On The Run: When Anxiety Attacks

Have you ever been in a place where the walls seemed to be closing in on you, only to realize that you were outside?  Life has a way of smacking us back into reality really fast and without warning.  I have often thought about what would have happened if I had made certain decisions, said certain things, or even fought a little bit harder in times where I was either unsure, under pressure, and out of options…or so it seemed.  Anxiety can creep in like a thief in the night, unannounced and without warning.  Placing its victim in a narrow rabbit hole that bears no comfort, solace, or semblance of the temporary nature of its existence.

My experience with anxiety has been in moments when the pressure of keeping things together have for a moment presented itself to be nearly impossible.  That all of the decisions that I had made up until that point of despair were wrong and all of my mistakes would be exposed.  Have you ever felt trapped by your own expectations of yourself?  It is difficult enough to consider what others expect of you, but when you feel like you have not measured up to your own idea of YOU, that can smack you in the face like an 18-wheeler!  The difficulty in navigating expectations is not that we cannot attain the standard, but that the standard is often based off of the ideals of the world and not the character of God!  If we are honest and really take a look at how we often operate, we will see that we go to great lengths to chase or run after the “American Dream” or have the fairytale life.  However, it is likely that once we get to that place, we realize that we have placed more effort in concentrating on running towards the goal more than experiencing the journey along the way.

I often share that there is a portion of my 20s that is but a blur.  I remember significant events, but the years are a blur.  They seem to run together like the color of Fruity Pebbles cereal runs off when it sits in the milk long enough.  I can distinguish the colors, but not where they originate from.  A lot of my 20s was spent running, running from my past, running from love, running to love, running for my life, and running because it felt good to be “free”.  I spent a lot of that time On The Run.  Even when I was still and not physically going anywhere, I was running in my mind.  Reformatting my brain to suppress the old me and to recreate a me 2.0!  I wanted a life that I could be proud to speak about.  If I am honest, I felt like I had settled and chosen someone else’s dream as a consolation prize.  What I had expected to do in life, I attempted to do it, but then chose to go another route.  I am now so grateful for that choice because it led me to my purpose, but there were times when I would ask myself if I could have been successful if I had focused a bit more.

I realize now that everything that occurred back then, happened in order for me to be exactly where I am now.  My husband, children, family, friends, purpose are all tied in to what I went though all those years ago.  However, in my current trajectory, there are moments of angst that grip me like a grandmother snatches a kid running through freshly hung laundry on the line!  It’s because now, my purpose is not about me, but everyone connected to me.  Now I am, in a sense, hyperaware of how my decisions can and will impact everyone around me and even those waiting on me to get there.  In my experience and encounters with anxiety, I have come to the conclusion that it comes to paralyze us from becoming.  It comes to make us think that we’ve missed the opportunity or that we’ve messed up the opportunity we have been given.

Running, in the mind of an athlete, signifies progress toward a goal.  A means to get them from one point to another.  But for someone like me who found themselves no longer running for sport but survival, it signifies opportunity.  If you have ever been On The Run you know what I am describing.  Anxiety makes you run, rejection makes you run, pain makes you run…these things either makes us run to avoid it or escape it.  What has been revealed to me is that even when it seemed like I was On The Run, God was fast on my heels with grace and mercy and favor.  Even when it seemed like my purpose had passed be by from years of running, each twist and turn of my journey was leading me directly here.

Recently, I woke on a Saturday with the full intention of being productive.  But somehow as the day went on, I began to feel heavy.  Heavy like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I couldn’t breath heavy.  I had some tasks on my mind and I felt like I whatever I chose, it would bring me back to the same pit.  I normally don’t share these pressed moments with anyone (other than my husband), but that day I told my husband, who has heard it explained as “I just don’t feel right” and I told a friend.  Between the two of them, I was reminded that help is always there you need only reach out and grab it.  I also realized that I usually have these fights with the enemy on days when I am not distracted by work and weekly events.  Isn’t it funny how we can be on the run in our daily routine and not even realize it?  Not even recognizing that once we slow down, we have to still deal with US!  It is my humble prayer that we all begin to breathe, slow down, and rest.

In Philippians 4:4-7 the Bible says: 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  This reminds us that even when we are running to guard our hearts and minds, that God is always near.  That our anxiousness cannot exist when we bring God into the situation.  Let God always be your guide!

Be blessed y’all!

Alicia Owen

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