Anxiety reared its ugly head a couple of weeks ago. I should have known it was coming. This time of year is always especially hard for me, but I thought this year was going to be different. This year I was ready. I knew the post-Christmas stress would be coursing through my body. I knew that every year I bottom out after the emotional high of the Christmas festivities, the annual trip to California, and the sweet times we spend with family members that we don’t see often enough.
I knew all of this. But it still got me.
It’s funny how harmless that word can look on paper but as I did battle with it earlier this month, I realized, once again, how powerful it really is. Before I share with you this part of my journey, I want to be very clear that this is MY story and everyone is different. I am not a doctor; I am not here to fix you. Your mind and body are not something to mess around with. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in a way that is right for you and seeking help from professionals when necessary. I am simply here to hold your hand as we wade through the muck of anxiety together. This is a little long, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. I hope it speaks to you and that even just one person is blessed and strengthened by my vulnerability.
For over a year now, every time I mention my struggle with anxiety to my doctor she recommends Prozac. And every time I am conflicted, asking myself questions like: “Has it really come to this? Am I really at a point where this needs to be chemically managed? Is this right for me?” And because I could not answer these questions to the point of peace in my spirit, the prescription just sat there…unfilled.
Fast-forward a year and I saw my doctor again. She was still confident that I could benefit from Prozac. This time I even went one step further and filled the prescription. But the bottle sat in the cupboard. Those questions were still unanswered. I still had this nagging check in my spirit that this wasn’t for me. But I kept those bottles there, just in case. And I waited. Waited to see if it would get bad enough to go ahead and see if maybe the medicine was the answer.
Christmas came and the craziness ensued. And as the stress increased, I made a decision, “I will wait until a time that the anxiety seems particularly flared up and try the medicine.” I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t seek the Lord about it. I just decided.
After our travels to California, I felt the usual emotions rising to the surface. Sadness most of all…almost a let down feeling…because it was all over, and once again it did not feel like enough. Not enough time to visit, not enough time to relax, and I was nowhere near ready for it to be over. I start to feel anxious that all the time I spend preparing was wasted on the wrong things and I didn’t pay attention to what mattered. I spent so much time checking things off my list that by the time I relaxed all the things I had been looking forward to were nearly over.
Time doesn’t stop and wait for us to be ready. It keeps moving forward, like a powerful wave. Daily life had to resume whether I was ready or not. And after a particularly terrible day with all three of my children, which ended with me, in tears, banishing MYSELF to my room; the surge of anxiety and adrenaline coursing through my body, I made a decision. The next day I was going to start the medicine. Enough was enough.
Without praying about it, without talking to anyone I just took that first pill and waited. Both the doctor and friends who have taken Prozac told me that I would know within a couple of days. Well, what I knew by the end of that first week is that I had made the wrong decision. I was ALL OVER THE PLACE! I was crying more, easily offended, anything I had been anxious about before seemed magnified a hundred times over. I purposefully didn’t tell my husband that I was going to start the medicine because I wanted someone to see the change in my behavior objectively. Only this is not the kind of change I was hoping for. This was so much worse than before. And as I sat and told him what I had done and asked him what he thought, I already knew my answer.
The things in my life that had been causing the anxiety were real things. Hard conversations that I was avoiding, guilt over not being everything to everyone, dwelling of my fear of the unknown. These were not things that were going to go away by taking medicine. Now, again, I want to say that there is a time a place for this medicine and it has helped a lot of people that I love, but it is not a magic pill to take away the hard things of life. I wanted to escape what I had to do, not face it. I began to feel like Jonah.
I stopped running and I faced God. I faced Him and I surrendered, yet again. We never run out of chances with God. I love that! He takes us back EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. As I prayed and asked God for direction, He gave me the strength to have those hard conversations, he led me to a friend whose words were a balm to my fractured soul, and He, once again gave me His peace, that kind of peace that doesn’t make sense, but yet it is there. The kind that leads me by still waters and restores my soul (Psalm 23).
Its been a week that I have gone without the medicine, and instead have taken my time, my fears, and my failures; laid them on open hands in front of Jesus and said, “Take them. Show me what to do. Give me the strength to do it, and the strength to let the rest go.”
I am praying for you, my sisters with anxiety. This is a hard road, but we know who to follow. May we be reminded daily to not take our own way but trust that He knows what He is doing. All we need to do is follow.