The first time I learned about generalized anxiety order was in college. I was sitting in my speech class listening to a student give her presentation on mental health and how she dealt with her recent diagnosis of various mental health issues. As she spoke about GAD, I was a bit confused because most the symptoms she was describing were… normal to me. “You mean not everyone thinks this way?” I thought to myself. That speech started a journey for me of learning more about myself, my anxiety, and my identity- a journey that I am still on today!
Mental Health is an area that is still not widely understood by our current culture. I am definitely NOT a mental health expert, but as someone who has walked through my own mental health struggles and watched family members struggle as well, I have observed a lot of different responses to mental health especially within the Christian community.
There are usually two responses to mental health that I see: denial or identity. Some people deny the science behind and even the existence of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. On the other hand, others accept it as a label to wear, letting it become more important than anything else in their life.
To be perfectly honest, I know these responses are both incorrect, because I have done both of them at different times in my life. After my own counseling and watching others close to me who struggle with anxiety, I knew I had to come to terms with the reality of what I was dealing with. I had to accept that my anxiety was real and affected my life. However, once I accepted that reality, I started to believe that anxiety was my new identity.
Now, I want to make a couple things clear. I still talk about my anxiety. I have so much respect for those brave enough to be vulnerable about their struggles. I love that so many people are raising awareness to break the stigma around mental health. However, my identity is found in Christ, not in anxiety.
Even when my mind feels in turmoil; God promises to be my peace. When I start to overthink and worry, I just have another opportunity to invite Jesus into my thoughts. In my weakness, I learn to boast more in His strength.
Because no matter what I struggle with, who I am does not change. Jesus died on the cross so I can be known as a child of God. He promises to walk with me even in the midst of my anxiety and bring me into deeper freedom and healing through the process.
For years, anxiety felt like a fatal flaw that defined who I was. I don’t know what you struggle with- maybe it’s mental health issues or something completely unrelated. Everyone has a different story, but I have learned from my own story that when I stop making my struggles my identity and allow Christ to tell me who I am, I find so much freedom!
I always encourage people to get counseling or treatment for their anxiety, because those things have been so beneficial to me. No one should feel shame because of their mental health struggles, but never let anyone tell you that you are only your anxiety, because that is a lie. You are so much more than something you struggle with or issues you are facing. God sees you as a beloved child, not a broken thing to be fixed.
My mental health journey has played a huge role in shaping the person I am. God has been so faithful at every step of the process. I have learned that my struggles are not shameful and do not disqualify me from being used by God. I am grateful for opportunities to share my story and raise awareness about mental health, but ultimately, I know where my identity lies. Anxiety is not my identity; I am a child of God.
Looking for more resources about mental health? Listen to our MercyTalk Podcast “Mental Health: How Do We Respond?”