Earlier this month I mentioned that sometimes I worry. When I do, I imagine all my tasks and woes on a long curling list and I surrender it to Jesus. Jesus takes the list, and my mind and body can rest. This simple picture has radically changed my prayer life.
But then there’s anxiety. Anxiety is the ticker tape banner at the bottom of the news screen. The constant stream of things that have, can, and will go wrong. Sometimes I imagine that list scrolling off the left of the screen into a wheelbarrow Jesus is expectantly holding. Somedays that is not enough.
I didn’t know I had anxiety. I thought I was smart. A thorough thinker. Always prepared. Realistic. I hoped I wasn’t a dream squasher and a balloon popper for all my optimistic, visionary friends. But seriously, how did they really think those grand plans were going to happen?
Anxiety is about living on the defense in a dangerous world. Those of us with sensory issues have brains that tell us there is always an EMERGENCY, but it’s usually just someone’s b.o. or the temperature went up a degree or two. Those of us with depression and shame believe that things keep going wrong because we deserve it, and it’s never going to end.
Some days our brains are crowded ER waiting rooms full of yelling, crying, rocking, bleeding people.Let me tell you about what it’s like to make breakfast with the Vulture of Anxiety on your shoulder.
Me: Ok, the kids need a protein, fresh, carb, and drink. Let’s get this started. I think we’ll do yogurt today.
Vulture: That yogurt is pink, it has artificial colors and flavors. That’s bad for your kids.
Me: This is the only yogurt the girls will eat. But I guess we could do eggs.
Vulture: Are those eggs from happy chickens? Were they trapped in cages and force-fed cancer-causing hormones? If the eggs cost less than $6 you know they are bad for you.
Me: I guess there’s cheese. But milk exacerbates anxiety and ADHD. I think I’m failing as a mother. I’ve got to figure out how to get my kids to eat healthier.
Vulture: Your kids are screwed.
Me: Agreed. Now what about the fresh and the carb….
This is how Family TV Night goes with the Anxiety Vulture perched on the screen.
Me: Teen Titans Go is funny. I love that Cyborg.
Vulture: This show promotes potty talk, disrespect, and violence.
Me: It’s so much better other stuff out there. We all laugh together. And we’ll watch The Amazing Race later.
Vulture: That show is promoting alternative lifestyles. Have you had heart-felt, prayerful, age-appropriate conversations with each of them? You are confusing them.
Me: I feel like our lives are that conversation.
Vulture: You probably shouldn’t have a TV. Turn it off and read Great Expectations out loud for a couple hours.
And this is what it’s like to move to a new town.
Me: Wow. I’m tired and lonely. We don’t know anyone.
Vulture: Friendships are hard. Starting over is hard. It’s going to take forever. There are 30-40 things to remember when starting new friendships.
Me: I’m going to try eye contact and smiling. Maybe casual waving.
Vulture: What if no one smiles back? That could be because you normally have RBF (resting b*tch face). Or because your kids fight all the time. Maybe it’s because they hate the color you painted your house.
Me: Oh my gosh. I think we should stay home.
Vulture: Yes. It is really hot out there. Do you have the good deodorant on? Sunscreen? The shirt that covers the bulky part of your arms yet keeps you cool?
Me: Hey kids, change of plans! Let’s watch Teen Titans Go!
When I’m eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising, the Vulture is much quieter. When the Vulture is loud, incessant, and circling over my kids, I know it’s time for a refresher with my beloved counselor and perhaps a trip to CVS for a season of medication.
I worked really hard for a long time to chase the Anxiety Vulture away from me. That just made the Shame Snake grow stronger and wrap around my legs. The Depression Sloth got even fatter and fell asleep on my back.
I now know I’m always going to have anxiety. It’s how my brain is made. Some see it as a disability, a handicap. I don’t love it, but I do love how it shapes my heart and faith.
I pray a lot because I worry a lot.
When I pray a lot I see a lot of prayers answered.
When I see a lot of prayers answered I believe God hears me and loves me.
This kind of slow surrender is the Loyal Dog of Acceptance, and she’s a my new friend.
I am unfolding the idea of Surrender throughout the month of October.
To read more about our shared spiritual journey and questions, you can read here: Soul
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2015.