Do I Trust in GAD or GOD?

Do I trust in GAD or GOD? Snazzy little play on words, am I right?! *currently patting my own back. (Don’t worry, if you stick around long enough you’ll get used to my bizarre sense of humor)

And apparent lack of conventional writing rules, like actually discussing what the post is about.

Moving on—I’m assuming you’re here because you know what GAD is, or perhaps you’re curious to know.

GAD is the acronym for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I was diagnosed with GAD about 17 years ago although I have always dealt with an underlying nervousness or dread. These emotions are quite unexplainable to someone who doesn’t have this struggle.

The most simplistic way to explain GAD is having a nervous, sometimes doomed feeling that follows you literally everywhere and can’t be shaken. (Like that ugly cat that someone dumped off by your house which has decided that you’re it’s lucky new owner and loves to gift you regurgitated mice on your front porch in gratefulness.)

Yes, it’s as delightful as that little scenario.

I digress.

During extremely stressful times GAD causes me to have a near persistent bombardment of thoughts and feelings about something bad happening, especially in regards to those I love.

Living with GAD

Having an anxiety disorder means I become nervous and anxious beyond what would be considered normal over simple, everyday things. Something like sending my kids to other people’s houses or my teenage son driving can cause panic.

Things that other people find fairly easy to do can be extremely distressing for me and can often lead to a breakdown.

Having GAD also means I like love normal.

I love routine.

Because you see, it gives me the feeling of being in control (which I think we all know is about as real as a unicorn.) Any deviation from normal leaves me off-balance and out of my element.

My oldest son, for example,  just went on a week-long trip across the country.

Oh, I’m sure you can only imagine what fun that was for me!

Every frightening, uncomfortable thought that could materialize in my mind was present. The thoughts reverberated in my brain and down through my body, causing a channel by which everything else in my life funneled through.

I’ve learned to ask myself the same question every time I arrive at this point;

Do I trust in GOD or GAD?

There is always only two options:

  • I can trust in GAD—my feelings and thoughts I am experiencing.

OR

  • I can trust in God.

It is not easy living with an anxiety disorder that screams that something terrible is around the corner.

Quite frankly, it’s really, really hard.

Although having GAD is terribly difficult, I have found that God is bigger.

I don’t want to trust the crazy, irrational, lying fears and thoughts that race through my mind. I don’t want to live my life being held hostage by fear and what ifs.

I’ve tried that before. Surprisingly, it didn’t turn out too well for me.

Through much trial and error and many, many tears, I know that if I don’t want to believe the crazy in my head and body, I don’t have to. Sound too simplistic? Maybe it is, but it’s also entirely true.

A Spirit of Self-Control

God says He has given me a “sound mind” or “self-control” in 1 Timothy 1:7. In fact,  in this exact same scripture, he says that he DID NOT give me a spirit of fear.

GAD tells me to panic and to fear.

GAD also tells me that I can’t control myself and that I have to give in to the anxiety I’m feeling.

In short, GAD makes me feel like a victim.

God shows me I’m not.

I often have to make scary tough decisions and yes, sometimes I shrink away from them. When I do, I must acknowledge that I’ve allowed fear to dictate my life. It can be discouraging.

However, every time I struggle with GAD I look at it as an opportunity to lean in deeper to God.

Does this mean when I choose to trust God that all of the fear falls away?

Simply put, no.

I still feel the uncomfortable, prickly fear feeling that creeps up my neck and descends into my stomach.

GAD still says NOT to let the kids go or NOT to take that new opportunity.

But where does my trust lie? In the anxiety I experience or in the GOD of every experience?

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He has faithfully kept me, faithfully answered prayers and calmed my fears when I have humbly handed over the scary in my head.

He has promised peace and his promises are true.

I may still struggle with GAD but I have more peace walking in courage through the fear than I ever did when I gave in to it.

So, I continue to trust Him.

I don’t always do it perfectly and I’ve been known to fall apart.

But because of His grace and my daily dependence on it, I continue to pick myself back up and move forward on this journey.

I am not a victim.

I am a daughter of the King. (Even if my tiara’s a little crooked.)

I am redeemed.

These struggles and labels that I carry are not what define me and therefore I will not put my trust in them.


Do I trust in GAD or GOD?

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How to Have Faith Like a Child and Choose Brave

If you’re always happy you’d never get the chance to be brave…” Emerson, aka. “Tiny pants”

How to have faith like a child and choose brave

There is a woman in our town that takes walks down the road almost every day. She walks a distance and then finds herself a street corner and dances, lifting her hands up, twirling around and waving at those passing by.

