I guess this is becoming part in a bit of a series about anxiety (you can read part 1 and part 2 here) on here about this. When I wrote that first post, I never really intended to write more on it, but here we go.
One of the questions I've been asked recently is:
If it's so scary to out it out there for others to read, why do I do it?
If it's so easily misunderstood by people, why do I take the risk?
I guess my answer is that, while it's scary, it's also liberating. There's no longer a feeling of pretending in my life. There's no longer an added fear of being "found out" when something happens.
For the first 8 years after I was told I had social anxiety disorder I didn't tell anyone. I kept it to myself and just did my best to structure my life in a way that (at least I thought) wasn't overly obvious to people. But, about 3 years ago a series of events rendered that impossible to do anymore. Everything became too much for me to manage on my own. As it impacted more and more areas of my carefully structured life, I couldn't keep it to myself anymore.
I no longer had a choice about telling people. Those first conversations terrified me (even more than the first post I wrote a couple of weeks on this), but afterwards I felt a sort of freedom I hadn't expected. There's something powerful about letting other people into your biggest struggles. I was no longer alone in it. And I found incredible love and support in those people I told.
As I moved slowly beyond that time and was able to manage better again, I realized my biggest help had come from being open about my struggle with this. That inviting and allowing other people in was important. I also realized how many others may be struggling with the same things we are, but staying quiet because we thing no one else will understand.
I was also painfully aware of the stigma that still often comes with any kind of mental health struggle - both inside and outside of the church. And I knew the only way this would change would be for people to keep talking about it, so we can one day change the conversation about it.
All of that is why I choose to continue to talk about this. Keeping it to myself didn't help me, it doesn't help others, and it will never change the conversations we have about it. The changes when we talk about it, despite the fear and misunderstanding. Our silence leaves everything the same.
So I choose to keep talking about this, despite the fear. I will talk about this despite the comments that all it would take to be "cured" is more faith in God and more prayer (believe me, I pray and I believe God can heal me of this, but it hasn't happened yet). I will talk about this despite the times other misunderstand what I'm trying to say.
But, mostly, I will talk about this because it brings freedom - for me and for others. Keeping silent about our struggles binds us up. When we talk about them, freedom can come.