I used to think that I was a super honest and vulnerable person. I have been told by my momma that I wear my heart on my sleeve, but the reality is, it was often only for her or for the rest of my family to see. While I thought of myself as an open book, I was hiding the reality of my brokenness.
I have always been open about my life, my struggles, the way God has worked in my life, etc. but I tend to put a happy spin on whatever I choose to share.
“I experienced a lot of anxiety when I was 16, due to a heavy academic load, an impending move, and the death of a friend, but it’s fine, you are supposed to anxious when things are not going great.”
“I missed out on my senior season of softball due to a shoulder injury and felt lonely and anxious, but it’s fine.”
“Yeah, I missed my family when I was at college, but I wasn’t as homesick as most people get, so it’s all fine.”
Notice a trend? I am the “it’s all fine” girl.
For much of my life, I have convinced myself that I have to be perfect, put together, and that I need to completely dismiss the fact that mentally I might not be healthy, just so that I can keep up appearances. I have tried (and epically failed) at keeping myself together and have attempted to control my environment and those around me in hopes of finding love, approval and peace. And in doing so I have sacrificed my own mental health and ignored the necessity of confessing my struggles to others.
But lately, that has been changing as I have learned about the beauty of vulnerability and the healing that comes with honesty.
The truth is, I have not been fine, but by the grace of God, loving parents, encouraging friends and an amazing counselor, I am learning how to not be controlled by my OCD and Anxiety and to let go of my desire to be in control and to be approved of.
Earlier this year, I was sitting at a table at school, watching the most beautiful sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains, when I finally got the courage to call Molly about something I had been struggling with since winter break.
My OCD had gotten the best of me and I felt out of control in my friendships, schoolwork and job and the one area of my life that I could control was fitness. I was channeling all of my anxiety and OCD into over exercising and restrictive eating. For me this was not about body image or my insecurities, but about being in control and fitness and food gave me that outlet.
It was by God’s grace alone that I picked up my phone to call Molly. That conversation kickstarted the journey of preventing what could have become a dangerous eating disorder and the beginning of me recognizing my brokenness so that I could get the help that I needed.
While I am not done fighting this battle, I am healing from the wounds of anxiety and OCD. However, I have learned a few things over the past few months that I think are helpful.
- Plaster your walls with truth. For me, this looked like having every wall, mirror, ceiling, space, etc. covered in Scripture. I needed to be able to see truth wherever I turned to equip me as I went about my days.
- Be in the Word. I learned a lot about spiritual warfare. And I mean A. LOT. I realized that the devil was going to be doing whatever he could to knock me down, convince me to believe lies and try to wedge himself in between my relationship with the Lord. It became more crucial for me than ever to have a daily quiet time so that I could go throughout my day equipped to do spiritual battle.
- Confess your struggles. Sin and struggles thrive in the darkness. You’ve probably heard that before, but I cannot stress it enough. For weeks during my spring semester I refused to tell anyone that I was not okay. I wanted to prove to the world that I was put together and perfect. Once I confessed my struggles to those I trusted, my healing could begin. Yet again, this past summer I was amazed at how confession built community and sparked an opportunity to worship the Lord.
I do not share my story today with you all for pity or for attention, but to be truly honest about my weaknesses and to encourage others who are struggling too. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, OCD or depression, to name a few, I urge you to talk to someone you can trust today. Find a counselor, a pastor, a parent etc. to share your burdens with so that you can begin the process of healing.