Scary thoughts

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’ve been having flashes of fear. Sudden bursts in my mind of catastrophic situations. It’s been going on for a month now.

Several weeks ago, I was in town with my daughter; we were in her car running errands, and I had a flash of being broadsided by a black truck. The glass was shattered and flying, the car was crumpled and spinning. Like slow motion from a movie scene. I was shocked by how vivid the picture was – like a daytime dream.

And like a dream, I came back to reason and shook my head. I then quoted the above verse to myself.

Today, I needed to run to a doctor’s appointment, and my husband was on the phone, working from home. It flashed across my mind, as I walked into the garage, that I hadn’t kissed him goodbye, and what a shame that would be if I died while I was out. Again, I shook my head and quoted part of that verse: “we have not been given a spirit of fear…”

Those are the two examples that stand out the most starkly in my mind, but I know there have been more, because I’ve quoted this verse to myself nearly a dozen times in the past month.

I’ve had nightmares lately, too. The kind where I wake up in a cold clammy sweat, afraid to get out of bed, in case the monsters are real, and afraid to close my eyes again, lest I fall back into the scary dream. I reach over to be sure my hubby is there, and I try to focus on his breathing, inhale and exhale. I wake enough to realize I’m safe, then pray my way back to sleep.

What is this? Why the sudden fear?

It started in a joyous time – celebrating family and friends at a wedding. Am I dreading the future of what might befall my loved ones?

I’m in the process of moving across the country. Am I fearing the isolation of being alone?

My mom was very sick this Spring. Am I afraid of the past repeating itself?

The last time I had major catastrophic thoughts, I was badly depressed. I’ve determined that I’m not headed there again!

Actually, it probably doesn’t matter what it is. Or even why it is. Because God’s truth is still truth:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I need not fear nor be timid. I have the power of the risen Christ in me (Ephesians 1:19-20), I am surrounded by God’s love (Romans 8:39), and I can be self-disciplined to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), even the scary ones.

God’s Peace, and the Power of Prayer

I have so many things I’d like to write about, but I can’t, due to the incredibly personal nature of them. About health. Work. Family. Sickness. Siblings. Parenting.

All the normal things of life.

But I can write about peace, and God’s faithfulness to answer prayer.

With the many difficult things I’ve been going through lately, I can tell I’m being sustained by friends’ prayers for me and my family. Because of these prayers, I don’t have anxiety about the unknown future. I’m not experiencing stress or great sadness. I’m a little fatigued, but I know it could be so much worse.

There are literally friends all around the country praying for my family, for the various things I’m facing. And God hears each prayer. They come before Him as incense, the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). They are forever before Him as He sits on His throne.

And I am welcomed – no, invited – to come into the throne room with my prayers and petitions. Scripture tells me that I can come boldly before His throne (Hebrews 4:16). In fact, He longs for me to do so. He tells me to bring every concern to Him (1Peter 5:7).

The other night, I awakened around 3am with a rush of anxiety. Yes, it hits occasionally. And my first thought was, “Oh, no! All my prayer warriors are sleeping!” Funny, eh?!

For those of you who are praying, thank you. My family and I are so grateful. Your prayers keep us going, knowing that we are being lifted to the King of kings.

We don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But, as the song says, we “know who holds the future.” God has everything under control. He’s working all things for our good. He is trustworthy.

I am at peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Anxiety Revisited

So I got news yesterday that concerned me. No, more than concern. It brought worry and anxiety. My mind raced eighteen steps ahead in my worst-case-scenario storyline. It was not pretty.

I haven’t had anxiety for a long time, other than a single moment a few weeks ago. But that flash of anxiety was just that – a flash, momentary. It lasted long enough for me to recognize it, but my thoughts immediately turned to God’s truth, and the anxiety was gone – snap! – that fast.

This time, it’s lingering. I’m worried about something in the future that I can’t control. That’s where anxiety looks – ahead. Depression looks back. This is why it’s so important to stay in the current moment – so as not to entertain anxiety (future worry) or depression (past regrets).

Anyway, this fear for a future moment is for an inevitable event; I just don’t know when. And the not-knowing scares me.

Anxiety presents itself in my body in both my belly and my lungs. My stomach feels hollow, and it’s hard to catch my breath. It’s a physical reaction to an emotional response. My stomach hurts and I can’t breathe.

I hugged my husband tonight when he got home, and told him I was scared – he didn’t even ask about what. He knows what worries me, even though I’ve been careful not to dwell on the future or even express it. As if expressing it out loud could make it happen – which it can’t.

