Over the past two years, I have experienced more anxiety than I have in my entire life. It seemingly came out of nowhere and intensified extremely out of nowhere… And I wasn’t prepared.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been an anxious person; a “worry wart,” if you will. But for some reason, when I began working in ministry vocationally, my anxiety only intensified. I’d like to blame it on the heightened sense of spiritual warfare and sanctification that happens when you work in ministry vocationally, but really, I have no idea why.
I began having panic attacks in the middle of the night – sometimes once a week and sometimes every. single. night. I would wake up around 2 or 3 in the morning from an awful nightmare to paralyzing anxiety that I just couldn’t shake… I knew the dreams weren’t real and I was completely safe and fine, but my body didn’t seem to get that memo.
These panic attacks would come in large waves, so I just assumed it was a normal thing and wrote it off as I continued through my internship and college classes. But about 3 or 4 months ago, it only continued to get worse.
The panic attacks in the middle of the night became more and more frequent, causing a lack of sleep, despite the very best sleeping pills I could find.
I remember thinking, “Lots of people experience anxiety, it’s completely normal, right?” I was wrong.
Yes, a lot of people experience anxiety. No, that does not mean it is “normal.”
Church culture can sometimes make it feel like mental health isn’t a real thing – or much worse, that it is “a sin”. As if the works we do as Christians can just get rid of the anxiety or depression we’re feeling.
Sometimes I would give into this view and think, “Am I just not praying hard enough? Should I try to read my Bible more? Should I listen to more Christian music? Should I stop talking to people who don’t know Jesus like I do?”
Just in case no one has ever told you this, anxiety and depression DO NOT CARE how holy you are, how often you read your Bible, how much you pray, or how many good works you do every day. That is not how it works. Mental health is a REAL thing that is genetically passed down maternally.
Just because you wrestle with mental health issues does not mean you are “less than”, “a failure”, “not a real Christian”, etc.
It all came to a breaking point for me when I couldn’t find a real reason to be extra anxious or to be having horrible nightmares. It was completely random and I was just over it… I couldn’t link these crazy behaviors or feelings to ANYTHING in my life and that is how I knew it was a big problem.
So, I decided to do the next best thing and talk to my mom. I called my sweet momma and explained to her what had been going on and told her that I should probably see a doctor.
YAY, A FIX!! Right? Wrong… Again…
I scheduled a doctor appointment and my mom went with me – obviously.
As we sat in the waiting room for the doctor to call out my name, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a really long time.
I felt the weight of my brokenness…
For the first time in a long time, I felt truly broken. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life and it wasn’t until I sat down in a doctor’s office that I physically, mentally, and spiritually felt like there was something really wrong with me.
My doctor validated this by explaining that it isn’t okay to feel anxious or depressed or unbalanced all of the time… Those feelings are common, but you do not have to stay there… There are ways to cope with it and to help!
My doctor decided to put me on a medication that would help with anxiety and help with sleep and I was alllllll for it! I tried this medication on half a dosage for a week (because it can take a few days or weeks for these kinds of meds to really get into your system and do their job).
After a few days, I was feeling GREAT, but after a week I was feeling super emotional (not normal for me) and numb to everything at the same time (also not normal for me).
So I let my doctor know and she recommended upping the dosage. I was confused by this, just like you probably are… If half a dose made me feel crazy, wouldn’t a full dose make it EXTRA worse? My doctor assured me that my body was probably reacting that way because I needed more medication, so I tried out a full dosage.
My prediction was correct and the full dosage made everything sooooo much worse. I began having panic attacks during the day (something that I had never experienced before) and my emotions were all over the place. It was draining in every way.
So back to the doctor we go… My doctor was shocked to hear how the medicine was affecting me, but it just affects everyone differently! So she ended up putting me on the same medication my momma was on for anxiety – which makes sense because mental health comes from the moms side of your family.
This medication started out rough, but I’ve been on it for a few months now and I’ve never felt more balanced in my entire life. PRAISE GOD, RIGHT? (Yes, the answer is “right” this time).
I say all of this to say that it is very common for people to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, but that does not mean it’s normal! There are ways to help!
For me, praying harder or reading my Bible more did not help get rid of my anxiety… That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for everyone, but for me I needed medication to help – which is fine! God created doctors and the materials to create medication to HELP us – and praise God!
Medication affects everyone differently and everyone will have to go through their own journey to find out what works best for them, just like I did. But that’s okay! It’s okay to try different things and figure out what works best for you. Be patient through the process, it’ll be worth it.
If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I truly believe that God allowed me to become so closely acquainted with mental health issues so that I could share my story and share how seeking out help is okay! It was in my weakness that God’s glory appeared – and boy did it shine brightly.
Praying hard is GOOD. Reading your Bible is GOOD. Doing good things for God’s glory is GOOD! Medication that helps bring your hormones into balance… also GOOD.
Sometimes God allows us to go through things so that we can share our stories with others to let them know there is hope and that they are not alone. I’d encourage you to share your story, because you just never know how God will use it. If you need someone to talk to that “gets it”, please DM me on Instagram (@annajobaker or @discoveringhersoulpurpose) or email me at [email protected].
I hope that somehow, in some crazy-divine-appointment way, my story encourages you and points you to Jesus.