I’m not sure why she does this, everyone has their opinions on the matter. What I do know is that I have three boys that think she’s hilarious. They’ve dubbed her “the dancing lady.”

On a random Tuesday afternoon, my nine-year-old pointed out “the dancing lady” as we drove by.

“Mom, she’s just always happy, isn’t she?”

I glanced over to the right while driving, “Yeah, I guess she is.”

Emerson continued watching the “dancing lady” as we continued on.

“I think I’d like to feel like her all the time,” I commented nonchalantly with a smile in my rearview mirror.

“I wouldn’t want to.” He reflected while watching the world pass by outside his window.

“What do you mean?” I asked, meeting his pale blue eyes in the mirror.

“Well, if you were always happy, you’d never get the chance to be brave.” He stated matter of factly.

I couldn’t help but smile. “Yes… that’s really true.”

We pulled into the driveway a few minutes later and he ran off inside, on to the next thing with no clue as to how profound his words were.

The chance to be brave

I have kept those words close to my heart.

There is wisdom to be found in the words spoken by my nine-year-old on that random Tuesday afternoon.

I believe that children can be brave in ways that many adults don’t know how to be.

Mostly because I’ve watched my boys do scary things time and again, in spite of the fear they felt.

Like the time my middle son was brand new to baseball and his coach called him in to be the pitcher for the first time.

(He is his mama’s son and deals with anxiety as well; *sigh* sorry son.)

He was terrified to pitch but wanted to try.

I watched him walk up to the pitcher’s mound, heart pounding, palms sweaty and nerves on edge. Anxiously glancing my way every once in a while for support.

Everything he was feeling was telling him to run, but he stayed. He pitched.

Was he the best?

No.

But he did his best.

You could see how he walked a little taller after coming off of that pitcher’s mound with a few strikes under his belt.

He wore those strikes— as well as the walks— as a badge of honor.

Because he chose bravery.

Humble like a child…

It’s no wonder that Jesus gave instructions for people to become like a child;

Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18: 4

Children see things through eyes unpolluted by the world. Faith in a God that doesn’t make sense on an intellectual level isn’t all that hard for a child.

They realize, unlike most adults, that maybe they don’t know it all.

They still live in a world of possibilities and believe in the likelihood of the unseen.

It humbles me when I look at things through their perspective.

When I’m upset or anxious, my very first thought is not a chance for bravery or for humility. My first thought is the preservation of my perfect environment — “How do I get rid of this?!”

Instead of chasing down happy at every turn, I can choose bravery instead.

Sometimes simply being content right where we are is choosing brave. Contentment in those hard moments isn’t easy but it’s so worth it. And we can be assured that something bigger and better is being built from them.

I am still amazed by his comment.

I’m a proud mama knowing he’d rather take the opportunities to be brave over being happy all of the time.

It sounds a bit like the faith God asks us to have.

To trust that this isn’t all there is—the bad, the ugly and all this in-between—there is so much more. We just have to choose brave in the meantime.

The simple faith of a child…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss my opportunities to be brave.

I realize they can come in the tiniest of moments.

And what I’ve come to find, is that in these moments to choose brave, wisdom often walks right alongside.

Like out of the mouth of my nine-year-old son on a random Tuesday afternoon.


 How to Have faith like a child and Choose Brave.

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Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 3) My Story

***This is part 3 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here and 2 here.

Coming face to face with my monster…

Everything I thought I knew about myself changed with my first panic attack.

I was newly married and in my early 20’s, working for a law firm as a legal assistant.  I was enthusiastic about my job, happily married, and had family and friends that I loved spending time with.

There wasn’t a logical reason for me to have a panic attack, however, as I would come to find out, fear and anxiety are rarely logical.

Panic Strikes

On a random night before work, I was in my closet picking out the next day’s outfit. I couldn’t tell you now what I was thinking of, besides the enormous decision of whether to wear pants or a skirt.

In an instant, the closet began to feel as though it was closing in on me and a creeping terror climbed up the back of my neck. There was literally nowhere to run from the fear that had completely ensnared me.

My brain had been put on hyper-speed, shooting me messages that were nearly incomprehensible, although, I felt them loud and clear;

I needed –

To run.

My mom.

Somewhere safe.

Feeling as though I could barely breathe while clutching at my chest, I left the closet to lie down on the bed. The sensation of being far away, as if I was outside of my body, overtook me. I was positive at that moment that I was going to die.

my “new normal”

I began to experience severe anxiety and panic attacks daily after this initial incident.

