Anxiety is like a finger pulling at a loose thread. It finds your weakest point and pulls and pulls until you are unraveling into a pile of string on the floor. At first, it is subtle, indistinguishable tugs because the threads are so tightly wound together, but as it keeps tugging, the threads become looser and looser, and in a matter of seconds the entire fabric is unraveling before your eyes.
It seems like something you could not have seen coming, or that it catches you by surprise–but as you can see, it was there all along. It starts with one little lie, uncertainty, or rogue thought, then another, and another, until a bucket of anxiety is rushing over your face, sealing your eyes shut, filling your nostrils, rushing down your throat, making it impossible to breath.
For some people, and certainly for me, this is what anxiety feels like. It is quick, and when it comes it wants to stay awhile. It has gotten so accostumed to over staying its welcome that even the harshest attempt to shove it out the door of your mind does not discourage it–that only encourages anxiety to try even harder to get you to agree with it. It does not care about your abilities or past accomplishments, it will be a companion to people of any walk of life. It seeks to captivate your mind so thoroughly that you feel incapacitated.
Our minds, our own private dialogue within ourselves, should be a private place of contemplation, exploration, and understanding of ourselves and the world around us–yet anxiety intrudes upon thought after thought. It doesn’t trudge lightly either. It makes you gaze more heavily on the present, as well as the future, but it does not stop there. The past is where it has a lot of fun. It loves bringing up random memory after memory for you to look at through the lens of anxiety, second-guessing what really took place in those moments. Wondering if what you said was understood, or if someone meant what they said, or what they meant by what they said, or if it was really a happy memory. Anxiety wants you to look at everything over and over and over and over again.
Ultimately, its goal is for you to question the truth—
—The truth about yourself, about others, and everything you believe to be true.
It is a nuisance that you wish would go away and stop pulling at the thread of your life, but unfortunately it does not ever entirely leave.
Sometimes, I have been really good at catching anxiety at the beginning–but some weeks are harder than others. Meaning, that like I said earlier, no matter how much I try to shove the thoughts away or think about what is true, the anxiety just keeps coming harder and harder, pounding away on the inside.
I have seen though, from my own experience, and also that of close friends, that good professional counseling can do wonders for becoming more aware of the subtle tugging. That way the anxiety can be addressed before it unravels you. It is helpful to talk with someone about what you are anxious about because it gets it out of your head and into the open. It lifts some weight off your soul as someone helps to remind you of what is true.
Often, we are defensive or protective of the lies we have been believing about ourselves or others–but as you become more aware of how anxiety is playing a role in tricking you, you are able to be more receptive to the voice of truth. This voice is God through the Bible, or through a friend, or even a counselor.
Anxiety is not something that anyone should walk through alone. It only defeats us more in the isolation. Shed light on it, and let others love you by guiding you to truth.
A verse I think about when I am anxious is 1 Timothy 1:7,
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV)(Emphasis my own)
Anxiety is one big ball of fear and doubt, and neither of those things come from God. I know that he sees what we think and feel, and our frustration with our inability at times to tame the sea of fear and nonsensical spirals. Just like Peter on the Sea of Galilea, we desperately need to pull our eyes away from the crashing waves around us, whether real or imagined, and set our eyes on the giver of lasting peace–Jesus Christ.
P.S. Check out Matthew 14:22-33 for the full story of Peter and Jesus on the Sea of Galilea