Anxiety & The Dark Side of Hope

Sometimes I hate my own heart’s desires.

I guess because of past experience.

Whenever I’ve strongly desired something in the past, I’ve had to struggle with it for years and wrestle with the feeling that God doesn’t see or care, and a million other lies about Him and about me, that swirl through my mind over and over, every day.

I know in my head that he does see and care, but because of the way my life has been previously, I project those experiences onto my future, even subconsciously. Because it’s logical. It only makes sense. If, in the past, this is usually how things always turned out, then I can logically conclude that it will continue to be this way in the future.

My faith is weaker than my reasoning. I have small slices of faith that want to whisper, “But He is so much better than you thought.”

Yet I have bigger voices of logic and reason that seem to say “Don’t get your hopes up that things will be different. It’s not practical to do that.”

For much of my life, I have felt very overlooked. In more ways than one, I have wrestled with the feeling that I’m not seen or noticed, like an afterthought in everyone’s brain. Also, like I’m one of the last ones picked. People choose me, but only if there aren’t many options left. People call me, only after they’ve called everyone else and no one picked up.

It’s more than just people, though. I feel this way about God.

My mind knows that God is infinitely greater than man, and that He loves me outrageously.

Yet my heart feels like He is busy with other people, and then remembers me. “Oh, Hannah, there you are. I didn’t know you were there.”

Even though my mind knows that He can never exhaust His resources, and that others’ gain does not equal my loss, my heart has a hard time believing it all.

Part of me feels like God loves me because He loves everyone. That He sort of cares about me personally. He kind of cares about my desires and dreams. But He’s much more excited about other peoples dreams.

And after He’s finished blessing their dreams, and making them feel outrageously loved personally, then He remembers me. “Oh, hey Hannah, you have dreams too? Here you go, be blessed.”

When I find my heart uncovering a deep desire or dream, I panic and immediately try to hide it from God. I don’t want Him to see my dream, because He’ll make me go through long years of anxiety to finally arrive at its fulfillment. If I can keep it hidden, maybe He’ll take me to the realization of my dreams and desires without having to walk through suffering with unfulfilled longing and disappointment.

Ultimately, I fear hope.

Because hope means pain. Hope is not for the day of celebration of promises fulfilled. Hope is for the dark moments of uncertainty and doubt, and the pain of unfulfilled longing. Who hopes for what she already has? No, hope is meant for having when I haven’t yet seen the answer to my prayers.

And I don’t want to walk through that again.

I found a way to weather through that storm, and tried my best to cling to Him and to hope in the midst of it all. But I don’t ever want to go through that again. And that is what terrifies me.

More than anything, I long to know that He deeply cares for me, personally. That He doesn’t see me as a shadow of other people. That He thinks of me always, not as an afterthought. That He knows every detail and truly cares for me.

I long to know that He doesn’t just take me through dark times of unfulfilled longing for no reason. That He actually does it because He loves me.

I long for the knowledge that I won’t have those dark times for every single future dream I have. That while this is how it has been, it’s not how it will always be.

My anxiety has intensified over the last few years. I had never had a panic attack in my life, until 2016. That year, I had 3. Already this year, I’ve had 2, and one of them just last night.

I hate it. The panic I feel when my anxiety starts to rise up and choke me is awful. I struggle to properly breathe. My breathing becomes choppy, fast, and I cough. I just can’t seem to take a real breath.

Like I said, I have never even been close to having a panic attack in the past. But in walks year 26, and everything changes.

I have been able to stop a panic attack – once.

I started to feel that dreadful panic coming over me, and my mind began to race, spinning out of control. I wanted to scream, yell, and break down crying all at once. I grabbed my head and said, very firmly, “STOP.”

Again, “STOP.”

The panic did not subside.

I stepped out onto our apartment deck, and tried to slowly inhale through my nose, and out my mouth. It sort of worked. Again, I tried it. Inhale, exhale.

I began speaking, “I command my mind and emotions to come under the authority of Christ.

Mind, you will cease.

Emotions, you will be still.

In the name of Jesus, be still.”

Slowly, the anxiety loosened its grip on me.

I have done this before, but have not been successful in stopping the panic attack.

The Lord is patient and so gracious with me during this anxiety. I hate it that I struggle with this, because it’s just me saying, “I don’t trust you.” It sends a loud and clear message that my worries and fears are bigger than my trust.

I did not ask for this anxiety, but somehow it has come to me. I want it gone, and I will fight every day against it, until I am once again in the place of peace and trust.

Yet, I know that He understands. He created me with my mind, heart, will and emotions. He knows that I am dust. He sympathizes with me, and meets me where I am. In the middle of a panic attack, He holds me steady and whispers, “Be still.” He commands the wind and the waves of my storms to be still.

It’s hard living with an overactive mind and constantly racing thought life. I often feel as though I am spinning out of control.

With this comes the knowledge that at any moment, I can feel an overwhelming and crippling fear, worry, panic, anger wash over me. This awareness holds me back in life.

I have also become aware that while I must do everything I can to confront the spiritual side of all of this, there is also a very real physical side, and it’s not all in my mind.

My body has changed as I’ve gotten older. I took my body through a lot of change in my early twenties. I was constantly alternating sleep schedules, going from day to night and back again, travelling so much, always on the move, never staying in the same place for long. My eating patterns were different all the time. My hormones seemed fine, but these days they seem like they are crash landing a plane that was too wildly flown.

Sometimes things can get out of whack. To my knowledge, I’m not doing anything too crazy that should be affecting me significantly. I eat a mostly balanced diet, take my vitamins, sleep about 7-8 hours every night, and try to exercise when I can. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is going on.

But I do know that my anxiety is both spiritual and physical.

There is coming a day when I will be liberated from all of this, and completely at rest in His presence.

Until that day comes, I will wrestle through the weeds of lies that have slowly overtaken my mind and heart, about God, about others, and about myself. I will try to surrender my anxiety into His hands every time it threatens to come rushing in again. I will try to give my very real fears, doubts and worries over to Him.

I will do what I can to get better.

Ever on the journey to wholeness,

2 thoughts on “Anxiety & The Dark Side of Hope”

  1. Dear Hannah,
    Wow…thank you for your vulnerability. Your experience is so hard. I can say it because I am in the middle of it as well. If fact, I thought you were looking into my life when you mentioned your panic attacks. THEY.ARE.ROUGH. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to discuss battles like this and I am inspired. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for taking another step when you feel utterly drained. Thank you for reminding me that even in the storm, I can say “I trust you, Oh Father.” Thank you for the honesty to admit that even you say the “magic words” it doesn’t make the pain go away. You reminded me that the nights spent on my knees begging for peace over the fear did not go unheard. Keep pressing on, Sister in Christ.
    Under His Grace,

    1. Wow, thank you for sharing your journey. I have been there, and have days when I am there, and it’s definitely an uphill battle. I am praying for you to know His nearness in the storms, in every panic attack, that you would feel his closeness, his gentle hand, and his gentle voice saying “keep breathing. take a deep breath. you’re ok. you’re ok.” I pray that you would experience his perfect love casting out all fear. Stay strong!! Hugs.

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