Some people are afraid of bees. Others, of sharks. Some, of flying.
Abandonment. Rejection. Loneliness.
Failure. Change. Heights.
Losing a loved one.
The list is long, exhausting – and varies from person to person.
For some, the fear is like a siren that stops them in their tracks. It’s debilitating. It’s life-altering. It demands their course be corrected before they reach impending doom. It keeps them locked in their home, afraid to step outside. It keeps them from getting on an airplane. It keeps them from trying something new.
For others, it’s a small whisper in their ear, warning them of potential danger. It comes and then it goes, like a gust of wind on a blustery day.
“Don’t swim too far out in the ocean. You’ve seen Jaws. You know what’s out there.”
“Don’t attempt that. You’ll never succeed.”
“Why would you want to change? Stay nice and comfortable where you are. You don’t know what exists on the other side.”
And for some, it is like a thorn in the side. A constant, gnawing feeling that some type of danger is lurking around the corner – waiting patiently for the right moment to strike. It’s a feeling in the pit that is carried around from day to day and just won’t go away.
There are many ways to describe it and many people who struggle with it.
Anxiety. And I am one of those people.
I have always been a slightly anxious person. I have learned over the years how to deal with my anxiety. Usually, I realize I am being irrational and am able to work it out until the fear is gone. I have learned how to take many of my anxious thoughts captive and replace them with something fruitful.
But not so much lately.
Since moving, I have found my anxiety bubbling to the surface more often usual.
In fact, in October, I had my second-ever panic attack.
I was at a lovely restaurant enjoying a delectable meal with family before heading to a concert. We had a sitter for the evening. My dad was in town. I had been looking forward to this night for a long time.
My food arrived. I began to eat. And as I was eating, an uncomfortable feeling started to well up inside of me. I found it more and more difficult to concentrate on the conversation (and it was a good one.) I felt sick to my stomach and itchy and was certain I must be allergic to something I was eating. In my mind, it was only a matter of minutes before my throat would close. I told everyone I thought I was having an allergic reaction (and I was convinced that I was.) The food was rushed away and off people went in search of some Benadryl.
I felt awful. And embarrassed.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized what had happened was not an allergic reaction at all, but was indeed a panic attack.
I am still not sure what brought it on, but I do know it was awful.
I know God gave us fear for a reason and that the fight-or-flight response in the proper situation is actually a good thing. Recognizing and avoiding potential harm is what keeps us and those we care for alive. If I see my toddler who can’t swim walking toward a pool without a life jacket on, I should be scared. This fear motivates me to jump out of my seat and save my child from jumping in. This fear saves my child from death. This is proper fear.
But sometimes, this fear – this anxiety – shows up at inappropriate times (like when you are at dinner with your family.) Sometimes, it revs up and gets stuck in overdrive. Sometimes, the fight-or-flight response has been turned on and just won’t turn off. And this can lead to all sorts of problems. Cortisol levels skyrocket. Sleep diminishes. Weight gain. Heart disease. Diabetes. Thyroid problems. Depression. Digestive problems. The list goes on…..
But that list isn’t what I have been worried about. Nope.
I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying or the effects of anxiety on my body.
What I am afraid of is a pandemic.
This is why I don’t like anything that has to do with zombies. It’s not so much that they are creepy dead guys who make horrible sounds and try to eat people (although I don’t like that either) – it’s the virus component of the fictional walking dead that scares me most and keeps me from tuning in to the movies, shows and books that so many love.
This is why I have never watched the movie ‘Contagion’, nor do I have any desire to. That plot line terrifies me.
And this fear of mine is what has been plaguing me for the past few weeks. The move increased my anxiety and the flu has kicked it into overdrive. This widespread influenza virus has awoken the anxiety-beast within.
It is a constant battle in my brain. With three out of our four children suffering from asthma and other lung issues, influenza is normally a rival of mine – but this year, it’s my arch enemy.
I keep attempting to turn it over to God. To let it go. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to trust. I need to trust.
But it just keeps popping up.
The only thing that seems to give me peace in these moments of fear and anxiety is if I remind myself that this is not our home. That in this world we are promised pain and suffering, but not in heaven. If I change my perspective from the here and now to the eternal, my anxiety diminishes. If I remember that we all have a time when we will die (this is inevitable) and if I remember that I do not know this time, but God does. If I remember that my children are actually HIS children and that He loves them so much more than even I do. If I remember that same thing about my husband – then my anxiety diminishes.
I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to worry about influenza.
I don’t want to be anxious.
I am trying not to watch the news, or read articles as much as possible. We are taking our elderberry extract and Oscillococcinum and a cocktail of other vitamins. When the kids come home from school, they change their clothes and hand washing is our new favorite past-time.
I am praying. Lots.
This is all I can do. The rest is out of my hands.
I trust in the goodness of God. I know He does not want me to be anxious. And I don’t want to be either.
And the crazy thing is that one of our daughters already tested positive for influenza this year. We all were put on Tamiflu prophylactically and nobody else caught it. If someone else gets the flu, we would do the same thing again. God answered our prayers and our daughter was fine. My rational mind goes back to that and remembers there is nothing to be afraid of. And then I see something scroll across my newsfeed, or hear someone cough and the anxiety creeps back in.
If you get a chance, will you say a little prayer that my anxiety will dissipate? And if this year’s influenza virus has you all topsy-turvy and what-iffy, let me know and I will say a little prayer for you and your family, too.
I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying. And I’m hoping to add influenza to that list too.