I struggle with anxiety everyday of my life. Agoraphobia and panic jail me and keep me as their prisoner many days. It is no surprise that these days leave me frustrated to the core and questioning how I’ll ever live a relatively “normal” life.
I shouldn’t be like this…What’s wrong with me? Is this all I have to look forward to the rest of my life? I’m a man…men aren’t suppose to be afraid or at least show their fear so what does that make me?
My internal conversations affirm everything that I feel and the madness that has become my life. The heat is sweltering here in my desert. The world has disappeared. I’m entirely alone. Know one understands me. How could they? I don’t even understand myself the majority of the time- the panic, the unpleasant sensations, the thoughts that never end. I know they’re not real, but tell that to my mind. Knowing that your reactions don’t make sense and not being able to change them destroys your soul, as some unknown force creeps inside the essence of your being, the part that makes you “you”, and tears it apart day by day. I long for the cool taste of water and shade from mental anguish. I don’t remember how I ever got here. All I know is that I want to go back. But I can’t. The past has been lost, and the only remains of it are fragments of memories filled with a me that I no longer know.
And in the midst of negative thinking I forget that in the distance lies the Promised Land. No one said it was going to be easy, but it’s there if I want it. The first part of getting out of this desert is accepting that I can’t go backwards. I want to simply slide back into my past when life seemed easy, and I wasn’t afraid of anything. I want to curse up to the heavens and cry, “Why me..what have you done to me?”, but I know self-pity, like quicksand, will swallow me whole. It’s when I sit and grumble about my situation that I feel the most anxious.
One of my traps is comparing this mess of emotion bubbling inside me to the looks and appearances of the rest of the human race, as if I’m the only one out here stranded, and everyone else has already reached their destination and are partying it up. I think people that are faced with difficult hardships are more aware that they are broken, but almost everyone is lost, even if they don’t know it. It may not be until their wife or husband finally leaves them, their great career goes downhill, or their health deteriorates, but they’ll still realize it at some point. Just because someone is not outwardly showing it doesn’t mean they’re not miserable inside.
As hard as it can be to realize, in many ways trials and troubles are the only way we can grow as human beings. Generally, during the most difficult parts of our lives, we grow the most. I refuse to believe that I’m wandering in the desert for no reason. There is something that I am meant to learn about myself or grow in a way that I otherwise couldn’t have. The desert is not the destination, and sometimes I forget that. I sulk and complain rather than continue on my journey out of my situation. God has a plan for each and every one of us and just because we can’t see it in the moment, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. All too often we finally understand the detours and sidetracks after we finally get out of the situation. In the heat of trials, we can only rely on trust and faith, neither of which we are especially good at. We would have no trouble trusting an expert tour guide to get us out of the desert, so why is it so hard for us to trust God to lead us out of life’s problems?
The words that come to mind when I think of anxiety are “lost, scared, and alone”. There is only one thing that I have ever found that is worse than feeling lost, scared, and alone and that is hopelessness. Hope is the light we use in the darkness to find our way out. Being hopeless is accepting we’re going to die in the desert and will never recover. You need to have some beacon in the distance guiding you that is greater and stronger than you are. There are going to be days when living for yourself is not going to be enough because you’re too weak and tired of trying. In those moments, your higher power will continue to pull you forward even when you can’t,
This isn’t the life I would have designed for myself, but it’s made me who I am. The sooner I realize that I can’t magically change reality, the sooner I can start moving forward. It’s easy for me during bad days to think I’ve got a horrible life. But I think of all the people literally starving throughout the world, not knowing how they are going to get their next meal or a place to sleep, and it gives me some perspective. They would look at my life and tell me how lucky I am. And maybe that’s part of the problem- that I don’t realize it. I forget gratitude and am so focused on how I’m feeling, that I don’t see the people who are in far greater need than me.
Photo Credit: David Blackwell. via Compfight cc