Anxiety Took My Breath Away. Here’s How I Got it Back.
“I think I’m allergic to Houston,” I told my husband. “I haven’t been able to breathe very well since we moved here. You think it’s the humidity?”
It’d been weeks of shallow breaths. I yawned all day long, just trying to fill my lungs with air. You know the unsatisfying kind of yawn where the air doesn’t quite reach the bottom of your lungs? I was a very frustrated yawner.
After a few weeks my chest started hurting.
And that’s when I knew it. I was dying.
But a few conversations (and ill-advised googles) later, I figured out the culprit.
I couldn’t figure it out, though. I’m just a mom. I don’t even have a REAL JOB. How can I be anxious? What am I so worried about?
Well, in the mornings I worried about whether I was patient with my kids before school. Did I yell at them about the shoes again? Did I smile enough? Did I give them a kiss before I dropped them off at preschool? Did I get frustrated when they became determined to zip up their jackets by themselves and shout, “LET ME DO IT WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE” … again? Did I show them that I cared more about their hearts than being on time?
At lunchtime I worried about their food. Why do they only like things that are bad for them? Did I make them this way? Is it because I ate so much ice cream when I was pregnant? Am I being controlling about what they eat or am I just helping them make healthy choices for the future?
At rest time I worried about their brains. Should I be letting them watch a movie again? Should I be making them read instead? Are they going to have ADHD because of me? Should I get them up and play a game with them? I need to finish writing, though. Am I being selfish?
And at night … well at night, my breath would grow more shallow. I’d lie in bed and feel that squeezing grip around my heart strengthen as I thought back to each part of the day, all I messed up on, all I hadn’t gotten done, all that would be waiting for me in the morning.
I’d never say anything to my husband because it wasn’t like I was worried about important things … just a million tiny, insignificant things. Certainly nothing worthy of saying out loud.
I figured it was normal.
This is motherhood.
This is what we do.
We worry. We question. That’s just how it is.
But why am I so miserable? Why can’t I breathe?
And I remember thinking, something’s got to give.
Now, here’s where you might think I started focusing on me.
But that’s where you’d be wrong.
I actually had been focusing on myself all along. TOO MUCH. And I was not a trustworthy source. What I believed about myself wasn’t true. I was my own worst critic.
I needed to shift my focus OFF of myself, and ON to my creator.
Remind myself not how smart I am, but how all-knowing and all-powerful He is.
Not how capable I am but how capable he is and always has been.
Not how happy I SHOULD be, but how the legit source of joy and patience and kindness placed his spirit inside me.
That he holds the world in his hands.
That he opposes my enemies and gives me strength.
That he upholds me with his right hand.
That he forgives me for all my sins, all my mistakes, all my missteps.
That he renews and restores and provides for my every need.
It’s only when I stopped focusing so much on ME and MY CHARACTER and started focusing more on HIM and HIS CHARACTER that the anxiety started to fade away.
The truth is, I will always be broken. I will never be perfect. For the rest of my life, I will fall short in one way or another.
So if my peace is dependent upon my own performance, my own success, my own character, my own children, my own circumstances, then I will NEVER FIND IT. Because none of those things will ever be up to par. None of those things will ever feel ENOUGH.
But if my peace is dependent on God’s performance, God’s success, God’s character, God’s promises then I can look at Him and say, “Even though I am not exactly killing this right now, I know you’ve got me because YOU SAY YOU DO, YOU HAVE BEFORE, and I trust you.”
I still struggle. I know some of you do too.
HEAR ME: God answers prayers in a thousand ways and sometimes that’s through medication. You are not weak or faithless—that little pill represents so much courage and boldness.
BUT. Be cautious of self-help. Be wary about looking inward because honestly, it’s not always pretty in there. At least, not for me.
Focus less on YOU and YOUR CHARACTER and focus more and HIM and HIS CHARACTER. All the stuff we need to fix, He alone knows how to fix it. We will drive ourselves crazy trying to fix ourselves.
PASSAGES TO REMIND US OF GOD’S CHARACTER:
when you’re feeling like a failure… he is compassionate
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
when you’re feeling unprotected …he is your refuge
“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
when you’re doubting him… he keeps his promises
“He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.”
when you’re feeling weak… he is your source of strength
“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
when you’re feeling ashamed … he is forgiving
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:19
when you’re exhausted … he gives you TRUE rest
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
when you’re feeling defeated… he is more powerful than man
“I am he who comforts you;
why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
a human being who fades like grass?
You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You fear continually all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The oppressed shall speedily be released;
they shall not die and go down to the Pit,
nor shall they lack bread.
For I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name.”
Jordan acts as editor and founder of Friday Night Wives, which means she sits on her couch in her pajamas a lot. She accidentally became a coach’s wife when her husband switched careers while she was pregnant with their second child, and the roller coaster hasn’t stopped rolling since. Her favorite things include her husband and three munchkins, chocolate, worship music, and Amazon Prime. And, of course, this lovely spot on the internet.