The lector didn't get very far this morning before I completely tuned her out (no offense to her, she does a fine job). She was reading Philippians 4:6-9, but as I read along in the missal my mind stopped midway through the first verse:
"Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all..."
Have no anxiety at all. If the Apostle Paul who wrote those words were here, I'd sheepishly share with him how just this morning on our way to church I consciously took slow deep breaths and exhaled hard to rid myself of anxiety that I felt slowly building inside of me. Would he be disappointed in me, that I sometimes suffer with anxiety? I found the verses as I continued reading both convicting and comforting. Convicting because I'm not to have it and still do, yet comforting because Paul knew well enough that people would struggle with it and therefore addressed it. I'm by no means alone.
Anxiety isn't something I was personally familiar with prior to having breast cancer. I've never been a worrier and am typically a happy-go-lucky kinda gal. As as matter of fact, anxiety was so foreign to me that I didn't recognize it when it entered my life and attempted to emotionally mar anything I did that was remotely out of the ordinary. Early on, a lunch date with my kids or a trip to the movie theater - normal activities which should have brought happiness - because I didn't do them regularly instilled a sense of dread. So unless I was taking the children to school, going to church or visiting the doctor's office I wanted to stay home...preferably in sweats. When forced to leave the safe confines of my house, mental games to calm my body and fight back tears became constant companions. Thankfully, my mom identified what was happening and ensured I received much needed help. Thank you, Mom!
Apparently, anxiety is a common response to a cancer diagnosis. I couldn't find statistics on it, but breastcancer.org has a page devoted to the education of patients about anxiety. It states the following:
"Anxiety is a feeling of fear or uneasiness. Mild anxiety is part of every day life. You might feel anxious before you take a test or attend an important meeting at work. This kind of anxiety can help you by making you more alert or careful. Mild anxiety goes away after you're out of the situation that caused it.
If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, you might feel anxious, angry, and sad all at the same time. It's normal to be afraid of something that can threaten your life."
Oddly, I didn't develop anxiety upon hearing I have cancer, which threatens far too many lives. It surfaced following a scare I had with a pain medication I was prescribed after my mastectomy. I won't go into details here but suffice it to say I think I have an inkling of what it's like to OD on a drug. Horrible side effects caused me to think I may die and threw my nervous system into overdrive and kicked in anxiety that in the beginning frightened me, but it has lessened over time. Thank you, Lord.
I still don't find that I worry much, yet anxiety still manages to find it's way into my day. This morning, I honestly think the cause of it was caffeine. I took my medicine and some supplements with unsweetened iced tea (a sacrilege in the south) that contained caffeine before I headed out the door. That was a no-no for me and I should have known better.
So, if we're not to have anxiety, what are we to do? The rest of that passage in Philippians that I tuned out this morning tells us:
"...but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I do find that when I focus more on Christ (and others) and less on me and my circumstances that I'm less anxious and have more peace. Maybe the Apostle Paul would at least be pleased with my efforts.
What helps you combat anxiety?
Funny that the title "Author" appears above this description yet I have no idea what to share about myself in this space! How about my first name is Kim. My last name is Tisor. Tisor rhymes with miser, though I try not to be one.
For more information about me, please visit the author page.