The following is the transcript from a sermon I delivered at Luther House Yale on Nov. 28, 2016. A special thank you to Rev. Kari Henkelmann Keyl for allowing me to come and speak about my experiences, as well as the advice to make it the best as I can. Also, thank you Paul for the feedback and advice to compose it, as well as my friends who came to support me and listen to me share my experiences.
A fun fact about me is I am a huge Elton John fan. What makes his music so legendary is the combination of beautiful piano accompaniment, along with poetic lyrics written by songwriting partner Bernie Taupin.
While I think all of the lyrics he pens have the power to stay with you, there is one lyric in particular that has always stayed with me, which are “I won’t break, I won’t bend, but someday soon we’ll sail away from innocence and the bitter end.”
The lyrics are from the song “Simple Life,” a song from 1992’s The One, and something that I always found to be inspiring and comforting while dealing with my anxiety symptoms.
I have dealt with anxiety for over a year now. While I was always the slight bit more anxious than the average person throughout my life, it had skyrocketed throughout my last two years at college. Between taking upper level classes and working two or three jobs along with online internships, I suddenly felt a crushing weight of anxiety, a reminder that I was stuck forever in a state of unhappiness.
Suddenly, my personality changed. I was crying constantly, just because I felt like I could not breathe from the weight of my ‘to-do’ lists. I had lost a ton of weight, just because my stomach was constantly tied up in nervous knots for me to eat. I was constantly on edge, and something as so small as a friend not calling me back at a certain time would lead to an argument.
I was heading down an unhealthy road, and I felt like I was powerless to stop it.
Of course, I tried to change things. I cut down my hours at one of my jobs. I became a slave to using a day by day planner in the attempts to stay organized. However, when those things didn’t work, I went to the counseling center on my campus. It was then I was formally diagnosed with anxiety.
Therapy, at first anyways, was never something that I made a priority. I would skip out on therapy as much as I could, because I was afraid that the people on my campus would judge me for seeking the help that I desperately needed. I would have a hard time scheduling a therapist appointment because I constantly had other things that needed to be done, so therapy ended up on the back of the list.
And, whenever I was in the therapist’s office, I often felt that I was on the road to failure. You see, my therapist had a specific game plan. If this did not work, try this, etc. And when all else failed, I would be given anxiety medications, something that scared me.
During this time of turmoil, my relationships had suffered as you can imagine.
However, the biggest relationship that suffered was the one that I share with God. I constantly questioned whether or not God loved me.
If he did, then why was I so anxious? Why was I constantly crying in a corner? Why couldn’t I gain control of my life? So, instead of turning to God, I turned against God.
Whenever something would go wrong in my life, I would blame God instead of asking for the strength that I needed to get through it.
Little did I know, in a strange way, God had actually given me the strength to get through it.
He gave me the strength to try a new therapist, who approached therapy in a different way, one that was more effective.
God gave me the desire to change my thoughts, to face things that I never wanted to face.
God had given me the motivation to get better, which was a year long process of self reflection, of changing how I would talk to myself, and finally learning how to say goodbye to things that were toxic to me.
God had given me the strength to figure out that writing in a journal, or listening to music is one way that I could stop a panic attack in its tracks.
So, in some way, shape or form, I guess you can say that I in fact got the strength that I desperately craved from God.
It just needed to start with me.
I wish I could sit here and tell you that I’m cured from all of my anxiety symptoms. I wish I could tell you that I beat anxiety, kicked its butt and never have to worry about it effecting it again.
That is not how anxiety works. Somedays, I have good days. Somedays, I have bad ones. And, at the end of the day, as long as I learn how to take care of myself when I need to, I think that is pretty good progress.
Anxiety will always be a part of me, although I would like to point out that it not the whole part of me.
I am a lot of things-a journalist, a classic rock affenicado, a friend, a daughter, a student, and a woman. However, I am not the panic attacks that I suffer from. I am not the anxious tears that I cry. I am not the anxious thoughts that I radiate from.
And, as I sit here tonight, I have a lot of things to thank God for.
I thank God for giving me the courage to deliver this sermon, because public speaking is something that scares the living crap out of me.
I thank God for all of my support systems cheering me on, such as my friends, my dog and family.
I thank God for getting me through four and a half years of undergraduate education, with three semesters on Dean’s List, being able to be in an English Honor society, and for the chance to take classes that helped shape me both as a journalist and a person.
I thank God for being able to have a therapist that truly cares about me, and points me to the right track.
I thank God for learning how to self care, and realizing that I am worth it.
I thank God for my ex-boyfriend, who despite all that went wrong between us, supported me through every panic attack I had, and helped encourage me to become stronger and to branch out to new experiences.
I thank God for my mother, for her countless sacrifices as a single parent, both personal and economical. Thank you God for teaching me to be strong like her. Thank you Mom for paying for my undergraduate education, so I can graduate debt free, for reading every mediocre article I have ever written, and being a pillar of support throughout my life.
But, most of all, I thank God for being able to say that it has been over four months since my last panic attack, and to be able to quote my favorite singer in saying “I’m still standing, better than I ever did, feeling like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.”