It is normal to be anxious over something unusual like a wedding event or first day at work. However, when you are constantly having anxiety, it may qualify to be called anxiety disorder which is a mental health illness. The last time I had an anxiety attack, a loved one asked me; why do you have these attacks when you believe in God? Don’t you have faith?
I was tempted to ask him; why do you have recurrent asthma attacks when you believe in God? Don’t you have faith?
But I restrained myself. However, I still felt the sting of stigma in his tone of voice. Like my anxiety attacks are due to a lack of faith in God. Unfortunately, this kind of stigma and stereotyping is what causes most believers to hide their emotional or mental pain until something fatal like suicide occurs.
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the respiratory system. Anxiety Disorder is a condition that affects the central nervous system, in particular, the brain. They are both systems of the body facing some sort of malfunction which manifests in physical symptoms. Anxiety disorder is caused by recurrent chemical imbalances in the brain. The major concern may be that some mental health issues may alter your perception and behavior, which may be dangerous sometimes.
However, this does not mean that people with conditions such as anxiety disorder should be stigmatized or branded. In some Christian circles, all mental health imbalances are branded off as demonic. So if I’m an elder’s wife and I discover that I have bipolar disorder, for instance, I may shun treatment and professional help for fear of being discovered and branded as demon-possessed.
We have to turn away from stereotyping or branding individuals that are affected by mental health illnesses. This is why I openly speak about my past struggle with depression. I also recently shared how I manage anxiety attacks on my blog Healthy Minds.
To get the definition of Anxiety Disorder, the signs of an anxiety attack, and 7 ways of dealing with an anxiety attack, click here.
Anxiety does not mean a lack of faith in God
Mental health issues such as Anxiety disorder happen to everyone even to believers. Simply because the upbringing and the life experiences of a believer are rarely different from that of a non-believer. Believers are not born in glass cacoons unflawed by harsh life or toxic experiences. The major difference lies in how the believer decides to deal with the outcomes of a harsh or toxic background or experience. And psychology scholars say anxiety disorder or other mental health issues may link to one’s childhood experience, upbringing, or triggering circumstance. Believers are not immune to all those.
Christianity does not mean living on a silver platter. Or special problems and challenges just designed for believers no. I often wonder when I hear believers say, how can he be going through that problem as if he is not a believer?
What does that even mean?
What to do when afflicted by Anxiety attacks
Anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that is significant enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. I mentioned earlier that this is caused by recurrent chemical imbalances in the brain which you have totally no control over. But you can control how you choose to deal with the outcome. That is where your faith comes in.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, Hebrews 11:1 NIV.
The attack is an undesirable situation already from which you seek redemption. Apply your faith that everything will be okay. It’s just your chemicals in the brain misbehaving and nothing will go wrong. As opposed to crying or screaming at everyone within your reach.
Now, this is where your Christianity applies. While the none believer may allow the attack to ride them to the desert and back, you will remain calm, practice a few soothing techniques while asking God for the serenity to handle the attack with grace. But that does not mean you should not ask for God to completely take the whole condition away. Even if it doesn’t go away when you are done asking, continue believing.
Seek the peace of God in prayer, every single time you have an attack. But don’t do it with shame or self-remorse. Speak to God your father like you would when asking him to take away a recurrent peptic ulcer pain or a persistent migraine headache. None of these examples is your fault. Similarly, it is not your fault that you are afflicted by recurrent chemical imbalances in your brain and no one should make you feel inferior, inadequate, or less of a believer.
Instead, like the way Paul’s thorn in the flesh drew him closer to God by making him feel a constant need to seek God’s presence; Let your persistent condition keep you at the feet of Jesus.
Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.
God has a plan for you, anxiety disorder, or not. And it is a plan to bring you the future that you hope for.
“For I alone know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, plans to give you a hope and a future”, Jeremiah 29:11.
Don’t be ashamed of any condition that may be affecting you be it mental or physical, regardless of your status or denomination. Seek the help that you need, do not suffer in silence. God will never allow you to experience any tribulation or trial that he knows you cannot handle. Whatever trial he allows your way, he always creates a way out for you. The power is within you (1 Corinthians 10:13).