Originally published January 13, 2014
Thanks to my three year old son, we own the song Let it Go from the new Disney movie Frozen. We listen to it regularly, loudly and on repeat. It’s on my phone, my computer and my MP3 player, making it possible for us to sing along to it almost anywhere, and we DO sing along to it almost anywhere. Today while I was preparing a meal for the crockpot and he was painting at the table, the song blared on repeat, and I realized why I love this song so much. Let me break down some of the lyrics for you, but first, you have to know something. I have anxiety. It’s not as bad as it used to be, and most of the time I consider myself “cured.” FYI, the way I’m measuring being cured means I made it through the holidays this year without throwing up or breaking out in a rash, and I spoke in front of a large group of women last fall without…well, throwing up or breaking out in a rash. Things that either I haven’t been able to do for the past several years and/or never would have thought I was able to do a few years ago. Every time I hear this Disney song, though, something stirs inside of me. It’s like an anthem for part of my soul that didn’t have the words to escape before. Some genius Disney songwriter found the words… Yes, I’m a bit dramatic when it comes to speaking about emotions, but follow me through this song to understand, will ya?
Some of the first lyrics are,
“A kingdom of isolation
And it looks like I’m the queen”
Have you ever had anxiety? Have you ever been so afraid of something that you couldn’t leave your house? How about depression? Mental illness? Suicidal thoughts? Have you ever worried about what others would think of you if they only knew the “real” you? Have you ever been trapped with just the scary thoughts in your own head, telling you you’re losing it and you’re so, so alone? If so, then you probably know just what those lyrics FEEL like. It is not a pretty place. In fact, it’s terrifying.
“The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried,
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know”
Some days living with anxiety are OK, but then others it’s like the crazy is trying to escape, just like the “swirling storm inside” from the song. I used to joke that sometimes my crazy would leak out a bit. Sometimes on the phone to my aunt, sometimes in front of my first child or my husband, once or twice even in public. It was just not possible to always contain it and hide it, even though I was ashamed of it and didn’t want others to see it. I was a good student, a teacher, a mother, and let’s be honest, a perfectionist. If other people saw I WASN’T perfect and that there was a perfect storm inside of me, then they’d think I was, well, crazy, right? Have you SEEN THIS MOVIE? Man, can I relate to that poor princess Elsa! The harder I tried to hide it, the stronger the storm inside became, until one day, I just…
“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway”
For me, as for Elsa in the movie, the most liberating thing in the world was to stop trying to hide my “problem.” Once it was out there, I was able to deal with it head on, and in that, I found the strength to stop caring what others would think of me. I was fighting a battle for my health, both mental and physical, and when you get to that point, you just have to shut out opinions that don’t matter. I was able to embrace my crazy, and ironically, instead of judgement from others, I found overwhelming support. Other mothers, teachers, students… MANY had been or were still in the same place I was! I don’t know the actual stats, but through co-leading a ministry for moms, I’ve discovered that nearly every woman I know has battled SOMETHING, and it doesn’t make them crazy. In fact, the battle makes them STRONGER, wiser, more mature, more compassionate. All of this has also strengthened my faith, because I’ve had the chance to SEE and LIVE the truth in verses like Romans 5:3-5, and James 1:2-4.
“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m now a few years past what I like to call the year of the “early midlife crisis.” I learned to take each cause of my anxiety and battle it head on. What may have started with being anxious about one thing when I was a child morphed and evolved into being anxious and terrified of A LOT of things by the time I realized that anxiety was the name for my issues. Seriously, if someone had told me I suffered from anxiety at the get go, I might have thought THEY were crazy. I was a strong person. I was a born fighter, and I was stubborn to boot. I was not someone who was afraid, or would let my fears control me, and yet…the anxiety, the fears, snuck up so slowly, I didn’t realize they controlled me until I saw what being broken by anxiety looked like in someone else, and it was like looking into a mirror. Different fears, same not-so-sane response to them. So, anyway little by little, with lots of support, soul searching, praying, faith building and digging out and healing my inner warrior, I learned to control my anxiety. Now, the fears that ONCE CONTROLLED ME, can’t get to me at all.
Of course, I still have days where I feel some fear or anxiety creeping up on me, but now I know not only how to recognize that enemy, but how to deal with it. I . Am. Free.
If you struggle with anxiety or any of the other issues I mentioned above, the first step is the hardest. Reach out. Talk to someone. Once it’s out there, you can figure out how you can best fight it. Everyone’s journey is different, and there are lots of ways out of the darkness and isolation. No one way works for everyone. But you have to take that first step on your own. Go on. I know you can do it. There are a lot of people like me on the other side, who are here to help and offer support. In fact, I’d be willing to bet even a Disney song writer or two have been there, done that, and want to tell you that YOU can be free.