Journey Beyond Anxiety and a Life of Worry
- August 17, 2019
Fear is a Liar: The Journey Beyond a Life of Worry
Fear immobilizes countless people. Many lives are riddled with some form of incessant worry, heightened anxiety or foreboding dread. Fear can be debilitating, devastating and so destructive. Some of the angst we face understandably is born out of difficult, real life situations. Concern can be expected when hardships come.
But what about those relentless, inner fears that rob us of our daily joy and peace? What if worry paralyzes the ability to think and act wisely? Equally, what if unhealthy, imbalanced thoughts cause negative feelings to flood us? Fear, that drives a deep-seated uneasiness and apprehension, can monopolize our mental and emotional space and easily manipulate us to take poor action based on what may or may not be true. You see, fear is a liar! It convinces you into thinking that something is true that isn’t. Let’s explore this.
To guide you into this journey beyond a life of worry I want to introduce Dana Currie. She is the wife of my youngest son, Mitchell, and mother to their three young girls. She graciously agreed to join me in giving some incredibly helpful perspective on overcoming fear. We’ll share her story of overcoming anxiety that peaked in a challenging period of post-partum depression. I am honoured to have been a small part of her journey.
Dana’s battle with being anxious started early and it seemed like it was always hovering around her. She, by nature, is a high-achiever. She has always pushed herself to be her best as evidenced by her being the captain of the National Championship Trinity Western Women’s soccer team or her completing a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. You see, gifts and abilities, passion and drive don’t make someone immune to mental health struggles. Anxiety is like the mother of all fears and clearly is no respecter of persons.
Though outwardly, Dana was successful in her life endeavours, inside was a bit of a different story. She had a long-standing push for perfection. Thus she had a great fear of screwing up, of not doing something right that she tried, of not keeping it all together if she failed and of letting others down. Out of this grew her strong desire to be ‘in control’ since her take-charge personality could lessen the chances of any kind of failure. Looking back, her roots of anxiety are evident. You might say that Dana had a predisposition to fear. Maybe you do too.
A Downward Spiral: Understand the Compounding Effect of Unbridled Fear
How does fear work in a person? Obsessive negative thoughts haunt the mind even though in reality, they may not be based on a healthy perspective. Unchecked, these fixated harmful assessments fuel one’s inner fears like gas to a burning match.
These wild thoughts, like an abandoned campfire, smolder and burn within, and soon re-ignite and send sparks all over setting our world ablaze like a horrific forest fire. This inferno inside is started with stinking thinking (non-truth) that leads to reeling feelings (unhealthy emotions) and then on to reaction actions (unwise courses of action). At the root of anxiety there is a huge truth battle. See how it flows in the diagram below:
Feelings are not trustworthy because they can easily and often not be based on truth.
In Dana’s case, her anxiety morphed into a difficult season of Post-Partum Depression with the birth of their 2nd child. A host of unrealistic thoughts with the corresponding powerful fear plunged her into a real low. As a mom with a new baby, we know there are some huge responsibilities and increased expectations. But she had this deep, inner push to be the perfect mom, to not make mistakes. The fear to not screw up or do a bad job haunted her. What if she was not able to help her new born? What if the baby didn’t sleep or wouldn’t feed well?
Remember, carrying a baby is a big deal on a woman’s body and mind. Her hormones all over the map! Then the delivery itself beats her up in so many ways. As beautiful as birth is, it massively depletes the mother’s physical and emotional reserves. Then, the going home with what usually seems at first like a high maintenance baby. Think about it. Some stress is normal in these circumstances with lots of ups and downs. The unpredictable nature of a new baby is hard on a type A personality, driven to control.
Fear really shook Dana up. It immobilized her as it crossed the line from just worry to severe anxiety. She states, “Fear seemed so REAL – the fight or flight is so strong! Your body is reacting – your mind is racing. I couldn’t do normal life. I kind of felt sick inside all the time. I was avoiding people when that’s not like me. Sometimes I didn’t even want family around. I had trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and a pervading sadness. There was a lot of crying. I felt alone. I’d look out and see everyone having fun and I felt trapped by the thought that I’d never be able to do that again. It made me feel I needed to face this cascading anxiety alone.”
Sometimes at these pressured times, her thoughts would spiral out of control. Fear upon fear grew; negative possibility after negative possibility seems very likely to happen! Dana was overwhelmed by thoughts of making a mistake as a mother. “What if I never hear her crying? What if I sleep through it? What if she doesn’t feed well? What if she won’t stop crying? She is so helpless and so desperately needs me. What if I make a mistake? What if she gets sick or suddenly dies in her crib?” Cascading fears driven by the pressure to get it right and be the best mother possible were huge.
Fear can become so big in a person’s head. Her fear was based on a false belief that with the new baby, no matter how well she had done with her first child, she is now not in control and won’t do a good job. She’ll somehow fail as a mom. With the weight of this worry, panic attacks would set in. Dana says, “The panic attacks were the worst. The whole world was spinning. My perspective was really skewed. My thoughts were racing uncontrollably. I felt physically hot—like the world was closing in on me. It felt like my head was going to explode.”
Best Ways To Overcome Fear – Whatever Its Source
What are the best ways to handle anxiety, worry and depression and all kinds of other emotional and mental challenges related to fear? A well-rounded approach to personal wellbeing will include a balanced recovery. It’s not a “one-size fits all” approach that will be best for anyone. Here are a variety of ways that Dana and I feel are helpful in overcoming fear and anxiety. You’d be wise to employ many of them in your own journey over worry.
