Archives For anxiety

Several months ago I signed up for eHarmony to prove to all the imaginary critics in my life that I was doing my part to get married. You know, all those people out there who mutter under their breath about how I’d be married if I just tried harder. By the time I’d typed in my credit card number, I’d practically composed an entire speech about how I’d spent my twenties trying to get married and I wasn’t about to waste my thirties doing the same, especially if God intended to keep me single. This didn’t strike me as odd—spending my hard earned wages on internet dating just to prove some theoretical faultfinders wrong—until I heard my niece wailing about the Play-do in her tights. That’s when I realized it was time to fire the imaginary critics.

 

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I was FaceTiming my sister-in-law when my five year old niece found Play-do smashed into her tights. As her mom told her to pack up the dough so they could get to church on time, my niece began to whimper about needing her tights washed. Her mom said there wasn’t time and that no one would notice, but my niece began to wail that they would. Who? The mean people. Those all-seeing, all-knowing, invisible judges who zero in on bits of Play-do smashed into tights, who whisper disparagingly about single women who aren’t trying hard enough. It’s time to pull a Donald Trump on them and let them know for once and for all that they’re fired Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

We buckled ourselves into the SUV, four adults and two nieces smooshed between all the camping gear. By buckled, I mean to include Grandma’s arms which clasped around the two littles in their pink swimsuits. Not exactly legal, but the Honda Pilot inched past pine trees and toward the sand about as slow as the snails whose vacated shells we planned to hunt at the beach. Mom asked if our souls felt at rest, being here in the Adirondacks, wedged away from our busy lives, but silence greeted her question. 

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I’d spent the week sleeping late and paddling across lakes powdered with sunshine. My body had slowed down, but when I checked my soul I found it ticking away just as fast as ever. My brother and sister-in-law felt the same. 

 

It probably didn’t help that every time we got cell reception, driving through Lake Placid on the way to a hike or just outside the bathhouse at the beach, I’d look for text messages, Jen would check her email, and Jason would post pictures on Instagram. Only mom, still living in her paleontologic world devoid of Facebook with it’s real, in-person friends and live-time conversations—where being social doesn’t require media— seemed to have soul rest Continue Reading…

“God, I just don’t have what it takes,” I blurted out and grabbed a sweater off the hanger.

The sound of my voice surprised me. I usually slog through mornings mute and zombi-like, but standing between the doors of my closet I felt trapped by my inadequacy—to deal with the politics at work, difficult patients, and another ten-hour day. Even worse, I was completely out of ideas—and had been for weeks—about how to connect my coworkers to the God who loves them. 

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My inadequacy twisted around me, squeezing the air out of my lungs. But, as my words scattered onto work pants and blouses, I felt an answer—the kind you’d never think of on your own, the kind that feels green when all your thoughts are purple. The answer was colored like this: “You being adequate was never the point. Not at the beginning, and not now.”

Just like that, God torched one of the portraits of him that I’d been hoarding. It’s a picture of God up in heaven. Sometimes he’s cheering me on. Other times he’s drumming his fingers on the throne. Always he’s waiting for my graduation day—the day when I’ll finally master being a Christian and get everything right. On my own. Without his help Continue Reading…

Grand Central Station

smgianotti@me.com  —  September 22, 2015

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Photo courtesy of Maria Molinero via unsplash.com

 

Sprinting, squeezing through the metal doors,

my mind a passenger on every train,

careening through a cityscape of deadlines,

past endless blocks of tasks that must be done,

now dipping into tunnels webbed with worry, 

then out again into the blaze of dreams, 

each line a frantic scramble toward tomorrow, 

carrying me to everywhere but here Continue Reading…

Six years ago, I clocked out of the burn unit for the last time and said goodbye to IVs, night shifts, and skin grafts. When people learn that I worked as a burn nurse they often blink and whisper, “That must’ve been so hard.” 

 

Working on a burn unit was hard, but not for the reason people think. Burn nurses walk onto the job each day expecting the worst. This protects us against emotional paralysis and allows us to focus on helping our patients—loading their IVs with Dilaudid, washing their burns, and slathering them with Silvadene. Burn care wasn’t always the hard part; often, night shifts were. 

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Photo courtesy of Alex Santos Silva via flickr.com (Used under CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Unless you’ve stared 4 a.m. in the face, contacts blurring from dryness, you’ve never met the pit of night. Usually, by 2:30 a.m. my coworker and I had succumbed to silence. During the eternal inertia that stretched from then until dawn, I would agonize over whether another cup of coffee was worth the hole it would burn in my stomach.

 

One night, as I clawed my way toward morning, a patient’s call light turned on. I took a quick trip through Kubler-Ross’s stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before accepting the inevitable Continue Reading…

I weaved in an out of traffic listening to my friend. Every Tuesday we hit a local coffee shop and try to make a dent in our writing aspirations. I changed lanes and focused back on what she was saying. During the last week she had run into two strangers that needed help—a homeless lady who she took to lunch and a young woman who was locked out of her car.

 

“I usually don’t interact with strangers so much,” my friend said, “but I really felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to help them.” 

 

I listened to my friend with mixed emotions. I knew I should be glad that God was working through her, but insecurity cluttered my heart. Her success felt like my failure.

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Photo courtesy of Luke Pamer via unsplash.com

 

Unlike my friend, I am not an extrovert. I dislike socially awkward situations and talking to strangers. Hearing how Jesus worked through my friend made me feel like a failure. After all, when was the last time I took a homeless woman to lunch? Continue Reading…

I was on a pre-break-up run. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had begun to worry about my dating difficulties, and pounding it out on the trail to White Rock Lake seemed like a good idea.

 

I felt stuck in one of those Vine videos on Facebook, looping through the same anxious thoughts, over and over, until I wanted to scream. If only I could close the browser on my anxiety or scroll past it like a Vine. But, anxiety doesn’t work like that. 

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Photo courtesy of Rula Sibai via unsplash.com

 

Sometimes, when people quote the Bible, they seem to imply that anyone can dispel anxiety with four easy steps: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer (Step 1) and supplication (Step 2), with thanksgiving (Step 3) let your requests be made known to God (Step 4). And the peace of God…will guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

But, in all my years as a champion worrier, the four-steps approach rarely fast-tracked me to peace. True–that day on the path–praying and giving thanks reminded me that even if my relationship nosedived and I got wounded in the crash God would help me through. But, how could I get a grip on the anxious feelings

Continue Reading…