Since anxiety is a feeling, I don’t like dealing with the negative emotions that surface in my heart. While God has given me the ability to feel anger, sadness, and fear, I don’t like to admit when I have those feelings. Little do I realize on a daily basis that my anxiety stems from the bottling up of my emotions, until that uncontrolled energy explodes out from within me in the form of a panic attack, an angered outrage, or isolation.
From childhood until the present day, I’ve enjoyed writing in my journal. It has always been a way for me to process my emotions without being judged, criticized, or punished. I would write about everything, from my daily activities to the things that made me angry, sad, afraid, happy, surprised, or excited. I looked forward, I dreamed, I looked back, and I remembered. If you want to really know me, better than I know myself sometimes, read my journals.
I didn’t realize how important it was for me to journal until I wasn’t able to do so a few years ago. When life gets busy, all of your priorities and hobbies get pushed to the side. I replaced the outpouring of my heart with the hardening of it as I would fight work anxiety, do my homework, or walk from class to class. If journaling wasn’t required for a few of my classes, I would have never journaled until I would graduate college. Then, what would it take for another obligation to fill that empty space again?
You see, when I got to college, I realized that my emotions were scary. I held on to a lot of bitterness and hurt from my childhood. I didn’t realize that my life wasn’t normal until I went off to college and met “normal” people, people from homes that were peaceful and encouraging. I didn’t want to talk about my feelings to anyone for fear of judgment. I couldn’t talk to my friends, because they couldn’t possibly understand. I couldn’t talk to my family, because I didn’t want to bring up old memories between us. I feared tension, I feared conflict, and so I did whatever it took to avoid the feelings of anger, sadness, and fear in my heart.
I would run from my emotions like I was an Olympic athlete competing in the 800m. Instead of facing my anger, I would fill my day with busy activities. Instead of dealing with my sadness, I would work out. Instead of dealing with my fear, I would isolate myself. As long as I kept the smile on my face, no one had to know the pain that I carried inside of me.
Jesus says in Matthew 15 that it is not what goes into you that is unclean (meaning food), but what comes out of you (meaning bitterness, hatred, and hypocrisy). Modern day psychologists have described humans as a filled cup. If the cup is filled with anger, that’s what is going to come out if it’s tipped. If the cup is filled with love and compassion, that’s what’s going to come out. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I couldn’t hide from these feelings, even if I tried. Eventually, trials would come, and my raw emotion would be exposed.
My raw emotion did come out, through panic attacks. I wasn’t able to control myself around anyone. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and exposed when I knew I couldn’t hide anymore.
Eventually, I asked to see a counselor, and I reached out to some of my friends for support. Slowly, I learned how to journal again, and I learned how to ask for help from a healthy community. I still have feelings of anger, sadness, and fear, but I’ve learned to control them by remembering that they are indications and not dictations about my life.
Emotions may seem scary, but they don’t have to be. If you don’t learn how to control your emotions, your emotions will control you. Make time to rest and process how you are feeling these days. If you have been feeling extra anxious lately, take some time to journal and figure out why. When you read through the pages of your journal, after you’ve calmed down, you can have better insight into your emotions. You can also call up a friend or family member and ask if you can vent (ask first, though!). Making a daily habit out of journaling or talking to a trusted friend can help you better control your emotions, and take action when you need to make reconciliation with someone.