Anxiety as an Invitation- Part 3

The third part in a series about bringing our anxiety before The Blessed Sacrament

(Image by Taylor Deas-Melesh courtesy of Unsplash)

The first thing I want to do when the anxiety kicks in is run. This is why God asked me to sit with Him for thirty days and look at that. Having a trauma history makes things more complex, but nonetheless is an invitation to obedience.

Today was day 10 of my thirty-day journey to be still before The Blessed Sacrament and know that He is God. I can tell you like any muscle, it takes a while for spiritual muscles to develop too, which is why God has me on an active 30-day plan. If I could describe the first week in Adoration, I would say it was murky. But in almost finishing my second week, I have felt the veil of chaos begin to lift.

Without my knowing, God would use a conversation with a dear friend of mine to help me wade through the murky water of mental health madness.

In talking about my haphazard current state of being, I told my friend that in order to truly understand God, I’ve had to wrestle with Him; that it is in this wrestling that I hold on for dear life to get my blessing and that this reminds me of the promise of the Resurrection.

With that state of mind, I entered Adoration, I was here to fight for my mental health, discernment, and my blessing. And sitting before the Blessed Sacrament I felt it a little easier to breathe.

It was somewhere around twenty minutes in that I heard wisdom swirling around in my head. It was distinct, clear, a thought way too good to be coming from me. I could hear a voice whisper, “It’s awful because it’s not chaotic.” This is what brought me clarity.

In that aha moment I gasped. Could it be that I was so used to operating in chaos that stability was bringing me anxiety? That this was the cause of my anxiety?

Profound

I thought about my past jobs and relationships, the places I had been, and the trauma that I endured. I tried to remember a time when my life wasn’t consumed by toxicity. I have learned that trauma survivors often attract narcissists and the like who take advantage of their people-pleasing and kindness; I lived like that for far too many years.

Since leaving my past behind, God was designing a new way. The ground stable, chaos dissipating. This new land was unfamiliar to me, terrifyingly unfamiliar with its stillness and kindness. I was afraid of what I had never experienced, what I had never known.

Change of any kind is hard, but harder when trauma or any mental health-based issues are involved. I realize that I crave familiar and comfortable even if it’s bad. Because even if it’s bad, it’s predictable. This has the ring of the Exodus!

This Holy Spirit given knowledge was a game changer. I was done wrestling with God. I had to learn to now sit in this new land, stable ground, unchaotic, and be still. I also had to work on rebuilding my confidence that had been stripped from me.

If our intention is to face the anxiety without God, we are helpless. If we go into that chapel, arms open, shaking, crying, even lifting our fists demanding answers we will stay the course. I am in no way out of the clear in the rebuilding of my life but I am certainly clear in the direction. One day at a time.

Anxiety as a Grace- Part 2

The second part in a series about bringing our anxiety before The Blessed Sacrament

(Image by Joice Kelly courtesy of Unsplash)

It has been nine days since my anxiety struck…no paralyzed me. There were bits and pieces that led up to this event, like breadcrumbs that served as warning signs along the way. Danger here! Stop here! But rather than stop and listen to those warning signs, I kept going, because rather than trust what my anxiety was trying to tell me, I felt shamed by it.

The people that were around me were telling me no, it’s because of what happened to you at your past job, or it’s because of your past trauma or things will get better, just you wait and see. While all the while inside I knew something was wrong, very wrong, and it scared me. Two days went by, then three. The anxiety kept on going until around day four or five a switch in my head flipped. It was as if I couldn’t get back to the place of joy that I had been in. None of it made any sense; how could this all have been caused by a seemingly innocuous event?

I called a circle of friends that I trusted and asked them, what the heck is going on? They all pointed me back to Christ. None of them could tell me why it was happening and all were worried that the trauma that I had experienced last year at my job had somehow been re-triggered. But this didn’t feel like that, this felt different.

One of my friends confirmed to me that I had to sit before the Blessed Sacrament and make a commitment to a holy hour for thirty days. I had to be still, listen and hear what the Lord had to say to me. I made the commitment and I was on my way. On day 1 I was restless but felt peace. Day 2 was a little less restless. By day 3, I was committed, what is going on Lord?

It was 5 am today, Day 4. I finished my morning bible study early in preparation for getting myself to an early catechesis class at my parish when the Holy Spirit said, “Go to adoration now.” It was 6 am. Dark. The voice was clear and unequivocal, but gentle and kind.

I got ready in a matter of seconds and felt whisked away by God to the 24-hour adoration chapel down the road. I arrived at 6:20 am ready to hear what God had to say. My anxiety was at an all-time high, turned on by this series of seemingly unusual events. I wanted more than anything for the confusion, heart racing, and constant panic to go away.

Sitting before The Blessed Sacrament, I felt peace. My body stopped shaking and I was able to breathe. I felt joy and a great sense that my answer would come. And it did. Right in the first few lines of the Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer,

Wisdom of God, be with me, always at work in me

“Lord today I pray for wisdom. Lord give me wisdom,” I said, as the Holy Spirit took over, leading me in prayer.

And the next thing that God told me was so profound I knew it wasn’t just for me, but for all of you who suffer with anxiety.

This is what I heard.

“Anxiety is a grace because it got you here. It was the vehicle to get you here before me. It means your check engine light is working. You’re not crazy, what you perceieved as wrong is wrong.”

