Escaping the Anxiety Trap

12/15/2017 .
Jean Simmons  .  Volunteer Storyteller

Time was the enemy. There just seemed to be too much to do in preparation for her son’s birthday party. There was the piñata to hang, the decorations to put up, and what seemed like a thousand other items on the to do list. Her heart began to race as the fear of not getting finished sank in.

“Do you need help with that?” her husband asked. “I’m not done with the decorations yet but I can help you with that too.”

“Just finish what you are doing.” Vanessa snapped back. She looked at her watch noting that there were only a few hours until the party would begin. With shaking hands, she tried to finish the cake and party favors for the elementary school children about to arrive. Despite her husband’s soothing comments, Vanessa felt out of control feverously working to finish everything perfectly and on time.

As far back as Vanessa can remember, anxiety had been part of her life. She even remembers being anxious as a kindergartener. When Vanessa was in fifth grade, a traumatic event rocked her world. As an 11-year old, Vanessa hadn’t noticed her parents’ relationship problems. But when they announced their intention to divorce, Vanessa’s anxiety grew along with guilt that maybe she had done something wrong. Her mom offered Vanessa little comfort and was quite standoffish about the subject.

Regardless of how small or large the task was, she felt overwhelmed throughout her life with an uncontrollable nervousness. For Vanessa, worries nagged at her and bubbled up even from the smallest situations. She noticed her anger and agitation rising when her family and friends would try to talk to her in this state. Sometimes people would tell her, “don’t worry about that, it’s not a big deal,” but Vanessa felt these words only trivialized her feelings. She didn’t worry because she chose to, her worries were uncontrollable and terrorized her feelings. Her internal dialogue made her feel like a terrible mom, a terrible wife, and a terrible friend who couldn’t get tasks done for her loved ones.

Vanessa tried to cope with her anxiety, but it haunted her. When anxiety had Vanessa in its grip, she felt incapable of completing the simplest tasks. After marrying and having children, the anxiety she felt only got more complicated. She and her husband planned a move to Corona and Vanessa hoped she could find a supportive community in her new environment.

Once in Corona, Vanessa and her family discovered Saddleback Church and began attending regularly. She thought it would be good to join a small group to meet people from the church in their new home but was unable to find a group right away. A few weeks later, she spoke with a volunteer at the Connection Center who recommended Vanessa try the on-campus women’s group that met every Thursday.

Vanessa went to the next meeting with usual first-time jitters. “I really hope I can fit in with these ladies or at least make one friend,” she thought to herself as she entered the room. By the time the study was over Vanessa knew she had found the right group. To her surprise, she connected right away with the other women in the room. Vanessa enjoyed the camaraderie and relationships. She immediately had the sense that this was right where she belonged. The women in the group came from diverse backgrounds and life stages but had one thing in common — their ability to listen.

For Vanessa, the Thursday night small group was the place where she could learn to manage and cope with her anxiety. At the end of every study, Vanessa’s group would ask, “What do you need us to do? Do we need to put you on this prayer list? Do we need to pray for you right now? What do you, Vanessa, need specifically?” The ladies never tried to tell her what to do but instead offered to pray for her and to listen to her. This is exactly the thing Vanessa needed most.

Anxiety was a glaring flashlight exposing the gaps in Vanessa’s life, but now she knows God fills those gaps. Until she was able to realize this, she was floundering through life. Through bible study, prayer, and fellowship with her small group Vanessa found a way to manage her own anxiety. She realized she didn’t have to do life alone and she always had a friend available to confide in and pray with. Most importantly she realized that no matter how big or small her problem was, she could always go to God and ask for his help.

Learn more about Saddleback Women HERE, or find women's events at your local campus HERE.

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