I’ve always been a tidy person. I love cleaning up, it leaves me with a clean and organized space both physically and mentally. Even when I was a kid I was this way, always tidying up and always having everything in its place. Don’t get me wrong I’m no Monica Geller, but I definitely understand where she’s coming from (if you don’t know who Monica Geller is, watch this clip here).
If something wasn’t right, I’d fix it. That’s something anyone would do, right? Something is out of line that you see in passing, you fix it. A book flipped backwards or a piece of laundry on the floor. The difference for me was, fix one fix all. If there was laundry on the floor, I’d pick up that one piece sure, but then I needed to make sure all of the laundry was done. No matter what I was doing prior or whatever I had going on. It was time to do laundry. Book flipped backwards, simple and easy fix, but then I needed to flip all of the books backwards and then flip them forwards again, because everything needed to go through the same process. Everything needed to be perfect. Even if it didn’t make sense, it had to be that way.
This behavior bled into everything I did. Beyond just cleaning and tidying up. Everything from tiny meticulous things to more seemingly obvious things. Walking a certain way because of how the tiles on the ground were lined up or vacuuming a room and only leaving straight lines on the carpet with every stride. Things I knew no one else paid much attention to, but that didn’t matter because I knew it was the way things had to be done for me to get through the day.
If I left something unattended, the thought and reminder would egg at me every day. I wouldn’t be able to focus until the issue or mistake was fixed. Sometimes this meant I left a dirty dish in the sink because I didn’t have time to add it to the dishwasher before leaving the house, other times it would be brushing my hair starting on the left instead of the right side of my head like “usual”.
I didn’t know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was until I was fourteen. I had honestly just accepted that this was my brain, and this was my life. I didn’t know OCD was a mental disorder, I didn’t know it was directly connected with my anxiety. I didn’t know things could be different.
One of the first therapists I ever saw said something to me in the very beginning that has stuck with me ever since.
“Your life is like a bouncy house and you’re trying as hard as you can to walk straight. You have so much going on and you’re trying to control every single aspect of it”.
My need to control every single tiny aspect of my life originated because everything else in my life was so unpredictable and fear driven. My internal response to this was to over-analyze and over control, to the point of obsession. My anxiety wasn’t just in my thoughts and in my fears it was in the wiring of my brain. There wasn’t any other option because my need to control was controlling me. Like blood in my veins, anxiety paved its way through my mind and in my heart and was the single thing both keeping me alive and keeping me from living.
Eventually I came to the realization that my anxiety and OCD were not two separate issues, the OCD was a manifestation of the anxiety.
It took time. Baby steps, one day after the next. I refused to try any medication, that wasn’t how I wanted to do things. I have always applauded and encouraged medication for those who prefer it, but for me medication just wasn’t an option (more on that another day). It took time to quiet those egging thoughts, the condemning nagging thoughts that told me to go back and fix whatever it was my brain had labeled “unfinished”. It took time to realize not everything had to be perfect, to give myself grace, to be flexible. And eventually my anxiety ceased. Not ceased to exist, no, but it ceased its grip on my brain and my thoughts. Instead of control it was a matter of co-existence.
I do not think I will ever be rid of my anxiety. I still have triggers, I still have break downs, and I still have attacks. There is a long list of fears and anxieties that the enemy uses to box me in and try and stop me. And God continues to tears those walls down and urges me forward, like a gust of wind pressing on my heart to take the next step. Baby steps.
Jesus did that. From the moment I cried out to Him and begged no more, He has never stopped working in me. Encouraging me to stay true to myself despite whatever rhythm my life is currently flowing on, whether it’s as crazy as a bouncy house or as calm as the open ocean. God has never stopped reminding me to find peace in His love rather than trying to find my own balance. He taught me how to hold His hand and walk straight with confidence, instead of trying on my own and falling, every two steps forward landing me three steps back. And friends there are still days that I fall, because sometimes I still think I can handle it on my own. And He still picks me up. Every time. But that’s God, though.
At this point my anxiety and I are like old friends. Not enemies, but we definitely have a history. We live this life together. There is nothing I have to be limited by, but there are things I know I won’t be able to control or change about myself. Not alone and not without Jesus. My anxiety is not my definition, but it is part of who I am, and it will always have a seat at the table. But I’m learning a seat and a voice are two very different things, and God’s promise since that very night we first talked is that He is both might and grace, my comfort and protection. When He speaks my fears and anxieties are nothing but a whisper.
Five verses on letting go of anxiety and walking with God instead:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
"You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess."
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”