The opposite of joy isn’t sorrow- it’s hopelessness. The opposite of peace isn’t warfare -it’s anxiety.
– Tim Keller
I’m anxious today. Yesterday was worse. It’s hard for me to focus and to get work done. I’ve dealt with anxiety for a very long time, in fact for as long as I remember. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night because I became so anxious about our financial situation. The summer months are tough because my hours go down and we have to dip into savings. I’ve been looking for full-time, better paying, work, but it’s been slow going. I’m currently waiting to hear back whether I’ll be invited back for interview #2 for a job. It’s not just financial issues, though that is the most potent at the moment. I also struggle with perfectionism and issues of self-esteem; I have for most of my life.
I’m not very good at calming myself down, no matter how many tools I might try. Writing sometimes helps, which is partly why I’m writing this now, but I end up typing really fast and jittery and my brain can’t produce fast enough for my body; I just shake. There are other things like counting backwards, counting the books on a shelf that can calm me down. Sometimes I pray, listen to worship or Taizé music or the sounds of running water. I try to meditate on a verse of scripture but I find this rarely helps since I’m far to jittery and the volume of my anxiety too high. I was hoping my swim earlier would have helped but it didn’t. There are other unhealthy ways that are out there too: over eating or spending, curling up into a fetal position on my bed and still other ways. While I generally manage to stay away from most of those, I know I could slip at any moment which brings about its own challenges. Like many I had a lot of anxiety in University, closely tied to deadlines and grade performance expectations (which I set on myself).
It’s a terrible feeling really and I don’t like it at all. I find it hard to focus, to breathe and to think. I don’t feel motivated to do anything but have learned to push through it at least somewhat, but I’m never as productive as I usually am. I have an appointment to get my haircut in 19 minutes. I don’t want to go, but I will because a) I need a haircut in case I get a call for interview #2 and b) I don’t like breaking commitments made to others.
Anxiety is not actually the problem per sey but a symptom of an underlying problem. I’m not alone of course, anxiety and related disorders seem to be on the increase. I’ve tried medication and it doesn’t do much for me and to be honest, I’m happy about this. I don’t have a problem with psychiatric medicine as a category, but I generally prefer not be on medication for anything if I can avoid it. I also don’t have a problem with seeking “professional help” such as through a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I’ve been seeing professionals for years to help me deal with a host of issues. You wouldn’t necessarily know it though
I went to visit with a friend which helped and the anxiety had subsided greatly, though it was still present. I woke up this morning and felt awesome, I’ve had a great sleep, but now the anxiety has returned. This sucks. Oh well, at least I have something to talk to my counsellor about today.
Scripture has a lot to say about anxiety, though I have trouble really making it part of who I am. The next little while will see a few posts examining this idea of anxiety and how it relates to the Christian life.