Have you ever had to walk with someone through pain? Through heartache? Through sickness? Through anxiety? Through making a wrong decision?
If you live life with people, then you have! If you haven’t, well I would check the depth of your relationships.
I have walked with family and friends through many hard emotions, health issues, pain, questions and even those who journey a way you thought they wouldn’t go.
I have had family and friends walk me through many difficult seasons and joyous seasons.
They did both. Good and Dark.
I specifically wanted to write about walking with someone who deals with anxiety and panic.
It is becoming a more common thing. I am starting to wonder if it has always been there, but because people are lifting the cloak of shame off of it, people are feeling more comfortable to share their struggles. I think that is the most beautiful thing, when we can become vulnerable and share our hardships and ask for help. If you hold relationships with people, you may find yourself having to journey with a friend or family member who has confided in you, that they are burdened with this. How do you help them? How do you help yourself while helping them, for it is a burden that is so easily transferred to the helper?
I am not a fan of anxiety. I think it an evil force. I hate it.
I have seen it rob people of living, of experiencing peace (which is available to all), and most of all it has robbed them of trust.
The trust that everything will be ok. The trust that God has them covered and His love for them has only good things in store for them.
Anxiety is real. It’s an emotional, mental and physical debilitator.
Alert: I am not a psychologist, a counsellor, a doctor or anyone that specializes in anxiety.
I am someone who has walked with someone dear to me through it.
I am someone who has experienced a small measure of it for a season.
I am someone who has had a panic attack.
I am familiar with it in more of a relational/experiential way rather than a medical/professional way.
Around 6 years ago I found myself walking with someone who was dealing with anxiety and panic on a high level, so much so that it kept them almost housebound.
It was a trying time for me, but mostly it was an extremely difficult season for the individual.
My personality is an encourager. I love to bring joy and humour to difficult times. If I see someone having a hard time I will work really hard to bring laughter. It could be an annoying trait to the one who is having the difficult time. I have been this way since I was a child; always wanting to bring a sense of light air to a stodgy situation. It’s not that I am not connecting with reality, it’s because I absolutely hate with a passion seeing people sad, downcast, frustrated and burdened. If I can’t offer any form of advice or counsel then I will default to bringing joy, laughter and encouragement. I’m a fixer. (It can be a good thing to be a fixer and it can be a bad thing. New Blog post idea?!)
So….walking with someone through anxiety, especially a season of it, I took on the role of Encourager, Comedian, Cheerleader, Coach, Counsellor, etc….you see the picture. I wore many hats.
I just wanted to see them “snap” out of it, I wanted them to shake it off and enjoy life. I took on the burden of trying to fix them, help them, answer their questions. I wanted to heal them. I was striving. I was fixing. I was carrying. I was the yoke bearer. I was anxious. I was heavy. I was burdened. I was tired. I was now dealing with a small level of anxiety because I was unable to fix them, help them, change it all for them. I tried to take on the role of “saviour”, but that was never my role to take on.
I was sleeping this one night, and I woke up with a start and my heart was about to burst out of my chest. The beating was loud on the inside of me. Echoing in my body, in my head. I felt as though my heart racing was about to race right off a cliff, it was that intense. My breathing started to panic. My body went into panic mode and fight or flight took over. I ran to the bathroom. My body was prepping for the panic, for what was ahead. It was frightening. I knew what it was. I was having a panic attack. My body had finally succumbed to the pressure of that season. I knew from reading material about anxiety and panic attacks that I needed to take my focus off of myself and put it on something else as to take my mind off my situation which would be a vicious cycle of anxiety. I turned on the T.V. and Seinfeld was on. I sat there watching the episode, not quite sure which one it was, but I imagine it was funny! I watched it and I tapped my foot against the arm of the couch and I focused on the rhythm of the beat my foot was creating. My heart started to slow the race. It came back into balance. My body began to rest.
I can’t imagine the people that have to deal with that more frequently. Because I experienced it in that moment my compassion for those that deal with anxiety and panic has gone up immensely.
I write all this not to dive into why people deal with anxiety and panic. I crave an answer for it. I crave a cure that is so simple they could see it in their midst. I deeply care for victory for those burdened with it.
I write this to the one who is walking with someone who deals with it.
We are called to walk with people and help them. How do we help but not be burdened, how do we create that boundary that is healthy for both individuals?
