Walking with the worried

Over the years I’ve struggled with anxiety. At its worst, it’s paralysing, leaving me unable to think or move or breathe. Simple tasks feel fraught with danger and overwhelming significance.  Little tasks, like chores feel overwhelming.

Ask me what’s wrong and I can’t explain. There’s a list of trivialities, but nothing to explain the sense that everything is breaking. So how can I help myself? And how can I (and others like me), be helped?

  1. Take me seriously: but not my fears. Anxiety is like a whirlpool that sucks others in. You’re there to help give perspective and to remind me that this whirlpool is not all there is.
  2. Don’t tell me to pull myself together or that I’m being silly. I know my fears are out of control and if I could just get it together, I would. Instead, help me to cope.
  3. It’s hard being around someone who is really stressed and the temptation is to either run away or shut them down. Instead, be aware of what their fears are arousing in you and don’t take it out on them. It’s okay to find this difficult, but pray or talk through your response with a wise Christian.
  4. Empathise – even though my worries are completely overblown, they FEEL real; and it helps to know you see my distress, (but aren’t afraid of it). Are there times in your life where you have felt overwhelmed? Are there other areas of life where you feel out of your depth? How can you get in touch with those feelings?
  5. Don’t keep bringing up my anxiety; it makes me anxious (!) and reinforces my belief that it’s who I am.
  6. Christ is bigger than any fear and He calls us to bring them to Him. Help me do this by praying with and for me. Remind me of how the Psalmists cry out their tears and their terror – and how God answers. God’s word helps put fears into perspective so that we can see them as they really are. Like origami – we fold them under Scripture until a pattern emerges; a shape that we can put into our pocket.
  7. Remind me that at times, everyone feels anxious – I am not weird or ungodly or beyond help.
  8. God can use my anxiety for good.  The bible shows me this – and it helps to hear it from you too. Tell me your fear stories and how God was faithful. Show me how He can use even our fears to bring us closer to Him; to teach us more about our dependence and His strength; to trust in His promises, not our feelings.
  9. Teach me to challenge my fears. This is more than just coming to you for help, (though that may be a part). It’s about teaching me to ask questions of my worries; and to argue with them, by using the promises of God.
  10. Gently encourage me to face them. Avoidance makes them worse and shrinks life until nothing is safe. Help me break big fears into smaller, manageable goals. For example, if I’m scared of large groups, start by helping me meet one or two new people. Celebrate these victories – and help me see how God is giving me strength.
  11. Give me time and don’t take it personally.  I’m not cancelling because I dislike you or don’t want to come. Sometimes I just need space to recharge and rest.
  12. Know that I love Jesus and I know He’s got me in the mess. And please know that I so appreciate your love and prayers and support and I thank Him for our friendship.


Image source

13 thoughts on “Walking with the worried

  1. oh Emma!

    You are #2 for me, thank you for never telling me I’m silly (conversely I say that A Lot about myself). & you’re #4, in every “I’m sorry it’s hard” that you tell me – thanks for validating, regardless how nonsensical it sounds to you. You’re #6 & #7, when you remind me of the good news in Christ, that Jesus loves me & cares for me the way I am (even as I try, very hard, to argue that I’m too trivial or lame for His care …) You’re also #12, even if only virtually! x

    & so as I sit here under my blanket at 3am, having written yet another PM (again) stemming from exhaustion, fear, and an increasing level of distrust in the psychology department of the public mental health hospital .. I’m frustrated with the system and have drafted an incredibly detailed letter of complaint ready to be sent in the morning. But my heart also secretly smiles at this post, that the very things you needed help in, you now provide to help ddddothers. :-) This post is so timely, too.

    heart, over & over again. d conversations (if you’re open to considering my insecure whines as “conversation” ..) reiterate again and again that you now are to others (/me) what your tutor and his wife have been to you! x

    I’m sorry I’m as difficult/complicated/insecure/messy as I am, but know that I really, really appreciate that you haven’t run away. Hehe. <3

  2. yelp, butter fingers in the wee hours of the morning. I meant,

    “that the very things you needed help in, you now provide to help *others*. :-) This post is so timely, too.

    heart, over & over again. *our* conversations (if you’re open to considering my insecure whines as “conversation” ..) reiterate again and again that you now are to others …”

  3. No thanks needed Dee – God places us in community, and we carry one another. Thanks for encouraging me x

  4. Thanks v much for this Emma – great stuff as ever.
    I’d simply expand the point about not being ungodly if you are anxious. I’ve been helping someone who has been asked to search her heart and repent because she’s obviously not fully left her pain and anxiety with the Lord. The fact that she still has panic attacks apparently indicates that she is not trusting him (which is the definition of sin).
    There’s a degree of logic there – but only if following Christ guarantees pain- and stress-free living. Which is of course nonsense.
    This kind of talk serves only to ratchet UP the anxiety .

  5. I am paralysed by anxiety and fear and my panic attacks can be awful. It is worse when it comes to church and other spiritual stuff. I haven’t been going to church very long and I have moved recently and trying to find a new place is really hard when it takes fifteen minutes to walk in the door and I become completely mute.

  6. Hi R thanks for your comment – and well done for keeping going in the midst of your fear. Community is scary, but it is the way that the Lord reassures us too.

    Psalm 27 is a great encouragement to me in my anxieties:

    1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?
    2 When the wicked advance against me
    to devour[a] me,
    it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
    3 Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
    though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.
    4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
    that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
    to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
    5 For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
    he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.
    6 Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
    at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.
    7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
    8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
    9 Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
    Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.
    10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
    11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
    12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.
    13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
    14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

  7. Thanks its a good list, I think #3 particularly resonated. Soon after we married my wife found my anxiety too much and shut me down or ran away each time it happened. She stayed and didn’t divorce, but she lost all love and trust for me.

    We’re starting again and making good progress. The hard thing is though I know my anxiety is a great burden on her, and I fight it each day, I know that my brokenness is not just going to disappear. There will be days when it wins and I get carried away in the whirlpool. When those times come and the anxiety gets out of control, do you have any suggestions of strategies to help me limit the burden on my wife so that she is not swept up in all the brokenness?

  8. Thanks for commenting Kolia. Sounds like the both of you need to be wrestling with these things in a broader context. If it’s just you two battling the anxiety then you’ll both put pressure on the other in various ways. Make sure there are other trusted friends (ministers?) who can talk this through with you, both individually and as a couple.

  9. Thanks Emma, yeah a minister and his wife have been a great support to us. I think when we opened up to them was when we really started to turn the corner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *