God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Every so often, I am reminded that there are no coincidences, just intriguing and earthly manifestations of God’s love. I got one such reminder this today, and I thought it would make for a timely blog post.

After an anxious Monday morning, while stopped at what has got to be Columbia’s longest traffic light, I did a quick search on my smart phone for books about faith and anxiety. One book in particular caught my eye, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado. I decided at lunch that I’d check Amazon to take a closer look at it and the other options listed.

The morning got away from me, and as it turns out, at lunch, I was asked to drop something off at church. As long as I was there, I decided to look at our church library. I walked in to find the volunteer librarian, who asked if she could help me. When I told her I was looking or a faith-based book on anxiety, she said that she’d just checked one in and scurried away to find it.coincidencealbert-e1504531764133-680x330

Imagine my surprise when she handed me Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. (And, wait, it gets better.) As I checked it out, she mentioned that there was a new small group starting to study the book. She gave me the details and promised to connect me with the group leader. Long story short, I’m now signed up for the small group. I have to miss the first class for an evening work event, but I’m going to read the first four chapters this week to be ready for next week’s class. (God is so awesome!)
Have you ever had a coincidence that you knew was really just God’s way of remaining anonymous? If so, and you’re the sharing type, please tell your story in the comments.

The Anxiety Monster

By Shannon Boatwright

Mental health disorders have been at the forefront of the social scene lately, creating a social awareness of the fact that they are very real and something that should not be ignored.  I personally have witnessed and experienced the harsh reality that is anxiety.

Over my lifetime, I’ve witnessed those I love, my precious students, and heard of others that suffer with this crippling thing that is anxiety.

Now let me point out – anxiety is a very normal emotion for any individual. And any health professional will tell you that. But, it’s when the anxiety literally disables you, making you irrational and consumed with fear, that it moves into the territory of being a disorder. Anxiety can take hold of some, making them so fearful of something that they become obsessed and can think of nothing but the impending doom they think a certain place, situation or action may hold for them.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “the term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),  panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.

It’s a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety.

But you may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If it’s an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can be disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.”

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety#

Anxiety can be like a monster that grabs hold of you and sets in a fear that overwhelms you, making you feel helpless, with no sense of control. And you have no idea how to battle that monster.

I have known people in which the anxiety makes them immobile and just racked with fear – as if the place they dread, the place that has stirred this monster of anxiety, is like a haunted house waiting to eat them alive. Or cases when one’s own negative thoughts become so uncontrollable and real to them that they literally throw up. I have seen some of my smartest, most talented students become so ravaged with anxiety, not wanting to go to a certain class that they dread, that they literally cry at the thought of having to face going. To think that a feeling can literally make some people shake, become sick and throw up, even go into full on panic attacks, because whatever it is they’re so anxious about has plagued them so severely –  the monster physically takes hold and can wreak havoc on not just a person’s mind but their body as well. It’s almost unbelievable at times. The anxiety monster can take hold of someone’s sanity and make them a victim of its brutality.

So how in this world can we help someone battling the monster of anxiety? First off, NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, say, “Oh you’re fine! Suck it up. Get over it.” Even if you cannot fathom why an individual would be so anxious and upset over something that seems so simple to you, that is the worst way you could ever react. Want to send someone deeper into the pit of despair? Tell them they’re overacting, being silly, being ridiculous and that they need to get over it. You first have to understand that what they’re experiencing is real, serious and crippling. They need to know that they can indeed take control of how they’re feeling and in their moment of despair they need to be assured that it will pass and they will overcome it.  When braving the monster, one must face it, recognize it and then conquer it by replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It’s almost like a process of training oneself to face the fear and then knock it out with positivity, all the while gaining self-confidence.

I want to scoop up those that suffer with such severe anxiety and beat down that monster that plagues them with my bare hands, diminishing its power forever. But, it’s just not that easy. Defeating that monster is something they have to face and learn how to battle. The best I can do is let them know that I’m here for them, always ready to provide positivity & support, and I believe in their power to overcome and gain relief.