I couldn’t believe it… could my anxiety be a good thing, not something filled with shame but rather being used as a grace? I was awestruck.

In deconstructing the anxiety before God, I realized that my instincts were right, my conscious was right, not betraying me but actually perfectly intact and in tune with The Holy Spirit. So what if this manifested in anxiety? It meant that I was right, something was indeed very wrong. And with that validation from the Holy Spirit Himself, I thanked God and in the same breath, I asked Him to take away my anxiety.

Before I could exhale, it was gone.

It wasn’t dramatic, it just happened. The cloud lifted, the heavy blanket lifted and that was that. I got out of my seat at the chapel and prostrated myself before the Blessed Sacrament. In that moment I asked God with a completely clear mind, “What do you want me to do?” My face was on the ground.

“Feed my sheep”, he said.

And so here I am doing what He has asked.

I share this for those of you who are suffering. Who think your anxiety or depression or PTSD or whatever it is you are suffering from is a curse. It is the farthest thing from it. As God showed me when we bring our sufferings to Him and ask why, ask Him to show us, ask Him to help us, He reveals the answer. The suffering you hate the most is the very same suffering that God is using to bring you to Himself.

There is nothing wrong with you. Those symptoms, those signs, were all right! They may have manifested for me in anxiety, but there was no shame in that! And when God parted the red sea of my panic, His wisdom flowed through His Eucharistic love for me.

I pray that you too are blessed by this knowledge. The power of God’s wisdom through The Blessed Sacrament, friends who support you and bring you back to Christ, and the instinct you had that manifested itself as a suffering. He is indeed calling you to Himself.

Anxiety as an Answer- Part 1

The first part in a series about bringing our anxiety before The Blessed Sacrament

(Image Courtesy of K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash)

Anxiety. The word itself can stop you in your tracks. Ball of confusion, heart racing uncertainty. It’s hard even to pray…

I am in a discernment process, a search for truth for where God wants me and what He wants me to do. I reached out to a friend I met on Twitter who comes from the same law enforcement world I come from to help me wade through some of this anxiety. His answer was unequivocal;

keep doing what you’re doing, make a commitment to go to Adoration for the next 30 days, God will show you.

He already confirmed the way the Lord was leading me, asking me to come to Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and to sit with Him. Like a good scribe, He also asked me to take notes,

With that confirmation, I continued on my thirty-day journey. First week in, the world around me exploded, but I stayed the course. The anxiety would come and go. Then this morning, it took over.

I told you all previously that God does not condemn anxiety but uses it as a “check engine light” to get our attention. There is no shame or lack of faith in that, actually quite the opposite. It shows us that all things are working, and to look further into it. What manifests itself as an external symptom, is the revelation of an internal one.

My anxiety is high, my check engine light is on, it’s time to check in with God and ask why.

The readings today were about the cross. Moses lifting up the serpent to heal those that had been bitten for complaining against God. Jesus being “lifted up” as a representation of that healing, not through the resurrection, but through the crucifixion. The pieces were starting to come together for me.

The anxiety started to lessen. The voice of the Holy Spirit started to sink in.

“Melissa, what is the cross I gave you?”

Pictures started streaming through my mind like an old movie reel. Memories, times in my life of my greatest trials.

“And what was it that made it a trial Melissa,” I could hear Him whisper, “What caused the anxiety.”

I answered, “That I had to stand up for the truth.”

It was true. My cross has always been as someone chosen to speak hard things. Call out unethical or illegal behavior. Ring the bell. Tell people what they don’t want to hear. Be the truth. I don’t like it. It’s not the cross I want. I am not courageous, I am weak. And that is why He chose me, because I am scared to death to do it.

And I find myself again in the same situation with different facts. Dealing with an ethical issue. Calling out a wrong. Not for the sake of anything else except it’s what God asked me to do. And through that comes the anxiety, comes the shame, comes the rejection, all from the evil one. Except this time I recognized it right away instead of suffering for so long.

When you identify what your cross is, it takes out the sting of it all and allows you to apply the cross as healing ointment rather than feel it as pain. He has chosen you for a specific cross, for a specific time, in a specific place. But He hasn’t left you alone, He’s there to help you carry it.

As I began to recognize that He had placed me in this situation for such a time as this, the anxiety lessened and I could once again breathe. I can do this. I’ve been here before. There is a resurrection on the other side.

God has often told me after I have been obedient during my time of trial, either I will remove them or I will remove you. This is something I always keep in the forefront of my mind. It gives me hope and lets me know that the trial, the crucifixion will present itself again and again in my life. But now I have the power to recognize it.

Anxiety- Check Engine Light, Despair- a time for prayer, Peace- Him Reminding me there is hope on the other side

Melissa Presser, Catholic Lifestyle Writer and Author

I’ve been a featured guest on:

EWTN’s The Journey Home

The Coming Home Network Podcast

Sirius XM The Catholic Channel Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd

Timothy Gordon Rules for Retrogrades Podcast

The Cordial Catholic Podcast

The Catholic Truth Podcast, and more!

I am a Catholic writer and author.

I write Catholic lifestyle pieces focused on people’s everyday hardships and sufferings.

My pieces are told from the heart and from experience as a trauma survivor and Catholic convert from Judaism.

You can watch my conversion story here on EWTN’s The Journey Home

I am a regular contributor for Catholic Mom and Patheos Catholic.

I am a guest contributor at The Prodigal Parishioner.

Please see my contact page for media and other inquiries.