An Angry Sea

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks because I have been struggling with severe anxiety attacks. It’s really awful. I feel as if anxiety is rushing through my veins. I can’t breathe, my stomach is in knots, I feel nauseous. Everything feels overwhelming. During the day I can somewhat distract myself, but at night the thoughts rush in unhindered. I can’t sleep so I stay up until I’m too tired to stay awake. Of course, then during the day I feel really tired. I think anxiety attacks feel as if I’m caught in a tornado, or a hurricane, or an angry sea:

Once anxiety overcomes me, it takes a huge battle to fight it off and any additional problem knocks me off my feet. My anxiety was triggered a couple of weeks ago by several things and I’ve been battling it ever since.

Most of the time I hate talking about it–which is why I haven’t written. EJ helps me a lot, but he and JJ also struggle with anxiety and I don’t want my anxiety to trigger theirs. We try to help each other out when we can. But I feel as if my friends either have enough problems of their own and I don’t want to add to their burden or I’m afraid that they won’t understand. I know many people assume that anxiety is caused by a lack of faith. In fact, many Christians assume that anything other than JOY! is a sin. While sin and a lack of faith can cause anxiety, I also believe that many times it is caused by a physical problem or traumatic experience. People who experience a life-threatening illness such as cancer and their caretakers often suffer from PTSD, as do abuse victims.  PTSD is described as “a normal response to an abnormal situation.” Chronic stress can wreak havoc on a person’s mind and body. Chronic stress is defined as “the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control.” Weightlifters are the strongest men in the world, but even they can’t lift heavy weights forever–and neither can a person lift heavy burdens forever.

The Mayo Clinic website describes chronic stress this way:

The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities. 

But when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Also, I read somewhere that chronic stress can cause a person to not handle stress well…so the problems just gets compounded.

Anxiety3EJ, JJ, and I went through years of struggling with a variety of difficulties. We did ok until after JJ finished his cancer treatments. The cancer battle used up all our strength and so exhausted us that we couldn’t be strong anymore. It’s not that we were weak or lacked faith, but that we had to be strong for too long. Now we are all struggling. We got away from a lot of the stressors in our lives when we moved to our new home and we are happier than we have ever been. However, we are still triggered by stressful situations. And it’s as if now that we are away from all the major stressors, we are processing everything, which can get overwhelming. Because a major part of the stress in our lives was caused by abusive/toxic people, we determined that we would not allow any toxic people to remain in our lives. EJ and I were both taught to “trust people until they give us a reason not to” and to “be nice” and “never offend.” But we have been learning that it is essential to set healthy boundaries, and that we don’t have to accept abuse (which includes insults, belittling, disrespecting our boundaries, etc.) and that it’s good to be selective about who is–or isn’t–in our lives. The abuse and medical experts that we have talked to have all said that we are doing well to have no contact with toxic people.

Anyway, so often people label any emotion other than JOY! as a sin. I hate it when people say “Just trust God” or “Don’t worry” or “just pray.” Like, duh. I wish it was as easy as your words. And “anxiety is a sin” is completely unhelpful. Anyway, I don’t think we are always supposed to feel JOY! When my son was scared, I never commanded him to STOP BEING SCARED. Instead, I comforted him. If I would do that, I would think God would also–and it seems to me that the verses that say “Do not be afraid” are comforting words rather than commanding ones. I mean, God praised messy, emotional, depressed Job and condemned his friends who had all the “right” answers. Anyway, just this morning an article appeared on my FB page entitled, “What is Biblical bitterness? Most of the time, it’s agony and grief.” The article starts out by saying:

Far and away the most common use for the Biblical words translated “bitterness” is related to agony and grief. Depending on the context, it can mean “causing agony and grief” or “experiencing/expressing agony and grief.”

The whole article is worth reading, but I want to draw your attention to these paragraphs:

How did God make us?

He made us so that when a tragic or traumatizing thing happens, we feel it. If for some reason people can’t feel it or refuse to feel it, they can become physically ill. They can become divided in soul. The refusal to feel the grief can cause even the “good” feelings such as joy and contentment to be shut down. And tragically, the ability to feel empathy for another person can be lost.

In recent times a large segment of the Christian church has adopted the Stoic attitude that our feelings aren’t important, that we should squelch our feelings, that feelings should simply be subjected to reason. But no matter what we may think about how “Christian” it is to refuse to express any emotion that others deem negative, the fact of the matter is that the effects of bitter experiences will still come out from within us in one way or another, because that’s the way God made us.

I also found a couple other articles about the value of lamenting:

The Value of Lament
The Lost Art of Lament

One of my favorite passages of Scripture when I am suffering is Psalms 107:23-31 because it describes people who are beyond their strength and courage and skill. Yet, it says that these people are the ones who saw the works and wonders of Adonai. I especially like to read these verses after seeing the video I shared above because it helps me experience the storm-wind and towering waves.

Those who go down to the sea in ships,
plying their trade on the great ocean,
saw the works of Adonai,
his wonders in the deep.

For at his word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up.

In their trouble they cried to Adonai,
and he rescued them from their distress.
He silenced the storm and stilled its waves,
and they rejoiced as the sea grew calm.
Then he brought them safely
to their desired port.
Let them give thanks to Adonai for his grace,
for his wonders bestowed on humanity!

Anxiety can become debilitating but we are trying various ways to fight it. We live in a beautiful area which refreshes our spirits. We focus on quiet pleasures and delights. I try to get my mind off anxiety. We absolutely refuse to allow toxic people to remain in our lives. I have begun taking supplements that help with stress (Again. I tend to forget to take them when I’m doing better.) I’ve begun listening to quiet music. Of course, I talk to God and read the Bible, focusing on passages that talk about God’s provision and protection and love. I reach out to abuse and anxiety sites for help in dealing with it. I’ve also been keeping away from the news as much as I can and I watch funny videos of cute animals to make me laugh.

Still…it’s very difficult in the midst of the storm and sometimes I feel like this:

Despair

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5 Comments on “An Angry Sea

  1. I am so sorry you are feeling like this! I hope you start to feel better soon.

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  2. Hope you will find peace and rest soon and the storm will pass. But it is always difficult when you in it, you’ll never know when it wille be gone. We all have to hold on and with all our pain and anxiety just wait and fight . Knowing God will never leave us even if we don’t feel anything . ❤

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  3. I am praying that you will soon be on the mend, and I am also thankful that you have found resources to verify what you are going through is real and true, and not something you should just get over. I am saddened to read that Christian churches do not acknowledge the truth of anxiety and what it does to people. I hope that is not what people find in my church, I for sure do not promote that concept. Again, I pray healing for you, and days of peace and joy for this is what Christ came to bring to all, the joy of fellowship with him both in the afterlife and in the here and now. God’s blessings be with you.

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