Baffled as to why this was happening, I dove inward, searching and questioning every thought and feeling I had.

As if the answer was in my own head.

Nope. Turns out that is not a fun place to be.

Remember those fears I had as a kid? They had matured right along with me and were more fearsome than ever.

Consequently, I was exhausted and at the end of my rope. I like to assume it’s how Daniel felt in the lion’s den, except the only lions staring me down were in my head and they didn’t have their mouths shut.

My life suddenly looked unrecognizable and in those next months, I had what I would consider a full break down.

Breaking apart

I couldn’t work.

Or eat.

I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t drive.

After about a month and a half, I lost roughly 40 pounds. I learned that applesauce and scrambled eggs came in handy when my stomach wouldn’t tolerate anything else, but sometimes those wouldn’t even stay down.

At one point early on in my journey through anxiety, I didn’t sleep for 3 days straight. Not your typical tossing and turning that can happen. I am talking eyes wide open, heart pounding, terror in the middle of the night, not sleeping. Night time was frightening because I was all alone with my fear.

My sweet husband would drive me to doctors appointments and care for me on his days off. When he worked he would leave me with my mom and grandmother during the day because I couldn’t be alone.

I was a mess… to put it lightly.

Digging Deeper Inward

I am naturally gregarious, an undeniable people person and a talker. I love my people and I love being with them.

But anxiety.

It morphed me into someone I no longer recognized and my world began to shrink. I rarely laughed anymore and life had taken on a strange color of sadness. I lost all interest in being with my friends and social situations terrified me.

The anxiety I experienced began to intermingle with depression. The longer I stayed in this intense place of panic, a hopelessness developed within me that became an unintended, integral part of who I was.

I spent days, weeks and months trying to cope, grasping for ordinary and forgetting what it looked like. I tried desperately to live my new normal, clumsily slipping along with many, many days of breakdowns.

What is wrong with me?

I had gone to every doctor imaginable, from a family doctor to a neurologist. Someone must have an answer and I was intent on finding it.

Yes, I was that hypochondriac patient.

During this time, I received a stern talking to from a nurse. After checking my vitals she placed her hands on either side of the sterile white paper where I was sitting. She leaned forward until her breath warmed my face and glared unsympathetically into my eyes, “There is nothing wrong with you, you’re completely healthy and fine and this is all in your head!”

Tears streaming down my face, I gazed back with earnest and stammered, “But I feel like maybe there is… something wrong, I mean.” Said with an almost child-like questioning, the words floated in the air as she briskly walked out of the room.

I scolded myself, feeling embarrassed by my lack of self-control and decided then to stop searching for some elusive answer that clearly didn’t exist.

After this, I began trying to reintegrate into my pre-anxiety world, all while still having panic attacks and spiraling down through depression.

I eventually lost my job because of my inability to fully concentrate, I was forgetting important details. Not to mention all of the time I was missing for sick days and doctors appointments. This caused even more depression since I felt like a complete failure at life.

What on Earth was wrong with me?

The worst part – no one seemed to have an answer.

Where was God?

Although I believed in Jesus as my savior when I was a young girl, God currently felt like a distant deity –  unhelpful and far too big to care what I was presently going through.

I was doing all of the “right things,” praying and reading my bible. So, the question remained, why was I still going through this and when would it end?

The more I heard that worrying was a sin the further I sunk into my pit. The thoughts I struggled with were horrific and overpowering. Surely, no other Christian could possibly have such thoughts. I came to the conclusion that I was a defective Christian, or worse yet, maybe I wasn’t one at all…

Shutting my mouth

The fear of my own mind overwhelmed me and led me to a place of despair. Sadly, I decided to no longer speak openly about what I suffered, for fear of what people would think.

During the many years of pain and silence that followed, I came to understand why people would take their own life. This feeling terrified me most of all. And from here, a belief system grew, coiling its way through my every thought, fed by numerous lies and fears, that took root deep within me.

The Enemy had me right where he wanted – alone in the dark, feeling helpless and hopelessly cornered.

Thankfully, the truth of Jesus burns brightest in the darkest of places…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, link-up today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

 

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Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 2) My Story

***This is part 2 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here. 

 

Anxiety is defined as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fears often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating and increased pulse rate) by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. Merriam Webster online dictionary

The very core of anxiety is found in the last sentence of the Merriam Webster’s definition – Self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.

Torn in 2 Directions

The Greek word Merimnao, found in several verses within the new testament of the Bible, including Philippians 4:6, be anxious for nothing – Has a meaning of being pulled apart.

