BANG ANXIETY BANG FEAR BANG ANXIETY BANG FEAR BANG ANXIETY FEAR BANG ANXIETY FEAR BANG ANXIETY BANG FEAR BANG.
Right. For some, the prior sentence will evoke bad memories of gunshots. 49 people died in a nightclub last weekend. Keep in mind that us old geeks pronounce exclamation points as, “bang.” And I do understand that in the heat of the moment, as fear is screaming in our heads, it’s tough to slow down enough to interpret, “bang” as something other than a metaphor for a gunshot. Stay with me. Anxiety shouts down the voice of God. We can’t hear His love, his calming voice because our reptile brains are screaming “FLEE!, FIGHT!, DO SOMETHING!” For us less sciency folk, it is the devil trying to shout down our Father’s voice.
My Mom died recently. While she was with us she suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and tremendous phobias of those who may be offended by her choices and words. Life was a noisy stream of trepidation in which she could not hear she was loved, that she could love, and that the things which bedeviled her were lies. She lost her mother and the hope that she could hear these words from the woman that gave her life, “Ginny, I love you.” Didn’t happen, so the family legend goes.
It’s Never Enough for Anxiety
The way anxiety works, though my Grandmother could have said the words and still the legend would carry the day. Story is more powerful than fact. In this discordant, 24-7-365 wired world where we are all immediately connected and deeply alone, a rumor that feels true is repeated as fact far faster than good reporting and facts backed up by multiple verified sources. George Zimmerman was acquitted but there are those you can’t dissuade from their certainty that he killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood.
Like my Dad, I wanted, want a better life for my son. My piece of it was to backstop the fear and loathing I felt from my childhood so it didn’t infect my kid. I did mostly ok with this but married a Chinese woman who feels bipolar to me. My ex-wife’s ordinary world is filled with monsters and dragons that keep her day filled with dread. She seldom feels safe. She copes by cycling through storms of anger, bouts of depression and fits of mania. My son was born sanguine so he isn’t as choleric as his Mom. But he isn’t solidly sanguine either. He carries some of his mother’s ordinary world and it bedevils him.
I’m doing better. The answer for me was prayer. I repeated, “I trust you Lord” many thousands of times over a few years to slowly drip away at the loud voice in my head that was chanting fear and loathing. For all I’ve done to keep my practice as a Christian I’m still growing, still deepening my love for Christ. My faith isn’t strong so I persevere in discipleship.
We Are Mutable, Anxiety
I’ll tell you this, it was a huge relief to me to discover Albert Ellis, Daniel Goleman, and the Dalai Lama, who say a version of this–we choose our behavior beyond the initial moments after the trigger. That history was not destiny, that we can change, be something more than our circumstances, was big news to me.
Anxiety shouts down the voice of God. It promises, at best, a fight to a draw. A win seems out of the question. There is no opportunity possible, only a truce where the fight can reawaken to once again scream louder than the Lord. I never considered victory. I never thought of myself as one on the podium speaking about my journey to public acknowledgment of my success. My image is of a near-do-well who bumps along neither a complete failure nor a success. Anxiety and I remain in an uneasy peace with the weapons hot on either side of our DMZ.
We Could Win Against Anxiety?
What if . . . the things we fear are the ways in which victory will be won? Why not take the shot? Gain our 15 minutes by turning our weaknesses into strengths, our fears into the ways in which our story is beautiful?
There is precedent here. Those few who spend under a minute answering a question from E-News on the red carpet were not bestowed that moment simply because of their privilege. There was toil and trouble. Tomorrow, after the Klieg lights have gone cold, there will be more hard work. The hard work, the toil & trouble is the constant, not the few brilliant moments in the lights on the carpet talking to a TV reporter.
So, what if our the words our anxiety is battering us with became our triumph? Our anxiety is telling us the familiar lies of the devil we know. These familiar words are lies. The truth is we can win. God does love us and the way to all that is to put in the work. Courage isn’t the lack of fear. It is doing the needful while being afraid. It is accomplishing things while the panic attack is in full-song. Our anxiety has 100,000 words on what it claims will happen to us when we fail. What if we win? If we have that selfie taken at the top of the Eiffel Tower after a lovely meal in the restaurant? Maybe a short video of us on-shore after the river rafting adventure? What if we write that term paper and it gets an A? What if we win?
Obsession With Failure and Death
Anxiety obsesses with failure, with danger, with some sort of death. It is loud, louder than God. It never considers victory. That’s not part of the storm of words and emotions overpowering us as we feel afraid or anxious. It is the winning lottery ticket thrill not considered by the voice in us screaming to fight or flee.
Winning happens though. It happens enough that we should do the needful in spite of what we feel or hear in our heads. Yes, get support, be around the right people as you let that voice tell you what a shit you are, how disgusting you are, how you will fail again like last time like last time like last time you miserable wretch. We are stronger together. Medication? Not as a chronic, life-long thing. Maybe as a near-term thing to help you turn down the volume so you can hear God and learn behaviors which enable you to get off the medication. Better is this: with support and discernment that this is something you can do in spite of the fears, do it. Win. Boom.
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I did this edit on 08-10-2019. After I wrote this for the first time I also wrote a post titled, “Fear“. Also, if it’s bad, you can talk to someone here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. Last but not least, I put together a shortlist of RVA resources including help with depression a few years ago. Don’t suffer alone. Misery shared is misery halved.