We all experience anxiety from time to time. We worry about being able to pay the bills; we fret over meeting the needs of our family and we worry about our health. In a fast-paced world with instant access to alarming news across the globe, it’s easy to get trapped in the fears of individual or global crises.
For most of us these anxieties come and go. However, for some, anxiety becomes a nightmare without end in sight, and it can result in health problems. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, these types of maladies are on the rise, especially with twenty- to thirty-year-olds, and Canadians are not immune.
The modern response to anxiety illnesses in most cases is to medicate, to control the symptoms. While this approach may be helpful for some, it can have its own health hazards, such as addiction and depression. Additionally, in some cases, those who suffer feel ashamed of their problem and turn to illegal drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, causing even greater individual, family and societal problems.
Many experts seeking solutions to such disorders find that there is no consistent evidence of a chemical imbalance in the brain as the root of these problems. There is thus growing concern over the use of medications designed to “re-balance” the brain. There is also increased interest in non-medical treatments that focus on helping individuals “reframe” how they see their life and the thoughts that plague them – fear, worry, self-depreciation, guilt, etc. In some cases, this reframing comes as a result of finding a re-connection to the Divine – in such a way that it transforms their view of themselves and the world.
This connection is what set golfing coach Wills Murray on a path to freedom from a diagnosis of general anxiety disorder. In his final year of high school, Murray was selected to play college baseball. He was thrilled. He thought life was looking great. Then, an injury suddenly ended his professional sports hopes. As he entered adulthood, a couple of other incidences left him anxious and feeling that his key to happiness was gone.
For several years after that, Murray suffered perpetual anxiety, which left him feeling ashamed and hopeless. He medicated himself with drugs and alcohol, and finally reached a point where he considered suicide to escape the perpetual cycle of fear.
At that juncture, however, he says it was a turning to God that led him to the decision not to end his life. And after that, he finally took steps to change his life. Instead of continually running from his fears and allowing them to govern his feelings and thoughts, he decided to find his freedom. He says he learned two important things about his approach to life that were keeping him trapped in this cycle of anxiety:
- First, that he was in the habit of always expecting a crisis and having to ready himself for it;
- Second, that he viewed his self-worth as dependent on what others thought of him.
Murray’s story of connecting with the Divine and overcoming his debilitating fears through a change of thought about life and himself, reminded me of the important point St. John makes in a letter to his followers: “God loved us first.”
The key word here is first. To understand that everyone’s identity is originally and unconditionally divinely loved, transforms both the way we see the world and how we see ourselves. No matter what our religion or faith, understanding and persistently accepting this important point heals fear and gives us confidence to meet each day with expectation and gratitude for the good we are about to experience.
We don’t have to live with anxiety. Our intrinsic value and the course of our life is grounded in Love and goodness. There’s no power to keep us from feeling the love that casts out fear.
This article was published in the Vancouver Sun HERE