- Erin Howard
A few weeks ago I nervously asked to speak about anxiety. Since these days are so uncertain, I am grateful that Pastor Henry has decided to an additional series about anxiety and here is wha
t I shared that morning, the first day services were canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic .
I have been what one might call a “worry wart” most of my life.
Second guessing all of my actions. Wondering how my actions impact others. Fear of germs.
And making sure things are done juuuuust right.
I had my first experience of overwhelming anxiety, some might say an anxiety attack, at age 21. I have had several similar experiences since, but the details of those do not stick out in my mind. That day, however – that feeling was new. And strong.
It was a typical day. I was a junior in college, and I was in the drive thru at the bank downtown. I had all my necessary paperwork complete for my transaction and I was two cars back. We were not moving. And suddenly my car was getting smaller and smaller, my heart was racing, it was hot and things became dim. There was nothing to trigger this. There was nothing overly stressful happening at that time in my life. I was your typical college kid, studying, working, and not sleeping enough. I rolled down the windows, eased up in the line, and called my mom.
I had difficulty describing what was wrong to her, but I have always been pretty aware of my body….so I did my best. I told her my heart was racing, I was sweating and I felt jumpy. My mother asked questions and kept me on the phone while I finished at the bank. We came to the conclusion that maybe I was having an anxiety attack. Now, I do not remember how the rest of the day played out, but I do remember this much – I did NOT want to have this feeling again.
I have since learned that mental health issues, including anxiety, can run in families and my grandmother had anxiety. I remembered her describing it, in only the way a Southern lady can…..”I felt like I was crawling the walls!!!” She learned several ways to manage her anxiety and I guess I have too because a lot of times my anxiety just feels like excess energy. I have nervous habits, like chewing my fingernails or lips……and most recently my best friends pointed out this strange way that I fidget with my fingers when I’m thinking....As if the anxiety of making a decision might be released with the friction on my hands.
Because today’s service could be viewed by those who do not know me personally, I want you to know that I am also a Clinical Social Worker and I often get to work with clients who have anxiety. So in search for a video or poem or something to help illustrate anxiety, I was struggling to find anything that captured both my own mild anxiousness or the severe anxiety I see in my work.
Some examples of articles and quotes I found are:
“15 quotes people with anxiety will understand” – Well those seem generic, clouds, rain, then the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow!
“Be a Warrior not a Worrier”…… as if it were just that easy to fight ….as if worrying is a weakness that somehow demands war. Here I picture an anxious child holding a heavy sword, waiting for the enemy to sneak up on her.
This is not what worry needs.
“Interrupt anxiety with gratitude” – OK, now there’s something we might use! I often suggest clients try replacing fearful thoughts with ones that would ground them – or bring them into the present rather than worrying about future situations.
And then finally I found this :
“People with anxiety always feel alone in their own head and also hate to feel like a burden to others”. Ahhh. There. That’s the one.
Anxiety, for so many, feels like something one must hide away. Push down. Swallow….all while putting on a brave face – moving toward tomorrow – accepting the things we cannot change.
Many of you may be experiencing more fear in recent days and with good reason, but know this….. “We Can Do Hard Things” Humans have been doing hard things over and over again forever and we will keep doing them. If you feel anxious reach out to someone you trust. I am grateful that my mother was able to help me through some of my anxiety and I have been proud to work with some very brave clients on theirs; but I know that close friends and family are vital to people getting and staying stable. Please encourage those you come in contact with, you never know how alone one might be feeling, in their own headwith no intention of burdening you with their worries.