Yesterday, I told a little bit of my #MeToo story, and from the reactions to that post, and from an experience I had this morning, I think we need to talk about a couple of the most common consequences of sexual abuse: Anxiety and Depression.
I felt it coming on. It started with a tingling in my legs. Then the sweating started, and that unmistakeable feeling in my stomach. I was heading into a panic attack.
Although I haven’t had a panic attack in about a year, I still recognized it when it started. But unlike every other time, I saw right through it and was able to stop it in its tracks. Previous attacks have prompted me to try to figure out what was causing them. This is a great place to start sometimes. But this one was different, and I recognized immediately that this one was nothing more than a direct attempt by my enemy to throw me into chaos and take my eyes off of God.
God has been doing some unbelievable things in and through me this week as He is working out some final details of our new plan. So it makes perfect sense that my enemy want to try to thwart that. So I told on him, did some controlled breathing, and in no time, he was forced to retreat.
It doesn’t always work like this, I know. In fact, this is the exception to the rule. I know the pain and helplessness that comes from suffering from panic attacks, and I know that often, there’s no easy or quick solution. I’ve been there. I understand.
So what do we do when Anxiety is our proverbial thorn? Here are 3 ways I’ve learned to overcome anxiety:
Take Your Medicine: if you’ve been battling with any kind of mental illness for a while, believe it or not, your brain has probably changed, and not for the better, as I’m sure you can imagine. Long-term anxiety (as well as other illnesses like depression and bi-polar) changes the way your brain cells function, and the way chemicals in your brain such as dopamine and serotonin are generated and passed back and forth. Medication helps remedy this problem, and in some cases, can even reverse it.
If you grew up in a more conservative or fundamental denomination like I did, you may have been taught that any kind of mental illness is the result of sin and a lack of faith, and that taking medication is the manifestation of those two evils. Listen to me very carefully: THIS IS A LIE straight from the pit of hell, devised only to keep you in bondage and to destroy you. I cannot stress this enough.
If you need medication to reverse the long-term affects of mental illness (your doctor can help you determine this), take it! God works just as powerfully through medicine as He does through prayer. He invented the technology to fix what’s broken in us. It’s just as ok to take medicine for mental illness as it is to undergo chemo treatments for cancer.
Also, go to a counselor!!! There’s no shame in getting help and everyone around you will be happy you did! Trust me, I know.
Tell Dad: This is exactly what I did this morning. I felt the panic attack coming on and I knew that it was nothing more than my enemy trying to derail me from everything God is doing in and through me right now. So I told on him to my Father, and He put a quick end to this one. Sometimes, the best thing to do when anxiety creeps up (or just flat-out attacks you) – especially if you know that you’re in the center of God’s will and He’s doing great things in you and through you – is to just tell God about it, and ask Him to pour out His peace and grace on you in that moment.
Ask Why: Sometimes, a panic attack requires some work on our part before it can be overcome. There are times when we need to talk to God about the attack itself and work out with Him what else is causing it. David (see Psalm 42) and Paul (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) both took this approach, taking the time to examine the whys behind anxiety. Are there thoughts you need to stop thinking? Are there fears and doubts you need to confess and repent of? Have you been skimping on your time in God’s Word and sitting with Him in prayer? Do you need to intentionally put on your armor every day (see Ephesians 6:10-18)? Ask that all important “why”, and then act on whatever God reveals to you as the source of your anxiety, and what you might be able to do about it.
God did not create anxiety. It is a consequence of sin – ours and other people’s against us. But in everything, there is grace. Remember, Jesus conquered sin and death forever when He victoriously came back to life. But we’re living in an already/not yet world, so the effects of sin still touch our lives everyday. We don’t live defeated, though. In Jesus, we are victorious and we have everything we need to overcome. Just like cancer, God may not choose to completely heal you here on earth, but He will provide the tools, the strength, the grace, and the peace you need to live the abundant life Jesus died to give you. Why are you anxious, oh, my soul? Put your hope in God!
What has helped you get through panic attacks and times of increased stress and anxiety?