I am truly so happy for you. You get to live life with only the common fears and worries that come with reality being a reality. You do not have to suffer through the irrational “what if’s” that loom constantly in the back of my mind. I know you still fight through worries and trials, but you seem to have a better grip on how to control your fear response than I do. And that genuinely makes me happy for you.
However, I ask that you stop viewing my anxiety as a flaw. I am not broken. I am not cracked. I am not fragile. I so appreciate your attempts to protect me and help me, but I am stronger than you might think. You see, every day from dusk till dawn my brain is in fight-or-flight. At any moment I can offer you five different scenarios on how things could go drastically wrong. It takes a strong person to constantly inhabit this kind of space and thought.
There are days when I do ask that you be gentle and patient with me. I am not claiming to have perfect strength and resilience; I am only human. But I ask that you show the patience and understanding that you would a toddler learning about the world around her and how to take steps through it. With these precious humans, we are gentle and we are patient. However, we do not assume that they are weak only because they are learning. We do not comment to them about how we are already cushioning all of their life experiences because we don’t think that they can handle the hard times without us. We speak life into them. We encourage their steps, and we encourage their falls, and we never view their learning experiences as flaws.
Sometimes my fears and worries seem to overtake me. They seem this way because it is the truth. The thoughts seem to encompass all of the earth around me. But that does not mean I give in to them. Every day, I lean on Jesus a little more. And then, like a human, I stray away, thinking I have gained control over this “worry thing.” And then, the peaceful and loving arms of Jesus welcome me back when I find myself in tears on the bathroom floor.
I so appreciate your desire to help me and love me through hard times. I desire to be just as much of a rock and support system to you as well, friend. But sometimes all I need is for someone to listen to the fears and the worries and sit with me in the “what if’s.” I do not need you to try and tell me everything will be okay when it might not be. I just need you to gently support me through the battles of life, without looking at me in pity.
And yes, I take medicine in the morning to help me balance the chemicals in my brain that seem to run in fear. But no, medicine is not a centrical part of who I am. It is simply an aid to who I know I am meant to be. Please do not assume that I am defined by a prescription. Taking a pill takes up to 5 seconds of all 86,400 seconds in my day. While I have no problem sharing my story, especially to help others, I do not like to use my dear friend Sertraline as a crutch or an excuse. Therefore, I ask that you do not treat it as such as well.
I know this can seem both confusing and redundant. You are probably asking why I am saying that I can find myself overcome with fears, yet I am okay. I am telling you to be gentle, but not too gentle. But think of Jesus and His disciple, Thomas. When Jesus rose from the grave, Thomas was in disbelief. He claimed that he needed to see the scars of Jesus and even touch them in order to believe the Savior had truly risen again.
“A week later, the disciples were gathered in a house when Jesus appeared to them. He first offered them peace and then told Thomas to put his hands on His side. Then, Jesus spoke, ‘Stop doubting and believe’” (John 21:24-29).
Jesus never told Thomas he was less of a disciple because he doubted. So please, do not tell me I am less of a faithful follower of Christ because of my doubts. As Jesus offered Thomas peace and comfort without looking at him in disdain, I ask you to do the same.
I am not my anxiety. I am my own person with my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I do not revolve around my anxiety, though sometimes it seems to revolve around me. But please recognize the difference. I orbit around Jesus; my fears orbit around me. The neat thing about this solar pattern is that as I circle Christ, I force my fears, doubts, and worries to do the same. When I bow at the feet of Jesus, my anxious thoughts have no choice but to bow with me. I look to you for comfort, yes, but not for wholeness or fixing. I know the Ultimate Healer already, and He is not intimidated or fearful of my thoughts.
I also ask that you never feel as though you cannot talk to me. Yes, I struggle with battles that I have said you might not understand. But I know that you struggle with wars I will never fight. I can offer you a unique perspective. Honestly, I have learned to harvest my anxious thoughts and turn them into a type of trouble-shooting defense tactic. So, if you need someone to walk through possibilities and scenarios, I’m your girl.
I write all of this in hopes that I do not seem ungrateful. Your support in any form means the world to me. And you are so brave in attempting to understand and navigate the complications of my thoughts. You are so kind for sitting in them with me while I try and figure them out. Because of all of this, I never want you to think that I do not love and appreciate both you and your efforts.
I write this instead to say that you do not have to tip-toe around me. You will not break me if you lean on me. In all actuality, you help me grow when you force me to walk through my fears and “what if’s” instead of shielding me from them.
My battle is anxiety. And you help me fight. Whatever your battle may be, I plan to stand in battle next to you as well.
So, this is both a thank you letter and a release form. Thank you for your friendship and for simply being you. And please release yourself from the responsibility of shielding me. Again, I won’t break, and I am not sick. You do not have to stand guard. Give me the space to be strong.
I love you, dear friend, and I thank God every day for you in this life.
Your Anxious Friend
Olivia Lauren is a graduate student passionate about Scripture, particularly the Book of Romans showcasing God’s grace. Outside her studies, she enjoys teaching her dog new tricks and finding quicker ways to silence the smoke alarm after trying a new recipe.