By Alex Kelley
I remember being a high school sophomore and going down to the nurse during second period Spanish class. I knew the routine. I would get a pass from the teacher, go to the nurse, tell her my symptoms, and then she would call my mom to get permission to send me home for the rest of the day. I had been there so often that the nurse asked me one day what grade I was getting in Spanish.
“I’m getting 102% in that class. Why do you ask?”
With a surprised look, she said, “I just thought that you were failing and trying to avoid it.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the symptoms that I was experiencing were a result of my anxiety. It would start with a feeling of nervousness, and then I would feel as though the walls were coming in on me. My heart would start racing, nausea set in, and the recurring thought running through my head was “I have got to get out of here”.
So, I would leave.
The worst anxiety attack I can recall was during the SATs. I barely got through filling out my name and starting the essay portion before I got out of my chair, handed the proctor my unfinished exam and left. It was hard to explain to my mom that I was home so early because I couldn’t think clearly enough to even write a simple sentence. So much depended upon how I did on that exam. I had one college that I definitely wanted to go to for pharmacy, but I knew that they only accepted very high SAT scores. If I didn’t get into that school, then I would have to go to my second-choice school. And if I went to that school, I may not qualify for the pharmacy program I wanted. And if didn’t get into pharmacy program, then I wouldn’t be able to be a pharmacist like I wanted and then ….
And then my future would be nothing even close to what I had planned.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to realize that my anxiety was caused by this fear of failure and need to be in control. And I know that a lot of people without anxiety fear failure, too, but this was the kind of fear that started before I could even take one step toward the goal I was reaching for. It was paralyzing, and it was over the most everyday things … like going to high school Spanish class.
It was taking a toll on my mind, my body, and my spiritual life. I got into the college I wanted, but my test anxiety was so bad that I had to get medicine from the campus doctor just to be able to walk into the lecture hall. I had dropped so much weight that it was borderline unhealthy, and my prayer life was so desolate. I didn’t think there was anything or anyone out there that could truly “fix” me
So I just dealt with it as best I could.
After college, I really started to seriously dive into my faith again. I heard someone say that the Bible says things like “Fear not” and “Dot not be afraid” 365 times; one time for each day. That little faith fact totally blew my mind. I know that God has a plan for everyone in this world, and that everyone has the free will to choose to follow that plan. But what I came to know was that my choices were between me and God and everyone else had their own choices, of which I had no business being part of. What a relief! What a huge weight off my shoulders to know that I don’t have to be in control of every little detail of my life, or the lives of others. The closer I got to God, the less anxious I felt. I began to come to know that God created me to live life to the fullest, but not a life full of worry.
I’m not saying that faith will cure everyone’s anxiety. Anxiety is a mental health issue that many struggle with, and it often requires medical attention. If during the time of my deepest struggle I was told to pray about my test anxiety and it would go away, I would have failed out of school. Doctors and therapists, to me, are God’s gifts to help us recover and keep us healthy.
For me, it wasn’t until I began to build a genuine relationship with God that I began to feel my everyday anxiety subside. I still struggle with it, but when I notice those feelings start to creep in, I repeat to myself something that I read in a book recently,
“God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God”.
And sometimes I feel like I’m repeating it about a million times. But as soon as it clicks and as soon as I truly believe in those repeated words, I am free from the desire to be in control, the fear of failure and can redirect my focus to simply living.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex is a pharmacist by day and high school youth group CORE member by night. She loves ministering to the youth if the community, learning about the saints, cleaning, music and watching cooking shows, although she's not the greatest cook. When she's not spending time with her husband, Chris, Alex can be found scrolling through puppy pics on Instagram or organizing something in their home.