Updated: Jul 15, 2022
I’ve shared some about my struggle with anxiety on my Instagram stories, but since I struggled with anxiety, I often felt anxious about sharing too much on the subject. That’s what anxiety does. It holds you back from doing and saying things even if you think the information could be helpful to someone else.
Recently though, I had a very intense time with God where I got to the root of where my anxiety stemmed from. And I very much want to share that experience with you. Before I tell you what happened though, I need to give you some background.
I didn’t know I had anxiety until about two and half years ago. I found out because I started following people and organizations on social media who shared content about brain science, which I was completely obsessed with at the time. A few of these accounts started sharing information about what anxiety looks like and I realized they were describing me, almost to a T.
It sent me on a journey of research. I wanted to deny that I had anxiety. But the more I researched, the more I realized I really had been dealing with anxiety my whole life and didn’t even know it. So, once I was convinced that I really did have an issue with anxiety, I started to pray.
I wanted to understand why I had anxiety because now that I knew I had a problem with it, I didn’t want to keep having a problem with it. I wanted to get rid of it.
Since I already had a pretty good understanding of how the brain works, I started there. I began doing breathing exercises, I used my essential oils, I tried eating better, working out, journaling, and unplugging so I could get better sleep at night.
All of these things helped to a degree, but they didn’t seem to last. I couldn’t seem to do enough mental health exercises to stop being anxious for more than a few minutes at a time. And then, for the first time in my life, I started having panic attacks.
This worried me. I didn’t like that the anxiety seemed to get worse once I realized I had a problem with it. So I prayed more. I did more research. But all I had were these band-aids that gave temporary relief.
Finally, I got so frustrated and discouraged, that I asked God if anxiety was the thorn in my side that I was going to have to live with forever. (2 Corinthians 12:7) I didn’t get an answer to that question. At least, not right away.
A few days later, I got an e-mail newsletter from a neuroscientist I follow. The e-mail was all about catastrophic thinking and what causes it. Even though I sign up for email newsletters, I very rarely open them. But I opened this one because even though I was feeling discouraged and hopeless about ever overcoming this anxiety, I was still curious.
In this newsletter, the Doctor said that he has the largest library of brain scans showing brain activity during different emotional states. He said that in every case he’d seen, where someone struggled with catastrophic thinking, there was brain damage caused by a traumatic event in that person’s life.
This got me thinking. I looked back at my life and tried to find an event that could possibly be traumatic enough that it would cause me to have anxiety. But I didn’t see what it could be. So I asked the Lord if there was something I was missing.
The first thing that popped into my head after I prayed that, was an incident that happened when I was about 18 months old. I instantly waved it off. I told the Lord that couldn’t possibly be the traumatic event because I was a baby and didn’t even remember it. The only reason I even know it happened is because my parents talked about it when I was growing up.
This is a little hard to explain, but immediately after I dismissed the thought that the Lord put in my head, it’s like He opened up a file folder in my brain of all the information I’d researched and learned about trauma and how it can affect us as infants. You know in Sci-fy movies when the android has to come up with a solution to a problem really fast, and they freeze, but their eyes are doing that REM cycle movement thing because they’re processing so much data so fast? Yeah, it was kind of like that.
Anyway, I knew then that I needed to explore the memory of my little sister’s death. We were both babies. It was bath time. We were both in the bathtub. Each of my parents thought the other was in the bathroom watching us, but neither of them were. My sister drowned.
I have no memory of this. There are no sensations or emotions that rise up in me when I think about it, other than a deep sadness at what my parents must have gone through at the time and for a long time after. But it was a memory I needed to process through. I wasn’t sure how to do that.
Now, I’ve done quite a bit of inner healing in my life. I don’t know if all my readers are familiar with inner healing, but the easiest and shortest way to explain it, is you go to God in prayer, usually with another person who can facilitate, ask questions, and pray, and you allow God to guide you to the root cause of whatever you’re dealing with at the time. Since inner healing usually deals with painful topics, it’s best to have a trusted third party there who can redirect if things are getting too intense, or help you explore if answers don’t seem to be forthcoming.
Typically, my trusted third party is my mom. But since this was a situation in which she may have experienced pain herself during the inner healing process, I decided to try and do this inner healing by myself. But it took me three days before I finally decided that would be the best way to go.
I knew it would take a good chunk of time, so I waited until I had a morning when I knew I would have a quiet, uninterrupted time. Then I sat down with my journal and a pen and said, “Okay, I know this isn’t something one usually does on their own, but I have the Holy Spirit here to be my guide and help me ask the right questions.”
Since I didn’t have a memory of the event, I asked the Lord how I should begin. Typically, when I’m working through a memory, what happens is, I recall the memory and ask Jesus to show me where he was in that moment. In this case, I felt like I should imagine what had happened.
