When All Else Fails
“You are the only you that God made you to be” -Carl Medearis
The thing with anxiety is you feel like you are drowning… you are going to lose your job, everyone hates you, it's all falling apart… but your life is just the same as it was yesterday. The turbulence on the little life plane you are flying is no more bumpy than it was yesterday or last year, but when anxiety hits it feels like you're being thrashed around and the plane is spiraling out of control.
I've dealt with some level of this every day for the last six months, and however not as often but still regularly for the six months before that.
Today I had a good day. It felt like a miracle. I focused. Got stuff done. Contributed to the world. And had a little fun. Cold gunk aside, it was a good day.
It feels like I haven't had one in forever. I feel like I haven't been functioning. I feel like I have just been overwhelmed to the point that I'm a mess who can't do anything worthwhile. I feel like I am not productive. I feel like I am doing nothing but complaining and dropping the ball. I feel like I am letting everyone down.
Today I feel like I did stuff. And I am celebrating.
I say I feel a lot these days. Because “I feel” is both a respect word and a reality check. My feelings are legitimate. It's my reality, it's what I am going through at that moment… my feelings are what form who I am. That deserves an amazing amount of respect. But my feelings too are also not what is happening in the rest of the world. They are my reality but not the reality.
In my long history with depression, for me it was not feeling strong enough to deal with the world. Even if that world was all happy dancing flowers fun time. I saw the world for what it was, I just couldn't deal.
Anxiety* is a whole new game, because it distorts my reality. There are moments where I can't tell if the world is happy dancing flowers fun time or Hiroshima destructive crisis time. My feelings tell me Hiroshima, but in the reality the flowers are dancing everywhere. My feelings are distorting the reality.
Depression* felt like my whole body wasn't strong enough (that's where the not getting out of bed part kicks in) but anxiety is my emotions are too overwhelmed to deal with anything.
This is not cool, man.
So now I question everything. It tends to come in the feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed. Then that builds until I emotionally shut down.
The feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed messes with my head, because it makes me less focused, less confident, and takes away the dreamer part of me. In the last six months I have been painting less, writing less, haven't started too many new projects, volunteered less, and just been less active...because with anxiety I get so overwhelmed I lose sight of my purpose. The inner dreamer in me that makes me want to do everything so badly, that I don't mind giving it a go even if I fail miserably. I don't like being that person.
I have taken a variety of steps to help manage my anxiety, including starting therapy again, taking medication, and doing some personal work.
But one thing I have that helps consistently is an “if all else fails” back up plan. Here is what I mean by that: My “if all else fails” back up plan… for life in the big picture and on the minute by minute playbook of my life is three words: “Show God’s love”.
When I look at the big picture of my life, and I'm not hearing a direction from God, then I show God's love until I hear a direction again.
When I am emotionally shutting down and can't figure out how to function in that moment: do something to show God's love to someone.
When I feel helpless while my son is in the hospital, it involves being kind to medical personnel or organizing a drive for the hospital. It could just mean volunteering to help out a friend in need while waiting for to hear back about a job opportunity. If I'm frustrated with someone and don’t know how to handle it, then I try to do something positive for them (that's not self serving to what I am frustrated about). On the day to day, that means when I am too overwhelmed that I cannot do what I am doing… I stop and send someone an encouraging message. It's just about showing love, and not just to the ones you are closest to. It's anyone, and everyone. Especially those who don't get appreciated enough.
I'd like to pretend this is a daily practice, but really it’s usually after hitting a rock bottom of sort and needing a reminder or three. I’m a slow learner, and a fast at forgetting.
Once I listen, something about being intentional to show love, even if it takes only ten minutes, is like a reboot to my system. It helps me find purpose again when I am lost, it helps connect me to God when I am lonely, it helps me figure out how to manage day to day anxiety. It helps me get back to being the person God made me to be.
This works rather well for anxiety. Because even if the world really is caving in, like I feel like, in that moment, I am focused on showing someone love. It gets me out of my head, out of those feelings, and on God.
Do you have one of those? What is that phrase, mantra, or back up plan you have? What is something you connect to, that you can go back to time and time again to help put you back on track?
This isn't just for people with no anxiety, depression, or “scary” mental health stuff. It's for people who just may feel lost, unappreciated, or unfocused. It’s for people in need of hope, purpose, or even just want to get stronger. Ideally it's something you find out for yourself before the turbulence hits. I tend to not do things the easy way, so I found it after many bumps and barrel rolls where God would lead me back to that thought, I'd act on it, usually in the smallest way, and then things seemed to work itself out.
Your backup plan isn't a magic button to make God answer your prayers or for you to be able to make your dreams come true. It's a mantra, scripture, song, phrase that you'd tattoo on your body because once you remember it, act on it, it brings you back to the person God meant you to be and your focus is back on Him.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
2TH 2:16-17 ESV
*anxiety and depression are legitimate mental health issues that should not be diagnosed or treated without help from a professional. They are also very different for each person. This is my experience with them, but for others it may feel differently. Please do not make assumptions about the status of your mental or emotional health based on this post.