Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Anxiety Does Not Have to Define Me

Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Anxiety Disorder: Worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.

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Anxiety is real, and most everyone has anxiety over big events in their lives. For some though, anxiety is more constant and can cause problems in their every day lives. Now I have to point out that I have never been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The more I look into it though, the more I believe that I may have been dealing with one throughout my whole life. 

When I was younger I could not even say "hi" to people that had said "hi" to me. I would shy away. I remember one instance at church where a kid my age had said "hi" to me while my mom or dad were with me. I was too embarrassed to say "hi" back. I remember getting a "talking to" about why I should say "hi" to people, especially when they say "hi" to me. I felt like my parents did not understand how hard it was.

In elementary school, there were many instances where I would just start crying. Usually about some social situation in which I did not know how to react. The main office would call my older sister down so that she could comfort me. (Thank goodness for sisters!) In another instance I remember I was in a dance class and we were told to be partners with the person next to us. The person to my right picked the person to her right. The person on my left picked the person to her left. This left me with no one to have a partner with. Too scared to mention this to the dance instructor - I cried instead and sat in the main office until my mom came to pick me up.

Instances like this continued throughout jr. high and high school. I was always embarrassed when I started tearing up. I was always embarrassed when I sat alone during lunch. I was always embarrassed when I would have to go to a teacher with a problem that I had. 

Now, I have come a long way since my childhood years, but that does not mean that this social anxiety is still not a constant problem in my life. Almost EVERY social situation gives me anxiety. I feel like I am constantly battling myself. Part of me wants to be social, while the other part of me wants to curl up in a ball and hide. My mind is always fearing the worst and fearing embarrassment. I always beat myself up when a social situation does not go the way that I envisioned in my mind. 

Something that I have come to realize is that this anxiety is never going to go away. It is always going to be there, and I am always going to have to deal with it. Something that I have also come to realize is that the Lord knows exactly what I am going through. He not only suffered for my sins, but He suffered for my sorrows and my every day pains. I know that He can help me, because He has been there. When I beat myself down, He will always be there to lift me up. He has given me great comfort through this lifelong trial. 

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While I am not perfect with dealing with my social anxiety, there are some things that I have learned to do to cope with it.
1: Prayer! I remember to pray everyday for comfort and confidence in my everyday interactions. I pray to be more concerned about others than myself. I find that when I am thinking about others that I forget about the anxiety that I have because I am wanting others to feel good. I can feel the Lord answering this prayer, because I feel the spirit and I feel the confidence. 

2: Just believe in yourself! I believe that most fear comes from a lack of belief that we can accomplish hard things. We can do anything that we put our minds to, especially when we have the Lord on our side. Don't let your anxiety be an excuse.
3: Remember that your anxiety does not make sense. I often think about why I fear something that has not even happened yet. The only thing that I should fear is the Lord, and He would want me to make the best out of every situation and put my best foot forward. 
4: Assume the best and not the worst. Instead of thinking about what bad things might happen, think about the good things that might happen. You are more likely to be a little bit more comfortable when an uncomfortable situation comes up.

5: Don't beat yourself up when a situation does not go your way. Just keep moving forward. The Lord is more concerned about who you are becoming than who you once were.
6: Keep going and don't give up. Don't hide yourself from social situations because they give you anxiety. I have made this mistake many times and always regret it. We only get more comfortable with people when we put ourselves in those situations

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Remember that most mental disorders are not likely to ever go away. While I have ways of coping, that does not mean that my anxiety will go away. This will be a life long trial, but it does not have to define who I am and I can do my best to push through it. I believe that we were all given trials to make us humble. With the Lord, weak things can become strong.

No matter what hard things each of us deal with, the Lord has been there. He knows how we feel. He knows how to comfort us. Our lives are not meant to be perfect. We can win the battle against Satan. We do not have to listen to Satan telling us that we are not good enough and that we should just give up. We are meant to keep going. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if at times it may seem dim. Just keep going. Just keep trying.