Thursday, January 15, 2015

Strong Willed Worrier

Strong Willed Worrier
Most of my life, from my earliest memories, I have suffered from anxiety. There were times that I could barely drive down the road a mile from my house without having to pull over and I would end up stuck in a parking lot because of a panic attack. A panic attack that came out of nowhere and left me feeling paralyzed and afraid. Someone would have to come pick me up because I couldn't bear the thought of having to drive back home- or anywhere, for that matter. It was the most helpless feeling to have to rely on someone else to get me home all because of anxiety. Then there were the bouts with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) that would simply derail my life into an onset of depression. Many people use the word OCD very loosely and make it into a joke quite often. However, for the sufferer it is no joke. I remember telling a  group of girls during bible study about my stuggle with OCD one of them laughed and offered to come clean my house. Even though it’s out of my character, I wanted to slap that girl because she had no idea what she was talking about and was oblivious to what OCD can be. However, that is life, some people just don't get what others go through- but that shouldn't stop anyone from overcoming the obstacles of living their best life. Because of my experience, I want to share some key things that have help me to manage living a life with anxiety. Ultimately OCD is brought on by anxiety, so they are one and the same. Both can be debilitating and make you want to retreat to your house permanently. They can rob you of friendships, relationships and really enjoying life. In the worst case it can cause you to just not want to think anymore and be done with life and that, my friend, is not a good place to be. Dealing with anxiety for most of my life, I have learned quite a few things to help me cope with it in the worst case scenario to the best case scenario. I will tell you that I have debated posting about this for months because well its personal, it’s hard, its ugly, its embarrassing. However, transparency is beautiful, and the reason I know it’s beautiful is because it has changed my life. Others who chose to share their fears, insecurities and battles have helped me get through those worst case scenario seasons of my life when I thought I couldn’t' handle my anxiety any longer. Some of my very best friends fight the same battle and there is something so reassuring about having someone that just gets it. So friends or anyone who comes across this post if you suffer from anxiety, OCD, depression...I get it. Which brings me to the title of my post "Strong Willed Worrier".
 Overcome or stay stuck?
The number one question I asked myself was am I going to have the will to overcome this or the will to stay stuck. Ultimately I decided to let my will be stronger will than my worry. Each day it’s a choice to let my worry rule me or to let my worry fade into a whisper and live my life. That can be really hard sometimes but it’s possible. When we worry we get stuck on a thought, idea, or situation and it causes heightened adrenaline and anxiety. It makes us so utterly aware of the one thing that we are so intently focused on that we dissect it and dissect it until we make it much bigger than it really needs to be. That is where my will being stronger than my worry comes in. It is hard, but we are made with the ability to change our thoughts because we control our brain, our brain does not control us. What I mean by that is we can retrain our brain to focus on things that bring us life and joy, not worry and fear. It takes extremely hard work, and that hard work means getting out of your comfort zone. Getting out your comfort zone may simply mean facing the day (which by the way is a great choice)! For me, OCD is mostly an internal struggle of what ifs. What if this or what if that? Which makes me feel completely frustrated and not productive. It takes a lot of energy to dissect things from every angle on a daily basis. Which brings me to something that I just cannot leave out of my post, because if you have followed me for any amount of time you would know that Jesus is an important part of my life. And there is no way that I would get out of my comfort zone if it was not for my faith. It’s crucial for me to trust that God is in control, and that I'm not in control. That God has good for those who believe. Without this hope I would still be stuck in a parking lot somewhere back in 2002. When worry surrounds me and fills up every spore of my brain, I have to back up and remember to trust. Thoughts are merely thoughts- when we add too much meaning to a thought it causes us to spiral out of control and into the worry pit. When my worry wants me to stop enjoying life, I remember that worry is like a bully that I will choose NOT to listen to, and it eventually becomes a whisper. For those of us that suffer with anxiety, it seems like something that we are destined to have forever. It seems to just be a part of us for life, this huge stronghold that holds us captive. But there is a way to break free, and that way is to choose to break free. It’s to choose to say "screw you, worry" and smile at all the good things that surround you. There is help if you seek it, there is knowledge if you read it, and there is opportunity to do so many wonderful things if you choose to have a will stronger than your worry.
 Help is on the way
Which brings me to transparency. I talked about it briefly but cannot stress enough that we are not made to isolate ourselves in our worry bin. We are meant to worry together! (ha that is a joke!). But really there are so many people who suffer in silence that don't need to. Chances are that someone else is struggling and just wants someone else to speak up first. No joke, when I was in one of the most depressed seasons of my life I needed to talk to someone but I held it all in. But then I decided enough was enough and finally I opened up more about my anxiety (not to the girl I mentioned above that I wanted to slap) but I began to find out people that I have known for a long time or were merely acquaintances knew exactly what I was going through or had a loved one that went through it too. Not that I was happy other people battled anxiety or OCD but was nice to know that I was not alone. In fact, some of the strongest, smartest, sweetest people I know were the ones who suffered...including you ;). So trust and open up to people, if you don't get the love you were hoping for its just a hurdle to jump over but not a reason to keep isolating yourself. Remember have a stronger will than your worry!
Push through
When you feel defeated or lose interest in what you used to love there are two options. Sulk and get more depressed or PUSH THROUGH. You have got to push through. You may think I'm being an insensitive sally but trust me I'm not. I have been in the pits where I didn't want to face another day. I went through two seasons of what seemed like hell. But it wasn't and through that time I learned to appreciate life even more. I began to trust God even more because truly he was my only hope. Looking back I can see how I was so small minded. I was so sucked in by anxiety that I rejected the wonderful gift of life. It truly is marvelous. But you have to choose to see even when you don't want to. That is part of retraining your brain. Choosing good when you just feel defeated. Choosing blessing when you feel like cursing! That is called pushing through and it’s also having a stronger will than your worry. It’s telling your worry that you don’t' belong to it and guess what? Pretty soon you won't.
I could seriously go on for hours about this topic of anxiety. It’s a roller coaster, it’s a damn scary one at times and it’s also a gift at times. Why a gift? For me because it drew me into the best friendships a girl could ask for, because I grew closer to God and learned to lean on his word and promises (which I could go on and on about but we will save that for another time), when I wasn't worrying I appreciated all the beauty around me even more. I now see life as a precious gift not to be taken for granted. I choose to smile and be happy not because that is always the case but because why not? I want to spread light in the darkness because I know and see many other people who are stuck. It’s not how life has to be. The thing is I can't make choices for anyone else, just like others can't make choices for me. That is why we have to take charge with the help of God (which he will give if you ask), and have courage to fight for a stronger will than your worry. If you can do this it can change the way you view life and you will find a way enjoy it again if you choose it!
There is something about someone that suffers with anxiety. They view life in a more perceptive way. Things can be more profound and have such glorious meaning. It’s a beautiful thing when the person that suffers from anxiety chooses to take the perception off the worry part and puts the focus back on what is lovely. I think people that suffer with anxiety are remarkably smart and when their deep thinking is used positively it can change both their world and the life of others in a stunning way! Remember that my fellow sufferers there is so much beauty beyond the worry. That is what I strive to remember each day and I hope you will too. Please keep in mind this is what works for me and this is my experience, so I hope it finds you and inspires you in some way.

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