A year or so ago when I moved into my apartment, my best friend came over and unwittingly gave me a visual representation of what friendship should be. My sister and I had a random mirror standing in the living room and it was super dirty and smudged from previously being in storage. My best friend couldn’t stand looking at it and I hadn’t really felt like cleaning it, so she grabbed some Windex and cleaned the mirror. Then, maybe the same day or during a different visit, I pulled a pan or something from my kitchen cabinet and she noticed it was a chaotic mess. Again, I didn’t feel like organizing it, so I just left it that way. Again, because she didn’t like it that way, she decided to organize my kitchen cabinet, so it actually made sense when I grabbed things out of it. A few times after that, she organized a few of my other things too. It seems silly, but today I realized while listening to a podcast about anxiety that those moments were incredibly significant moments in my life because they represent something so much more important.
The podcast I was listening to is called “Directionally Challenged with Candice King and Kayla Ewell.” This podcast episode was about anxiety and it started with the question, “What does anxiety mean to you?” I thought about it and I didn’t have a chance to answer it for myself before Candice answered with the best definition I’ve ever heard. She said something like, “It’s quicksand. I get stuck and the more I struggle or try to get out the worse it gets.” Later on, she and Kayla and their guest talked about their toolboxes to get out of the quicksand. You have to have self-compassion, you have to find creative outlets, you have to find your own ways of coping, and you have to let other people help you out. While they were talking about letting other people help you out of your anxiety and or depression, something they said made me think of the mirror and the cabinet and how like real life those moments were.
2018 was a year of major anxiety for me. I faced depression and was tempted with self-harm far more than I ever would have expected to be after coming away from that in 2012 and these feelings really piled on the anxiety as I dealt with familial drama, financial drama, and kind of just life in general. Through these struggles I learned about all the tools God has given me to fight my personal battle. In order to learn about these tools though, I had to go through a long, hard battle.
For me, 2018 was a year of breaking and healing. It was a spiritual version of something in the medical world called a malunion fracture. A malunion fracture is when a broken bone grows back together without properly healing. To my uneducated knowledge, this most often happens when someone either doesn’t know they’ve been hurt, or they don’t realize they’ve been hurt as badly as they have been. For the malunion fracture to heal properly, the doctor may have to rebreak the bone and then reset it. That’s what God had to do for me this year. I had a few malunion fractures in my heart and God had to allow my heart to be rebroken so that I could heal properly. I didn’t know about these malunion fractures though until they were rebroken.
A few years ago, I really thought that God and I had tackled the bulk of my struggles with anxiety and that it wasn’t much of a struggle for me anymore. 2018 taught me I was wrong. Anxiety, depression, and self-harm are probably going to be things that I battle with for my whole life. There will be times when it’s not as bad and I’ll get stronger every time, but I’ll likely deal with these things forever and that’s okay. There are going to be times in my life when malunion fractures come up in my life and anxiety will occur because I have to deal with them. It will be hard and I probably won’t like the process but I will be necessary for me to heal and grow in my relationships with people and with God.
And here’s the thing about anxiety that I think a lot of Christians feel even more anxiety over. In and of itself, anxiety is not a sin. Anxiety is an emotion that tells me when I need to slow down and focus more on God than others or things. Sin only comes into play when I let my anxiety control me instead of choosing to let God control my anxiety. I can choose to dwell on my anxiety and let it take me to dark places or I can choose to use my anxiety to draw me closer to God and the healthy relationships He has provided for me.
That’s where my best friend cleaning my mirror and organizing my kitchen cabinet comes into the picture. Yes, she did that in a literal sense, but all throughout this year she and a few other friends have done that in a metaphorical sense as well. They’ve loved me, they’ve cared about me, and they’ve celebrated me. In doing so, they’ve helped me see my spiritual and emotional reflections better and they’ve helped me to organize the clutter of my mental cabinets.
In 2018, I was reminded what my actual identity looks like. I was reminded that it’s okay and important to rearrange things in my life and to get rid of things that negatively affect my mental health. Through my dearest friends who have chatted with me and loved me, I’ve seen what godly and healthy relationships are supposed to look like. Because of that, I’ve learned which relationships I need to just get rid of all together and which relationships I need to push to the back of my “cabinet” and not use quite as often, if ever. While doing that, God worked on my malunion fractures and reset them so that now as I head into a new year they are truly healed and ready for whatever God may have for me in the next chapter of my life.
Normally at the end/beginning of the year I give a brief recap of the year before and then set out my goals for the coming new year. This year I can’t really recap 2018 because I didn’t accomplish any of my goals. I’m going into 2019 a few pounds heavier than I went into 2018 instead of leaving 2018 twenty-five to fifty pounds lighter. I didn’t read very many books or finish any television series’. I didn’t read my Bible every day and I didn’t journal every day (though I did do a lot better at both this year than I normally do. I journaled almost every day and read my Bible or a Bible plan on average a couple times a week.) I didn’t create something new every day and I didn’t really change my eating habits very much. But all of that is okay. I don’t feel sad or discouraged by not meeting any of these goals because I can honestly say I’m leaving 2018 feeling a lot lighter than I felt during the rest of the year, because I’ve finally realized that with God I can control my anxiety. I’ve realized that asking for prayer and help is okay and so, so important. I’ve also realized that if my friendship fears were grounded in any amount of truth, then I wouldn’t have the same best friends after six years of them knowing me.
So, as I leave 2018 and head into 2019, I’m not making any plans or setting any goals. I’ll continue and start a few new practices like journaling, creating more, sleeping to the light sound of worship music in the background, tracking my daily stress levels, and keeping track of what I do and don’t eat or how I do or don’t exercise, but I’m not setting any goals. I’m just going to read my Bible, worship the Lord in song and written word, and let my friends help me when I don’t know how to help myself. Because no matter what happens in 2019 and no matter how often I feel anxious or worried, I won’t let it consume me. I will live in peace with the Lord and know that “no matter what my future holds, I know Who holds my future.”