Hiiii back again for round 2 of the Overcoming Series.
I remember a year ago, I called my best friend, Madi, in tears, saying just how alone I felt. Guys, that isn’t my personality to do stuff like that. I keep things shoved down deep until I either 1) can’t take it anymore and God is like hey let me show you what it’s like to think you can do everything on your own and bottle everything up and BOOM here comes the extreme panic attacks on the daily. or 2) I just get really passive aggressive because I am about as confrontational as a… snail? Don’t think that made sense. For example, in high school, a guy was driving out of control and cut me off with his truck, totaling my car, but I ended up apologizing to him even though the wreck was 1000% his fault. Confronting others about the way I am feeling about myself or my situation is no different. I will just not do it or I will complain about something in a super jokey and sarcastic way, so no one really knows that I’m actually upset. I internalize everything.
I was two months in to the multiple panic attacks a day lifestyle and things weren’t getting any easier. My doctor had just placed a diagnoses on me and I was going through hell every single day. I kept my head up as best as possible and tried to be as funny and joyful as I could through the brokenness and pain, but it was hard work. The enemy made me believe that if I talked about it, I was being a burden. He would tell me, “Connar, you are supposed to bring joy and never ever burden anyone with how you are feeling. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to know. Dry it up and pretend it’s okay. Your friends have their own lives and they do. not. care. Your family and coworkers are sick of hearing about these panic attacks.”
Well, Satan got me right then and there. I believed that lie with my whole heart. A lot had been going on and my panic attacks would not relent, no matter how many steps I was taking in the right direction. That’s when I called Madi, who lives in Denver, and broke down. I told her I didn’t feel like I was enough and I didn’t feel loved by my very best friends anymore. She prayed for me over the phone and then she rallied the troops and I got one of the most thoughtful things I have ever received in my life in the mail just a couple days later.
I remember opening the package and breaking down. Full on dramatic movie-style fall to the ground and cry out of both humility and thankfulness kind of break down. Inside the note, read “For when the days are hard. We love you Connar! Love, Hardmont+1” — It was a journal with a prayer or a note of encouragement from each member of the Hardmont+1 (that’s what we call our group of nine college best friends because half lived on Harwell, the other half lived on Piedmont, and the plus one lived on 20th.) I could not grasp how loved I felt in that moment by Blair, Kassi, Logan, Emily, Madi, Madelyn, Bethany & Peytan. The Lord reminded me so sweetly, through their words, that I was not going through this alone and that my friends still deeply cared and always would. Reminder: He brings people into our lives and uses people to draw us back to Him! The Lord used those eight friends as vessels to reveal His love for me. To remind me that He was right there with me. He was right there with me in the darkness, ready and prepared to bring me into the Light.
A couple things that helped me in the middle:
Identifying my anxiety “triggers” — I’m only going to share one with you right now.
My business: Connar Joy Calligraphy was just about killing me at this point. I was over-extending myself, getting super stressed out about the logistics of it all and putting too much time and effort into comparing my work to others.
“Learn to rest, not quit.”
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Above are two quotes I had to learn to make my mantra in regards to CJC. I do not believe the Lord gave me a talent and love for something, just so I can let it to go to waste. I believe that He gave me this specific set of skills to create beautiful things that inspire others to look to Him, our Creator. BUT, it was making me sick. It was giving me panic attacks and making me doubt myself. It was making me jealous, judgmental and had me constantly questioning my worth. I would be up all night scrolling through other calligraphers’ Insta feeds and comparing myself to them. “I don’t have enough workspace to do that. I don’t have the funds to do that. I don’t have the network of people to make that happen. I’m not good enough. I’m way better at this than than her.” If I didn’t get enough likes on a post, I would take that personally. The list goes on, but this business and that business instagram (binsta as I like to call it) was giving me the most massive pit in my stomach.
Here’s my advice: If something is giving you a pit in your stomach, STOP doing it! Take a break. Learn to rest. We only get ONE life, don’t waste it. Stop looking to screens for affirmation. Stop scrolling through everyone else’s lives comparing yourself to others. Stop it. Stop. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He’s the the starter and He’s the finisher, so ultimately the only thing that matters is your relationship with Him and how you are going to lead people to Him. Stop thinking about how many likes or followers you have, and Follow JESUS. He will give you rest and healing, and best of all, He WILL restore your Joy! Then, once you have figured that out, go share it with others.
