Michelle Neitzke

Calm in the Storm?: Living with Anxiety

I would panic. I didn’t understand what was going on. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, and my body felt like it belonged to another world, but as a little girl all that I could explain to my mom was “that I felt weird.”

Throughout my childhood I experienced situations like this. I lived in fear, but not the type of fear that could be silenced by a calm voice or reason. My mind spun, my brain hurt, and I often felt panicked. Only later in my life did I find out what I was experiencing had a name, it was called anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, my whole childhood wasn’t defined by living with anxiety. I excelled in school and activities as well as thrived as a seemingly well adjusted child, but anxiety was a real suffering, something that I had to deal with often – even daily.

I couldn’t name the way I felt as “anxiety” until I was in high school. What seemed to be a normal visit to the doctor led to questions about my mental health. A few more questions and evaluations and I could put a name to my suffering. Knowing that I suffered from anxiety and that I knew what to call it wasn’t frightening, it was almost a comfort. Anxiety was a real thing and I now understood what was causing me distress.

If you suffer from anxiety, you know that it is a true battle and a real cross in your life, perhaps even the biggest cross you carry.

For those of you who experience anxiety, I want you to know that you are not alone. Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health issue. In the midst of anxiety or a panic attack it may feel like no one can understand what you are experiencing or that you are alone. Have great confidence that there are many others who have experienced what you are going through, there is help, and there is even hope.

Living with anxiety has brought me into some of the deepest trenches of suffering and sorrow in my life. There have been times that I didn’t deal with my anxiety in healthy ways, times that I didn’t have hope, and times that I didn’t know how to deal with the pain.

I don’t want that for you. Here are a few things that I have learned on the journey.

1. In our deepest suffering we can experience the deepest grace

There have been moments in my life where I would have gladly traded my anxiety for some other type of suffering. In these deep and dark moments of pain, anxiety, or panic, know that God offers an enormous amount of grace to us. He gives us more than enough grace to match the suffering we are experiencing. In moments of anxiety cling to that grace. When we do this we allow our suffering to become an offering to God, and He becomes our comfort.

2. Real people get real help

Whatever stigma you have in your mind about seeking counseling from mental health professionals, get rid it of it! The truth is that getting help is a healthy thing to do, it doesn’t make you “weird” or “crazy.” Seeking help from experts can offer you guidance and resources that you might not be able to find on your own. If your anxiety is more than you feel that you can handle, help is available. If you want to read more about seeking professional help, click here.

3. Your anxiety doesn’t define you

Anxiety is such a silent suffering and it is easy to hide your pain in the chaos of your mind, but there is also a temptation to let your anxiety define you. Anxiety may be something you struggle with, but it is not who you are. You aren’t defined by your suffering, you are defined by your identity as a child of God. Let go of the lie that anxiety controls or defines you. Be God’s!

4. Calm in the Storm

For someone who lives with anxiety it may feel like there isn’t a “calm in the storm.” You may feel like your life is out of control and that God is distant. I have often felt like this. Even though anxiety is a challenge and even though it can feel like everything is out of control… peace is possible. God is present. In the midst of your anxiety the Lord is inviting you trust Him, and to find a moment of calm by resting near His heart.

Even though I have found ways to find healing and peace in the midst of anxiety… it’s still something that I struggle with, sometimes even daily. You might feel like there is no hope for you. I am here to tell you, there is hope! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bcv=53015011

Looking for resources to help you and don’t know where to start? Here are a few starting points.
1. CatholicPsych.com
2. The Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal with Anxiety and Worry by Lisa M. Schab
3. Anxiety Tips for Teens
4. Look for resources around you. Seek the the support and help of your parents, youth ministers, and school counselors.

With the right resources, support and prayer, you can live an abundant life! Please know of my prayers for you. You are not alone!

Michelle Neitzke

About the Author

I am originally from the south but somehow found my way up to the northern tundra (aka Saint Paul, Minnesota) where I live and also work for an amazing parish in the Archdiocese. I love good humor, fall weather, black olives, tea, studying theology, bodies of water, Chick-fil-a, bookstores, and great company. I love sharing my faith with others and I consider it an honor that I am able to participate in the Church’s mission of making the name of Jesus Christ known and loved. Follow me on Twitter @MichelleNeitzke