Ah… Anxiety (That’s an oxymoron)

It’s the silent killer yet the loudest noise. I’m far too aware of its presence in my life.

I can remember the first time anxiety stepped in my life and took residence was in the first grade. [Although I didn’t know what anxiety really was until a couple years ago, looking back I can tell I had it all the way back then.] My family had just moved from New York. I was around 5 or 6 years old. There was a lot of change at that time in my life. I had no clue what “school” was. I had been surrounded by my family all day everyday up to that point. Suddenly, on the first day of school, they drop me off and I don’t see them for a good 8 hours. I remember one day after school coming to my mom and asking, “How long am I at school for each day?” She replied, “About 8 hours.” From that point on I would count each hour during school. It’s a practice I inadvertently continue to this day. “8 hours to go.” “7 hours to go.” “1 hour to go.” “45 minutes.” “40 minutes.” And this while I’m learning how to tell time.

School became easier as I got older, in the sense that I had developed some close friendships and great memories.

High school was a different story. I am very sympathetic with high schoolers. It’s one of the reasons I’m studying to become a high school teacher. There is so much change in 4 years. I hardly recognized my freshman self compared to my senior self. Between extra curricular stuff such as getting a license and getting a job, to planning for the future for college and SATs/ACTs, to just surviving each day, it’s a lot for a teenager. My anxiety grew louder and louder. I remember it became excruciatingly louder when I started driving school. That transition from simply depending on people for rides to becoming independent hit me hard. Probably harder than it should. It was the first push to make me independent. I was extremely nervous for my driver’s test. I’ll never forget the police officer that oversaw my test paused once we finished looked over to me and said “You nervous?” I glanced over at her and nodded, and she smiled and said “Don’t be. You passed!” It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders (Tangent: it seems like my life can become a big cycle of me adding on weight and then it being lifted off.).

The next was getting a job. I had severe anxiety when it came to getting and keeping a job. I worked at food service for some time, and each day I had to interact with all different types of people. I would get so nervous I would mess up orders from time to time and then suffer the consequences. Thoughts like “I’m in control of the food they’re consuming. If I mess up I could make them seriously ill. I could ruin this chain’s reputation.” They were valid thoughts, but a bit ridiculous to be thinking over and over and over about. It got to the point that I stopped eating. The only time I’d eat would be at midnight when I got home from my shift and I’d eat a whole day’s worth of food. My parents noticed my anxiety at this point.

It’s funny, I wasn’t so worried about college. I had done well on all my college prep tests and all, so I just went into it like “Just another few more years of school, oh well.” Some things in my life had happened, and I decided I needed a break, basically a break from life. It turned out my sophomore year all my classes were offered online. “Perfect” I thought. I didn’t have a job yet I needed to pay gas so eventually I found a freelance job online reviewing websites and such. The money wasn’t good but with my low-maintenance lifestyle it worked for me. My sophomore year I spent the entire year at home. And it felt amazing… At first.

I got cabin fever after a couple months. I missed interacting with people. Social media was a huge problem for me, because all I’d do was compare my life to everyone else’s. “Oh fun, they’re out having a good time. I’m home watching tv. Again.” “Nice, they’re hanging out again. I’m still here, at home.”

I got very lonely. It hurt, a lot.

So I decided – with mustering up some courage and some prayer – I needed to get back out there. I needed a job again. Also I needed the gas money as I’d be going to Kent again almost every school day. I remembered my best friend said that his boss needed dishwashers, and I thought it would fit well. During my first few jobs, I would slip away and clean everything and let my other coworkers deal with the customers, what can I say haha. So I texted him and let him know I was interested. A couple weeks go by and I got the job. I was a little anxious at first but I warmed up to everyone and I think it’s a great fit for me. I’ve made some great friendships there.

