Saturday, 26 February 2011

Anxiety, Condemnation & Letting go

I am one of those painful types of people, you know the kind I am talking about. The ones who hope to keep everyone in their lives happy, the 'people pleaser' type! The type that when anyone is unhappy, its their fault... The type that when something goes wrong..they want to fix it straight away, because they cant bear to have any one they love harbouring any unspoken feelings. Yes...I am that type...I am annoying in that way. But when I love..I love with my whole heart..and I always have time for those I love. Over the last month or so, I have been suffering with anxiety attacks. I never experienced these before and they are so debilitating and consuming. Ashamedly, when I heard before of people suffering with anxiety attacks I thought they were overreacting or being hypercondriacts, I couldnt relate to them at all. But in the midst of experiencing them, I can easily say its one of the worst afflictions I have ever experienced, because it feels like there is no way out. You can limp off a sore ankle, rest a pulled muscle...but anxiety attacks, there is no escape from them. My first instinct is to hide what I am feeling - but I am a firm believer in "There is a reason for everything"..and so I want to share what I have learnt through this, and how I am getting over it - in the hopes that it can serve as an encouragement to others who are suffering in the same way. With my anxiety attacks come the physical struggles of chest tightness, heart palpitations, a feeling of suffocation, chest pains, insomnia and constant discomfort, but what I find worse are the emotional struggles, firstly, I cannot think of anything BUT the anxiety, it consumes my mind, it steals my focus. Secondly, the anxiety takes away all drive and desire to do anything, which sends me into a depression, it then brings about paranoia and because it feels never ending, it starts to make me think of easy ways out...the selfish ways...YES, suicidal thoughts.But - there is hope..and this too shall pass! My first reaction to all this was self blame, self condemnation and self hatred. After a while...I tried to actively seek the real reason and cause...I rang my doctor..who send me to the hospital to rule blood clot on the lungs out. But after ruling that out, it was clear it was anxiety. I thought and prayed much about it and realised when it all started and what the cause was - I thought that if I fixed the cause then the anxiety would stop. But after "fixing" the cause several times, I am still suffering the anxiety. I realise this is because I was just smoothing over the surface of the issue - and deep down the cause was still there, and all the while telling myself I was still accused, condemned and at fault, because of mind tells me that if I cannot keep everyone happy, then I am failing. So today was the last straw - I was fed up with this anxiety, so first I rang a friend who is a GP, and a christian, she was an absolute God send and gave me great reassuring advice, after that, I went to talk to the wife of a colleague - per advice of the GP. I told her what I had been experiencing, and that I could not deal with it on my own anymore. She hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that I blame myself for everything, that I would sooner blame myself before thinking badly of others. Tears flowed as I thought of all the condemnation and blame I had put on myself - every single thing that had gone wrong in the last month I had somehow managed to make it my fault, and as such - I feel the need to put it right. It is no wonder I feel anxious, trying to rebuild a mansion when I dont know what made it crumble or what it looked like before...its an impossible task. Its not my job, not my responsibily...but I put that on myself. 
At the end of the day, I examined my conscience - 'Was I aware of anything I did wrongfully and sinfully?' - NO, "Had I sought forgiveness for past sins?" YES - So what in the name of pete am I blaming and condemning myself for? Why am I anxious about fixing something that is not my responsibility to fix? Why do I worry what is thought of me when I know that God knows my heart and motives? Why do I care if it all falls apart when I am not the one in control? God tells us - 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus' - What an awesome truth! He also says 'Cast all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you' 1 Peter 5:7. If I have dealt with my sin, if I have tried in love to do what is right, if I have searched myself..then I need to not hang on to it! I need to drop it, at the feet of Jesus. I need to hold fast to the truth, which tells us "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Romans 8:1 and I need to stop believing the lies of the enemy. I am loved by God as much as the next person. I am as sinful as the next person. Just because I cant fix everything does not make me more of a sinner than others - and to be honest, that is how I have felt..I have felt like a lowly, not-worth-as-much-as-the-next-person christian, all because I blame myself for others unhappiness. It stops here. 
God has been so good in this process - he not only has taught me that I cannot make everything better, that its ok to not have any control over the happiness of others, that I need not condemn myself for things that I am not to blame for...but on top of that...He provided me with a housemate, actually two housemates who have experienced and suffered anxiety too, and have been through the same struggles..and what an encouragement they have been to me! God is good, he is the giver of all good and perfect gifts - and I am so grateful for the gift of friendship, and how supportive people have been - clare taking me to hospital and sitting and praying with me while we waited 6 long hours...hannah and jo for their wisdom and advice and prayer, alley for her compassion, understanding and prayers, nadine for her unconditional strong and pure love and constant prayer..mez for her amazing ability to help me think rationally..I could go on.. Life is a journey, and I am so glad God provides us with travelling companions! :D I am willing to bet that most people who have suffered anxiety attacks are people that put alot of blame on theirselves, and are people pleasers. I urge you to remember your value in Gods eyes, remember that no matter what others think of you - You are precious in His sight. I urge you to let go of trying to 'fix' things, but never to let go of loving. I am in no way cured or sorted. Pray for me as I also seek to let go, and to see myself through the eyes of a God who loves me.