Anxiety is crippling. It is a tool that Satan uses against us to keep us away from God. That is very easy to say, however, when you are in the throes of letting anxiety get the better of you, it is not easy to see.
I used to think I could identify when I was in the anxiety storm, my stomach would be a mess, my insides would feel like they are vibrating, my brain would not be able to focus on anything for longer than 5-10 minutes, and I am forgetful. Last year was particularly bad for me. I walked away from a job I loved because changes within the district caused debilitating anxiety. I was out of work for a year. I was a mess…depressed, anxious, not exercising, not able to focus on any project, not following through on any commitments, and I felt alone. I had applied for over 100 jobs, some would result in interviews, but more often than not, it was nothing but crickets.
One would think, wow, a year off, I could be so productive! But when you feel like you are in the bottom of a deep, dark, pit, there is nothing that can bring in the light. Only one person knew how I was feeling, my sister. I even hid this from my husband! I put up a good front, I was active in church ministries, I cooked dinner every night, I did the housework, etc. On the outside, no-one knew how I was suffering. Then, God intervened. I received a call from an old colleague with an opportunity to return to administration. I jumped on it, even though the district is a 90-minute commute each way! I thought this was it. Finally! I can leave depression and anxiety behind me!
For the most part, I did. I love my job, my staff, my kids, and my work. Then this May hit with a vengeance. May is always a stressful month for NJ educators. This is due to the demands of state testing, contract renewals, end of year planning, summer planning, and looming deadlines weigh down on us. On top of all that, and the daily demands of being a school administrator, I felt like there was a 100-pound weight on my shoulders every time I got into my vehicle to go to and from work.
It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I realized how stressed out I was. I wasn’t sleeping regularly, I wasn’t eating properly, I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t reading, I wasn’t spending productive time in His word, I wasn’t doing anything but driving to work, working, and driving home. Repeat. Satan was using my anxiety in a new and different way to keep me from God. A way that morphed and disguised my symptoms as work-related stress. Comparing Satan to a chameleon is an understatement.
I knew it had to stop. One Saturday, I spent 4 hours and gave myself permission to not do anything or be anywhere but in His word (this is a big deal for me, more to come on that on a later post). I spent the entire morning losing myself in my devotional, the Gospel, and listening to my Worship playlist. It was then that He woke me up to the fact that my anxiety was back; Satan had used it in a way which attacked my body and mind in a devious way. I had let it creep back in and pull me away from His word. As I spent more time in His word, I was able to recognize how strong of a hold my anxiety had on me. I was able to start to break the anxiety chains, link by link that bound me. On that Saturday, I made a promise to God to spend some quiet time every day in His word, no matter how stressful work is, how many things are on my to do list, or how bad my voice may sound singing His praise driving to work. By making the commitment to spend time every day in the gospel, I am able to take steps closer to God and further away from anxiety.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. ~Psalm 94:19