I went and I am so glad that I did, but getting there was a really big struggle.
I love my small group girls, but social interaction in a purely social setting (i.e., a baby showers, wedding showers, class reunions, etc.) majorly stresses me out. See #2 in above-referenced article regarding small talk. I came up with so many good (in my head) excuses that I didn’t need to go to the shower … the power *almost* went out, I need to spend some quality time with Daniel (even though he made plans to hang out with the guys in the group during the shower), I really need to cook that last Blue Apron meal or it is going to go bad, we have so. much. laundry to do, didn’t I maybe have a root canal scheduled this evening? You get the point, I was having some major anxiety.
The solution in this case was not that I was able to eliminate the anxiety, but I was able to somewhat manage it. Through some prayer, self pep talks and encouraging texts from Daniel, I decided to go to the shower and I survived, even enjoyed myself! The big step for me was to not just avoid the situation because of my anxiety, but to face it head on.
I’m not going to get into all of the genetic, chemical components of anxiety and depression here (just because this post is already getting way too long), other than just to say that they are actual imbalances in serotonin levels. Normally serotonin helps us to regulate our mood, anxiety, appetites, etc., but the chemical becomes active in the face of danger as it triggers the fight-or-flight instinct. It heightens fear. People with high serotonin levels can get stuck in freeze, fight or flight mode, even when not under any actual threat, which causes a constant state of anxiety. So, with all that being said, you might be able to “get through” depression or anxiety on your own, but there is no shame in taking medication for these medical conditions. Stoicism is not a ticket to health or happiness.
One lie that I think many of us might believe is that a good Christian doesn’t ever feel anxious or depressed. We feel like negative or painful emotions are signs of a weak faith. The danger here is that we can end up numbing our emotions so that we do not feel anything “bad.” It is natural for us to have negative reactions to painful things and problems in our life. Jesus himself felt anxiety. Mark 14:32-34 says, “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.” The key here is Jesus’ reaction to the anxiety He was feeling was to PRAY. And this is where my post about anxiety perfectly segues into our sermon at church yesterday about prayer …
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This week we looked at the second part of Chapter 3. Here are my takeaways:
- Prayer is personal. You are in the presence of the Almighty. Surrender to Him. God wants to do as much in you as you want Him to do for you.
- Prayer is relational. You have a relationship with Christ. It is a Father/child relationship, a familial relationship and a friend relationship.
- Prayer is asking and expecting. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” God answers all prayers. The answer may be 1) yes, 2) no, 3) yes, but later or 4) something different, something better than you could’ve even imagined. The more consistently we pray and talk with God, the more in line our requests will be with God’s will and the more “yes” responses we will receive.
- Prayer is yearning. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” When we are saved, the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts and resides in us. We are the dwelling place of God and He goes to work in us. Our identity is found in our roots and in the love of Christ. We grow our roots through prayer and we need strong roots so that when the wind blows, we don’t fall over; when circumstances in our lives are difficult and hard to handle, we are able to endure.
- Prayer is revealing. Prayer allows God to reveal His glory in our lives. He will shine His light of truth and authenticity on us. Our sinful nature causes us to retreat and we naturally want to cover our sins, but He knows us and loves us anyway. He knows our weaknesses, our fears and our insecurities. You can’t hide anything from God, but if we only pray every now and then, we aren’t exposed to the light enough to stop acting on your sinful nature.
So in summary, we need to be able to answer the question, “Who am I?” And the best way to find the answer to this question is in the presence of God through prayer. Ask Him to grow you in the midst of whatever current struggles you have and take all of your fears and anxieties to Him and let Him wrap you up in His cocoon of peace.
Whew. If you made it all the way through that, bless you. Anyone else out there struggle with anxiety or identify with the characteristics of introverts in that article?