I have an anxiety disorder. It might be temporary (here’s hoping), but for now I’m dealing with it. Though not a particularly serious one, it is a mental illness. That term, “mental illness,” is crucial to understanding what I’m going through and how I’m healing.
At first when my counselor categorized my anxiety and depression as “mental illness,” I balked. I did not want to admit that what I was dealing with was a mental illness because to me that term implied something much more serious. However, I began to see that just as there are different levels of physical illness (the common cold vs. cancer, for instance), there are different levels of mental illness as well.
I also began to understand more about myself and my issues by accepting that I was sick, though it was a different kind of sickness than I was accustomed to. Realizing that anxiety actually is an illness freed me (mostly) from worrying that I had done something wrong to put myself in this place. “Illness” implies something beyond my control. It is not my fault that I am experiencing this pain; it is not because of some spiritual weakness, sin, or personal mistake. It is simply an illness that I have contracted, and it will take time to heal.
“Illness” also implies unpredictability, and that has been a hard reality to experience. Just like having the flu or bronchitis, you might think you’re getting better, and then you take a turn for the worse. Last week, I was feeling great and thankful, loving school and enjoying each day. Today, I am feeling high anxiety about teaching, about meetings, about future decisions, and about ways that I feel I’m failing (just to name a few). Why the change? I don’t know, but I sure would like to take a sick day for this and stay home from school.
The difficult part about where I am right now is that some days I really want to quit, but I know that I am supposed to keep pushing through in order to continue on the road to healing. But how do I do that?
The Bible gives some instruction on this. In Philippians, Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (4:6). I’m spending time in prayer and reading the Word, and I’m trying to hold on to the lessons God has been teaching me over the past year (Great Wall, Eucharisteo, etc.).
I could use your prayers, friends and family. This battle I’m fighting is not a continuous advance in one direction. It’s three steps forward, one step back. Please pray with and for me as I continue to walk this crooked road. Pray especially that I will sense and know God’s presence and that I will hear His voice clearly. I know that He has more lessons for me to learn through this season of illness, but He also has healing in the future for me as well.