Faith That Holds Up the Collapsing Walls of Anxiety
I have always identified as spiritual, but rarely as religious. I shared this identity along with many others before identifying as both. In my own viewpoint, people call on their spirituality as needed. Spirituality is a personal connection to what someone believes in. Religion is a belief system that isn’t defined by personal need or interest. Spirituality seems to be for those who believe in something but don’t follow the rules. I meet so many people, no matter their faith or lack thereof, who identify as spiritual. It’s easier to be spiritual. Also, there’s a lot of negative connotations that surround identifying as religious. Depending on how you define both religion and spirituality, this article may seem either confusing or just plain wrong. However, retelling the story of how I went from spiritual to both spiritual and religious is key here. My growth from spirituality into faith in Christ helped me through one of the darkest times in my life.
Trigger Warning: Bipolar Mania & Depression, Anxiety, Mental Illness, Disordered Eating & Recovery
When I was merely spiritual, I called on God only on an as-needed basis. My prayers came from places of anguish and anxiety. They came from terror and fear. My mental illness has taken over my life many times before, however, it endured throughout the entire autumn of 2020. In February 2021, things finally became better. Albeit, I’m still not at the best place mentally or emotionally right now, however, I’m feeling much better than I was last fall. However, God meets us where we’re at. I needed help through daily panic attacks and anxious breakdowns. I couldn’t sleep more than an hour each night. I lost the ability to talk with my loved ones for long periods of time because of extreme exhaustion. Bipolar mania kept me wired, capable, and disassociative during the day and restless at night. God heard my prayers, and as always, He delivered.
God has a plan for all of us. I believe that when we pray for anything that aligns with that good plan, God delivers. At that moment, God wanted me to find peace. I needed peace and I prayed for peace, so God helped me.
He helped me in ways that were, in fact, natural to those who suffer from bipolar disorder. After one of the worst breakdowns I’ve ever had at the end of October, I felt worthless and awful. I screamed at my family; all of my anxiety and dread rushed out of me all at once. I hadn’t slept in three nights and I felt like I had completely lost my mind. So, I prayed. I prayed with my hands clasped white-knuckled together pressed against my chest, and I prayed for help.
Almost a week later, my doctor prescribed me a new anti-anxiety medication. After beginning this new treatment plan, my bipolar cycle shifted into a depressive cycle. The medication likely triggered this response. Thank God that this is the medication I was prescribed, and thank God for that bipolar shift!
I’ve never been so grateful for depression before. After months on-end of experiencing neverending bipolar mania, I could finally sleep at night. I felt tired and extremely unmotivated each day, but I felt calm. I felt so much peace.
Delving into daily prayer and reading my Bible also shifted my focus away from compulsively working out. During my manic cycle, I walked on the treadmill multiple times a day. I occasionally ran, however, I have a weak left ankle due to a condition I’ve had since birth. I walked for miles each day just to feel some control amidst the chaos. I stopped eating regular meals (most days I’d just eat one meal). When I couldn’t fall asleep each night, I’d get so anxious that I’d toss on gym shoes and walk on the treadmill even more. At five a.m. one Saturday morning, my family found me sobbing on the floor next to the treadmill. I had been walking for over an hour already and was completely exhausted. Yet, I wasn’t as quite suicidal like I’d been in the past. I was struggling to survive even though I was dying physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, I was holding onto my spirituality just enough to receive God’s help. God helps us all of the time, we just need to believe it’s Him to realize it.
Throughout the forthcoming months, I read (and still read) my Bible every day. Whether it’s a whole book or just one passage, I read it every day. I read new verses or I read ones I already love. I take time to meditate - if you can believe it - while walking on the treadmill! I’ll listen to my Christian music while working out and think about God’s Love. It’s amazing. I’ve never felt so much hope in my entire life. After every prayer, I feel safe, and safety from God never falters. Even the most trustworthy friends and family can’t handle everything all the time, but God is always there.
Faith must be cultivated personally. My faith grew from a time of need and God lovingly led me through. It holds up the collapsing walls of anxiety, depression, and more. God provides the resources we need to survive and thrive through our trust in Him. I believe that God gave me bipolar disorder so I could feel things more deeply, maintain strong creativity, and connect better with the people I have the blessing of calling my friends and family. He gave me mental illness so I could experience what it’s like to go through something dreadful and emerge stronger. He gave me powerful healing capabilities and a big capacity for helping others. God gives us struggles, both big and small, so that we can grow from them. We can choose to emerge with more love and light in our hearts and align closer with His path for us. It’s through that faith that I realize that both good and bad things happen for a good reason. My bipolar disorder has been and will be life-long, and that gives me hope that my creativity and empathy will be needed for a long time.
I am both religious and spiritual now because I abide by Christianity as much as possible. I am religious because I acknowledge and do my best to align my life choices with my religion. I am spiritual because I know I can find solace in Christ. Part of being a Christian is understanding that we are all imperfect in different ways, yet Christ will redeem us regardless. As a reminder to those who may have a negative view of Christians, please know we are called to love others first. Love and forgiveness are the most important messages in the Bible. Some people interpret the Bible differently, however, many of us know that love, inclusivity, respect, and forgiveness are top-priority. Discrimination goes against love, and I wish more people would realize that.
How has God changed your life for the better? Did you find Him in a dark place or a happy place?