F-E-A-R

A few months ago, I was sitting crisscross applesauce on my bed like one of my students at Storytime, talking to my mother on the phone. The phone lay in front of me on speaker. My voice quivered and threatened to break as I attempted to be vulnerable with her about my state of helplessness. Despite Spanish being my first language, I struggled to find the words to explain anxiety to her so I mixed in some Spanglish and hoped that she might understand.

“Que es eso mija?” she asked me, “Ansique … que es? Y que es lo que esta pasando en este mundo que parece que eso esta en toda parte? Porque lo tienen todos? Tu, tu hermana, tu prima?” she continued on.

My response to her question about why anxiety seemed to be so prevalent in our generation, in our family, had something to do with social media and technology. I gave her an on the whim rationale about how the inclination to compare one’s life to the highlight reels of someone else’s might be overwhelming. How comparison is the thief of joy as I tend to say.

I’ve had more time to think about her question since then and I would reword my answer to my mother if given the opportunity again. Anxiety is rooted so much deeper than in our human inclination to compare our life to others and forego practicing gratitude.

Anxiety is a manifestation of fear. The fear of disappointing others and not belonging. The fear of failing and not being successful. The fear of being labeled unattractive when judged by the standards set in magazines. The fear of being exposed and having your shame on display for all to see. The fear of not being enough or of being too much.

Anxiety is rooted in a constant terror that your mind is able to drudge up to keep you imprisoned in your own life. To keep you from accessing your true power.

One of my favorite bibles verses is found in 2 Timothy 1:7. It reads “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love and self-discipline.”

I’ve started using the verse that I committed to memory by heart as a mantra whenever the fear trickles into my routine.  When uncertainty disrupts the lining of my stomach or nerves trigger a shakiness that makes my hand tremble as I try to speak with confidence, I cling to the words from the verse. Fear is not of God. Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

The enemy, the devil, ying, or whatever name you choose to give to the opposing force that exists in almost every religion known to man – that energy cannot stop you from receiving God’s grace and mercy.

When you are a believer, in alignment with your purpose, you are filled with the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.) God’s favor is your inheritance and your legacy. It is your birthright as a believer.

But what these opposing forces can do AND will do is to keep you from accessing your power. They will try to stop you from using what God has already given you.

There is an upbeat worship song by Sinach called “I Know Who I Am.” The lyrics to the chorus go like this: “I know who God says I am; What he says I am, Where he says I’m at. I know who I am. I’m working in power. I’m working miracles. I live a life of favor. Cause I know who I am.”

I love how Sinach was able to create such an uplifting anthem about her identity in God.

Fear is a natural reaction to 1) being under attack and 2) being unsure of who you are in a world that is constantly calling for labels.

Fear has been a merciless dictator reigning over my thoughts and behaviors for too long. I am learning how to deal with the anxiety by attacking the root of the problem, by dealing with the fear.

And for the record, I am not of the mindset that you can just pray your anxieties away. Yes – God does call for you to cast your worries on to him. God calls for you to pray and seek his presence. He also speaks about the importance of counselors and advisors for those who are searching for understanding and wisdom.

We all carry deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and living that may take years of work to let go. That work includes a variety of healing avenues: prayer, meditation, reflection, meeting with like-minded individuals and more often than we care to admit, therapy.

My therapist has prompted me to use positive self-talk by meditating on all different kinds of wisdom and encouragement. Sometimes it’s biblical verses. Sometimes it’s poetry. I have found abundant solace and comfort in Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Sometimes its lyrics to a song. And the song isn’t always a worship song (GASP! I know. I’m such a heathen.)

When you fix your alignment and remind yourself of who you are, you will be amazed at how you can start to hear and see God everywhere, not just in church or in the bible.

Everyone’s timeline is different. I can’t promise that your anxiety or depression will dissipate within six months to a year’s time. For some people, it’s truly biological. You may need medication. It may take years of work to make the fear more manageable and the anxiety less crippling. I don’t know you or your particular circumstances.

God does though and as the greatest Father of all time, he wants you to heal so that you can take delight in all the good he has in store for you. Prioritize your healing. Prioritize your time with God. And take the process one day at a time. That’s all you can really do.

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***This is essay 41 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.

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