Previous to our less-than-satisfactory visit to the ER, I had had an appointment with my naturopath, Robin. I had described my symptoms to her and she’d done a few, non-invasive tests. She had felt there was not anything seriously wrong with me, but had asked me to keep a food journal, thinking that the attacks were perhaps triggered by an unknown food allergy or sensitivity. We had a follow-up appointment with her just 3 days after our trip to the ER.
On the day of my appointment Jeremy was able to take the morning off and accompany me. I was so blessed to have his support as well as the comfort of seeking counsel from a woman who viewed her practice as a ministry and started her consultations with prayer. Today I was hoping that the negative test results from the doctors would help us narrow down the cause for the attacks.
Robin looked over my food diary as she listened sympathetically to our account of the ER visit. She concluded that it did not seem as if any particular food I was eating was triggering an attack. She agreed that it didn’t seem to be my heart or a lung problem. But said she did have an idea. I was on the edge of my seat to know what she thought could be the root of my problem. What she said next would change my life.
I can remember right where I sat and just how the sunshine slanted through the consulting room window as Robin spoke. She gently explained that she felt I was having panic attacks induced by stress.
My first response was denial – I didn’t feel stressed! I had a great life. I didn’t have to work outside the home, I had a great husband, a healthy child, and supportive extended family. I only had one child, for pity’s sake – how stressed could I be?
She went on to theorize that the stress was due to living to please others – fear of man. She asked if I worried a lot about what people thought about me?
Suddenly a light went off in my mind as bright as the clear winter sunshine coming in the window. Truth shone on something I’d been blind to all my life – I lived my life and made every decision in light of man’s approval. I believed my worth was based on my performance, and my standards were impossibly high. And when I failed, I was letting down myself and everyone I cared about pleasing (which was pretty much everyone – including perfect strangers). This mindset kept me in constant state of high-level stress that I was completely unaware of because it had been this way as long as I could remember.
It was for this Jesus died! He is my Savior, not just from my sin, but from the need to be good enough!
As I realized this for the first time, I began to weep. I felt a breath of hope – I saw how my life could be different, I caught a glimpse of what it would be like to be free. But I was instantly overwhelmed at how much I had to change! I felt my whole brain had to be re-wired, for the stress-inducing thought patterns were pervasive, affecting every relationship and every area of my life.
Robin and Jeremy joined me in prayer, asking God for what, to me, felt like major brain surgery. Robin gently reminded me that the only two beings I am called to please are God and my husband. My stress came from elevating others opinions to the same level or even higher than my call to serve God and my husband. I needed to only strive to please God and my husband, and give the rest to the Lord. I cried out to God, “Father, burn this truth in my mind and heart!”
So, to my regime of supplements (digestive enzymes,vitamin B, and a calcium and magnesium supplement) and a diet focused on avoiding foods that seemed to put strain on my digestive system, I purposed to add a good dose of scripture and prayer, hoping for my mind to be renewed and for God to heal me from the inside out.
The question was, would it work? Could I overcome a life-long habit of obsessing over what others thought of me, and a performance-based sense of worth? Time would tell…
Next week…My Anxiety Disorder, Part 3 – How bad was it, and do you have one, too?
Not sure where to start to overcome your anxieties and fears? Prayer and opening yourself up to the care and counsel of others can provide clarity and direction. Remember, I’m just an email away and I want to pray for you. trina @ trinaholden . com
Dear ladies, thank you so much for your supportive responses to my series! It's such a blessing knowing the Lord can use a difficult time in my life to give hope to others.
Rachel and Erin- husbands are so helpful in this area, aren't they? 🙂
I'm looking forward to part 3, too. Sorry to string you out, but I really don't have time to post more frequently, and I wanted these posts to be quality. Watch for the next one on Monday!
Trina, I can't imagine you being anyone but the lovely person I have come to know now. God has blessed you with such a sweet spirit and a warm, genuine personality. I can hardly believe anyone would not love you for just the person that God made you to be (except, perhaps, someone else who is not comfortable in their own skin). I didn't know you during this time of anxiety in your life, but I am blessed to become acquainted with the new creation you've become.
To a lesser degree than what you experienced, I also used to panic and stress over pleasing others. The change in my life came from a great work of the Lord (including memorizing pertinent Scriptures), a huge amount of encouragement from my husband (like constant reminders that it only mattered what he and God thought of me, and that if people didn't like me for who I was maybe they weren't worth having as a friend), and some faithful and authentic friends and family that made me realize I was lovable just the way God wired me. Those old thoughts crop up now and again, but my greatest defense against them now is absolute gratefulness for all that God has blessed me with.
Everyone should have the liberty of being secure in themselves and in Christ.
Amen AMEn amen… i have not struggled with anxiety but man pleasing i believe is a curse put on all of us women!! Praise God that you were so lovingly directed to this revelation. Praise HIM for your testimony that will/is helping others!!! I am recently going through my own personal study of proverbs to learn GODS standard for a woman rather then what i compare myself to within the world.. so HEALING!
blessings to you
-bobbi (the new friend from facebook)
Thank you for sharing such a difficult story with us, Trina! I know that it must have been hard to open up, but you have blessed us with this little glimpse into your heart. It will benefit many of us who struggle with the same inclinations to give in to sin!
I think it's really a woman's sin to worry about what other people “will think”; I know that I have driven my own husband near to distraction sometimes with my worry about that. 😛 I am praying constantly for the strength to remove myself from that unnecessary bondage!
Looking forward to part 3!
This is something that I have struggled with a lot in the past…and still have hints of now and then. But thankfully, God has been working on me and helping me to “re-wire” my brain. Thanks for these posts! They have been a wonderful encouragement to me! Looking forward to part 3!
Suzanne G says
This is me! I am the person you described. How do I rewire my brain? I can't wait for part 3. I really, really, really thank you for this.