In the past couple of years, I've figured out I'm really talented at worrying myself into pieces about all sorts of things.
Boys. Job-hunting. How strong my faith is.
My talent at making myself anxious has come into sharper focus during this pandemic and all the other events that make me sad, angry, upset, anxious, and worried about the state of souls in the world and the state of the world itself.
I don't enjoy the things that anxiety creates in me - the nonstop buzzing of your fear-filled thoughts, the lack of appetite/overeating, the restless sleep, the grinding of the teeth, the headaches and other body aches... the list goes on and on.
Some people suffer from anxiety not because of their own doing, but because of how the chemicals in their brain operate. Some people suffer from anxiety because of their own thought-patterns. I'm speaking more from the perspective of a "I create my own anxiety", but I hope anyone who deals with anxiety can find this article helpful.
I've found the following to be true for me: When I find the reason for my anxiety in any particular moment, I'm in a better position to decrease my anxiety by solving the reason why it exists.
Today, I'm going to highlight a couple of stories about how discovering the root of my anxiety helped me deal with my anxiety. The stories will range from silly to serious, I guess.
First example: High school tests.
I went to a high school that challenged me to think more at a college level than a high school one. As a result, some teachers gave really difficult tests, and if you missed 5 questions, you would probably get a B or lower for that test grade. I remember all the late night sessions of cramming, studying, pouring over my notes from class, and stressing out big time before some major tests.
But why? Why was I so anxious about it?
I realized that I had a desire to do my best and excel on these tests. I realized this was a good and healthy desire, because whatever we do, God wants us to do our best - whatever level that is. I personally knew I was capable of getting A's, and so I wanted to make sure I got them. There was a good level of anxiety in me back then that helped motivate me (cuz sometimes I was lazy and unfocused) to pay attention in class and prepare for test day adequately to get the grade I knew I should get.
Some of my own anxiety came from a fear that my test grades had the last say in defining how smart I was. I knew I was smart mostly --- but I needed that extra affirmation from the test grades because it helped beat away the secret insecurities in my heart that I wasn't smart enough. You see, I was putting too much stock in what the grades supposedly affirmed or didn't affirm about a fact I already knew about myself.
It's good to see how anxiety sometimes helps us reach our goals (in this example, stay motivated to study hard) and how anxiety is sometimes a byproduct of an insecurity growing bigger in our hearts.
Second example: Crushes.
My whole life, I've basically always had a crush on someone, either big or small. I think God has made me for marriage, and I'm really romantic, so it makes a bit of sense why the above statement is my case. If I'm made for marriage, then my heart does want to be united to just one person in the really amazing sacrament of Matrimony.
But why have I usually been non-stop anxious about having a crush on someone? Why can't I just acknowledge it's there and be able to operate in a less-stressed manner? Because this girl right here always seems to be wanting to get over a crush for one reason or another.
After some reflection, there are a couple of answers to this question. I want to appreciate being single without also having a crush on someone at the same time. I've never really had that experience, and I'd love to have it because crushes can be distracting. I want to live a more undistracted (romantically-speaking) life dedicated to God first, then me and how I'm responding to His love for me. This is a healthy reason why I'm sometimes anxious about having a crush - I know crushes typically typically stop me from making God my #1 all the time.
However, there is a bad reason why I've wanted to remain single and not have crushes on anyone. The bad reason is wanting to be completely independent. You might be thinking - well, what's wrong with being independent? Nothing is wrong with being independent if you're doing it in the healthy sense! You should be independent and free to make your own decisions with your job, who you spend your free time with, what you do with your free time, etc. Those are good ways to be independent.
But I took it too far. I wanted to be independent because of fears and insecurities I had about marriage. For many reasons, I had lost faith that marriage was the best route to sanctification for me. I had lost faith someone could be consistently kind while calling me up out of my flaws and sins to holier desires and actions. I had lost faith that my future marriage could be good and holy, full of mercy and love more than anger and rejection - cuz marriage is hard and I know it won't be devoid of those moments.
But if marriage is something that God has called me to and made me for, then I have to trust God more. God has my best interests at heart and He knows what will help me become the person I am made to be.
Third example: Getting Out of Bed is Hard Sometimes.
If the anxiety of starting the day is rooted in a fear of being rejected by people for how I'm still living a more stay-at-home lifestyle, then that's a silly rejection and I should get out of bed.
If the anxiety of starting the day is rooted in a fear that this day will be full of lots of bad moments, then that's silly because even a really horrible day can have some fun, good, even holy moments sprinkled in there. 24 hours is a long time, and believing in the lie that not one of those moments in those hours can be fun is a lie.
I honestly could go on and on about all the reasons why I really don't want to face the day sometimes. But today is all I have. It is so precious because I will never have this day or moment again. You can't rewind or fast forward through time. You just live in it, and it's moving forward, whether you acknowledge that fact or not. All of the reasons why I am not hopeful about starting my days are based in fears and insecurities and lies. Each day is a precious gift from God - and each moment has endless possibilities for moments that will help us become a happier, better, and holier person than before.
I wanted to include this as my third example to show you that sometimes, anxiety really is just a liar (because up above, I give reasons why anxiety in certain situations is good and bad).
In all cases, though, going to Scripture and going to Mass really does help me stay grounded and fight back against bad anxiety. The Word of God and worshipping Him helps our souls from forgetting who we are and how loved we are. A lot of anxiety comes from, I think, reasons related to this: We don't think we are loved just as we are, and we don't think that we can change to be the better people we really really really want to be. But we are loved just as we are, and God's grace helps us truly be strengthened and become more of who we are called to be - a person in union with the One True God Who LOVES US.
He loves YOU perfectly!
He loves you so much He's not going to let you stay in patterns of self-destructive anxiety without trying to save you. Do your part and try to cooperate with and accept His love, which might come in the form of gentle chastisements or affirmations. It just depends on the moment.
HE LOVES YOU! HE IS GOOD! HE LOVES YOU! His perfect love for you should cast out all fear, but sometimes, as this article states, it's not as simple as that all the time. But I hope that this article has helped you understand how anxiety is good and bad. I also hope this article helps remind you that God and his perfect love can help you with your fears - He can help cast them out any moment you need to be free from those anxieties.
That's all for today, folks. I hope this was informative, entertaining, and not too long for you to read.