Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. When I hear the word anxiety it conjures up a lot of feelings, images and thoughts. It's something that I have always struggled with, but didn't really fully acknowledge until recently. It's something that I often have joked about, mentioned in passing, blamed but then minimized because I didn't want to sound crazy. I've started realizing more and more how many things are tied to anxiety and really seeing how it's manifested itself in my life. And I know I'm not alone.

This is a topic that I've wanted to write about for awhile now, but when I go to do it I always seem to stare at a blank page. Recently my counselor told me that she thinks when I write, when I choose to be vulnerable, when I choose to let people in on my story...I'm releasing myself from the shame that I often carry with me. Writing, being authentic and vulnerable, and trusting others to walk with me, gives me freedom, it helps me take ownership of my story so I can write my own ending.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about anxiety and I get it...anxiety can look different for everyone. Sometimes the way I explain it to someone is it's like there's a loop in my head about everything and anything that I could be uneasy about or that could be wrong and there's nothing I can do to stop it.  For me, this has resulted in panic attacks, health issues and lots of lost sleep. Also, if you want to know what could go wrong in any given situation, ask an anxious person. Luckily, with a lot of good counseling and hard work, I have learned ways to handle and deal with my anxiety, but it's still an issue. When I'm taking care of myself and being healthy, it's a lot easier to stop that loop in my head than when I'm not.

I thought I would share a few insights about anxiety. I hope that if you struggle with this you'll feel a little less alone and if you don't, that it will help you understand that anxious person in your life a little better.

1. Anxiety is not the same thing as worry. I like how Megan Tietz and Laura Tremaine talk about this on their Sorta Awesome Podcast (Also, I highly recommend anyone and everyone listen to their podcast here about anxiety, if you struggle with it you will say "me too" so many times and if you don't struggle with it, it'll give you great insight), "Worry is somewhat reasonable, but there's no reasoning with anxiety. Worry can be talked down from the cliff. Anxiety is convinced that you are hurtling toward the edge of the cliff and the brakes just went out." When you worry there's usually a reasonable root at the cause of that, you can usually take a few deep breaths, wrap your head around the reality of the situation, pray, meditate or whatever you choose to do to be calm and you'll be fine. Deep breaths don't fix anxiety, trying to wrap your head around your anxious thoughts just keeps you on the hamster wheel and loop and praying, meditating or whatever you choose to do can help, but it doesn't fix least it hasn't for me.

2. A lot of shame can be associated with anxiety. Megan and Laura talk about this in their podcast too and it was actually something I had never fully realized until I heard them say it...I have been so ashamed that I struggle with anxiety. Especially when it came to being a Christian. I have always felt like something was wrong with me, that I didn't believe enough or trust enough...because you know, God says do not worry about anything and how can we add an hour to our life by worrying so why can't I stop all this anxiety? I would repeat those verses over and over again and when nothing changed or every time someone just told me to quit worrying so much because I'm supposed to trust in God, the shame piled on. When I realized there was a difference between anxiety and worry and realized there's no freedom when you're buried in shame, it was like I started living a whole new story.

3. Counseling. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge proponent of counseling. I think anyone and everyone should go to counseling! Because even if you don't struggle with anxiety or you don't think anything's "wrong" with you, we can all benefit from sorting through our issues, learning how to feel our feelings, having space to take a step outside of our current lived experience and, at the bare minimum, talk things out to someone who is legally bound and paid to hear you out and help you think things through. It creates healthier and whole people and the world needs healthier and whole people. People who feel their feelings, who deal with their issues and you acknowledge they don't have it all together.

4. I started to feel freedom when people believed me. Again this was a moment of clarity when listening to Megan and Laura on the podcast, a moment where I realized, yes, that's so true! I have a friend in my life who probably has two anxious thoughts a year...she does not struggle with anxiety. But, she never ridicules me or tells me I'm wrong when I tell her I'm feeling anxious. She believes me. There's even been times where I haven't said anything, but she knows so she tells me to list everything I'm anxious about. I was amazed at how helpful it was to name my anxious thoughts and the person on the other end didn't make me feel crazy or ashamed. She didn't fix it, but she asked, she listened and she believed me. She didn't tell me to quit worrying and that it wasn't a big deal, but she valued that it was my experience.

