I didn’t know what it was that I was feeling for all of those years. I thought it’s just what life felt like.
A twinge in my stomach when making eye contact with an unexpected person. Thinking through where to sit in a room where I would be seen as humble but also engaged. Rehearsing in my head the way that I would word a question or share an opinion. Refusing to raise my hand in class unless I desperately needed to.
I thought it was completely normal and that everyone felt this way all the time.
The first time I felt what it was like to not experience all of these things was in my first year of BSSM in Redding, CA. I noticed how everyone (or what seemed like everyone) would actually ask for prayer when they wanted to be free from something. They would ask for prayer and open up even though it may have been vulnerable or embarrassing. They saw that the result of asking was worth the potential embarrassment that came with opening up and asking for help. Heck, maybe they didn’t think it was embarrassing at all!
I wasn’t able to be excited about an activity or game that actually could have been enjoyable. I wasn’t asking my revival group or even my revival group pastor for prayer when my mom got cancer. I would slip in, slip out, avoid lots of eye contact, and leave as smoothly as I could. I started to wonder how other people could bring themselves to the table and I couldn’t? And over time I knew in my heart that it was because of anxiety.
One day in first year, I was sitting in class when I felt the urge to go to my revival group’s table in the foyer and ask the interns to pray for me. And to my amazement, I went! I actually let the unction move me. That, in itself, was a miracle.
A few people gathered around me with great joy and began laying hands on me and praying. I remember seeing a picture in my mind of something like a whirlwind and I began to spin around in a circle as they prayed. And as I twirled, I felt something lift off. I opened my eyes, thanked them, walked back into class, and as I walked I felt like I was floating. And I don’t even say that in some cute, metaphorical way. I literally felt like a million pounds lifted off of me. I walked through the doors of the class and there was no twinge in my gut! I made eye contact with a stranger and I didn’t feel sick to my stomach! I walked up to my seat and didn’t even think about the crinkling of my bag of chips! All genuine mir
It was the first time in my recent memory where I didn’t feel all of those things, and later that day I asked around and found out that not everyone felt the way I did. I was actually upset when I found this out, feeling like I have been missing out on so much life and fun and freedom for all of these years.
After that I didn’t feel that twinge in my stomach for about two years. I would, on occasion, feel a little bit of it, but I now had memory of what it’s like to be without it, and would be able to quickly return to my freedom. After more time I felt it start to come back as big life changes were going on such as moving to a new city, job changes, etc.
Within the last year, the anxiety took a new shape so I went to a therapist about it. He was incredibly helpful with guiding me to see where it was coming from this time. He helped me to see that it wasn’t any old random anxiety, but it was social anxiety leaching from a root of perfectionism. So he gave me a tool that I want to share with you.
Here is goes:
“So what” if someone doesn’t like me. “So what” if someone thinks the way I’m sitting looks weird. “So what” if my apartment smells like food when a new friend comes over.
No reason to follow, just “so what”. Cut the anxious thought short with a simple “so what”.
Through prayer, therapy and practical tools, I am more free than I’ve ever been. I'm not saying it's perfect. Sometimes I still feel it but I quickly remind myself that it's not my normal anymore and that I don't need anxiety to protect me anymore. It also acts as a small reminder to care less about what people think.
And you wanna know what I think is the best part for me is right now? It’s that I can actually have more fun! I can be goofy, not just in front of my close friends, but in front of anyone I want! I’m allowed to be a source of humor and joy anywhere I go; a character trait that was highly guarded by the root of perfectionism.
Although I do believe that anxiety is demonic, I also believe that each person struggles with it for different reasons, and although it can vanish with powerful prayer, sometimes we also have to pull out the root of where it is stemming from.
If you have been struggling with anxiety to any degree and via any form, I want you to know that #1: you are not the only one, but also, #2: not everyone feels that way. It’s actually not normal for a free person and you don’t need to stay there. In fact, even though it might feel crushingly embarrassing or frightening, I encourage you to not stay there. Trust me, stepping out and asking for help is completely worth it, and as more freedom comes I promise that you will look back and see how little of a deal it was to ask for help in the first place.
There is FUN, JOY, and FREEDOM out there. Like, real freedom. Not just in your affirmation, declaration, and prayers, but in your body and soul.
So I highly encourage you to let the unction to get prayer move you. Let the unction to find a counselor move your little fingers on a screen to find one in your area. Follow the union for freedom and come see how fun, free and beautiful life truly is!