Seven and eight years ago I experienced anxiety attacks after the quick death of my mother from a ruthless type of cancer. I could almost count on the attacks on specific days of the week. I reached out to professionals for help (and they did help!) but still struggled. In time I started to realize the responsibility for my wellbeing lay with… me!
In my heartbreak from the death of my mother – my closest friend and confidante – I did not care for myself like I ought. I lost interest in things in which I once had great interest, I did not mind my schedule as I should, I was not physically active, I watched a lot of TV in order to forget my reality. I felt a victim and fell victim to my own sense of pity. I had a complicated form of grief, compounded by things, that lasted far beyond a typical grieving period. I took issue, most of all, with God. For my entire life I enjoyed a wonder and automatic belief in an ever-present, ever-aware, always-interested-in-me-and-all Heavenly Father God. In this foreign season of my life, for nearly three years following my mother’s death, perhaps longer, I suddenly felt God’s disinterest. I could not, for the life of me, manage to properly abandon my inherent, obligate sense of belief in the Christian God. That faith is weaved into the fabric of me. However, I managed to express my anger toward him in my choices, my actions, my critiques of others and life. I lived in misery and the misery was lonely. No matter who I poured my heart out to, no one truly seemed to enter into that room of my heart and mind, even in their efforts to do so. I felt alone and I felt anxious.
In those three or so years (I’m only beginning to feel myself rejuvenated), I waxed and waned in my external pursuit of Christian company. Mostly waned. The interior of me wrestled with my once friend, now foe, heavenly companion. I look back at my life during that time, having now come back into fellowship with my Christ, with some humor. I see his presence when I didn’t want to see it then, could not see it! But it wasn’t anything overt from him that led me back to living life.
I remember feeling my heart race at moments in the day when it shouldn’t. I think it usually happened in the afternoon. Growing up, I’d never been much for team sports. I participated in teams, but not very well. My dad’s thing on Saturday mornings was to set off too early for road races. I hated going! I wished he didn’t wake me for them! But, obedient child that I was and maybe always will be, I went with him. And I enjoyed them – after the fact. Little did I know about hormones and exercise! In my adult dealings with anxiety, it made sense to me that if my heart was racing when my body wasn’t, perhaps my body should match my heart. **My side note is that heart palpitations weren’t my only symptom of an anxiety problem but the applicable one here.** I started to run on a treadmill at a little nearby gym. I went alone. I didn’t ask for anyone’s advice – I didn’t want to hear a contradictory opinion on my need to match my movements with my heart beat. I definitely did not listen to Christian music while I ran! I just ran. I did it consistently. I did it almost religiously. The anxiety attacks continued to come — I especially encountered them on Monday afternoons — but, I noticed within a few weeks of running, they lessened. Everything started to naturally change in my life. My mood overall improved. I had courage and energy to resist overly carbohydrate and fat heavy foods. I lost weight. Despite my awareness of being and feeling lost, I accepted the lostness with less dread, with a little joy and wonder. I did *not* turn back to church. I turned away from it for a while and embraced a zen-ish, self-help sort of mentality. And, it worked for me, though, I regularly thank God now for protecting me in many, many situations then. Life was fun, free, fast, and a little fabulous. It became, and now is, anxiety attack free.
Over years of running and rebounding my way back to my youthful self, I’m in a different place than I was five years ago. Thank God I’ve run somewhere! I’m so glad I have an identity held somewhat loosely, rested in whose I am rather than my expression of who I am (because I’m still finding out). Running and now exercise of many sorts (not team, though) is a companion to my life as are many other life-giving things. I’m grateful to God that I’ve experienced some of his intentions for our physical bodies and mental capacities he created for our enjoyment. He allows me to enjoy who I am as his creation. I am fulfilled in how he created me. And, actually, the peace and confidence I feel within maybe brings me back to church. I’m willing to participate on the team now, I think! 🙋🏼♀️
Today is World Mental Health Day. Trauma is a common factor in mental illness. Trauma is triggered by different things for different people. My prayer today is for healing all over the world. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace through believing so that you overflow with hope through the power of God in the Spirit of God.” – Romans 15:13.
The peace of the Lord be with you.