(When I saw my primary care doctor two weeks ago for my bladder infection, I mentioned my anxiety problems to her. She had a recommendation for me: not medication, but therapy. “I don’t think therapy will solve my anxiety problem,” I defensively responded. She didn’t push me on it, and we moved on to another topic. But, her advice has been on my mind the past few weeks. Now I’m thinking that perhaps she had good advice after all. Perhaps I do need to re-examine my thought patterns to see if that might help my anxiety. The following post and this previous post are pieces of my self-examination and self-reflection that my doctor’s comments have inspired me to do in regards to my anxiety.)
While perusing the newspaper this week, an advice column caught my eye. A woman wrote in, saying that she was 31 years old and had recently lost her husband. Just before he unexpectedly died, they had discovered that she was pregnant with their first child. Now, at the halfway point of her pregnancy, she still felt as if she was waiting for something else bad to happen, waiting for the metaphorical “other shoe to drop.” She had a difficult time believing that she would actually have a successful pregnancy, have a baby, and even be happy again. The advice columnist encouraged her to believe in goodness, to believe that good things were still in store for her. Despite the awful thing that had happened to her, it was still possible and worthwhile to believe in good things to come.
That column struck a chord with me. It solidified the idea that I, too, am attempting to learn to re-believe in goodness again, to believe that the other shoe is not about to drop, that good things are in store for me.
When I was younger, I never really believed that anything big was going to go wrong in my life. Of course, that bubble eventually burst, as all such unrealistic bubbled tend to do. Over the past few years, as I have continued to struggle with anxiety and worry, I have fallen into a rut of thinking where it has been hard for me to believe that good things were in store for me. At some level, I am perpetually afraid of the car breaking down on the freeway, of the plane crashing, of the daughter being kidnapped, of the parent dying, of the bladder infection never going away, of walking alone down to church at night, of leaving the house, of the hugeness of the universe, of the future not being as good as the past. Some of these fears are probably going to be realized someday, some I pray are never realized, and some are unrealistic.
As I fight my mental battle against these various fears, my attention has almost always been on pushing down the fear, eradicating the anxiety, ignoring it. However, it has somehow never occured to me to consciously place another, a better, thought in its place.
So, when I read this column with it’s advice of “believe in goodness to come,” it triggered a connection for me. Ever since then, I’ve begun to make an effort to do that, to attempt to believe in good things to come. The Bible passage that comes to my mind is a classic one from Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” It’s okay to believe in goodness; it’s even Biblical! It’s okay to cultivate a sense of optimism again. It’s okay to believe that the future might be just as good as the past has been, despite the changes (and hard times) that are bound to happen as a result of the sin-filled world in which we live. And believing in good things to come is part of Romans 8:28 as well: “All things work out for good for those who love God.” I have usually thought of that as far-off-in-the-future-good things, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t also mean good things in the present as well.
I’m trying to believe in goodness to come. As a new day begins and I fight my morning anxiety, wondering what the day will hold, I’m trying to imagine good things happening to me. As a day draws to a close and as I see the clouds and fog rolling in across the sky, I’m trying to fight my sunset anxiety by envisioning good things occuring over the days to come.
It’s a choice I’m actively trying to make, and it’s a choice that’s easier to make when one gets enough sleep, eats regularly, and has a well-balanced life. So, I am actively trying to do those things as well. But for so long, I haven’t been able to picture good things to come because I’ve been focused on what was behind me, scared that the bad things might happen again and scared the the happiness and good times of the past were over for good. That fear is not eradicated yet. But, I believe I’m taking a step in the right direction.