Just before Christmas, I left you with a picture of the young woman I was becoming. The life I chose to live was about having as much fun as I could without hurting myself or anyone else. I drank. I smoked cigarettes. I went out with friends. I went out with boys and I didn’t set boundaries for myself (that’s an attempt at not having to actually say that I was living a promiscuous lifestyle when, in fact, I was). The truth is, the life I was living was hurting both myself, and those closest to me… And I certainly wasn’t seeking God in my life.
I was in a really crucial time where I needed to make some serious decisions about who I was going to be and how I would live my life. Sadly, I didn’t choose the life that would bring me closer to God and deal with some of the underlying issues that were following me around. Let me explain…
I graduated high school a semester early (woo hoo!) and went to college at Texas Tech a semester early as well. My parents and I were excited about this because I would get away from my hometown and the ex-boyfriend that I had lived with. I still ran into him around town and I still struggled to make sense of that time in my life. I didn’t understand why things had to be so difficult and I was looking for answers in all of the wrong places (drinking, smoking, boys, etc.).
When I got to college, I thought everything would change for the better. I would be on my own, making my own decisions, focusing on school, making new friends. I had a dorm roommate, who I was sure was going to turn into my new BFF. I would live closer to my oldest brother who was a HUGE help in getting me out of the situation with my ex-boyfriend. I was really excited about the potential that the future held for me.
While some things turned out as expected, not everything did. My classes were going well for the most part (except I had a “C” in my Classical Greek & Latin class – which was unheard of being a straight “A” student for most of my life. My only excuse was, “Well, IT’S GREEK TO ME!” Ha!). I got to hang out with my brother on the weekends sometimes, and I visited his office on campus – he worked in the Texas Tech Audiology department. My new roommate was somewhat of a friend when she wasn’t spending all of her time at her boyfriend’s dorm. And I did start to make some new friends – mostly boys.
Here’s what I wasn’t expecting: I started having some severe anxiety issues – although I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time.
I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did my roommate would tell me that I would shoot straight up in my bed screaming. This happened pretty frequently when I started school… She said that I would have full conversations with her, but in the morning I wouldn’t remember a thing. I just knew that I was tired for some unexplained reason.
There were days that I’d be in my dorm room studying and all of a sudden I would feel trapped and that I had to just “go”. My heart would be beating so hard and fast in my chest that I could hear it. I would get out of the dorm and start running across campus. I never really had a destination, I just had to run. Sometimes I would end up at my brother’s office “just to check see what he was up to”, but I don’t recall if I ever really told him what I was experiencing. I guess I was hiding, or embarrassed, or both…
After a few weeks of this, someone told me about the health services that the school offered and I made an appointment to see a therapist of some sort. I explained what I was experiencing and I was told that I was feeling anxiety and the therapist gave me some breathing exercises to try out. I don’t remember them working because eventually I found myself in the psychiatry department at school and they prescribed me some anxiety medication. I think I took a couple of rounds of medications, but didn’t take them long term.
I really couldn’t explain what was happening to me physically during that time, but I now have some insight into it. The only way I can really describe it was that my soul was crying out for help – trying to get my attention. Everything in my life at the time (for the most part) was pulling me further and further away from God. I was deeply unhappy at the time, even though you couldn’t fully see it on the outside. My soul was trying to get my attention – to bring me back to my foundation in Christ.
Even though I was a Christian, I did not look into or join any Christian organizations at school. Can you imagine the type of support and friendship I would have found if I would have joined? I was still incredibly shy around people I didn’t know and because I went to college earlier than any of my classmates, and there wasn’t a good chance that I would know anyone – that terrified me. I really wish I would have taken the time to look into these clubs because now I really think that I could have found the support and friendship that I so desperately needed.
Worst of all, I didn’t even LOOK for a church to attend on the weekends or throughout the week. I spent all of my time either studying or hanging out with my brother or new boyfriend. I didn’t pray. I refused to turn to my loving Christian parents who I know would have done everything in their power to help me. I had totally abandoned the foundation that God had given me early in my life.
Being on my own, I had no clue how to keep myself together. I literally felt like I was falling apart and that I was going crazy.
Over time things started to calm down. I’m not sure if it was because I settled in to school or if it was because I was settling into a routine, but after a couple of months my symptoms started to lessen (although I dealt with some form of anxiety for a few years following this time – but I think everyone does at that life stage!).
In retrospect, I see now that it was simple… When I strayed away from my relationship with God, my soul became uneasy. That fact continues to be true. When I am investing and resting in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I am more at peace. What I experienced that semester in college was my soul crying for my Father that I was not seeking. Even when my head and my heart thought the comfort I needed was in alcohol, boys and medication – my soul knew the truth – only God could put me at ease and restore me.
I really wish I had known all of this at the time. I guess in a way I did know it because my soul was crying out, but I wish I had known it with my head so I could have made different decisions and turned back to God. So many mistakes were made in my personal life, mistakes that could have been prevented by surrounding myself with brothers and sisters in Christ, with my Christian parents, and with God’s love for me. Instead, I was making MY WAY through life and setting myself up for several decisions that would cause me a lot of pain and heartache in the not so distant future…
What I’ve learned:
- Sometimes physically getting away from a problem will open your eyes to an even bigger problem. I thought everything in my life would turn up when I physically got away from my ex-boyfriend, but that opened up an even bigger problem in my life – my lack of relationship with God.
- My soul’s unrest manifested in physical symptoms and ailments in an attempt to get my attention.
- My soul was the smartest part of my being during a time when I had turned from God.
- The only solution to settling my soul is my loving Heavenly Father, despite the solutions that the world tries to give me (alcohol, drugs, sex).
- Until I turned to God, I would never feel fully at peace.
- There are many people who would have been supportive and helped me, had I only reached out: my parents, old friends and church leaders and school Christian organizations.
- Have you ever experienced physical anxiety in a way that cripples your life? What was happening in your life at that time?
- What might your soul have been trying to say to you?
- Have you ever tried to settle anxiety with alcohol, drugs or sex? How has that worked out?
- Have you ever tried to settle anxiety with God? How has that worked out?
- Is it time to turn your anxieties over to the Lord? How can you do that?
- Who can you reach out to in order to gain personal support? A family member? A friend? A church leader? A Christian organization?
Side Note: For many who suffer with anxiety, medical professionals recommend medications. I am not advocating pro or anti medication in these circumstances. I am merely sharing my experience and asking the reader to consider God’s role in this situation. If He has never been sought to deal with personal anxiety, I challenge the reader to strongly consider it and to pray about it. After all, Peter tells us:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and sober of mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:7-8
If you need prayer, please contact me privately as I would love nothing more than to pray with you and for you. Know that you are already being prayed for.