I haven’t eaten peanuts since 2008.
I used to eat extra crunchy Jif by the spoonful and call it dinner. I needed peanut butter like most adults need coffee. Now I won’t touch anything with peanuts anywhere in the ingredient list.
But why? It’s simple really.
I’m scared of peanuts.
I see that confused look on your face and I truly can’t blame you. I also know your next question.
Are you allergic to peanuts or something?
No. But that is a logical conclusion. Unfortunately anxiety is the opposite of logic.
Anxiety. My lifelong nemesis. A constant companion for most of the days I can remember. However in 2008 my chronic, but underlying, anxiety disorder became a full blown panic disorder.
I was pregnant. Hormones are more powerful than I ever realized. And I lived in crisis mode for nine months. I became paralyzingly afraid that I had developed a severe peanut allergy and if I ate one the worst would happen.
Honestly, peanuts were the least of my worries.
Every second of my life was shrouded in morbid fears that I could not escape. Daily tasks were now risky and dangerous. My physical symptoms spiraled out of control and I rarely left my bed.
And I knew it was crazy. I knew I sounded nuts. I knew no one else was worried about falling through a sewer grate or contracting every deadly disease mentioned on the evening news. I knew not everyone was convinced they were dying.
But you try reasoning with someone knee-deep in a panic attack. It is not typically an effective approach.
Someday I will share my full story of healing and restoration. It would be approximately 79,823,987,564 pages long, but the description on the back would read something like this:
“When an ordinary day becomes the day you have your first panic attack, life probably won’t ever be the same. Six years later I look back on my journey and see the darkest storms of my life but I also see healing, restoration, and hope. Those storms caused total devastation. I was obliterated and left for lost. But hope doesn’t give up. Hope believes, it trusts, it stays. Hope rebuilds what was destroyed. Hope sees what is impossible and knows Jesus still can. Today I can’t believe where I was, how far I’ve come or the beauty of the person rebuilt from that place of desperation and loss. But I know one thing for sure, there is purpose in our pain. Also, I still don’t eat peanuts, but I like to consider that a cute little battle scar.”
Anxiety tried to destroy me. It stole so much, and it will always be a part of my story. But it will not win. Maybe it’s a part of your story, too. Hear me say this. It does not have to win.
I’m not here to talk about how medication or therapy or acupuncture or diet or Jesus (well, I’m always a fan of Jesus) will be your quick fix. I’m not talking about how I beat anxiety and because this and this worked for me it will work for you. I believe with all of my heart that each story is different. Each healing journey is different. But most of all I believe that anxiety does not get to win. Once upon a time I couldn’t imagine beating it and I needed someone to remind me. Some days I still need the reminder.
I have two babies now. They hate it when I call them babies but I tell them to deal with it because they’ll be my babies tomorrow and when they go to prom and when they have babies of their own. I’ll always kiss them in public too. But I digress.
I have two babies. They are the best thing I have ever done, the most precious thing in my life and that is some scary business.
Mixing motherhood with anxiety?
It’s a perfect storm really.
Like I didn’t have enough anxiety ammunition before there were two tiny people I would do anything for.
Now I have to keep them safe? I’m in charge of them? Me? The one who is afraid of peanuts and taxi drivers? Now I have to worry about choking hazards and SIDS and correctly installing a car seat?
(Insert a myriad of colorful language here.)
But hold on. I didn’t see this coming. And I have a sneaking suspicion that you didn’t either. Yes you, mama. The one almost ready to give birth or with a tiny one in your arms while you read this. The one who fights fear all day every day. The one who maybe feels like less than a great mama because anxiety monopolizes your time and your sleep and your smile. I’m talking to you. Listen to me.
If you’ll let them, your tiny child will be the catalyst for healing in your life.
Life is terrifying. We need only turn on the news to understand that this world is broken and life is fragile. It always has been and it always will be. We worry because the worst can happen and someday it might.
Life is more wonderful than it is terrifying. Sometimes I just forget.
When I look at my boys I know that worry is not the legacy I want to pass on. Anxiety is not their birthright. Fear will not define them.
So I fight.
I have fought for six years. I have spent endless hours, and money I didn’t have, to find answers. I have prayed desperate and when words failed me I know Jesus understood my tears. I have doubted. I have questioned. I have been angry and defeated and fatigued. I have screamed at my God in one breath and begged him to save me in the next. I tried to walk away but he followed me.
And in the worst of the terrible moments, when fear was doing a victory lap, I looked into the faces of the babies I adore and I knew if I didn’t want to fight for me I needed to fight for them. I don’t want to teach them a lifestyle of worry. I won’t.
Today I can hardly believe how far I’ve come. The months of constant panic seem more like a bad dream than a life that I lived. But I did live them. I still worry more than most. Anxiety grips me when I least expect it and takes my breath away. But it no longer controls me.
I don’t know what your journey has been like. I don’t know how you will find healing. But I know it is possible. I know you are worth fighting for. I know my Jesus never leaves your side.
I know my boys may someday face fear that feels unbeatable. That thought brings me to my knees. Not my babies. Not them. Please, no.
I can’t protect them from everything. Including their own fears. But I can show them what it looks like to never give up. I can show them that prayer changes things. I can be an example of vulnerability and honesty and willingness to share my journey if it could possibly help one person. I can discuss anxiety like the true thief it is instead of teaching them to be ashamed or embarrassed by it. I can teach them that life is a gift and to celebrate the beauty instead of being paralyzed by fear.
I can teach them that if a day comes when fear feels too strong that there is always hope.
I will show them that sometimes true courage is driving a car for the first time in half a decade. Tell them that bravery is not just for knights and ninjas. Sometimes the bravest person is the one who flies across the country by herself, shaking and sweating, because anxiety sucks but Jesus makes me brave.
And who knows. Maybe someday I’ll show them that healing is eating a handful of peanuts. Unless you’re actually have a peanut allergy. Then please do not eat a handful of peanuts.