For the longest time, I didn’t know what anxiety was.
I thought everyone felt this way.
I assumed everyone overthought every detail
and rehearsed conversations in their head
and stayed awake at night completely unable to turn off their brain.
I was sure that simple things made everyone nervous
and that worst-case scenarios were the first things everyone brought to mind.
I thought everyone had moments of panic so intense they had to sit down
and that the everyday stresses of life were really just that overwhelming.
Real life is hard, I thought. This is just what it feels like to have responsibility, I would say.
It never occurred to me that not everyone was living this way.
I used the word ‘anxiety’ the way people use the word ‘literally’ - mostly for emphasis, not really meaning what the word implies.
I talked to my people, but anxiety didn’t go away.
I talked to God, but anxiety didn’t go away.
I begged and pleaded and prayed; I read Bible verses about casting all your worries on God and I read articles about ways to cope with stress, but anxiety didn’t go away.
Sure, those things helped some, but it was always there, taking up space in my mind and stealing the color from my life.
But one day, I talked to my doctor.
“Adrenaline is great when you’re trying to outrun a bear,” she said. “But when you have anxiety, your brain sends that same amount of adrenaline out when you’re just driving your car or sitting at your desk."
So now, I take this pill every night.
I still pray and talk and read, too.
The only difference, is I stopped thinking that anxiety was something I could outperform; something I could ‘beat’.
There’s a misconception surrounding anxiety in our culture.
We’ve minimized the reality of anxiety while simultaneously elevating busyness.
Anxiety has almost become the evidence of achievement.
But at the same time, if you’re anxious, you should probably just calm down.
Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that true anxiety is a mental health disorder – not a badge of honor, not a weakness, and not something you can just ‘get over’.
I’ve heard people say we’re living in “The Age of Anxiety” and that we’re “an anxious people”.
Maybe it’s always been this way.
Or maybe this socially-indulgent,
never-take-a-day-off culture we’ve created
really has changed the landscape of our mental health as a people.
I don’t know.
But I know it’s real.
And I know that mental illness doesn’t care if you’re spiritual or religious, young or old, “blessed” or struggling, or if you have a “good” reason to be so worried.
Keep finding ways to manage your stress,
but if you need the medicine, you’re not weak,
because only the strongest people admit that they need some help.