It was bad, people. When I try to explain to friends how my mind used to work, I usually get gasps of unbelief. It was so ingrained in me to obsess about what others thought of me that every decision, big and small was held up to the often-conflicting voices of family, friends and strangers.
Yes, even strangers. You would not believe how much I to worried about how complete strangers viewed me – the anonymous “them” who were, in reality, probably not giving me a second thought.
I share the example of the time when I was choosing lettuce in the produce section.
I self consciously grabbed two heads and hurried to maneuver my cart out of the way of the next shopper. As I headed to the next aisle, I noticed that the lettuce was exceptionally wilted. The stress surged through my system as the internal debate began.
“Should I go back and try to find a head less wilted and appear picky? What will the other shoppers think of me rifling to the back of the display and leaving these bedraggled heads at the front for them? Shall I just take the lettuce home and use the good parts? That’s a waste of money! Half the head will have to be thrown out! Wasteful or snobbish?”
And so I wavered, standing on the perimeter of the produce section, stressing, stressing, stressing, unable to make the decision that was best for me and my family because I believed the other voices held more authority.
Then, at night in my bed, the mysterious pains would grip my heart, stealing my breathe, spreading across my chest and even down my left arm (classic heart attack symptoms, right?) as I relived my day and wondered how well I had met other’s expectations and my own perfectionist ideals.
So what did I do? How did I deal with my problem? The rest of the posts in this series detail practical steps and decisions I made that changed my life forever, and things you can do to reduce and deal with the stress in your life.
Please remember that at the time I struggled the most with anxiety, I didn’t even know I had a problem. Maybe you’re the same way – don’t realize that you need help, or that life could or should be any different. Here’s a collection of warning signs from my own life that should have told me there was a problem – that I was a slave to pleasing people and living with constant, undetected stress…
Stress Signals– You might be stressed if you…
- can’t be seen without makeup
- have a fear of crowds or public places
- dress differently depending on who you’ll be with
- are constantly imagining someone you respect or care to please looking over your shoulder
- hate candid (and most posed) photos of yourself
- let people use you ’cause you can’t say no
- rarely make an independent decision
- suffer from insomnia
Next time…My Anxiety Disorder: The Physical Fix – Are Drugs the Answer?
If you struggle with anxiety, insomnia, post-partum depression, worry or fear of any sort, this series is for you. Please don’t ignore the rescue rope I’m trying to heave your way! I want you to know you can be free – it was for this, too, that Christ died. He has a way for you to escape. Press in to Him like you never have before – He is there and He has the answers and the peace that will soothe your soul. Leave a comment so we can pray for each other on this journey.
Yeeeeah, I think this is me…this happens all the time in stores…I get this tightness in my chest and my mind starts whirring really fast. I get those kinds of worries in my head too, especially when I accidentally get in someone’s way and have to maneuver around them. My mind starts throwing “what if” questions at me and it just makes me even more stressed out…
I feel for you, Sonora! It’s important to remind yourself of truth…you are loved unconditionally by a loving God. Fellow shoppers at the store do not have as much say in your life as the God who created you, and He says you are worthy, because of the work of His Son. Praying for you!
Laura Cano says
Hello I am Laura I have an anxiety disoder GAD , I worry too much about how I am always feeling and my health it really affecting me daily I know I need help I would love for prayers God has always been a big part of my life . I never use to suffer from anxiety until I had a traumatic event that made me a worry anxious person ,I never use to have anxiety before I was always really healthy and happy I don’t know how this all happen I been almost a year with anxiety disorder it all started in May 2014 . I want to be free and be me again .
I’m praying for you Laura! Have you considered getting counseling to work through the trauma you experienced? I’ve found counseling to be so helpful.
Oh, this is me! I’m so tired of the fight but I’m not sure how to unwind my mind. Please pray for victory with me! I have a great husband and 2 wonderful little people. I know this is the root of my problems.
Praying for you right now, Kristin. Feel free to email me if you want to chat further!
Yes. This is me. Always captive to what other people think, always fearful to do anything that might make me stand out. And compounded by wrong feelings toward The Lord. Please pray for me.
praying for you right now, Kathryn.
