Blog, Caring for our Bodies, My Health Journey

The Noose of Anxiety.

I do not believe you can deal only with the physical aspects of anxiety (e.g. symptoms in the body), without also dealing with our mindset and spiritual identity, and would venture to say that the spiritual aspect is more important than the physical aspects. I also believe that when you start dealing with the spiritual and emotional stuff, and experience healing through Christ in these things, that the overflow from that will be taking better care of your body. You can read my other post on anxiety here.

I think I’ve dealt with some degree of anxiety since childhood. Probably a normal and tolerable amount to deal with, considering my tumultuous early years of life. As a teenager, and having had many years of stability by this time, I had less anxiety than in my early years, but still tended towards worry. I think this was true partly because of my personality -being an introvert, being cautious and careful, paying attention to details, etc. I would think of all the things that could happen, play scenarios out in my head, and sometimes let my imagination go wild. I tell you all this to say, that this was normal for me. However, what I experienced later in life was not normal, and truthfully, it was quite frightening.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6,7

Oh, how I have toiled over this verse. At times it’s brought me comfort,and other times despair, as I have struggled to overcome anxiety.  I am certain that everyone deals with anxiety in some way, shape, or form, but there are those of us that really wrestle with it, daily.

Anxiety can produce a long list of symptoms, but I think the worst of them is that it robs you of your identity. It touches every part of your life. It acts like a noose, and lest you forget and try to have a good day, think or contemplate ideas, or plan for the future, it will rein you in quickly before choking you back. It is an unmerciful thing and often leads to depression and despair.

I don’t have all the answers.

But God uses even anxiety for His glory and our good.

It was about 8 months after my car accident that the panic attacks started. I had to pull over on the side of the highway and call my husband, because I felt like I couldn’t breathe and like I was going to pass out.  I didn’t know what it was happening. For several months leading up to this I had started feeling disconnected, and an eerie gloom I couldn’t shake.  When I went to the doctor and told him what was happening, he asked if I was happy. I said yes, of course. I hadn’t thought much of it. Earlier that year I had gone back to work almost full time and was trying to juggle life with a kindergartener and toddler, school and daycare, and running a household (whew!), when the doctor handed me a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

I don’t take medicine.  I’m not good at swallowing pills, I never have been.

So, when this anti-anxiety medicine was presented to me, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was continuing to have panic attacks while driving, especially if this included the bridge or highway, and felt anxious a lot of times even when I wasn’t driving. I decided to try it and see what happened, but of course before I did that-I read the insert that comes with it. Needless to say, I took one pill, one time and I was done. The chance of having some of the symptoms listed on the insert seemed greater than my anxiety, and after taking just one pill, I felt like I had been crying -you know that feeling you get after you cry. That didn’t seem right to me, so that was that. I was going to have to deal with this myself.

And that’s what I tried to do. Deal with it myself. Around this time was when I had my conversion (I’ll share more about that later). God in his mercy had opened my eyes, and I had turned to Christ in desperation. Being a new convert though, and not knowing the fullness of Christ, I tried each and every way I could to overcome this anxiety that gripped me so ferociously.

I started reading self-help books, mostly by well know prosperity gospel preachers, and doing what they instructed. Things like daily affirmations (“I do not have anxiety.”), trying to control my thoughts, paying tithes and offerings -so I would be blessed (blessings like not feeling anxious), being at church every time the doors were open, etc.  They might as well have told me to jump up and down, while twirling around, and at the same time cook a meal. That’s what I felt like I was doing. I felt like I was fulfilling a formula to get what I wanted -which at the point was relief from anxiety, and they had slapped the label “Christ” on anything I desired.  If I couldn’t get to it, then the problem was me.

Needless to say, and thankfully, the period of listening to prosperity gospel preachers did not last very long. We moved on, literally, and in our theology. However, I was still left with this crippling anxiety and more unexplained symptoms that only fueled it.

I had started seeing a Christian therapist, and continued to do this for the next several years. This was helpful in understanding how anxiety works, and how to calm yourself down during a panic attack. It was nice having someone to talk to and have them give me helpful advice. They encouraged me to eat right, and exercise. Exercise did seem to help, but after having Epstein Barre Virus (EBV), I couldn’t exercise regularly without feeling exhausted and sometimes that exhaustion would last for days. Before having EBV I was very physically active; running, kickboxing, and various other activities, several times a week. I had gone through Basic Training in my early 20’s, so this was not laziness, nor was it lack of desire. I enjoyed and valued being able to exercise and still miss it now, and consider it something I’ve lost.