Embrace Anchoring Truth
Life is about embracing truth as deeply and consistently as you can. Paul says it clearly in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” We need to correct ‘stinking thinking’ and have our feelings and actions align. See the diagram below.
One of the most helpful and practical steps toward embracing anchoring truth is to take time to develop a set of what I call “Truth Cards”. They are key statements of truth that are designed to anchor you in hard or confusing times. They are principles, reminders and perspectives that are intended to hold you when the waves of life are crashing in on you. They are written down (on cards or your phone) so you can re-read them daily or as needed. Many of them will be a reflection of God’s Word. Trust His anchoring truth in the dark moments. Here are a few examples that Dana received from me during her tough months. Use these to stimulate your thinking as you develop your own for your fear battle.
Truth 1: Rest in Mitch’s love. He chose you. You are quality. An amazing young man that is respected by so many would not make a bad choice about his life partner. That’s you! You are his match. Rest in knowing You are valued and you are chosen .“He who finds a wife finds what is GOOD and receives FAVOUR from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22
Truth 2: You are a good mother. Deeply loving, fully intentional, constantly guiding, teaching values, modelling God’s love, going the extra mile. Because you do that most of the time give you yourself a break. Some things can slide some days and it’s not the end of the world or a sign you are a bad parent.
Truth 3: The Lord said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” or in your case, as a parent to your girls and a partner to Mitch (Jeremiah 1:5). God has a plan for you…He set you apart for a reason. Wife, mother, teacher, friend…. all part of it. Go to Him for continued direction in this appointment.
Truth 4: Do you realize how many sparrows in the world fall out of some tree every spring??? Think about it. 100,000? Nah. 1,000,000? Nope. Gotta be more. 100,000,000 for easy figuring. “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matthew 10:29 ). If God masters with precise awareness and detailed care a ton of little birds, guess what? He is all over the pressures you face without and within. God knows every single thing that you are facing and God cares very deeply about all that is important to you! Go to Him. Rest in His full awareness and His great compassion and comfort for you!
Find Trustworthy Voices
Don’t suffer alone. It’s wise to reach out for outside perspective through dark times. Don’t wait until things get really bad. Find a team of people who will speak the truth to you. Close friends and caring family members can be a great help. Counsellors and pastors are great sources of truth. You’ll need to talk out your feelings and worries. Don’t hesitate to get a referral from your doctor for a psychiatrist who may guide you to the right meds if needed. The right medication can really settle you down – slow the thought processes – and stop the ruminating negative thoughts that dominate your day. Dana says that “being on medication is like someone throwing you a rope. It helps but they still have to do some work to climb out of the pit.” All-consuming fears are kept at bay while you work through your issues. Remember though that meds alone are not the answer.
It was during this hard season that Dana and I started our walks. This is a simple reminder about the importance of getting good people in your corner. Wednesday mornings, Donalyn, my wife, and I would swing by their home. She would watch the 2 girls while Dana and I would go for an hour walk. It became a very precious time for both of us. I had no agenda but to listen and encourage. Here’s Dana’s thoughts on these walks. “You committed to being beside me through the hard time. This 1/week commitment really anchored me. I had that to hang on to in my schedule. I could be away from the kids knowing they were safe with mom. There was something therapeutic about walking and talking. The movement was good. The rain was fine. The hot drink helped me feel. I was alive and was going to be okay. I would be encouraged – love and cared for – and you prayed for me every single time on our driveway. You put your hand on me when you prayed. You hugged me. The walks were a gift.”
Get Educated on Anxiety
Take time to learn about anxiety and worries at Anxietycanada.com. There’s a section for mothers, even a post-partum questionnaire. These resources can help you to target where you are at in your journey to recovery.
Stay Healthy to Think Clearly
Start with a check-up with your doctor. Get some blood work done and thyroid levels checked. See if you are deficient in stabilizing nutrients. Get some exercise even if it’s getting outside for a walk and some fresh air. A regular fitness plan would be better. Be sure you are eating healthy and sleeping enough.
Let Truth Warm Your Soul
For Dana and myself, heart-warming music is a key to deep soul refreshing. Play worship music. Listen to Christian radio or encouraging podcasts. Let God lead you to other great contemporary Christian music. Check out 3 of Dana’s favourites that provided great anchoring truth for her soul. I love them too.
- FEAR IS A LIAR by Zach Williams
- YOU SAY by Lauren Daigle
- STAND IN YOUR LOVE by Bethel Music
Deepen Reliance on God
For Dana, prayer and journaling kept her grounded. We believe that a Quiet Time with God is a must. Be sure to be in the Bible everyday. Get refreshed by regaining perspective. Journal your journey – your ups and downs. Read encouraging Christian books. For Dana, Anne Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was central in developing a more grateful perspective. Whatever way you can, let God’s truth become your anchoring truth.
In closing, it was an honour for me to walk with Dana through this time, to see her push through and to witness her deep growth because of it all. We continued our walks after their 3rdchild was born and found ourselves reminiscing about her growth in overcoming fear, what helped the most and what truths were the most significant. That is why we decided to write this together.
I will let Dana’s words close this. “What have I learned through this difficult season in my life? My Anchoring Truth is: GOD IS NEVER THE AUTHOR OF FEAR – “His perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). God is enough. Seek Him.”
By Dr. Dave Currie with Dana Dumerton Currie
© Dr. Dave Currie – June 2019
Feature image used with permission from pexels.com/185801