Some days require double-strength stress relief tea.
Some days just feel more anxious; my body aches and I can’t concentrate. Sometimes I make up a theory about why I notice a lot more tension some days than others, but even knowing where the anxiety might be coming from doesn’t necessarily release it. Yoga has taught me, like Ecclesiastes preaches, that everything passes away–there’s a time for everything, and at some point this bout of anxiety will end, and the time to feel something else will dawn. I can tell myself that these feelings will pass. My feelings will change again, it won’t feel like this forever. They’re difficult feelings to endure, but not worth totally freaking out over.
I’ve changed tactics with my depression and anxiety in the last few months, and especially in the last two weeks. Now when I notice tension creeping up in my shoulders and my appetite absent, I downshift for the day instead of telling myself to suck it up and tough it out. I take some extra care, extra compassion, and understanding, holding myself gently (usually in bed, usually with tea and pillows). I try to let go of the expectations I’d had for myself–my to do list, crossing off all but the truly, truly necessary (going to the bathroom. breathing. psychiatrist appt.).
Instead of humming loudly with plugged ears, pretending everything’s okay, I say, “hello anxiety. I see that you’re hanging out with me today. Let’s go and sit on the porch.” When I look the anxiety full in the face, as I talked about in a post last week (the enemy is not netflix, the enemy is depression), it doesn’t pouf into thin air, but it does seem to calm down a bit, like a child throwing a tantrum. The child–anxiety, depression–doesn’t run away, but does usually stop screaming so loudly and thrashing about as I take the time to sit down and give my full attention over to the insistent ache in my mind and heart (and body).
A friend of mine who is a mindfulness practitioner shared her struggle with meditation. Sometimes she would be sitting quietly and suddenly her body would throw such a tantrum–feeling as if she was going to throw up, dizzy, warm. Her teacher asked her, “What the worst that could happen? What if you do throw up? Put down a towel in front of you next time, and just stay there.” So the next time she felt these bodily sensations while sitting quietly, she stayed there with the discomfort. And she didn’t end up losing her lunch–the feeling eventually passed.
I thought of her last night when the same thing happened to me. Anxiety had woken me up like a sick child, precluding sleep. I sat on my mat and listened closely to my breath. I think of breath as a way I can recognize the Holy Spirit–always present, always moving, always trying to transform us. My body flashed hot, I could feel beads of sweat in the creases of my arms. My throat constricted and my stomach lurched. Just like my friend’s teacher had said, soon the feeling passed.
There’s one thing that doesn’t pass away, though: God doesn’t change and doesn’t pass away. I can count on God being with me on days that my jaw is sore from feeling anxious and God will be with me on days when I can breathe freely and deeply and walk about with an easy smile on my face. God is the constant.
My God became a human because he wanted so much to be near me. My God is Jesus Christ. There are dozens of people around me who know this God of love and who let this God use their bodies and spirits to reach out to me. This is how my love wall was born.
Giving myself a physical reminder of each and every person who has reached out to say that she’s praying and he’s thinking of me is ammunition for me against the depression demons who whisper into my ears that no one cares or remembers me and my struggle. It’s something to touch and look at that shows me over and over as often as I need that God is present with me through the Holy Spirit any time I pray, and also through dozens of people who love me with God’s love.
In this world that is always changing, always passing away, always new, God never changes. God is the rock upon which we may each build a secure dwelling, safe from any storm.