I've never really experienced anxiety until this year. I mean sure, I have been anxious. I am a worrier by nature. Since I was a little girl I can remember not being able to sleep at night because I was at emotional unrest. Elementary aged, side pony-tailed, and worried sick. My parents always knew when something was up because my stomach always began to ache. I carried my worry, my anxiety, and my fear in my tummy. Mom and Dad reassured me time and time again that I had no need to worry and that tomorrow would take care of itself, yet still I worried and I felt anxious. But, anxiety? Oh, it is a whole other story.
I had my first anxiety attack just shy of a year ago. I just had had unexpected surgery just 3 weeks prior to my wedding and I was feeling too sick to attend a shower being thrown in my honor by my mother's best friends. I am a master of faking it because most of my life has been spent in some kind of physical pain. I have developed an innate ability to smile, put on a show, and carry on amidst not feeling well. But, this day I couldn't do it. Maybe the to-do list for the wedding was too long and my incisions just too fresh but I couldn't keep calm and carry on. I tried to talk myself into it. I could do this. Go to the shower, be the beautiful bride, and be perfectly gracious as everyone expected. It wasn't happening and I think the wave of anxiety built from there. It formed, curled, and pushed forward when I discovered that I couldn't do it. It was one of the few times in my life where I sincerely wasn't able to pull it together. A coat or two of mascara and blow drying my hair weren't happening.
I remember being scared. My thoughts were racing and the tears were falling. Then, I couldn't breathe. I gasped for the air, trying to inhale anything that I could, but I couldn't. I felt like I was going crazy. I knew I was letting people down (my greatest fear) and I knew there was nothing that I could do to change that. My one time to shine, my wedding season, it was crumbling beneath me and I couldn't even bend down and pick up the pieces. I barricaded myself in my room at my parent's house and didn't even bother crawling underneath the covers because they felt more suffocating. And I literally fell apart. More than one person that day thought I wouldn't walk down the aisle. I, myself, believed I wasn't good enough to make that march. My state of indomitable anxiety lasted for about two days, screaming as it began and tiptoeing backwards as it laid to rest. It overtook me and left me frightened. It was nothing like an upset stomach or trouble sleeping at an elementary age.
I found my greatest comfort in those hours from my brother, Todd. I wasn't able to even form sentences or think of words to pray but my brother did. He laid beside me and whispered assurances that I wasn't a "crazy" and that it would pass. He promised it would subside and he stayed until that promise rang true. I cried in his arms and he empathized with me because he too, has suffered from the crushing waves of anxiety. My brother is a knight in shining armor to me. He crawls down with me, reaches me where I am, and doesn't think of leaving until the storm has passed. He blankets me with words that tell me I am worth it and that I can keep fighting. In those instances, he literally represents Jesus to me.
It's during those times, when the world isn't just spinning but it's doing cartwheels while intoxicated and your head isn't just pounding but it feels like a pair of shoes in a dryer, when we yearn for the quiet. To me, the quiet is peace. It's like a cloud cover of fog that seeps over us and fills in every space with true rest.
I can take a deep breath, close my eyes, and have no fear when I meet peace. It's almost like a dream and it hovers without even touching the ground. Its arrival is crucial and it ushers in the quiet without a sound.
That fateful day of my first run-in with anxiety, God brought my brother in as peace. He used Todd to wrap me in His peace. It felt like I wasn't going to be able to find it on my own. And He knew that in advance. So he called in a Brother of Peace.
God does that a lot. He shows up in a round about way, when He knows our thrashing ways will make it difficult for us to find Him. So, He reminds us that He is there in whatever way we'll let Him and He offers us peace.
The promise for today is this: "The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." Psalm 29:11
A blessing of peace. Thank you, Lord. You are my strength and you are my peace. You know my need for the quiet so you so eloquently offer me strength and draw me aside in your peace. Amidst the anxiety of life, you bless us with peace.
In case you're wondering, I made it down the aisle post anxiety attack. Three weeks later I walked down the aisle and stood in a tree covered place and rays of sunlight warmed my skin. I said, "I do," and to my right, standing beside my husband, was my Brother Peace. And he was smiling. And I breathed deep and the Lord made good on His promise of blessing me with peace.
Unfortunately, that wasn't my first and last run-in with anxiety. It still attacks and hits me in the chest until I'm frightened beyond belief. But, as I lay afraid I look for His strength and ask for His peace. And they always show up. They follow through and I am drawn aside into His quiet peace. Amen.