Anxiety is no friend to logic. You might “know” something but your body betrays you. You feel like you have something heavy sat on your chest. You can’t breathe deeply enough. Your airways are tight. Your chest doesn’t expand properly. It feels like there’s a rubber resistance band strapped around your lungs. You feel sick and your stomach is upset. You obsessively and compulsively bite all of your nails down to the quick. Tears are never far from behind your eyes.
It is the absence of peace.
In August 2015 I turned 30. That summer I experienced a prolonged feeling of anxiety for the first time. Lots of things happened and turning 30 seemed to bring it all into a sharp focus. I had changed my job four months before and I suddenly realised that it wasn’t the job, it was me. I was working long hours and was very stressed at work. There was an altercation with my neighbour which left me feeling vulnerable at home. I felt unanchored and a little bit lost. I didn’t know what I should be doing for a career, could I really change? I had spent so much time and energy (and money) getting to where I was. Other people really want my job, it felt a bit like a betrayal to be thinking about changing careers.
I have experience (a long time ago now) of working in mental health. So I did what I advocate, I acknowledged the way I was feeling, tried not to beat myself up about it and I was honest with my inner circle. I also went and spoke to my doctor. My doctor upon listening to me said he wasn’t surprised I was feeling like that, and suddenly, just like that I started to feel better. Sometimes all we need is someone independent, someone outside, to take a look at our life and offer us some reassurance that we are not weak or crazy. Sometimes it takes more than that and that is okay too.
It was then that I decided I needed to make some changes. I felt like I had missed some warning signs – just in case anyone else is unclear – throwing up before you go to work every morning is definitely a warning sign that all is not quite right.
I wanted to step back, to make more time for me, to relax. I was so tired. Tired of being busy and doing and pleasing everybody and feeling like I was failing myself.
I decided I had to learn to say “no”. I wanted to be more selective about where I spent my time. I didn’t want to be rushing all the time trying to fit everybody in and making no time for me. I wanted to do more creative things. Mostly, though I wanted to spend more time listening to God. Actually, learning to listen to God, discerning his will for me rather than trying to control all aspects of my life and just ask for his help when it got hard.
I wanted to know what I was being called to do. There is a part in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, where the boy is being taught about the path, about how if you are on the right one then the whole universe conspires to help you and you keep seeing signs to let you know you are following your destiny.
The idea of counselling as a profession had been in my mind for a few years after a throw away comment from a friend and I hadn’t done anything about it until I signed up to an Introductory 12 week course at CityLit in January 2015. I had really enjoyed the course but then had changed jobs and kept plugging along in “the real world” when the wheels started to come loose and I realised that actually, I couldn’t keep on. I prayed a lot about it, and decided that I would need to get a job back in London to have any hope of being able to study part-time.
In November I put my CVs out to a few places, by December I had an interview and I was honest an open with the interviewer and she gave me some names of other places where I could apply as they were interviewing someone else. By the first week of January I had a new job a commutable distance for part-time study.
Then the doubts came. I wondered if this really what God was calling me to do or if I just wanted to do it because I didn’t like what I was currently doing. I decided I would give the new place “a fair go” before making my decision.
I have been chugging along, keeping on, ticking over, I tried, I did. But I think that that constant little nudge toward counselling in the back of my head that won’t go away is there for a reason. I have found a part-time counselling course that I can apply for this January, it will be a big commitment – every Saturday from January to July, and it will be a scary process, going back to studying part time (at my age) and giving up some security in the job I have now, but if I have learned anything over the past year and a bit it’s that it will be worth it. The application process for the course opens next month and closes pretty soon afterwards, they make quick decisions about who they let in it seems.
Last week I was pretty stressed with work, I guess the fact that the application process will be opening soon has also been in the back of my mind, I was working long hours again, often on my own and I experienced anxiety again, seemingly out of nowhere. That horrible sick feeling, the feeling that I am crap at my job and making all of the wrong choices. The feeling that everything is out of control.
I went, every day last week for 10 minutes to the church across the road. I just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus, and pour out my troubles to him and ask him for his peace, he doesn’t disappoint. I had found this on Pinterest a few days before, and thought it may help those of you who also experience anxiety, as it helped me:
The feeling passed more quickly this time, I have learned how to manage it better, how to acknowledge the feelings and I have learned that they will pass. I have also learned that I need to have a positive attitude toward it, anxiety can suck you in and down if you let it. This week I gave myself a stern talking to, I reminded myself that I am on the path and that it isn’t always straightforward, I have to push through and do hard things. I can do that. Paulo Coelho reminds us that:
“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.”
I am definitely choosing to be a positive thinking adventurer, one who isn’t scared to try new things and grab opportunities with both hands. I am not going to give in to the fear or the anxiety. I am on the path and I am trusting in God and my heart to lead me to my destiny, back to the soul of the world.