(Originally posted on our former blog site on 11/14/2014)
My struggle with social anxiety can be summed up in one word. Irony.
Like when putting up a sign for safety.... unsafely.
Or when writing "nothing is written in stone"... in stone.
Or when building a statue for freedom... and then taking away it's freedom.
Or when driving a "where the news hits home" truck... and hitting a home.
Irony. It can be the best thing and the worst thing all at the same time. Irony is, well, ironic.
I have been on both sides of the irony crazy train. I have caught myself hysterically laughing when a person attempts correcting someone else's grammar by making an even more terrible grammatical offense. You know that's funny. Or laughing at how irrational my own personal thoughts can get when I have to travel through darkness to turn off a light that I have forgotten about, so I can be in complete darkness before going to bed.
But you see my struggle with social anxiety is ironic, too. I am called to lead and help a group of people all the while being afraid of large groups of people.
Ironic isn't it? And it started long before I knew large groups would ever be in the picture. I embraced my social awkwardness at a young age striving to the be the best at my academics only to find that my eighth grade self won valedictorian to not only accept an award on a stage facing hundreds of students and parents, but speaking to them as well. Here's the best part. Public Speaking 101: Eye contact... you must keep eye contact with the crowd. And Social Anxiety... yea no... large crowds plus eye contact equals lack of air in my lungs. And that's a math equation you can bet on every time!
Every time we host a girls conference, or throw an event, irony hits me. The constant battle within me to dream grand dreams and crawl in a hole. I think God must have gotten it wrong. I can't do any of the things in my heart because I am not strong enough. My knees shake, my lungs close, and my head gets cloudy. I don't know how I can stand in front of a crowd, much less be clear minded enough to speak to them. You had it wrong, God. I am not the one.
I believed this for awhile. That I couldn't be both the leader and the sufferer. It was my kryptonite, the thing that would keep me from doing anything great... and then I heard something that changed it all.
After making a huge life change- being a stay at home mom after the birth of our first son- I had started watching Joyce Meyers. Yes people under thirty do that sometimes. I can certainly say that I am not the type to watch preachers on TV, it's nothing against them I would just prefer to go to a service, but in this season of life I found myself watching every day. And one afternoon she said something that set my anxiety ridden heart free.
"If you are always going to be scared, then just learn how to do it... scared."
It isn't the message many will proclaim. They will tell you to pray yourself out of it, to "just stop" being anxious. They will look at you as if you were one without faith if you dare confess that you struggle with social anxiety. But here's the thing, you can't just GET OVER IT. Some days I triumph over my anxious feelings and some days I LIVE DESPITE THEM. And you know something else, I am not alone! David was depressed, Elijah was suicidal, Gideon was afraid, and Moses stuttered. The only difference between them and the rest of the depressed, suicidal, afraid, stutterers was that they allowed God to use them DESPITE their problems.
If you are going to be afraid, anxious, embarrassed, or depressed- then learn how to live life with all of those emotions anyway. Because if you allow any of those emotions to cause you to stop living then evil has truly done what it had set out to do, and the impact that you were created to make on this world will never happen.
So you made a mistake and might be embarrassed being around anyone who knows, go live life anyway.
So you haven't crawled out of your bed of depression and the only comforter you've known is the one on top of your sheets, get up anyway.
So you haven't gone to the grocery store in days because you are putting off the inevitable tantrum that your almost three year old albino terrorist will throw... oh wait, that is probably just me... Vanessa, go to the grocery store anyways!
No more should we allow ourselves to be chained to the emotions that have been our constant companions... I may never fully be rid of my social anxiety, and God may heal me fully tomorrow, but whatever the case I will do it (whatever He is asking me to do) anyway.
So be brave, dear girls, and full of courage. Live life anyway!
Exodus 4:10-12 And Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, I am not eloquent or a man of words, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and have a heavy and awkward tongue. So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.