I’ve battled anxiety on and off for years. I just didn’t know what it was.
The first time it hit I was in year twelve. Overwhelmed and striving for perfection, I felt like I could never meet my own expectations. I was Deputy Head Prefect, I was a passionate student with good grades. I even met the Prime Minister of Australia that year. Still, the pangs were real. As were the cramps. And the imaginary tumour in my core, rupturing anytime it became too much.
Then it was the court battles of my early twenties and the bankruptcy that eventuated. I slept with my Bible every night and finally found a Gospel-centred church where I would cry through every sermon, at least for the first year.
Then came last year when the feelings came from almost nothing at all. I had to check myself, and tell myself things weren’t a big deal. I didn’t know where the feelings were coming from. All I knew was that I hated them.
Then came the incident of a couple of weeks ago…
I woke at 1:30am on a Tuesday morning to hear the jarring of wood in our bedroom. I could see a shadow moving in the corner of the room. The fear was paralysing. I was hollow. My heartbeat took over every single inch of me, from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. I actually feared the intruder would hear my heartbeat and realise I was awake. I could hear the crumpling of plastic from various items in my toiletry drawer. I thought, so long as he’s not hurting us, he can take what he wants and leave the way he came. But what was taking so long? Surely the drawers weren’t that hard to open. Not that there was anything of worth in them.
My husband stirred beside me, sitting upright, and the noises stopped, the shadow shrunk away for a moment. My husband adjusted his blankets and then went back to sleep.
The noise started again. More jarring wood.
I prayed to Jesus for protection and in that moment my heart miraculously slowed.
The noise stopped.
Tentatively, I reached over to brush my husband’s neck and whisper: ‘Wake up. I think someone’s in the house.’
‘Give me your phone,’ he said and leapt from the bed.
Every light in the house was switched on. Every corner was checked. Every window. Every door.
I stood on the cold hard concrete of our kitchen, crying. ‘Someone or SOMETHING was in our house…’
The drawer of my dresser was partly opened.
My jewellery box, though nothing missing, was knocked over.
My husband took my hand and sat down with me, praying over our house in Jesus’ name. He proclaimed Jesus’ rights over our house, from the front of the property to the back. He proclaimed protection over us, the house, our animals. Everything.
That was when it dawned on him. In our bedroom, we had a portable air-conditioner and a board in our window. Could it be that the jarring of wood was not in fact an intruder struggling with our drawers, but him struggling with the board in our window?
With a theory in our minds, we marched to the bedroom. And in this moment, one of our cats went up to the window and meowed – much like he would at a door or the cat flap. Only catch? We never opened that window.
It’s fair to say, the board was drilled into our window that night – good luck to anyone who tries to remove it in the future! Even though it was next to impossible to actually remove the board as it was, there was evidently enough room for someone to have their arm, if not part of their upper body inside.
We went back to bed at 3am, listening to God’s word through the audio Bible. We drifted until 7am.
Since this incident, I haven’t been able to shake the anxiety. It flares up daily. It paralyses me. It steals the joy I used to have.
Yesterday, I met with a bookstore in the heart of the city who wanted to stock our books. As the head of our indie publishing house, I reluctantly went. I actually told my husband, I can’t be bothered, and I’m not all that excited…
A fact that was simply NOT me.
My sole motivation was then my responsibility to our authors and somehow, that got me there.
Fortunately, God didn’t leave me to my own devices yesterday.
Blessedly, he had already set up an opportunity weeks ago for that very day. An opportunity to catch up with a friend who also just so happens to have a counselling degree.
Let me just clarify, I’ve tried to reason myself out of the anxiety. I’ve tried herbal remedies to sleep. I’ve tried Rescue Remedy Stress Relief products, calming teas, and Epsom salt baths. I’ve tried counteracting my lack of sleep with caffeine leading to an unhealthy cycle of insomnia.
The struggle is real.
I tried to tell myself that there wasn’t a person in the corner, it was only a hand. There wasn’t someone in your bedroom, it was only their arm…
But like a friend told me the other day, the intention of the intruder was the same. Had they managed to get that board all the way up, they would’ve been standing in the corner. They would’ve been in my bedroom.
And only God knows what would’ve happened then…
The struggle has been very real. Paralysing. Joy-thieving. Overwhelming.
But yesterday, I received a type of healing I didn’t expect.
This friend stared at me dead in the eye and told me how I was feeling was normal. That I had endured a trauma – multiple over the years, in fact. Most importantly, my friend assured me that my feelings were indeed legitimate.
That, and that alone, seemed to open a door for me and lightened my load.
I still have a long way to go. I have a season of being gentle with myself, of establishing habits to support these tendencies towards anxiety. I have a season of healing and empowerment ahead. And I can only take it one step and one day at a time.
At this time, however, I still consider myself blessed that the Holy Spirit has gifted my heart these verses:
‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’ – 2 Tim 1:7
‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’ – Matt 6:24
Photo cred: http://wjou.org/9-28-18-do-not-fear/2-timothy-1-verse-7/