This whole process took about two hours, so I won’t give details on the whole process, but when I started, I immediately began having anxiety. As I imagined the scene, I saw Jesus completely focused on my little sister, and when she died, he carried her off and left me behind. And I didn’t like how that felt.
I asked the Lord what he wanted me to know about what I had imagined, and he told me it wasn’t true. I asked him to show me the truth and the imagined memory played over again in my mind. Jesus was there, focused on my sister, but he was also with me and with both of my parents wherever they were in the house. He never left any of us for even a second. I was in tears by this point and didn’t stop crying until well after this inner healing session was done.
After going through the memory, I had a question-and-answer session with the Lord, and this is what came from that time:
Because there was a part of me that believed Jesus left me at that time, I had some trouble trusting Jesus. I had to release that lie and let him replace it with the truth he showed me, that he really was there with me and didn’t leave me.
I had to forgive my parents. As a baby I didn’t understand what had happened. I didn’t know this until I talked with my mom about this inner healing after the fact, but a family friend had come over and taken me to their house while my parents were at the hospital with my sister. I didn’t understand what had happened. I didn’t understand why everyone was upset. I didn’t understand why my sister didn’t come home. I didn’t understand why my parents changed. And all of this, is what caused the trauma.
The Lord revealed to me that I had survivors guilt. To the degree that I unconsciously blamed myself for the change I saw in my parents after my sisters death. And I dealt with that by trying to be a good child. By not disappointing them. I had a certain level of attachment with my parents before my sister’s death, and after, that attachment changed as my parents grieved. They weren’t emotionally available to me for a time. I didn’t understand why and it created uncertainty and fear in me. I feared causing them more pain because if I caused them any pain, I might lose even more attachment.
He showed me that all my anxiety was related to my relationships with people. And he brought memories back to me from my growing up years to show me how anxiety had affected my life.
And finally, I asked the Lord if I could release anxiety. If I could give it to him, if he could replace it with something else. And he said I could. When I asked him what he would replace it with he said, “I give you the confidence to know that you are worthy of love. You are worthy beloved. You are worthy. You are acceptable. You please me, I do not blame you for your sisters death. Your parents don’t blame you for her death. You are worthy, you are worthy, you are worthy.”
This all happened on October 19th 2021. And since that day, I have not had any anxiety. I used to get anxiety when I had to talk to people I didn’t know. I have not had that problem since October 19th. I used to get anxious about telling my husband certain things or confiding certain things to him, and I haven’t had that problem anymore either. There are so many little things that I’m able to do confidently now, that I was not able to do before and it is so freeing!
There was an aspect of this inner healing I struggled with. There seemed to be a disconnect between the trauma that happened and what I believed as an adult. As the Lord revealed these things to me, I kept saying, “but God, I know it wasn’t my fault. I know that. I know my parents don’t blame me, so how can this be?” And he reminded me how trauma is not stored correctly in our memories, it’s stored in our emotions and our bodies. The anxiety I had was an emotional manifestation of the trauma I experienced. My parents didn’t do anything wrong, they couldn’t have known at the time how it affected me and since I was an infant, I couldn’t exactly tell them how I felt about all of it.
Growing up, I was a good kid. I was hypervigilant in noticing how my parents were feeling and I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t upset them. But once I became an adult and started living on my own, the dynamic changed. I provided for myself and didn’t have to rely on my parents for everything. Our relationship changed again, but there was no trauma associated with that change.
I still had anxiety because the root trauma hadn’t been dealt with. There was still a root of fear in me that there was something about myself I couldn’t comprehend that would cause people pain. Once I allowed God to show me where that came from and let him walk me through that memory I was able to allow my brain to re-sort those events in a healthy way.
For several days after this inner healing session, I had a lot of dreams. There was one night where I woke up and remembered having three different dreams, which I’d never experienced before.
When we dream, our brains are in the REM cycle. This is when our brain processes information and stores the events of our lives into memories or discards it. The dreams I had after this inner healing session were just another sign that I had resolved the trauma from this memory and my brain was processing it the way it should have been processed at the time.
I wanted to share this experience because anxiety is awful. It’s debilitating. And people will say it’s a chemical imbalance – and for some people that may be all it is. I know there were certain times of the month that if I ate too much sugar, it made my anxiety worse. But not all anxiety can be explained away by a chemical imbalance. And medication only covers the symptoms, it doesn’t take it away. There are answers out there. There are ways to heal. Keep searching.
I honestly don’t know if I would have gotten healing without God, but I know there are therapists trained to help people process trauma. It’s not easy to face painful events in our lives and I don’t recommend doing it on your own because there is a chance you could retraumatize yourself. But don’t give up, keep reaching for that healing.
Some additional resources I've discovered in the last few months that may be of help to anyone trying to overcome anxiety are:
Dr. Caroline Leaf's app called Neurocycle
Dr. Daniel Amen's articles