Some of you may know that I had an unstable and sometimes violent childhood which involved (among other things): physical and verbal abuse, an airplane crash, a custodial kidnapping (we haven't gotten to that one yet!) and being released into the world at 16 years old as an emancipated minor. Quite a resume, huh? By God's grace and mercy, I am safe, healthy and whole. But...there are a few scars I've had to deal with. One of these is called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Now, you all know I'm not a big fan of labels. I am NOT a victim and I certainly don't play the PTSD card to excuse me from doing things that make me uncomfortable because I love life and want to live it to the fullest. And yet...there is no denying that I am vulnerable to the symptoms. I startle easily at loud noises, people coming at me quickly, lights flashing on or off and even when my children cry or cough during the night. My fight or flight response kicks in and my heart starts pounding and it takes me a little while to chill out again.
My husband asked me once what PTSD felt like. This is the best explanation I could come up with on short notice: Let's say we all have a 'watchtower' in our brain. And say that the average person has a calm, brave, noble, and strong knight as the guardian of their watchtower to alert their body to any potential danger that may arise. Got that visual? Okay. So in my 'watchtower', there is also a guardian but instead of having the brave knight like everybody else...I have...(drumroll please) Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show.
(If you don't know who Barney Fife is, here's a video to give you an idea. Do yourself a favor and take a minute to watch this. If you don't laugh, you should be afraid because something is seriously wrong with you).
Okay, back to the subject at hand...After my twins were born, I began having episodes of unexplained anxiety. First, the Dr. said it was hormones. Then he said it might be caused by sleep deprivation. It started becoming a constant companion that I dealt with in various ways none of which were particularly effective or healthy. I had three babies under the age of 3 with no help and no family nearby. It was a joyful but very stressful time in my life. I prayed continually for the fear to go away. Gradually the anxiety faded and I thought it was gone for good. Unfortunately it came back when we moved to Houston in the form of a full blown panic attack. If this has never happened to you, then consider yourself blessed. You might be surprised to find that this happens to a lot of people but they hardly ever talk about it. It is a terrifying physical event brought on in my case by underlying stress and it was awful and eventually painfully embarrassing.
Many people have offered help and counsel by telling me to basically "Fear not." As if it were just that easy! I know the scriptures regarding fear and I have read and recited them and they help tremendously but this is the point I want to make here: I've actually been chastised and told I was acting sinfully by 'giving in to fear' by well-meaning Christians who just really didn't understand. This is so disappointing to me because there is a lot of guilt and shame associated with anxiety. It is humiliating and embarrassing and most people who deal with it will never tell you about it because they know they will be judged and found lacking by the majority of people who hear about it. This is something that should be handled with love, compassion and understanding. It is a chemical reaction in the brain and is difficult to get under control. I hope whoever reads this- whether you suffer with anxiety yourself or know someone who does, you will be comforted by the fact that I understand how scary and isolating it is but I also know it CAN be overcome.
Over the last several years, I have certainly been engaged in a battle of fear vs faith. I have overcome so much and I am no longer dealing with fear and anxiety on a regular basis, praise God. It shows up occasionally when I am near my cycle (sorry guys) and I have learned to pray my way through it. It didn't go away overnight. It has taken time, prayer and fighting the good fight of faith to get the tide of this particular battle to turn in my favor. God is so faithful but we must realize that when we ask God to change something that is rooted deep in the foundation of our lives, we sometimes have to be de-constructed in order to be re-constructed. I'm willing. Are you?
Fear is part of the human experience. It will not be removed completely but I know where to find peace that passes understanding. As far as the good fight of faith is concerned? Well, I'm finally learning that the battle was never actually mine to begin with. Surrender, believe, stay rooted in God's word and wait. You are safe...God is the guardian of your watchtower.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:4 (NLT)
Peace and Blessings,