I had to take this test at the doctor's office a while back. It was a multiple choice test about feelings and junk, like the kind you'd find in a teen magazine. The doctor left me alone to take care of it, and when I was finished she came back in and marked it while I sat there and read the posters on the wall behind her about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.
I'd been really sick for a long time. I had no energy and no appetite. Nausea. Headaches. Chest pain. I'd lost a bunch of weight and even my naturally curly hair gave up on me and became straggly and straw-straight. We ran tests and saw specialists; I eventually had to quit my job. No one could figure me out. Then one day, my doctor handed me this test.
When she finished going over my results, she moved her chair around the table so she was sitting right next to me. She laid the papers in front of me and spread them out so I could see them. She spoke gently, like I was a little kid. She said, "The average, mentally healthy person scores anywhere from 0-7 on this test. A person who scores, say, in the 13-25 range might be depressed or anxious. I might suggest counseling or medication. You scored a 32."
I was surprised, and I wasn't. In my head I thought, "So it's not entirely normal to have a resting heart rate of five billion bpm and constantly feel the way you would feel if you were lying in bed and heard somebody busting down the front door with an axe?"
Apparently, it's not normal at all.
Which is why they call it an anxiety disorder.
The diagnosis was a turning point for me. I was sick of being sick, so now that I knew what was wrong I dove right in and made change happen. I took charge! I did my research! I got help! I felt okay!
Then I got pregnant!
If there are a million things to be anxious about for yourself, there are fifty million things to be anxious about for a defenseless, helpless baby who holds your heart in his hands but can't even hold his own head up. What if. What if. What if.
What if you drop him? What if I drop him? Autism! Cancer! What if he has a peanut allergy? What if he's socially awkward as a teenager and the other kids at school make fun of him? Drugs! Peer pressure! What if he gets into a car accident on his way to college? What if he decides to move to Africa and I only get to see him at Christmas every five years? What if? What if?!
My mind races like cars around the tight curves of a mountain road as my newborn sleeps peacefully in my arms, unaware that at this very moment there are a myriad of awful, terrible, horrible things that could perceivably happen. My inner storm doesn't touch him now, but I feel an awful lot of guilt that as he gets older, it might. That I might teach him to be fearful and anxious like his mom. I feel anxious about feeling anxious.
And now you're waiting for it, I guess. You're waiting for the light bulb, the words of wisdom, the music-swelling movie moment where I realize that it's all going to be okay, where I find peace and shed the fear from my mind like old snake skin.
You and me both.
People like to say, "Don't worry; God is in control." Amen to that. That is a good reason not to worry. The best reason. The only reason.
But for someone who struggles with anxiety, those words are a mountain to climb. Don't worry.
I'm not hopeless, I just want to be real with you: faith is hard for me. I believe that a loving God is in control, I know He is, but I also know that He allows things to happen that I don't want to happen. Even though I trust the arms I fall into, my heart still speeds up and my mind still pictures all the worst case scenarios and I still don't know how to open my clenched fists and just allow life to happen (as though I had the power to stop it).
So this is where I find myself a lot lately: back at the intersection of faith and fear, this time with a fragile baby in my arms, knowing that I can't stay here but wondering how to move. And while I'm sitting here, I wonder if I've ever really known what trust is. I wonder how other mothers do this without going crazy. I wonder what I'd score on that test if I had to take it today. I wonder who else feels this way.
And I wonder if it's still faith if you take a step even while your knees are trembling and your hands are shaking and your heart is pounding. Because if it counts, I feel like I could make it that way, taking steps that have nothing to do with how I feel and everything to do with what I know to be true. One at a time, with my eyes on the Why, until we get wherever exactly it is that we're going.