My driving anxiety would improve or diminish, based on how I was physically feeling. I could not control this.The area in which I would drive continued to shrink. I prayed, pleaded, and begged the Lord to fix this, to no avail. I berated, and at times, hated myself for not being able to overcome this. I literally “white-knuckled” it for years. I’d have to give myself a pep talk to drive 5 minutes down the road. If I knew I had to drive, I would start crying before and sometimes during the drive. It was emotionally and physically depleting. Eventually, I hit a wall (figuratively, I didn’t hit an actual wall). I could no longer drive down to the corner store. Even as a very strong-willed person, I could not will myself to drive. After about 8 years of therapy (give or take) I quit going.

Call it “giving up”, call it “laying it down”, call it whatever you like. Nothing I had done up to this point seemed to help in a long-term way. I had come to the end of what I knew to do. I was done trying. I continued to press into the Lord and his Word, but stopped putting all of my focus on fixing this thing.

I had just started eating a paleo diet and making changes in my lifestyle to take better care of my body, when I listened to a podcast by Dr. Carolyn Dean about the importance of magnesium, and it was eye-opening. I started taking magnesium in its various forms and noticed a quick improvement in several of my symptoms. The three main improvements I noticed were: I started sleeping better, my body was less tense, and I had a dramatic reduction in heart palpitations. In addition to these I also noticed that my overall anxiety had gone down. It was still there, but it was at least a noticeable reduction. I was very thankful for this, and still continue to use magnesium supplementation on a regular basis.(I use this and this-affiliate link)

About a year and a half ago I started the Auto-immune Protocol diet. (Read more about that here) It is a low inflammation diet, with focus on nutrient dense foods. After about 9 months in (yes, that’s when I actually noticed) I realized that I was rarely feeling anxious. I couldn’t remember the last panic attack I had. As I started feeling better in my body, my anxiety went down. I started having more clarity in my thoughts.I stopped having to plan around how I might feel, like I had previously had to do. Most importantly, I started to be able to plan for the future and realize new possibilities. I had lost the eerie feeling of gloom.

Now, this is not to say that I am now cured of all anxiety, because that’s simply not true. I still do have it at times, and I know when I need to fix some things with my diet, sleep, and stress management, or when I’ve been worrying about something and need to hand it over in prayer. I know that I am dependent on the Lord and his Word, and I am thankful that he gave me specific ways to take care of my body during this time. I also continue to read and search for information regarding how diet affects our mental health. There have been some really interesting and fascinating articles linking diet to depression and anxiety, and relating what we put in our bodies to inflammation, even in the brain. We are only scratching the surface of many of these scientific findings and it is exciting to me! (You can read more about this in the article here.)

I still don’t drive. I wish I could say that because my anxiety levels are now in a manageable range that I’ve started driving again, but I have not. As of right now, the idea seems overwhelming to me. I don’t know what the future holds in regards to driving or otherwise, but looking at the future without the noose of anxiety, seems a lot more promising. (And though the verse below is often taken out of context, I feel confident using it here.)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

You can read my other related post “Casting All Your Anxiety” here.

4 thoughts on “The Noose of Anxiety.

  1. WOW! What an amazing article and it is so timely! I have dealt with mindset issues (anxiety, body image, negative self-talk, etc.) for so many years and then earlier this year, I woke up one morning and said “OK, God, I surrender”. After that moment, I started feeling a weight lifting off my shoulders and I feel like some TRUE healing is taking place in my mind. While my labs may not reflect it, I know that they will in time. I have many years of detrimental thinking to work through, but having learned to submit to God and ask for help has made such a HUGE change in my life. I loved this post and can’t wait to read more about your journey!!! <3

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments! I agree Jessica, for years I tried doing it myself, and it got me nowhere! Our first inclination always seems to be -let’s try and fix it, move on from it, or run from it. Rarely do we think, lets see what God is doing in this. We want to move quickly past painful, uncomfortable situations, and He says “Just hold on right here”. I’m thankful that he doesn’t leave us where we are at, but continually works in us, even when we don’t see it.

  2. What a wonderful ,encouraging article. When have time will catch up on others
    Great job and as always thank-you for your Godly insight!

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