Merimnao= part, as opposed to the whole; drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts.

Anxiety is most definitely a pulling in two different directions. It is standing on the tightrope between hope and panic and feeling that any moment I could fall into the latter. It is the overwhelming trepidation that says impending doom is near, all the while, the opposing voice of truth and sanity explains you’re fine.

Anxiety is a dividing, a pulling between the truth we know and our emotions that take over. Every day we choose between fear and faith, trust over worry and as the dictionary’s definition explains, it is self-doubt that fuels anxiety.

This is precisely where my story begins.

 

Anxiety

For a very long time, I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew something wasn’t right.

From some of my earliest memories, I was afraid. 

Several things terrified me as a girl, including heights, death and the dark. Many children have fears, however, mine loomed far larger than simple childhood apprehension. I worried obsessively about things that an eight-year-old shouldn’t have been concerned with.

I have vivid memories of sweating profusely as I cowered on the floor of our car, positive we were moments from death because we were driving over a high bridge.

As a young girl, I went through a phase where I was certain I was going to die because I was too skinny since I could see my ribs. Images of my body simply giving up and my heart stopping bombarded me. My mom would tell me to eat more if I was worried and explained I would be fine, but I struggled to believe her.

I also suffered from severe migraines as a child and into my teenage years. I have wondered now if they were partly due to the stress I endured from fear.

There was no practical reason for my phobias as a child, this was simply a part of who I was. Aside from my fearfulness, I was a happy child. My parents tried reassuring me when I was afraid that nothing bad was going to happen…

Until it did.

Where fear becomes reality

When I was ten, my oldest brother died in a car accident. He was 17, a senior in high school and he died only three months before his 18th birthday.

Gazing backward over the layers of time since his passing, I see now that he was just a baby, only two years older than my own son currently is. A life that had so many possibilities, cut short.

Losing my big brother exasperated my worries and made the fear I struggled with seem insurmountable.

At just ten years old, standing huddled in the street between our house and the neighbors, I heard the words coming from my dad’s shaky voice that would change our family forever. “There was an accident and your brother died.”  I had four brothers, so when he said “brother” I wasn’t sure who he was talking about. I looked over and saw James standing next to me sobbing, Robert, several feet behind my dad, face stained with tears. And there, next to my mom just a short distance behind us, my littlest brother, Daniel, oblivious to any crisis since he was six.

It was Paul Michael, my oldest brother, and my father’s namesake who was missing from the picture.

Dad was laughing as he spoke, which confused and upset me. I gazed upwards, seeing his dark-rimmed glasses with the sun just behind him peeking through the trees. Hearing unfamiliar noises slipping from between his lips, I realized then that his laughing was actually gut-wrenching sobs. I had never heard my father cry before and mistook it for laughing. An anguish I couldn’t comprehend passed from his lungs into the warm September air.

Having three children of my own, I can only imagine the grief my parents must have felt that day. They went from having five children to four in an instant.

Reality slapped me square in the face and I discovered my mortality in a very real way. The rest of my family, much to my dismay, was also quite mortal. I would spend much of my time worrying about them for years to come.

We spent the next several days in a haze as my mom and dad laid their oldest son to rest in a cemetery on a hill…far too soon.

And their only daughter became entangled with fear that would, unfortunately, follow her closely the rest of her life.

The painful reality of life and death

I became well acquainted with death at an early age and not just because of my brother. For the next several years my family would receive phone calls about deaths of people close to us, family and friends alike.

I had gone to more funerals than weddings by the time I was 20.

The harsh realities of life and death became apparent to me, and in turn, I feared the possibilities. The terrible feeling of impending doom was a constant in my mind.

Fear, it seemed, was something that was innately etched into my personality. Dealing with death at such a young age combined with my already fearful disposition left me vulnerable. Because I had never learned what to do with my fear and grief, I didn’t understand that there was an appropriate way to handle these emotions.

No, these deaths were not the cause of all of my anxieties. However, every circumstance in our lives has the capability to shape who we ultimately become.

I didn’t know this as a ten-year-old girl, but fear was shaping who I was becoming.

Coping

By the time I was older, I had developed coping mechanisms that kept me living a “normal” life. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings or what I went through in my head. I learned to shove, shove, shove.

Due to this, a perpetual cloud of worry hung over my head. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop… so to speak. Over time and as life marched on, this feeling began to build in the back of my mind.

I decided that if stayed just one step in front of the worry monster, I could outrun it.

Until the day it caught up with me…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, Betheeinspired, and  #TeaandWord link-ups today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

   

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