I write from my experience.
Compassion is key. People want to push people through it and get quite frustrated as to why they aren’t “snapping” out of it. But compassion and grace for them is what is needed. If you find it tough, imagine what they feel.
Patience. We don’t know how long people deal with it. It might be for a few months or a few years. It may go in waves. It may happen one time or many times. Don’t put a time limit on it for them but pray they can have the answers and healing they need in God’s perfect timing. We are a very impatient generation and so our patience will be tested, but when it is tested it means patience has the opportunity to grow. I highly suggest choosing the growth part! Patience is beautiful because I believe it reflects trust; trust in God.
Prayer. Always pray. Your prayers are doing wonders. You can’t see it, but they are. Guaranteed.
Love. (I should have put that first) Love is patient. It is kind. It bears all things. If the person knows they are loved, the pressure is off of them. The individual already feels the pressure of hurrying through this, snapping out of it, but they can’t. They don’t know the way out. Love is the embrace they need.
An understanding heart. People are quick to judge. We need to understand the struggle the one is going through. We need to listen. We need to hear. We need to comprehend the fear that is crouching in on the person. Ask questions that bring light, provide feedback that is helpful and encouraging but always be quick to understand.
“You can’t fix it.” I have had to accept this. It was hard because my natural way in life is to help people fix what is going on in their lives. You can’t fix it. You will need to embrace this truth. You can council, advise, pray, encourage but the individual, with God, will need to work through it. It’s an internal dialogue between the two of them. He’s the one that heals, that fixes.
“His yoke is easy, His burden is light” is key. Let’s be honest, one of the most difficult motions for individuals to do is the motion of handing life’s hardships and worries to God. I find it immensely difficult at times. Not to worry….what? Caring vs. Worry (another blog post?) I have been on a path of enlightenment when it comes to “His Yoke is easy, His burden is light”, at the end of the day it’s His day. We partner with Him each day but when He says to cast all our cares (worry) upon Him I think there is a reason why. I’ll take Him at His word. He has it; He will provide the answer, the breakthrough. It’s God’s creation that is hurting. He cares a great deal and He will provide the light for that individual. It’s in His nature. We partner with Him through love, encouragement, compassion, understanding and a helping hand. He alone is the answer to every need though.
Boundaries. Create them. Create them in life. Healthy ones. Not walls. Not barricades. You want the individual to not depend on you in an unhealthy way. If you aren’t there, they still need to flourish, thrive and be ok. It goes along with handing it all over to God and saying, “You have the answer, and all I can do is love and help.” It’s a fine dance of helping and then letting the person find their way, their breakthrough.
Trust. Trust Him. Trust that He is moving and He will bring freedom.
Find joy. You yourself will need to find joy, laughter and fun. It’s a difficult road sometimes, but you need to have friends that support you, friends that can bring laughter. Do something fun for yourself, something that brings peace to your heart. My counsellor calls it an “Emotional First Aid Kit”, we all need it!
These are just a few treasures I have discovered along the path of helping those who require a friend to walk with them. I count it a blessing to be able to help someone, as I would want someone to help me in my time of need. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Life is a beautiful rollercoaster. Roller Coasters are scary at moments but when you get off of it you usually have a sense of joy! (probably because you lived!) It’s always fun to go on a ride with someone, because when you get off you both know every up and down, every sharp turn and angle, and you can relate in the joy and the pain.
So I encourage you, the one who is doing a great thing by walking with someone who deals with anxiety. I encourage you not to carry it on your own, don’t try to fix it or even be disappointed when you think you have but really haven’t, find joy and happiness in the process, embrace grace and understanding, let compassion be at the centre and most of all make the most important movement, the movement of your hands carrying the biggest load and hand it to God. I see His hands open, ready to carry it for you. And by some amazing means He can carry it and He can also use His hands to rub your back because He is proud of your heart for His own.
To the one who is walking through anxiety. I pray that freedom would flood into your hearts, minds, emotions and soul. May God give you the key to your breakthrough. May you see the key He is giving you. His love is unconditional and He has nothing but GOOD things for you. He won’t leave you and He won’t let fear rob your life. He’s just that good. I’m praying for you. You will come through this.
To all; understanding, compassion, patience and love is needed and required of you!