If The Cape Fits…

On Friday I learned about a campaign that is helping to spread the word, positive word, about mental health disorders. They asked that you post a selfie holding up four fingers and to use the hashtag #1in4, showing that one in four Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness. I am one of the four so I felt compelled to post the selfie and help the campaign. I started writing a caption for my picture and began with “I am 1 in 4 who suffers…”. Then I paused and thought about that word: suffers. I decided that I didn’t want that to be the word that defines me. So I switched it to: “I am 1 in 4 who daily overcomes the struggle with a mental health disorder” because in the big picture, yes I have times I suffer but at the end of the day when I have OVERCOME the battle with anxiety; that is what I want people to know about, because this is no easy feat.

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I saw this cartoon a while back and I had to laugh because there are times that I am that girl. I can go from mole hill to mountain in 0.5 seconds. But there are other times I feel that I earn that superhero status for different reasons; when I am the girl who overcomes and doesn’t just suffer.

The definition of a superhero is someone who has amazing abilities and battles a villain. You may think that anxiety is my villain but the devil is actually my archenemy and anxiety is his kryptonite.

But in God I have the perfect ally. He gives me the courage and the strength to fight and each day that we overcome the enemy I can consider myself to be at superhero status and here is why:

  • I am courageous when I stick it out at work and not run when I am having a bout of anxiety. I use my strongest tool: prayer. I put on happy music and I walk around the building and I overcome.
  • I am courageous when I try something new or push myself out of my comfort zone. In a couple of weeks I am participating in a comedy mystery play as a benefit for our Relay for Life team. I was asked and I said yes because it will make me step outside of that box that says anxiety controls me.
  • I am courageous when I am open and honest with someone about my disorder. Whether in front of my women’s group at church, with a total stranger, a friend or on this blog, I use my pain for a purpose: to help others. And trust me when I say that this takes a lot of nerve.
  • I am courageous each time I choose to think positively instead of negatively. This may seem like a simple thing to those who don’t know the grip of anxiety but it’s no easy task when your mind is wired to default to gloom and doom thinking.
  • I am courageous when I choose to let God be my strength and at times that can be the most courageous thing a person with anxiety can do. This can oftentimes be hard even for someone who doesn’t have a disorder but for those who do and want to constantly be in control, it requires handing over your fears, your doubts and total control of your thoughts and just trusting.

So when I find myself in a place where I feel less than confident and maybe a little bit of a failure, and when the enemy tries to squash my super powers, I will remind myself that I am worthy of a cape (teal, please) and exploit my unique powers for the greater good!

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Trust the Author of Your Story

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I read a quote recently by Ann Voskamp that really got my attention: “Just that maybe … maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

You don’t know how many times I have wished that I had never had that first anxiety attack, that first panic attack, that first moment of spiraling-out-of-controlness. You don’t know how many times I wished in those darkest days that my husband hadn’t struggled to find ways to help me or words to say, or that my daughter didn’t  have to look at me with fear in her eyes every time I had an off day. Some days I do indeed wish my story had been written differently. But then I am reminded of a lyric in a song by Natalie Grant: “When did I forget that You’ve always been the King of the world?”

The One who holds the world, holds me in His hands as well. He has written my story for a reason. Is it always easy? No. But as the story was being written, He did something else amazing. He equipped me to live out my story by humbling myself to Him. Together we conquer the parts of the story that threaten to defeat me. He gives me sturdy shoes for the rocky road. He makes the crooked ways straight. He calms my spirit and centers me when the winds spiral around me. I am better today because God is my strength and my refuge.

Where would I be if the story had played out differently? I wouldn’t be as close to Him as I am today. I wouldn’t be able to tell others about what He has done for me like I am right now. I wouldn’t be in a church with people I consider family. I couldn’t have written a book. I wouldn’t have met amazing friends who share the same struggles as I do. I couldn’t have sat with a close friend, a family member or a young boy with fear in his beautiful blue eyes, and say “I know exactly how you feel because I’ve been there.”

Our stories are not always comfortable. They will often shake us to our very core. Accept where you are but do not accept the lie that you are alone. In the darkness, God is the light. In our weakness, He is our strength. Let Him cover you in peace and let His light stream into the shadows. Let Him pour His love into the deep crevices of brokenness. Let the author of your story show you why it was written.