A year ago a pediatrician wrote me off as an over-anxious mum and that any issue my child had was most likely down to me. This hurt. Deep down though I feared that for the first time someone saw inside the mess I was hiding and dared name it. He may well not have done it in the best way or given me any helping hand to step forward but he had named that which I feared about myself. I was not the competent adult I so desperately wanted to be and feel I had to be on so many fronts. Our son did have symptoms that were not my doing and that was later recognised by another pediatrician but the first one did speak a kernel of truth.
Inwardly for the past year I have wrestled with God and myself with this truth. I could not ignore it even when others told me not to listen to the pediatrician. This morning a friend shared a link to high functioning anxiety and I sat there reading it as though I was reading a description of myself for the first time. https://themighty.com/2016/06/living-with-high-functioning-and-hidden-anxiety/
Various friends have mentioned their struggles with it over the year and I have cheered them from the sidelines for having the courage I wanted but lacked to say ‘that’s me too’. I have watched from the sidelines as friends have taken action to handle their anxiety, stress, anger and felt another part of me break inside as I watched them step out from chains which I knew were holding me tight. What I am coming to realise is that this is far more normal than the being together that we all try and present to the world around us. This needs a far wider conversation and the church needs to look at how we respond and teach on such passages that speak of life and worry in ways that do not imprison people but allow them to come to the well and receive living water.
A friend and I went to a Care for the Family event, it was a last-minute decision to go, something I do not normally do but went and God whispered to my soul all evening. Afterwards in a moment of courage I did make contact with a counsellor but for various reasons it is has not worked out to meet up. So part of me says it will be fine I have done it once I can do it again, part of me says see you cannot even sort yourself out, how can you even think of going into ministry? Then my head spins because ministry is the very thing my heart longs to be doing, seeing people living life as Jesus calls us to, but my spinning head sees me as failing utterly to do so myself, therefore being ruled out of such a role. The timing of all this sucks from where I am sitting because we are one of 2 candidates being considered for a post that we would love.
I have put it down to tiredness, 7 1/2 years into this parenting life and sleep has not been something that we have been blessed with for various significant and typical reasons. I have put it down to perimenapausal reasons. I have put it down to not having roots somewhere and a lack of sense of belonging as we have journeyed down the road of graduate studies and wondered where all this is leading if anywhere as God has not shown any open doors. I have put it down to not enough exercise, not a healthy enough diet. And I have tried to fix all of those parts of my life thinking that once those circumstances are sorted it I will come through and find myself calm and steady and doing just fine and able to prove the doctor that he was wrong. I have prayed, I have journalled, I have tried to take hold of what the Bible has said literally and felt utterly rubbish on this journey of faith. I was 9 or 10 when I read the words about not worrying and realising I did the very opposite and so I must be rubbish and the lie has stayed with me ever since. Not a great way of living for someone who is longing to believe that the Bible is actually life-giving and inside of me I felt anything but life. I came to faith in a church that had little faith and no one to come along side me so I did what I could and took the Bible in its black and white print and saw only failing and yet a voice kept whispering ‘there is so much more to it than this’ so I have kept putting one foot awkwardly in front of the other doing what I thought I should be doing if I was to fulfil the role so many often called me into – a leader, outgoing, confident. I threw myself into outdoor bound weekends dying inside with fear as I went over cliff edges, as I scrambled up rock faces, capsized in the harbour and canoed. I stepped up and led and helped and sought to please and do the right thing. And inside I dreaded every step I took, every word I uttered because I was going to fail. And on the rare occasion I dared to step out and take a risk it went horribly wrong in my eyes that it only confounded the sense of fear even more and I shut myself away and lived the life I thought people thought I should be living.
I might well be a leader, I might have actually enjoyed abseling and climbing if I had let myself name the fear and take it on, instead I shut down and gritted my teeth and did what I talked myself into believing I should do and had convinced others I enjoyed to hide the fear.
I long to go out without calculating every step, every moment. I long to just enjoy life. I don’t want to work out where the escape routes are, the toilets are, the time when we can legitimately leave an event without seeming rude or antisocial. Driving would be useful, and I had lots of ethical/exercise reasons I can name not to drive but the truth is I fear that I will have an accident and destroy someone else’s life so it is better not to drive. I don’t want to look back and say to those who encouraged me that I need to drive ‘told you so’ when I end up in prison for dangerous driving and hurting someone else.
I long to parent without panicking over every response, action, symptom, mood swing I am presented with in myself in our children. I want to breathe so my children can breathe too. Parenting in this place is hard when you are also parenting children who have high sensitivity reactions to various stimuli and I have to be proactive at times to be one or two steps ahead of situations to ensure they can get through events, the next hour and so on. And when one child in particular feeds off your anxiety and the two of you go spinning round and round in circles. While parenting can often bring out parts of our character we have not considered or had to give much heed to before hand I really wish I had said to my younger self for both the sake of my husband, our marriage and our children, “go and get come counselling not because there is a crisis happening but to get myself to a healthy place for what lies ahead.”
Religion does not hold the answers for me, the Bible in black and white print does not hold the answer for me. Faith in Christ does though give me the courage to seek help, His word does speak truths that I cannot speak myself yet. He came for the sick, He came to redeem us in fullness and wholeness. Faith in Christ gives me a relationship which while I often don’t get, frustrates me when His response was not the one I had planned, takes me on paths I would rather not walk but gives me life in a way I cannot give myself. And it is that life I want to live. One that is genuine inside and out, that gives life to those around me. One that can say ‘it is well with my soul’.