Help Me Understand Your Anxiety Disorder: An Introduction

I have an anxiety disorder. The official diagnoses are Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. I am open about the fact that I have an anxiety disorder. If you have talked to me much, especially if we’ve talked about spiritual things, you almost certainly know this already. I make an effort to be open about it, because there tends to be so much secrecy and shame around mental health issues, particularly in the church. I’m not interested in that. I don’t think it’s something to hide, or be ashamed of. And as far as I’m concerned, vulnerability begets vulnerability. So I go first, and I hope that by talking about it, it helps others feel free to talk about their struggles, wounds, and challenges–whether it’s a mental illness, or something else.

Often, when I explain what it is like to have an anxiety disorder, people respond with something along the lines of: “I had no idea that’s what it was like,” “I never understood what an anxiety disorder was,” or, “No one has ever explained it to me like that before!” These responses aren’t super surprising–we all know that mental health issues are not discussed much, if at all, particularly in the church–but they’re heartbreaking for me nonetheless. Anxiety disorders are not uncommon, and so the fact that the vast majority of people have little to no understanding of them means that most people are routinely interacting with people suffering from these disorders with absolutely no understanding of the suffering being experienced.

I’ve wanted to write more about this issue for a long time, because I want to help people understand. A few months ago, I had yet another conversation with a friend who asked me to explain what it is like to suffer from an anxiety disorder. How do you know, she asked, when it’s a chemical imbalance, and when it’s simply sinful worry? After we chatted, she was blown away. I mentioned that for a long time, I had been thinking about starting a blog to share some thoughts that have been helpful for me and others about this and other issues.

“PLEASE DO,” she said. So here I am.

I’m going to be writing a series of posts talking about what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. I plan to discuss terminology, clinical anxiety versus sinful worry, the actual experience of having anxiety and panic disorders, medication, and some thoughts on spiritual practices for those who suffer from anxiety disorders. If you have questions or thoughts about anything that you read or have other topics that you would like to see covered here, please reach out so that I can make these posts as helpful and beneficial as possible!