Sarah E.A. F. says
So I just bought your book on Embracing Beauty, which led me here…
And wow. It’s like you’ve crawled into my head. I am severe hypochondriac (When my parents told me that, I remember asking, “Is it fatal?”). Although my insomnia takes the form of panic-inducing nightmares that I’ve had my entire life. And chest pains, yes. Everything everything everything yes. I just had my first baby and know I shouldn’t be this stressed.
Praying for relief as I work through this blog series. and maybe I’ll try to find a natropathic doctor too.
Oh, Sarah, your comment about being a hypochondriac made me laugh–I’m sorry! I was a hypochondriac as a child, as well. I’ll be praying for you. Glad to hear you are committed to finding help and healing.
No, no, no!
You didn’t have to return and pick up another head of lettuce.
The store has a problem: a bad turnover.
You have a desire: to ensure you and your family gets well nourished. And it’s even a duty before God – what do you think?
You don’t have to follow the store’s lack of quality service. If somebody “wants” it’s their choise.
I wish i would remember this lesson always but i find myself forgetting sometimes. 🙁
Nancy – limiting social media is a very practical and effective way we can reduce stress. I get into that in a future post.
Anonymous – thanks for sharing your story. I can totally relate. I'm so glad you had the insight and courage to seek help. How are you doing now? What steps did you take to change? I'd love to hear.
I totally empathize. Last year I was walking into my building and a man was cleaning the glass doors. Without thinking I put my hand on the glass to open the door. The next several hours I spent stressing about how rude and over privileged that man must have thought I was, how he must think I was raised without respect and probably didn't even notice him. That was the day I decided I absolutely had to go see someone.
One main reason I am not on facebook and had to delete because of the increasing hostility. I used to agonize over sentences because I was anticipating people arguing. I do not blog too. I do not want to debate people on my views or convince them to come to see my point of view. It is just that it would be nicer if people were polite if we debate each other. Sometimes things become so hostile even among christians. I wonder how many people feel more anxious because of facebook, blogging, blog comments and so on.
Thank you for your prayers, Trina. 🙂
Well, Kateri, I guess it depends on whether you internalize it and take it all too seriously like I did. You may just be overly analytical as you work to reprogram your mind.
Anonymous – You're right – a lot of these symptoms can point to pride. For me, the root problem was the sin of fear. Both pride and sin need to be repented of and we need to go before the Lord to get His perspective. I address the spiritual root of anxiety in a following post.
And yes, I agree that labels are often used as an excuse. In this series I hope to encourage those who suffer from anxiety toward action steps I've found that can bring freedom. Thanks for your insightful comment.
So I am looking at that list and wondering if I have an anxiety disorder after all. I have pretty much all those symptoms to some extent (except for the one about makeup). I contribute them to being shy and the way I grew up…there was so much pressure to confrom to certain standards of dress and behavior. It has gotten infinately better the farther I get away from the mindset I grew up in.
How can one figure out stress/anxiety vs. pride? It seems several of your “stress signals” can also be a sign of pride?
Please don't read into this and think I am saying you were dealing with pride. It's just seems that in this day and age there seems to be a name for everything. Almost to the point excusing a person's sin because of ______ disorder.
Can pride lead to anxiety? Were you too proud to go back and get a good head of lettuce?
JUst putting this out there.
I think that you have some interesting thoughts. Certainly being paralyzed with fear of what other people think is partly related to wanting to look good / perfect / some aspect of pride. However, since the author of the blog explained how she was having heart-attack-like symptoms (tight chest, shallow breaths, pain) it sounds a lot more like severe stress and anxiety.
Jessica, Belle – I'm praying for you both. Keep pressing into the Lord – Freedom feels so good!
I have had anxiety most of my life. I always think people hate me, even my own family sometimes. I now avoid all social contact so I don't have these thoughts. I do quote scripture when these thoughts come which always helps. Joyce Meyer taught me that.
How did you know what's going on in my head!? Seriously…I relate. Completely. I'm looking forward to your posts on this.