Most people know that I struggled with an anxiety disorder for the majority of my life. Thankfully, and through Christ alone, I have overcome that horrible 10-year period. The funny thing is that as I leave that part of me in the past, many of my friends and loved ones are experiencing it in the present. Through my struggles, I came across a little nugget of truth that has helped me tremendously. I guess this post is my way of passing that truth on to someone else who needs it.
The first two years of being a Resident Assistant at my university (Southern Methodist University) I held a specialized position entitled the “Academic Resident Assistant,” which is a fancy way of saying that I was the nerdy one. Essentially, I had an extra day of training on academic resources and study skills, and I had to host academic programs throughout the year. Fun stuff, right? I got an extra stipend every semester so it was totally worth it.
One year during training, we were learning about test anxiety and ways to combat it. One suggestion was to write an inspirational mantra or calming statement on a note card and keep it in your pocket on test day. The idea was to take it out right before an exam to help you mentally prepare. The Trainer said that this method worked well for several of her past students, but it changed the life of one in particular – her son. Now a lawyer, her son still keeps that note card in his pocket and reads it right before he goes into court for every trial. This is what it said:
It can’t eat me.
Go ahead and laugh. That was my first reaction. It can’t eat me? It’s such a simple phrase, almost idiotically so. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth behind its simplicity. After eliminating situations involving bears or other large carnivorous animals (in which anxiety becomes legitimate fear), no matter what you are facing, no matter how anxious you feel, no matter how much you want to throw up or run away or cry till your eyes hurt or hide in the back of your closet, whatever you are facing cannot and will not eat you. And, in a weird way, that notion is comforting.
I took that nugget to heart and I refer to it almost every day. And slowly, but surely, I’ve come to believe it. And you can, too.
“I can [endure] all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13