Six months ago when Jason and I first lead our Calming the Storms class on managing anxiety, I was primarily focused on sharing this resource that we had worked so hard on with others for the first time. My thoughts had all centered on what WE had to share with the participants in the class and how what we had to offer would help them. And certainly they did get a lot out of our writing and our leadership of the course.
But one thing that surprised me about the class experience what how important the group members were to each other’s healing. For one, it took no small amount of courage for the group members to just show up in a room full of strangers and admit publicly that they struggled with anxiety. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with having any kind of mental or emotional struggle. Having panic attacks, life limiting fears, or social anxiety can often be seen by others as weakness or an inability to get one’s self together and function as a “normal” person should in life.
This can be even more true in church circles where faith is expected to trump all worry and Jesus is believed to be powerful enough to solve all our problems on earth.
For those of us who try to be a person of faith yet still find ourselves struggling with fear, this unrealistic expectation of what following Jesus looks like can lead to a good bit of shame. We are ashamed that our love of Jesus has not taken away our anxiety, so we hide it.
We try to hide our fears and struggles from others, try to hide it from God, and even sometimes try to hide it from ourselves.
I think that’s why the experience of coming together as a group was so powerful for our class. Just showing up that first time was a revolutionary act of coming out of hiding and admitting that we suffer from debilitating worry and fear. Although those first steps were tentative and small (mine included) they were the most critical steps we took the whole eight weeks.
For once we came together and were honest about our struggles, once we began to share our journey with anxiety with each other, the healing began.
As most people who have been to any kind of recovery group know, the experience of learning that you are not alone, that there are others who struggle in much the same way you do, is a huge relief. We no longer feel like a shameful failure. Instead, we feel like the normal human being we are that happens to have this particular difficulty in life. A problem that we begin to learn is manageable, liveable, and even able to be healed.
Once the group became comfortable with each other over the weeks, it was amazing to watch them relate to one another. To hear all the “me toos” and “here’s how I handled that once” and “you can do its.” After a while I think they got as much out of each other as they got out of us. I learned once again that sometimes the best thing I can do is provide the structure and space for healing and then step back and watch it flow. Sometimes from surprising directions, but always rejoicing in its flow.
If you happen to be one of the 40 million people who struggle with anxiety and live in the middle Georgia area, I invite you to experience the healing of coming into a group of people who are all on the same journey as you. Come study the practices of breathing, self-care, calming the mind, and relaxing the body, all while supporting and learning from a community that is filled with people as broken and beautiful as you are.
One of the most touching moments of our last class was when we came to the end of the course and the group asked not, “What more can you teach us?’, but “How can we stay connected with each other?”
For even though they had the tools they need to continue their healing from anxiety, they realized they still needed other people to support and encourage them on their way.
My most happy moments after the ending of the group are when I see our group members reconnecting at a yoga class or run into them around town while they are exercising together or just catching up. The thing I most look forward to in our new class is seeing more people come together and finding a partner to journey through anxiety recovery with. I can’t wait to see more people supporting each other as they remember to breath through the fear, listen to their bodies, and live their lives in a way that is healthy and sustainable.
This link on Eventbrite will lead you to more details on our next Calming the Storms class coming up mid August.
If you do not live in the middle Georgia area or if your struggle in life takes a different shape, I still encourage you to seek out a community of people that you can connect with. People with whom you can come together and share your deep struggles. For when you find this amazing gift, healing will begin to come to you in exponential ways.
Sharing our struggles with others is a huge risk and takes great courage, but when we realize we are not alone in our brokenness and that others have our backs, even our toughest problems become more manageable. I hope you too take the risk and find a safe community in which you can find healing.