This semester I’m back on campus. This semester is different. My core classes are done. Now it’s time for my teaching classes. First days are always overwhelming, with the teachers or professors telling you each and every detail you’d be doing for the next 4 months. This semester I’d have one foot in being a student and the other in being a teacher. I’d be going to different middle and high schools and shadowing, tutoring, and teaching. At this point I was very anxious. I noticed myself shaking. I didn’t think I could do it and work at the same time. I had never gone to school and work at the same time. I had texted a childhood friend of mine who we had recently connected and caught up again, and was like “Hey I could use some prayer, I’m really anxious, I got all this going on and these thoughts are getting really loud and I don’t think I can do this” and all this stuff. I was surprised with what she said. She said, “Wow, I thought I was the only one.” After going back and forth, I had found out this is her first semester living on campus and she was mentally in the same boat that I was. Now we check in with each other about once a week just to see how we’re doing and how we can pray for each other. I’m so grateful for that.

God’s really been showing me how to let go of my anxious thoughts. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m working on it, and I’m firmly believing one day He’ll set me free from it.

If you’re reading this and you’re anxious too, you might feel really alone like I did. I’m here to tell you you’re not alone, and talking about it does help, a lot.

What Are Your Priorities?

I have not been the writer of a blog before. Especially not in the capacity of talking about my faith. However, God calls us to do things beyond our comfort zone for a reason. This is one of those things. I’m uncomfortable about talking about my faith. Why? Beats me. Maybe because I don’t want people having this negative connotation about me. I don’t know. I just am. So, again, God is nudging me to be more open about what I believe – and basing off of past experiences, He does amazing things when I choose to not only listen but obey. So this may not be for you, and that’s totally okay, and maybe it is for you and that’s awesome. It’s for me too.

So here’s my story. This past Summer, God arranged some things and allowed me to have a relationship that started off great. Like they say, old habits die hard. It seems like any romantic interest I pursue in, I lose my priorities. The girl I’m seeing automatically shoots to the top. That’s happened every single time. I became so busy and tired that I lost who I had become. I didn’t recognize myself. If you want the longer story, keep reading. If not, long story short is that something physical happened that I firmly believe that was God waking me up to see who I had become. At the end of the relationship, I said to myself, “This isn’t me. Who am I?” I shocked myself.

Here’s the longer story. Again, I had been so busy that I was a completely different person. I thought I was happy. It turns out I was so worried about making other people happy and making sure everyone around me was okay that I had zero time to myself and to my family. One Sunday morning, it was just like any other. Yet this message had completely captivated me. It was on distractions. I was convicted. I don’t believe God convicts to bring guilt. If I’m feeling guilty about anything, it’s not from God. I believe He convicts to show that there’s something better. I’m thoroughly convinced that He’s our Father and Dad that truly wants the absolute best for us His kids. I went straight for the altar call. I definitely felt that things had to change. I had my priorities way out of order. The relationship ended a week later.

And I’ve had an incredible support system – my family, my coworkers, my best friend – so many people made an effort to see how I was doing and offered help whenever I needed. I’m incredibly grateful and don’t take that for granted one bit.

These past few weeks God has been working on me. I can feel it. Life is different. I’m happier. People have audibly told me that they’ve noticed something different about me. The “high” has died down. This is where my faith is tested. Is what He told me a few weeks ago when I was so on fire for Him still true today when there’s times I’m not feeling it? I’m going to be honest here. I’m not feeling it like I did just days ago. But that’s where faith comes in. I don’t believe worshipping when you’re not feeling it is fake. Not at all! I believe it’s the exact opposite, that’s faith! You’re willing to worship in any circumstance. That’s awesome. God loves, and desires that. That’s when you know it’s real.

And that’s where I’m at now. I’m ready for tomorrow morning. I’m believing He’s going to do something huge. I’m just looking forward to what it is. I’ll probably be discussing my anxiety and depression in the future, because that’s something I really need His help on. He’s done more than enough for me just in these past couple of weeks alone. I’m extremely excited to see what’s in store.