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4.12.2016

Anxiety Reframe

Hi. My name is Shelia and I have lived a life full of worry and fretting for far too long. I know I'm not alone in this struggle. All the what ifs, should Is, and should haves. It's an unbearable weight to carry. 

I've known this about myself for as long as I can remember. I have memories of being physically ill with worry as a child in the midst of stressful situations at home. I can also think back to the last year of high school when I wore a heart monitor because of heart palpitations. Later on, the doctor said it was most likely due to stress. But I didn't name it for myself until shortly after Elsie was born. There was one day where I felt like I couldn't breathe. I begged Danny to stay home with me. I remember googling some symptoms (classic move of the anxious). The word anxiety popped up in nearly every search result.

Anxiety. 

I'll admit that I felt shame in realizing that I was dealing with very real postpartum anxiety. I didn't talk a lot about it in the months after. I did write about it again. I knew not many people would read my blog so it felt safer. 

And then, we found out I was pregnant with Isla. I wrote about being excited and overwhelmed at the thought of three girls so close in age. But that didn't scratch the surface of my feelings one bit. For a long time after our surprise third pregnancy, I would often pray agonized prayers to the Lord, trying to make sense of why he would trust me with raising three girls. Why would he choose me, such a broken, mess of a mom? There's no way I would do this well...

For two and a half more years, I struggled with that crushing feeling. I finally decided that I needed help at the beginning of this year. Why the quietness for so long, you might wonder? The weight of anxiety made me feel like something was wrong with me. The way my emotions would bubble up so passionately felt absolutely foreign and forbidden. Surely nobody would understand. Someone would most definitely tell me to get it together and get over it. And I was positive that I would be too much work if I actually said that I was struggling. 

That wasn't the case obviously. Those were lies straight from Satan. I have never felt more loved, cared for, and held in my life. My family and community have rallied around me and cheered me on over these last few months.

"It’s heartbreakingly easy to think that if your people could, they’d trade you in or upgrade you for a more appealing model or a sleeker, faster, sexier update.

That’s where the edges of your heart can get stuck — thinking everyone is just sort of stuck with you.

It can feel like everyone just accidentally ended up with you by default—- instead of feeling like you are not loved by accident, but chosen on purpose in spite of your faults."

There's a lot about myself that I have had to learn to love and accept, even after so many others have loved me as I am. For so many years, I have failed to realize that God made me who I am for a purpose. As he formed me 28 years ago, he knew the challenges I would face. He knew how these challenges would cause me to be overly cautious and worry about all the things. He knew that having three girls would bring me to a place of surrender. And he knew that was the place where he could do his best work. I trust him to work it all out because of Romans 8.

The issue with anxiety isn't that I to need to fix it and get rid of it. For some people, like myself, it's just part of who we are. The challenge is learning to harness the feeling and letting it drive me, us... forwards toward good. I fully believe God made all emotions and called them good. This journey I've been on is helping me discover the good that my emotions are for! So last week, as my counselor asked me to reframe my thoughts about anxiety from being a hindrance to it actually being a strength, I was intrigued. We talked and reflected on the good that has come from our work so far.

Through accepting my anxiety, I have grown in self-awareness. That deep, physical feeling I experience is a great warning system in stressful situations. When I pay close attention to it, I understand my emotional triggers much better. This awareness allows me to manage my reactions in a way that I've never been able to before.


There was also some recognition that my most anxious moments at home are during big, emotional days with the girls. Not only does that anxious weight help me to know that I am not caring for myself properly, it's also a great way to realize something isn't right with my kids. More often than not, the deep feeling I'm experiencing in those moments is an empathetic response to emotional discomfort in their little selves. As I grow in self-control, I am able to mirror their emotions to them, instead of react angrily at them. This develops an amazing sense of connection with them and heals my heart bit by bit.

"In order to thrive, a child (and perhaps each of us at any age) needs contingent communication with significant others. A child especially needs a 'good enough' parent: no parent can provide contingent communication all of the time, but frequent experiences of feeling connected are vital in building relationships. It is often a challenge to make sense of our children's signals and some children may be especially difficult to understand and to soothe. When the inevitable disconnections and misunderstandings occur, we can repair those ruptures so our children learn that a healing reconnection is possible. The accumulation of our children's positive, connecting experiences with us, though contingent communication and essential moments of interactive repair, enable them to build a coherent sense of self as they develop." 
Making note of this quote from Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued for reading later

I shared with my counselor that I want to change my baseline of anxiety to one that is more controlled and aware. One ultimate goal in all this work is to give my girls a different framework of emotions than what I grew up with. I want them to accept and love who they were made to be at a much earlier age than what I have been able to do. I won't do it perfectly every time. But just like all of me was made for a purpose, so all of my mistakes and victories will be used through the hands of my Father in the lives of my girls. I have no doubts that this work here is doing exactly that.

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