2. Cut caffeine and get enough sleep
Caffeine and not getting enough sleep cause anxiety. And y’all, I’ve been running on coffee, Diet Coke and no sleep for yeeeeaaaaars. Cutting caffeine was hard. I actually have brought it back into my life regularly again and it’s done nothing but bring me down, so I’m about to kick it to the curb. Sleeping is also a challenge because I am a night owl and always have been. I could sleep all day. Like, lean me against a wall and I will fall asleep in .5 seconds. The second the clock strikes 9pm? HEY I’m awake! Doesn't matter if I only slept 3 hours the night before, my brain turns on at night. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep is so important.
Never in my life would I have thought I would have to take two different medicines for anxiety every morning, but here we are. And guess what? There is no shame in that! I can tell a huge difference with and without medication. So, if you are struggling with panic attacks and this is deeper than stress or light anxiety, I encourage you to go see a doctor about it.
4. Wise counsel
Also, there is no shame in talking to a professional about what is going on in your life. I was nervous as all get out to call a counselor, and even though I only did it for a handful of sessions, I am so glad I did. It opened a door to a whole part of healing in my life that I’m gonna talk about in “Overcoming: Part 3.” Also, I work in the most encouraging environment where I was constantly being checked on by friends there, as well as my bosses who are both LPCs. Thank you Lord for having me there in that season. One more thing— I highly recommend the book Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado to anyone struggling with anxiety or a panic disorder.
5. Trusting that God will take care of me and leaning into Him in the struggle, instead of running away from Him by turning towards anger or wordly things
That was a lesson I had to learn quickly. In the past, I would have prayed about my trials and if they weren’t fixed, I felt like God wasn’t listening to me or that He had forgotten me. So, I would numb it and become very apathetic towards my relationship with the Lord. My mentality went like this: “Yes, I believe Jesus is my Savior, but no, I don’t believe He is actively at work in my life and has a plan better than my own, because if He did, this whole thing wouldn’t be happening.” Goodness, am I thankful that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and that He gives an abundance of grace. I had to quickly learn that God was my only refuge in this season of debilitating panic. I will praise Him for this pivotal turning point in my life. I will praise Him because He already knew that not one, not two, not even 16 panic attacks would have me fully relying on Him. It was when the panic disorder would. not. relent. I had to lay the burden down at His feet. I had to surrender. I’m probably in the hundred count on panic attacks by now, and as much as they suck and make me feel like I am literally dying, I am so thankful for them.
Here’s what I have to say: The SAME spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead lives in you and lives in me, so we can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who gives us strength. I refuse to be bound by fear. I refuse to be bound by anxiety. I REFUSE to be bound by anything the enemy throws my way. I will endure whatever mess is thrown my way because Christ endured and bled and died for me. I will endure because the Lord is mighty to save. The Lord is GOOD and strong and faithful to bring the work He started in you and the work He started in me to COMPLETION. (Phil. 1:6) He can and He will. All we have to do is surrender at His feet. What a relief it is to let the God of the universe carry your burdens and give you rest. What a privilege it is to carry everything to God in prayer. No matter what trials we are facing, we can find rest in the truth that GOD has the final say. We might be in battle with the enemy every day, but God has already won the war!
God takes responsibility for the hearts and minds of those who believe in Him. As we celebrate Him and pray to Him, He constructs a fortress around our hearts and minds, protecting us from the attacks of the devil.
-Max Lucado, Anxious For Nothing
My panic attacks are becoming more few and far between and I praise the Lord for that! I still struggle with an attack about once a week which is nothing compared to the multiple I was having per day, then per week. I appreciate prayers and I am absolutely here and ready to be a listening ear and a source of encouragement, if possible, to you if you need me. I would love to talk to you about it. Just leave a comment, DM me on insta or email me.
See you tomorrow for “Overcoming: Part 3” — it’s a tough one!