5. The more information the better. Remember when I said if you want to hear all the worst case scenarios ask an anxious person? Texts sayings like, "We need to talk." or "I've got news for you, but I can't talk for a couple hours." No good. I know for me too this looks like having as many details as possible, I've gotten a lot better with this, but one way this happens to me is when I'm traveling. I love to travel, but the unknown and uncertainty of being somewhere new causes me a lot of anxiety. If you're going to tell me to just head down the street and the train station will be on the right and get on and get off on South Street...that doesn't do it for me. I need to know how many streets I'll cross over, what landmark is near the station, how many stops until we get to the South Street stop? Crazy? Too much? Maybe...but just know if someone is asking you a lot of questions, maybe they're not trying to be annoying, they're just trying to get a full picture of what to expect.

I know this was a long one, but I think it's important and we don't talk about it enough. Unfortunately, so many people struggle with anxiety, some realize it and some don't. It's crazy the affects it can have on your body and how it manifests its way physically too. Looking back over my life and all my health issues, a large majority of them I can now see were connected to anxiety. So...if you struggle with this, please know you're not alone. Feel free to share what it looks like in your life so people can seek to understand you better. If you don't have anxiety, I hope this gives a little insight for you and how you can understand someone who does. People like you can be grace-givers to people like me. If we truly seek to understand each other better, the world will just be a better place, right?


Today I hit a milestone and I am really excited about it. It's not like the jumping for joy, look what I did excitement, but more of a I feel at peace and feel like I can kick back and relax and it enjoy it kind of excitement. It took a lot of work to get here and it was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. Almost a year ago exactly I started counseling. I wrote more about that here, but it has been quite a journey. I'm not shy about sharing my experiences with counseling and how beneficial I think it is for anyone and everyone and that it's been one of the best decisions I could make for myself. I highly recommend it.

About six months ago I started a type of therapy called EMDR, it's kinda hard to explain, but it's a process that helps you let go of painful memories, experiences or beliefs and helps remove negative cognitions that one has always had through stimulation resembling REM sleep. This stimulation helps your brain process things and resolve feelings and beliefs not yet resolved. Sometimes I just explain it like magic because of how effective it is and I don't really understand how it works so well, your brain and what it can do is cool, you guys!

Today I finished EMDR and boy, has it been a long journey! I'm not quite sure I knew what I was getting myself into when I agreed to try this. At times I thought I was going crazy, other times I never knew I could feel so many things, at other moments I wanted to quit, and most of the time I knew it was exactly what I needed.

One day within this process my counselor told me, everyone desires to be...I thought she was going to say happy, but she didn't, she said...everyone desires to be whole. And I thought, yes! That is so much better than just being happy. That is what I want, I want to be whole. I want to live my life making healthy choices that contribute to my wholeness. Yes, I want to be happy, but I know that's a fleeting feeling that is based on circumstances, but being whole is not. Being whole is knowing who you are, loving who you are, knowing that you're someone who is always growing, evolving and learning, showing yourself grace, acknowledging all that you feel, and the freedom to claim and live into your story and out of your wholeness loving others well. I want to be a whole person, that is what I desire.

Today's milestone of completing EMDR in counseling in no way says, hey I made it! I'm whole and that's it! I will always continue to improve myself, to continue to be healthy so that I can continue to be whole, but today I am excited that I have hit a milestone on this journey. I have shed a lot of tears, done a lot of work and gone through a lot of crazy to get here, but it's worth it.

I think if we asked a lot of people what they want it really can come down to wanting to be whole. Whole people, complete people, knowing who we are and staying true to that. I am so incredible thankful that this process has been such a huge part of my life and my wholeness.

