When I had postpartum anxiety, I would spend day after day fighting hard to stop feeling so awful. Honestly, I was in a constant fight or flight state. Over and over, I would say that I was in control of my emotions. As a Christian, I would meditate on scripture, like “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
I fought so hard against the rapid waves of fear. I told my anxiety “No” more times than you can imagine, expecting that if I did, peace would overwhelm me. It did not. Not for a long time.
Do you know what happens when you get caught in a rip current?
Do you know that if you swim against it, it will just tire you out, possibly drowning you?
If you simply let it ride out, you will save your energy, allowing you to get back to shore when it passes.
Sometimes we get caught in a riptide of emotions and we fight them, flailing our arms in panic. As Christians, we think of peace like a commandment that we can follow at the snap of our fingers or the sound of our voice.
It is not always that simple. Emotions are not that simple. The neural pathways in our brains are not that simple. For me postpartum anxiety was definitely not that simple.
I am not saying it is not impossible to have some miraculous experience, going from panic to overwhelming peace. However, we must understand that this will not always be the case. We must understand that sometimes when trying harder does not work, we must try less. We must stop fighting against uncomfortable emotions so much. From a Christian perspective, Jesus himself wept (John 11:35). He also demonstrated anger. As you can see, we were meant to feel emotions.
When uncomfortable emotions come, try allowing them, so you do not end up in a panic. Try sitting with them. Try being curious about what they might have to tell you. From a Christian view, reach for a scripture that resonates with you, taking the pressure off. Instead of a commandment, putting the pressure on yourself to be “fixed,” try focusing on God’s never-failing love.
Remember that your mental health is not a simple “choice.” There are biochemical reasons that we feel things that we feel. Hormonal changes, PTSD, and grief are all examples of this. If you are amid a mental struggle that feels out of your control, please know that you are not alone. I have been there myself. Be gentle with yourself. There is hope. Also, remember that the waves come and the waves go. It is the way of the water. And it is the way of life.