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
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.