I Let Anger Hold Me Captive

I haven’t given an anxiety or Zoloft update recently. I’m back on Zoloft and so thankful because I was really struggling to manage the emotions of pregnancy and changing lifestyles (leaving my job, becoming a mom, etc). Now that I’m back on Zoloft, life has gotten bumpy again; news has started to spread that my dad is sick – I’m not ready to write about it, but I’ll post soon.

In lieu of that post, I’m including something I wrote last year as a reflection of my anxiety journey. I can’t believe I haven’t posted it before. If you’re curious about my other “deep thought” posts, you can check out First Year As a Wife and My Isaiah Moment.

God has allowed a lot to happen over the course of the last few years. I have been resistant to forgive God or any of my offenders. It is easier to wallow in my simmering brew of frustration and discouragement than to allow myself to be set free.

The stress of being a teacher allowed me to acknowledge my anxiety issues. Quite often, people assume anxiety disorders are just over-exaggerated stress, but there is a distinct difference. Anxiety is crippling and terrifying; I have never been so completely helpless or lacking of self-confidence than after an anxiety attack. It leaves you without hope, energy, or motivation.

When the panic attacks first started, they were confined to the evenings. Poor Keith had to deal with my total lapse from sanity, but my students were not affected; until a frustrating morning set off an attack at my lunch break. Tears, shaking, tensed muscles, and paranoia are not the ideal conditions under which to greet a roomful of squirrely 9th graders who are just coming in from the chaos of the cafeteria.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

At some point in college I had memorized this verse and it was the only way to combat the crippling effects of the attack. I made it through the school day, but the attacks continued.

After some couch time (again) and more psychotherapy, I came to realize my anxiety was stemming from my refusal to trust God’s providence. If he was willing to allow me to be hurt over and over again over the last few years, how could I trust him to deal with my pain in a healthy way? My real problem was that I would not be honest about emotional injuries I never let heal (I also started to wonder if those tear-filled, sleepless nights our first year of marriage were linked more to anxiety than a change in my identity).

It was not until I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book “Choosing To See” that I realized the extent of my stubborn refusal to deal with life. Mary Beth’s honesty about the pain she has experienced broke the dam that had held back my angry tears for so many years. I began to let go of my pain as I mourned with Mary Beth and her family.

A few days later, a friend graciously allowed me into her home to pray with me, remind me of God’s promises, and be a support for me to lean on. We played board games with her young boys, rocked her newborn to sleep, and allowed myself to be candid for the first time in years.

My friend read scripture and I cried. She spoke God’s promises to me and I felt my heart changing. She paraphrased several verses to remind me of God’s steadfast nature:

He is the God who raises the dead! Everything is in conformity with the purpose of His will and for the praise of His glory. He chose this time and place for you so that you might know him best. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Ephesians 1:11-12, Acts 17:26-28)

She repeated the verses with my name:

We do not want you to be uninformed, [Becky], about the troubles [you have] experienced in the [last few years]. [You] were under great pressure, far beyond [your] ability to endure, so that [you] despaired of life itself. Indeed, [you] felt [you] had received the sentence of death. But this happened that [you] might not rely on [yourself] but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered [you] from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver [you] again. On him [Becky has] set [her] hope that he will continue to deliver [her], as [friends] help [her] by [their] prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted [Becky] in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

God has delivered me before and he will deliver me again. No amount of injustice, homesickness, loneliness, anger, or discouragement will keep God from delivering me again.

I finally allowed God to release me from my anxiety and anger when I stumbled upon Jeremiah 29:13-14, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity…”

There is nothing as comforting as a reminder from the God of the Universe that he is near and ready to release us from what holds us captive. When anxiety threatens to regain its hold on my mind, I can kneel before his throne and ask to be set free again and again and again.

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