A former student of mine, Jessi, battles the anxiety monster. She’s currently in the 9th grade and is an incredibly talented young lady. You’d never think such a beautiful, talented, seemingly confident student would ever be of the individuals that battle this disorder. She is one of my students who lived for the security, freedom and joy of drama class. One of my stars that actually wanted to come to school, only because she knew she’d get to come to my class. Acting and singing became her comfort zone. It was her savior and what helped her make it through middle school.  Another testament to how amazing, beneficial and powerful the fine arts can be! Well, my dear Jessi moved on to high school – a school that sadly does not provide a drama program. The absence of her outlet of security hit hard. She now attends online school and is pursuing acting classes and performance venues to hone her talents. She is a most precious young lady that I have big hopes for, that not only she achieve her dreams, but also gain the confidence to keep the anxiety monster at bay and eventually take complete control of it, not letting that monster ever bring her down or hinder her pursuits of happiness.

Jessi happens to be a songwriter and wrote a lovely, deep, confessional song about this very topic.  Her precious lyrics expose a reality of anxiety…to say I’m proud of her for baring her soul through her talents is an understatement. And the fact that she is sharing her message, her heart, and her voice through her music, is a priceless gift.  I’ll let her song speak for itself and hope that it helps others, allowing them to recognize the fact that they are not alone and they can indeed conquer their fears, taking control of the anxiety monster.

Jessi’s Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezd6gvoa1t4

They say stop acting crazy
But I don’t think they understand the pain
They say stop acting like a baby
If only they could take a look inside my brain
I will try my best to fight this heavy feeling in my chest
But sometimes it’s too strong for me
And sometimes I can barely breathe
And I know, yeah I know that you’re here
Everyday I watch the time go by and I wonder (yeah I wonder)
If one of these days the world under me will just crumble (will just crumble like)
When they call me crazy
When they say I’m acting like a little baby
One day I hope they see that they’re not helping me
When they say stop acting crazy
But now I know they don’t understand the pain
They say stop acting like a baby
If only they could take a look inside my brain

Written and sung by Jessi Powers

 

Wear Your Pearls, Girls, on National Wear Your Pearls Day

By Chaunte McClure

Just over two years ago I shared my story of dealing with and overcoming depression in a post titled I Survived, Part 2. That’s definitely not a period of my life that I’m proud of; however, I am glad that I came out of it.

About halfway through 2015, I was in that dark place again after a traumatic experience in February of that same year. This was my second encounter with depression, but this time, I sought professional help.

During my first visit, the counselor read off a list of symptoms and after each one, I acknowledged whether or not I suffered from any of them. There were enough yeses to determine I was in the right place at the right time to get the service I needed.

For many reasons, people often don’t seek support, but it’s necessary. Untreated, my mild case could’ve turned severe.

Because of the stigma of depression and mental health disorders, patients hide in shame and secrecy.

The first time, I was unfamiliar with depression and it was not until I overcame it that I realized I was depressed. Little did I know I was flirting with danger and literally putting my life at risk. Knowing the signs of depression and understanding that it’s a serious illness helps.

Thanks to local author and motivational speaker Deanna Bookert, December 15 is National Wear Your Pearls Day, a day designated to bring awareness to depression and anxiety. National Wear Your Pearls Day Dec 15

Besides her love for pearls, Deanna chose this bead because it represents a process and struggle. She wants sufferers to understand that “although we have hard times in our life, something valuable will come out of it.”

Millions of Americans suffer from depression, including children. Though it’s not a disease to be proud of, it’s definitely not one to be ashamed of either.

Join other women across American on December 15 and wear your pearls, girls, in support of National Wear Your Pearls Day. National Wear Your Pearls Day Proclamation

 

10 Things I Hate About You, Anxiety

By: Leah Prescott

23388685185_13243c6afa_o1) I hate that my personality is often stifled by my inner anxiety monster.

2) I hate that anxiety drains me so much, physically and mentally.

3) I hate that anxiety makes even the little things feel insurmountable.

4) I hate that anxiety keeps me from seeing reality.

5) I hate that anxiety eats away at my confidence.

6) I hate that anxiety causes me to miss out on important events.

