Anxiety

I suffer from it. 

I’m neurotic, (like, legit DSM-neurotic) and have had and entertained irrational fears from a very young age. 

When I five or six, I used to think my drinks were filled with poison. I would carefully taste my juice or milk (to detect any bitterness, of course) before swallowing. 

When I was seven and eight, I used to fear that there were needles hidden under my bed, waiting to inject me with poison. 

(This is for real, by the way.)

I grew up with a plethora of irrational fears—usually fears that involved my very life. What would kill me? What would harm me? 

By the grace of God, I’ve outgrown all of these irrational “someone-is-trying-to-kill-me” fears. But now there is a new, real, enemy I face. 

Illness. Disease. Disability. 

And I have symptoms. In the past six months, I’ve developed weakness in my limbs, endless muscle twitching, and now, most recently, a kind of tingling “pins-and-needles” sensation in my extremities. 

All of which are tell tale of dangerous neurological disorders like MS, ALS etc. 

I fear disability. I fear not being able to control what happens to my body. 

In a way, my fear itself gives me something to control—and so when I am experiencing and am acutely aware the crazy muscle twitches and the weird tingling feeling in my feet and hands, the only recourse—the only action I feel I can do is fear it. 

This is a lie, of course. 

Ultimately, fearing something doesn’t fix anything. It makes it worse. But my fear is, as I mentioned, a way for me to feel a certain amount of control over a world I otherwise have no control over. But there is another way. I have an option to lean into God Himself, to trust Him in all things. 

And, indeed, this is the fork in the road that all of us who suffer eventually come to. We can choose to grab hold of our own control mechanisms, or we can relinquish our control and trust in the Lord. We may choose faith. 

Suffering, fear—they force us into a decision point. We can no longer ignore our mortality or weakness. In the midst of suffering we see our true selves—our true state in life. We see our powerlessness, our vulnerability. And it is from this point of true sight that we make the most important decisions we can make. 

In whom (or what) do I place my trust? 

Does my suffering have meaning, or no?

In Christ, our suffering has meaning. In Christ, death itself is defeated, and there is life in its place. 

Else, we are left to construct our own meaning in the midst of suffering—another form of fear—another control mechanism.

This is a narrative trap that those who do not suffer from anxiety have the luxury of falling into, but it’s a trap nonetheless. The weaving of our own stories do not mitigate or change the reality of our suffering or the meaninglessness of it without the hope of redemption. 

Redemption is not monstrous, as Zizek might posit. More on this later. 

Thoughts, dear readers?

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5 thoughts on “Anxiety

  1. As someone who frequently rides the anxiety train, I get this.

    It’s not enough to trust God that my greatest fears won’t happen. Instead, I’m called to trust that if they do happen, God is still God. In this, I have found freedom.

  2. I am a slave to logic, but also choose to have faith. When situations & feelings present themselves and logic alone fails me, or in your case, the fear of something real, the times i choose to stop analyzing, stop worrying, and realize that my flaws as an imperfect human being are going to keep me from being happy, in this scenario, i find faith as the logical option for such an impossible situation. I pray; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” I plant the small seed of peace that gives me, and focus on that until i feel more peace than anxiety. i find my freedom in accepting the fact that most things are out of my control, as much as i would like them to be. If i spend too much time focusing on trying to be the all-knowing, emotion controlling ringmaster of a domain too large for any man, i will miss everything else, including happiness.

    I believe the emotions we come to based on choice, are some of the strongest.Though sometimes i fail, and it is a daily struggle, I choose love and happiness.

  3. Thank you for your vulnerability in making this post and sharing it with us… (and sorry I am only getting to replying now!) I don’t know if it’s any consolation, but even those of us with sort of the psychological posture of invincibility end up stuck at the same place: faced with suffering and our powerlessness to avoid it, faced with the choice to rely on the phantom of our own capability, or on the invisible reality of God’s love and providence. And suffering can be packed away and buried to protect that invincibility; which can be much worse for you spiritually than having to face it every morning in ways rational and irrational, although I’m sure that takes a huge toll. God bless you – Kristen

  4. As a practical comment, the internet is your worst enemy when it comes to fearing you have diseases. Every website about ALS mentions “twitching” as a symptom. Your mind takes that and runs with it, and there’s not much you can do about that. There is an entire support website for people who fear they have horrible neurological diseases, They symptoms can be real, but it us unlikely to be anything serious. Probably Benign Fasciculation Syndrome (BFS). So you have LOTS of company. If you notice compulsive behavior like self-testing or persistent internet use on the topic, and it is interfering with your life, you might think about getting an appropriate Rx for anxiety. As far as ALS goes, the real terror, it is fast. It shouldn’t take long to outlast your fears about that.

    If you have a history of such fears, what are the chances this time the very thing you were afraid of turned out to be true? (Especially in an extremely rare disease like ALS.)

    There’s a lot of B.S. in psychiatry. But many leap to the conclusion that it’s all fraud, built around enabling quitters and losers. That is the real garbage. Fact: mental illness is real, and can be disabling. Many mentally ill people and those around them don’t realize the heroic efforts they make just to get through a week. Rx can help — if you have a pdoc patient and bold enough to help you find the right ones. The other fact is that a lot of people are out there achieving amazing things despite a dx.

    May St. Dymphna intercede for you.

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