So as I sit here, kicked back and relaxed, excited about this completed milestone, I'm thankful for the fact that it is because of this that I can continue to be the person I want to be on this great journey of life creating and living the story I know I am meant to live.

When "Let it Go" Became a Holy Moment.

I know there's been a lot of buzz around the movie, Frozen, and the song, Let it Go, and while I really liked the movie and the song, I haven't been quite as obsessed as other people have been. I know most parents are ready to burn the DVD because they've watched it so much and their kids won't stop singing and I can't hear someone say "let it go" without the song popping in my head, but I haven't thought too much about it. About seven months ago I started counseling. (I know, kinda a random jump, I promise I'll get back to Let It Go, I didn't just want it to be stuck in your head for the remainder of your time reading this :-) ) For whatever reason, there is a stigma around counseling that I think is so completely wrong. Where some people think that going to counseling means you're broken, something's wrong with you and you're crazy, I think it means you're brave, you realize your mental health is just as important as physical health to be a whole person, and sometimes we need a safe place to let it all out. (and sidenote...we are all broken, we all have something wrong with us and everyone's a little crazy, but I digress...) I'm not shy about sharing with people that I'm in counseling and how much I love it. (although, I never really thought I would post about it here) I've gone to counseling off and on since college and it has always been the best decision I could make.

Counseling this time around has been a little different. Other times I've done counseling, it's been for a specific reason or situation of life I'm dealing with, and this time it was just because, well, of life. There was just so much transition, so many things happening and I had so many feelings and I just felt like I needed to let it all out there to someone who had to listen and not judge. Best decision I've made in a long time.

This journey I've been on through counseling has helped me arrive to the truth that it's okay to be who I am. It's helped me realize the deep issues and struggles I've had that made me think I was never going to be enough. It helped me identify the natural tendencies I have that lend towards counting myself as less and shifting to be the person who everyone needs and likes rather than staying true to who I am.

To go into everything that's come from counseling would be pages and pages of writing, but I will say the last seven months have consisted of some of the hardest, but most rewarding work I have ever done. I am not the same person I was seven months ago. I have discovered who I am and that I don't have to apologize for that. I have truly realized that I am good enough, just because I am me. I have come to face my issues and work through them and realize it's okay to feel things besides happy and "good" feelings. I know that my life is my life, no one else's and I can walk through each day with the knowledge that I am staying true to who I am. I have felt empowered, I have experienced freedom and I know what it means to be whole.

Part of my counseling is something called EMDR therapy (it's too long to explain what that means here), but it has been incredible what it has done for me. So at one point today, my counselor asked me what I noticed during EMDR and the lyric from Let it Go (you thought I forgot about that by now, didn't you?) came to my head when she sings, "Here I stand" and then the rest of the song flooded my head.

We decided to play the song at the end of my session, so as I sat there with my eyes closed listening to Let It Go, I felt like I was experiencing a holy moment (after I stopped myself from almost laughing out loud because it seemed a little ridiculous), with the help of a Disney song. It was a moment where I fully realized where I had been, where I was, and where I was going and all I had processed and journeyed through the last seven months. "Here I stand, Here I'll stay"...this is who I am, this is where I'll stand, knowing who I am, whose I am and letting go of this "perfect" person I think I should be so that everyone else is happy. While this song played, in that little moment in a small therapy room, I felt like Jesus was there. I felt like I could feel and know my worth and value, that I know the confidence I can have in who I am because I am one who is dearly loved, that I can keep living life unafraid and let go of anything that has made me feel less than enough or that I'm not able to be who I really am. It was a moment of freedom and holiness. Who knew a Disney song could usher in such a moment!

Just in case you don't know the song I'm talking about, find it here! Also, a sidenote, but if you're reading this and you actually made it to the end, you should consider looking into counseling! I think it's something everyone should do in their life and it's so beneficial for so many reasons, even if you don't think something is "wrong", but that's just my two cents, and not that I'm telling you what to do or anything like that... ;)