I struggle with anxiety. Always have, it seems. As far back as fourth grade I remember battling anxiety. It’s never been too intense. I’ve never had a panic attack and it usually doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. It mostly just hovers and hangs out below the surface and I’m usually able to cope with it pretty well. Sometimes, though, it seems more intense. Something will set it off, set it in motion and then it’s kind of like seasonal allergies (I have those too). If you don’t get a handle on them soon enough, they just get worse and worse. So too with anxiety, and if you hadn’t already guessed, I’m currently in a season of… over-anxious-ness. I find myself struggling more than usual and it’s not terribly surprising, I guess, considering the various things going on in my life. And I know this season will pass. But still. I wish that it wasn’t such a constant companion.
I like control. I like to plan things, to know how things are going to play out. And nothing has thwarted my sense of control more than being a mother. I have so many hopes, desires, dreams, deep-in-my-marrow yearnings for my two boys. And I have absolutely no idea how their lives are going to play out. How our life as a family is going to play out. I read a news article a few weeks ago about a father and his 3-year-old son here in Washington who went out for a canoe ride on the lake near their house and never came home. It seems unfathomable to me but they both drowned. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain with which this wife/mother is now confronted. Or maybe that’s the problem. I can imagine what she’s feeling. I can imagine the depth of her sorrow. And that’s what anxiety is, really. It’s not fear. Fear is being afraid of something that is happening. Anxiety is being afraid of something that might happen. And there’s the rub. I spend a lot of energy worrying about things that might happen. It keeps me up at night. Pushes aside others joys and things that make me genuinely happy.
Our community group watched the movie Run, Lola, Run a couple weeks ago as part of our study of Ecclesiastes. There is this scene in the movie where Lola screams. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s pretty hard to miss. Things are overwhelming and loud and noisy and she just screams. She screams so loud that it shatters the glass in the room. That’s how I feel when I read a news article about a father and son drowning. Or hear about the mother of a 3-day-old in Texas shot dead in a doctor’s parking lot in order to kidnap her baby. For just an instant I allow my mind to wander. To Gryffin. To Isaiah. To Jason. And the clenching grip of anxiety seizes me, squeezes me, and I just want to scream like Lola. To scream so loud and long and high that it cancels out even the possibility of a 3-year-old drowning.
But that isn’t possible and I have to keep getting out of bed every morning in spite of it. I’ve been reading through a book about anxiety and have found some of the suggestions incredibly helpful. I try to do the deep abdominal breathing exercises at least once a day, exercise often, and various other things. But it was a line from a blog post I read recently that has resonated quite a bit over the last few weeks. I wish I could remember which blog it was so I can give credit. But I think I found it via Facebook and I haven’t been able to find it again. It was written by a woman with young kids and she was having a rough day. She was fed up and tired and just wanted to throw in the towel. They were incredibly late and it took much difficulty and toddler drama to get her kids buckled in the car and off to dinner and she said something to the effect of “As we raced off to dinner I sighed this huge sigh. This huge sigh as though my wide open life was so oppressive.” I really don’t remember anything else about that blog post. But that one line has stuck with me because I find myself doing that a lot. Sighing as though my wide open life is so oppressive. My anxiety gives me a negative outlook and little things become big things. Little frustrations become big ones and I feel like I just can’t catch a break. But my life is wide open. It really is. And I want to see what is in front of me. Not what might be in front of me someday. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, what tragedies or troubles or joys or jubilation might come. But I know what is happening today and I’m trying to focus on that.