7) I hate that anxiety causes my guilt to outweigh my joy.

8) I hate that my anxiety might be passed along to my children.

9) I hate that anxiety separates me from people that I love.

10) I hate that anxiety is such a part of me that I cannot ever totally let it go.

 

If you experience any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to talk with your doctor. Below are resources for additional information about anxiety disorders:

Women’s Health – Anxiety Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health – Anxiety Disorders

WebMD – Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Getting Real About Mental Health

By: Leah Prescott

LeahThis has been a long time coming. I think I’ve mentally written this post dozens of times and have been re-writing it on paper for months now. As much as I consider myself to be an honest and open person, I don’t think I’ve ever completely shared with anyone about my reality, maybe not even with myself. Why come clean now? Because growth doesn’t happen without transparency, and openness can be healing. Hopefully healing for myself and others. Plus, May is Mental Health Month, so that was finally the push I needed.

Anxiety is something I have long struggled with. I was a worrier as a child. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, after I became a mom, that things took a turn for me. My worrying nature became a true disorder and began to inhibit my life.

At first the diagnosis surprised me, then I found it far too easy to believe. So much made sense now that I had a name to put to the struggle. Realizing what Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is has helped me to know how to fight it. GAD affects about 3% of adults. Statistically, women are twice as likely to struggle with clinical anxiety as men.

Some of my symptoms include IBS, dry mouth, cardiac symptoms, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, repetitive negative thoughts (OCD), insomnia, irrational fears, phantom skin sensations and good ole’ panic attacks. Sometimes these symptoms hit me at the most unexpected times. I often have panic attacks when I am doing something seemingly relaxing, like reading a book at the end of a long day. In essence, my body is letting all the stress catch up to me whether I like it or not.

Now I find that my anxiety is the lens through which I view the world. I know that my life is good, rich and wonderful, but I can’t even count my blessings. I am ultimately thankful to God that in Him I have no real reason to fear. But over all of that lies the ugly and dirty lens of anxiety. It dulls and mutes the colors that would otherwise be so beautiful. If I am being completely honest, there are many times when anxiety strangles the joy in my life.

Anxiety has kept me from travel and from social events. I have lost friendships because I was basically too overwhelmed to maintain them. I will always, always regret missing my best friend’s wedding. Her wedding happened soon after I started having panic attacks and the symptoms at that time were too much for me to cope with. I never said goodbye to my grandmother in the hospital because the mental stress felt like more than I could stand. Looking back, I can hardly believe that I let GAD get the best of me in those situations, but it can be strong and persuasive.

I have tried a few different treatments, a few different SSRIs (a type of medication). Sometimes they help, but I am still trying to find a good fit with my medication. I would like to try therapy but haven’t worked out the logistics of that yet. I have tried taking ice cold showers with some success. I have tried different supplements with varying results. Vitamin D directly applied from the warm South Carolina sunshine definitely helps me! Exercise is also effective, but it’s really hard to fit it in to my life right at the moment. As I am typing this, I realize how crazy it is to not do everything I can to treat the problem, so I resolve to tackle the exercise challenge soon. I wish I could say I have discovered the perfect solution, but GAD is always changing and evolving. What quells the anxiety today might not work tomorrow. You just have to deal with the symptoms as they come.

Why am I sharing all this right now? I guess because anxiety reminds me that I am human. Very human, and very, very imperfect. I think my experience with anxiety has given me better empathy for others. I know that even when I appear calm and capable on the outside, I might be battling my demons on the inside. So I try to give others the benefit of the doubt; I just don’t know what anyone is going through, so I do my best to show them compassion and empathy even if I don’t understand their behavior.

I don’t want this post to be overly negative. I have so, so much to be thankful for and my life is overwhelmingly a joyful one. Knowing I am not in control helps me remember Who is in control. Without God I would be losing this battle, but with His strength I know I have already won.

I want to reach out to anyone else who is experiencing these symptoms or feeling overwhelmed beyond hope. Anxiety and Depression are very real and very treatable. Things can get better. But you have to fight. If you want to fight, but just don’t know how, it might be time to talk to a doctor or counselor.