Last night I had a dream. In the dream I was speaking with a girl whose face I didn’t recognize. She was telling me all about her struggles with mental health, her struggles with anxiety. She was telling me about the discussions she had been having with her doctor and her internal struggle as to whether she would try medication or not. I could see it in her eyes, to her this seemed like a failure. So I looked back at her and I calmly said, “I take Sertraline every day and I’ve been prescribed Xanax for anxiety attacks.”
Then I woke up.
And I immediately fell into prayer, I asked God to lead me in the right direction, I asked if this was a sign, and I heard His answer loud and clear.
So here’s the thing, I’ve been feeling called to talk about this part of my life for a while now. But I resisted God’s call because I was scared. I was scared of the judgment, I was scared people would look at me differently, I was scared that the message I’m working so hard to share would lose it’s legitimacy. I was scared that I wasn’t worthy to speak of this. So I censored myself. I shared bits and pieces about my struggle with anxiety, but I never shared it all.
As human beings we like to wrap everything up nice with shiny paper and a perfect big red bow. You know what I mean. We like to tell a story about hardship, about pain, and then, we like to show how we overcame it, how it worked out in the end, how rainbows and butterflies appeared out of dust.
But the truth is hardship isn’t pretty and life isn’t always pretty either. It’s pretty great, but it isn’t always pretty. So here’s the messy truth.
December 2018: I was spiraling out of control. I was having anxiety attacks several times weekly, I was in my doctor's office all the time, I was crying nightly, I was overwhelmed, I was scared, and I was so unsure of what to do next. I felt like a burden to my friends and family. I was giving up things I loved because I was scared of having anxiety attacks.
During my finals week mid-December, I sat in the library at school feverishly working on assignments. I had several presentations that day, one of which was a group presentation. If you’re a college student, you know how group projects go. I couldn’t stand not to get a good grade, so I carried the weight of the rest of my group members. At this time I had been struggling for months. I barely slept, I was taking ibuprofen every four hours, on the dot, to deal with muscle pain from anxiety attacks and stress headaches. My stomach was constantly in knots, I couldn’t eat, and I was drinking way too much caffeine.
And then, as I sat there typing, all of sudden I felt my heart begin to race. The words on the page became blurry and my head filled with the worst of thoughts. I went to the bathroom, stood in the stall tears streaming down my face as I let my anxiety attack control me.
The next day I sat in my doctor’s office, my palms sweaty, my stomach jumping up and down. She sat down in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Shannon, I think we can both agree your anxiety is not under control. And we need to get it under control.”
I left that appointment with a prescription for anxiety medication. When I got to my car in the parking lot I called Mark sobbing. So many thoughts were running through my mind. I never thought I’d be where I was on that day. It was the strangest feeling, a perfect mix of fear, denial, confusion, and relief.
Fast forward to today. I’ve been on medication daily for over three months. I haven’t had an anxiety attack since the first week of January. That’s something I feel darn good about, my friends. For the first time in a very long time, I feel safe and secure. I feel productive. I feel strong. I feel good. And I’ve finally begun to realize that I have not failed. Not. At. All.
As I talked to God after I had that dream I told you about, I thought back to the girl, the girl whose face I didn’t recognize. And suddenly, I saw her clearly. That girl, who was scared of judgment, scared of what others would say, scared that she had failed, that girl was me.
I wanted to share this with you today because I want you to know two things...
#1: You are not alone. Not even a little bit. We all go through hard things, we all have battles we’re fighting, we all fear, and we all overcome. But the hard truth is even if we wrap it up all nice with a bow, that doesn’t mean it’s pretty. Life is equal parts beautiful and messy. And you are NOT the exception. So stop comparing yourself to the person next to you. You don’t know her struggles, you don’t know the contents of her package. You are not alone in your struggle.
#2: God is good. And He will provide. When you feel Him calling you, when you feel Him leading you, follow Him. Don’t just sit idly by waiting for whatever happens next. Take action in His name, even if it’s hard, even if it’s scary. Trust in Him.