I suffer from anxiety.
Early the other morning, I woke before the sun was up, as I sometimes do. I stumbled to the bathroom, hoping that would help me fall back to sleep, but when I got back in bed, my body was on fire. The stomachache that had plagued me for three days came back then, and it was as if I were being roasted on a spit like a chicken.
After five minutes of burning, I gave up on sleep and went downstairs.
On the couch in the dark, I clutched a pillow, willing the waves of panic to go away.
When they didn’t, I started praying. Help help help help help help.
The internal fire turned up higher for a second. The intensity of it made me start to cry.
But the tears were like magic. The burning cooled.
Oh, I thought, my mind finding clarity. This is what I’m supposed to feel.
My body had woken me up to lead me to this. It used the anxiety to show me reality: You are sad. You are grieving. You need to acknowledge that.
Having obeyed my body, my stomachache eased a little. Though I still felt anxious, I thought I might be able to go back upstairs and sleep another hour.
I did, still tense, but not on fire.
That night was my therapy session. On the couch, I kept yearning for it, almost panting for relief.
I was anxious that day because I was scared of what would happen in that session. I knew what I needed to discuss, and that I needed help to discuss it. I hoped the anxiety would die down with honesty. But desperate as I was for the anxiety to go away, I was afraid of the cost of truth.
That push and pull—truth, or seeming safety?—is what anxiety is all about.
Years ago, when anxiety stalked me, I always wondered what the hell was wrong with me.
I thought my weird panics were crazy. They were also sinful. After all, the Bible says DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING.
I thought I should be able to erase anxiety with prayer.
It never worked.
But I don’t try to erase my anxiety anymore…