"How's your anxiety?"
He asked it simply, no judgment, no presumptions, just a question that felt both light and heavy all at once.
The tears welled up, unexpectedly yet not.
"It's not great," I answered. I fidgeted, twisting my rings and kicking my foot and pulling my sweater tighter around my middle, looking at the window and trying to find better words.
"On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being full-blown panic attack, I'd say it's 7.5."
"That's high," he said.
"Yep," I said. Yep, it is.
And as I talked, as I listed the things that made it feel worse, made me feel unsteady, made that number climb so high, I felt grateful he had asked. It's his job to ask, I know, but as I sat on that blue couch for that hour like I do every week, I realized it's a gift to be asked the hard questions and a gift to feel safe enough to share my messy answers.
I'm up to my eyeballs in emotion these days, feeling shaky most of the time, feeling like one wrong look or one harsh word could send the tears spilling over the edge.
It's not great.
And I wrestle with how much to share, and when, and how. I struggle to find words to explain it. I get frustrated when there doesn't seem to be a reason for feeling like this, even when I'm listing all the things that feel wrong and it really shouldn't shock me all that much. I resent that my emotions get to me as much as they do. (Oh, enneagram Ones and our resentment...)
But in that moment? With that simple question? What he gave me was permission to feel, and to speak, and to share. Permission to not be okay. Permission to be messy and unguarded and vulnerable. Permission to ramble through reasons, to stumble, to struggle, to seek. Permission to have emotions.
Why is that so hard to give myself? I keep turning questions like this over and over in my head-- wondering and wrestling with why it's so hard to let myself be free, to forgive myself, to love myself, to let things go, to trust God is who He says He is, to believe what He says about me, to step out of bondage into a more abundant life...
It's not great.
The anxiety is high. I won't hide that. I also won't tell you all the reasons why, because I've learned to protect my story and who gets to hear it. But I will tell you this: naming it, speaking it, talking about it... it helps. It doesn't make it go away, it's not a quick fix, but it's one way to pushing back against the darkness. I didn't know I needed to be asked that simple question, but I knew immediately after that I needed to answer it in that moment. I think he knew that, too. My answer wasn't neat and tidy, and my laundry list of factors contributing to my high levels of anxiety wasn't pretty, and there wasn't any real resolution to the conversation, but it was a step.
I often get so caught up in the anxiety that I forget to step back and wonder where it came from, or why. I often don't take the time to ask myself that same question: how's my anxiety? I'm often just so burdened and bothered by it that I don't even use my eyes to try to see it. I get stuck in the feeling it that I don't move to thinking about it.
And I admit that even as I write these words, I'm wondering what the point is. Nothing I can say in this white box will make my anxiety go away or yours go away. Nothing my counselor can ask me or tell me will fix the tangled feelings. There's no magic solution, and there's no perfect remedy.
But I think the reason for writing about it is this: we need to know we aren't alone in it. We need people who will sit across from us and look at us lovingly even as we squirm, who will ask the hard questions without criticism or condemnation, who will sit with us through it all, even when it hurts. We need people who won't pretend they have it all together, people who will put the words on paper and hit the publish button even if they don't have it all figured out. We need to see people online sharing stories that are real and honest, and we especially need people to sit on the same couches as us and break bread with us and put their arms on our shoulders as they pray over us.
I need to know that there are people who see me, people who care. I need to know there are safe places where I can talk about my anxiety openly without being shut down or shunned. I need to be reminded that God sees me, too, that His love is not based on how polished I look or how okay I feel. I need to hear truth spoken in love, need people to read Scripture to me, need older and wiser leaders to pour into me. And you need these things too, I think.
I didn't know I needed to be asked that simple question.
I didn't know what my answer would be.
I didn't know what I was going to say when I opened this post up to start writing.
I just showed up.
And I started somewhere.
And I kept going.
And I'll keep going...
And I just hope you'll come along with me, taking your own small steps on your own messy journey, moving closer to the Father alongside people who love you well, entering freedom more and more day by day, coming home to yourself in all your grit and glory.
It's not great yet, but goodness, how it's going to be.