This is Alyssa’s story – a friend and recent graduate. She is a person who possesses much depth and also has a way with words. The two things combined, provide wisdom with a pen. I appreciate her openness to share some difficult things and the insight she provides.
Everyone has mountains in their lives – those experiences or sins that we continually try to scale with our “striving to be a better person” equipment – in hopes of reaching the top and seeing something more promising on the other side. In a moment of gusto, we draw up a map of where we think we should be by nightfall, snap on our heavy backpacks full of rules and goals and lists of things that we’re not supposed to do, and then we inevitably roll back down in dismay when we’re too tired to walk anymore, and the darkness engulfs us yet again.
I remember the moment that I stared up at the gargantuan mountain in my life and realized that I couldn’t climb it alone. I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, but it became exceedingly prominent the year that I graduated from college. Panic attacks were a daily occurrence; I experienced bouts of de-realization, which eventually led to mild agoraphobia, and even depression. I scheduled doctors’ appointments for months. I went to eye and ear doctors, hoping that my symptoms were the result of something more tangible than a psychological issue, like an inner ear problem or sleep disturbance. I talked to general practitioners, counselors and even a psychiatrist, until I finally accepted the fact that it was my anxiety. I was even more frustrated because I had a very supportive family, a good education, reasonable finances, and really no reason to be incapacitated by fear, but I didn’t feel like a “normal” college student. I held onto my notions that I should just get over it. I strapped on my backpack full of “pull-it-together” and “try harder to be calm” and I drudged up that mountain morning after morning, only to find myself exhausted and worse off the next day.
No matter how much I pushed or dragged myself out of bed, I was ignoring the root of the problem. Fear was controlling my life, but God had a plan. He didn’t make it just go away; God did something better. He used that fear as a catalyst to open my eyes to see that He was all I had to hold onto in the end- when everything else went wrong, He would never fail me. One night, after a particularly frustrating day, I finally poured my heart out to Him; I told him that I was scared out of my mind, sick of trying to make myself better, that I didn’t know what was going on or when it would end, and I was angry that it wasn’t getting easier and that people didn’t seem to understand how alone I was feeling. I believe that God used that night as the beginning of a change in me.
Since that night, I have found God to continually renew my hope in the eternal by opening my eyes to the fact that I cannot set my heart on a world that will certainly fail me, but that He can be my ultimate assurance and solid rock, by grace through faith. Other people might not see my innermost heart, but He does. My circumstances might not support me, but He will. Fear might desire to prevent me from reaching out to others, but God gave me the courage during those difficult months to face Satan’s lies head on and leave my room in the morning, despite my feelings. He is still working in my heart of course, but my loving Father taught me to wake up each morning with only two goals, neither of which had anything to do with pulling it together or fixing myself before I came into His presence. He told me to love Him and to love the people around me, knowing that this life is temporary, death has no hold on me, and that eternal life is certain through Jesus.
Thanks to God, I have not had a panic attack in months. I certainly still experience fear, but it is dampened by holding my Father’s hand and hearing Him whisper in my deepest soul not to fear, for He is always present, and He will be victorious in the end. This world is not our final destination; we are only strangers here, given the opportunity to be a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, which is coming soon. Satan would love for us to be too afraid to trust God and too afraid to try to make a difference in the world for the Lord, but God is so much bigger than His enemy. God can use the most difficult experiences in our lives to make the biggest impact for His Kingdom. Although we often face obstacles that seem overwhelming, this world is much less frightening in the shadow of a Father who loves to move mountains for His children.
Alyssa Rivers is a recently graduated Texas A&M alum with a degree in English. She likes reading the thickest books she can find, writing when she feels like it, and singing almost all the time. She greatly enjoys God’s crazy love, sense of humor, and spending time with Him whenever she can.