The sermon on Sunday was about peace. I’ll go back and review my notes, because I need them right now. I need the peace that Jesus brings. He says, “I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous!” John 14:27 (TPT)

In other places in God’s Word, it says:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15 (NASB)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

I was thinking about that word “guard.” God’s peace will guard my heart and my mind – will protect it, keep it from being attacked by outside forces. By anxious thoughts.

At this time of year, we celebrate that Jesus came as a baby. The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

May He reign in my heart and yours. Right now. Because we all need His Peace.

Out of Sorts

Friday – what a weird day after a long week. I feel discombobulated today – out of sorts. Perhaps a culmination of the past few days.

Saw my psych doc on Monday – my emotional scale scored better than last month’s, so that’s good. I’m pretty stable in the psych world, so don’t need to see him for two months. That’s progress.

Feeling frumpy: saw an ear-nose-throat doc and audiologist on Tuesday – 40+% hearing loss in each ear – prime candidate for hearing aids. I’m only 54 years old! Have gained 5 pounds so my clothes don’t fit right. Can’t read anything without my glasses on. Feeling sorry for myself. Need to figure out how to accept these changes and move on without discouragement. As I’ve said before (last time with humor:) – getting older isn’t for sissies! Paul talks about being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11) – not until today did I consider that might include ageing.

Got a haircut on Wednesday, but she didn’t listen and cut where I told her not to. Makes me miss Susie, who did my hair almost perfectly for 12+ years!

Had a good lunch with women from Book Club on Thursday – nice to be included. Took a relaxing nap during the afternoon thunderstorm. Reading a fantastic book for next month’s Book Club – I’m devouring The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Have had the book for 24 hours and am already on chapter 17!

Today is a lovely sunny day, but for some reason, it’s causing me to miss my Fort Myers house and pool and beach time. Sitting outside on my porch in Virginia is just not the same as on the lanai in Florida.

Leg pain has greatly abated – only hurts when I turn a certain way. So I won’t turn that direction! So glad to finally have relief, after weeks of severe pain.

Several friends going through really tough times. Have prayed hard for others all week, which is as it should be. Still, only one success story from them all – feels discouraging. So much pain and difficulty, and I am helpless to do anything. But praying is doing something – it’s allowing God to work. You go, God!

Missing my kids, my old friends. As always.

Need to remind myself that days like this happen to everyone. Just a funk. A week of ups and downs.

Tomorrow is Saturday – a lazy day, but includes dinner out with my husband to celebrate Mother’s Day. Then a new week. Glad this one is over soon.

“Tears are welcome here.”

These are words from my therapist today.

It was my seventh visit with her, but the first one where I cried. I guess it took me some time to be honest with myself and with her.

Again, her words: “It can be difficult to express your feelings in words, but your tears will help me know you are hurting.”

I’ve been hurting for a while. And I’ve written about it on this blog. Feeling lonely. Missing the daily-ness of my kids. Being unsettled here in Virginia. Searching for my purpose in this second half of my life.

I’ve had some down days over the past few weeks. Not depression, mind you. Just down days. Where I feel sad or out of sorts. Nothing that I can’t get through.

But somehow, I’m surprised each time it happens. As if, because my depression is in remission, all my days should be “up.” Of course, when I think of it logically, I know that’s not realistic. But admitting to down days feels like failure somehow.

So I’ve stuffed the tears. I haven’t let them flow.

We talked about it in my therapy session today. And I cried as I admitted that down days scare me a little. I know they don’t mean depression – not unless they’re two solid weeks of it, plus other symptoms. But still, I’m afraid to admit to the sadness. I don’t handle “negative” emotions very well (especially neither sadness nor anger).

My therapist challenged me to sit with the sadness a little bit. To not be afraid of it. I recall my old therapist making me sit in my sadness in his office. It is hard.

We also talked about building a ladder of self-care. What steps will I take on down days, or even worse, if I feel depression trying to visit? Not “for a cup of coffee, but for an overnight stay.” What will I do to keep depression at bay, or to get through those tough days when I feel sad?

First, I’ll try to sit with the sadness a little. To not avoid the tears, but let them flow. To not be afraid of them, but to let them cleanse me.

Then I’ll text my husband and a friend, and let them know I’m having a down day.  I need to warn them in advance, though, about this self-care process.  I don’t want them assuming it’s depression. But I think it’s important for me to tell someone that I’m having a tough day.

Things I want to do on a down day: take a nap; savor a cup of coffee/tea/mocha; listen – loudly! – to my playlists; journal; pray.

Things I can do on a down day: take a walk on the path behind my house – at least around the block; knit; watch a movie from my wish-list; read; dance.

The want list is not very active. And I know activity can help to keep depression at bay. So I’ll need to merge my can list into my want list, which includes a walk or dancing. Get my body moving.

And I’ll practice being with the tears, the sadness. It’s okay to cry.