The fear is a lie.
The fear is a lie.
I’ve seen that many times, and many times dismissed is one of those “I act tough, because I’m not” sayings. I dismissed it, and passed along. The fear isn’t a lie; it’s a palpable truth. I feel fear, and I won’t deny it. I am afraid. If that makes me not tough, fine.
Something changed, though.
After sitting through a quiz–a quiz in which I knew–knew–the material, and curiously found that I was having trouble breathing; my heart was pounding so loud in my ears, so strong in my chest, that I could hardly even hear the scrape of the chairs as others got up to leave; and my hands, normally cool and dry, were damp with sweat and shaking so badly I could hardly write. What was wrong with me? I was literally panicking. I handed in my quiz and staggered out of the door. I had to hold on to the rail as I descended the stairs. I was trembling so bad, I wondered if I would fall down the stairs. It seemed like a distant concern, because I felt strangely disconnected from my body, like a dream.
I can’t do this.
It doesn’t matter how much I want to, how determined I am, how hard I’ll try. My body has drawn the line in the sand. This far, and no further.
I thought maybe it was a fluke, but it wasn’t. Quits!!
I found myself wandering into the office of a “Learning Specialist.”
“What can we help you with?”
“Um, I don’t know. I’m just having a lot of anxiety when I take tests.”
“Oh! You have an anxiety disorder.”
What?! No, I don’t. Not me. I don’t. I sat in her office in a daze.
“. . .and you realize that this is double-ended exclusion, right?”
“What?” Is that even what she said?
“Learning disabilities means falling outside of the norm. That can be down here, having more trouble than norm at learning, or it can be up here on the opposite end–being so much more advanced than the norm. It’s still a learning disability!”
I stared at her. Being smart is a disability now?
“. . .I do recommend seeing a doctor; of course, they will go straight to medication, so you have to be ready for that. But don’t go to the walk-in to get anti-anxiety meds! I have some people doing that, and it’s just not a good idea. . .”
What am I doing here? This isn’t who I am. I don’t–why is she telling me these things? I don’t understand.
The next few days were hard for me as I struggled to make sense of it all.
IF she was right, IF I had an anxiety disorder. . .did that mean I was broken on the inside? I didn’t use to get anxious like this. Who wants to deal with someone who’s broken? I won’t go on medication. I don’t need medication! Why is my body acting like this? My blood pressure is too low, all the time. There’s the classic symptoms of difficulty breathing and pressure on my chest. This isn’t me! I can’t accept this.
I went to my professor and asked to be allowed accommodations for testing. It was humiliating. Not because he was cruel to me; because I had to admit I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I needed help. I wasn’t good enough to do it the way everyone else did.
I lashed out against it. Trying to figure out what made an anxiety disorder a disorder. Trying to get some kind of context for how bad I’d really allowed things to get. Refusing to believe it. Recognizing that denial is the classic response to any unwanted diagnosis–response to any confrontation of weakness. Reaching out to people in an attempt to talk it it away or “deal with it.”
One person told me, “The Fear Is A Lie.”
I don’t really know what she meant, but I know in that instant it clicked. Perfect love casts out fear. The deceiver tells you to be afraid. The fear IS a lie.
I slept horribly that night. I kept waking up with that tightness, that pressure, that difficulty breathing. The Fear Is a Lie. The Lord is Love. I chant it to myself until I fall asleep, and wake up again. The Fear Is a Lie. God is Good. I fall back asleep.
The next morning, I wrote:
“I keep trying to remind myself, ‘the fear is a lie, the fear is a lie” and it keeps switching over to ‘the fear is alive, the fear is alive, the fear is alive.” Both feel true all at once.
Being told it was an anxiety disorder was a relief because it said this was a real problem. It was horrible, because it said it wasn’t anything outside of me, anything external. It was internal. It was me. I was broken. It would always be there, attacking everything, destroying me. It was huge and terrifying. [she] said, Fear is a lie.
Fear is a lie.
Fear is a lie, told by the father of lies. This not about physics, this is not about school. This is spiritual warfare. That’s horrible, because it feels like spiritual warfare. It feels like someone pounding metal stakes into your soul. But that’s galvanizing, because here is your reason for being sent back to school. To grapple with this. To grapple with him. To be tested and tried. To learn that the fear is a lie.
If God is for me, who can be against me? The fear is a lie. What are you afraid of? Nothing. No outcome. I’m just starkly terrified. The fear is a lie. There is nothing to be afraid of. God created you. God stands by you. The fear is a lie.
. . .
Hate me, then. God, my God, will rebuke you. In His own time. Maybe not until that final, everlasting rebuke, but He will rebuke you. And He will hold me.
. . .
The fear is a lie. Your mercy is truth. The fear is a lie, but You know me. The fear is a lie, but You are near. The fear is a lie, but You are in control. The fear is a lie, but You are smiling on me, on this day. The fear is a lie, but this is Your plan, and it is good. The fear is a lie, but You are full of comfort. The fear is a lie, and You hold me in Your hand. The fear is a lie, and You are love, peace and joy.”
Is this the happy ending? No, friends, a battle, a war, is not over that quickly. I had a quiz today, and was so pleased to discover that, while I shook, it didn’t interfere with my writing. Though I trembled as I left, I didn’t need to use the rail. Though my blood pressure can still be as low as 88/60 when I’ve been sitting, it is getting a little easier to breathe.
The stress won’t go away. If ever it does, I guess I’m the kind of person to chase it down, to over-commit until I’m stressed. The anxiety won’t go entirely away; I expect I probably will struggle with it for the rest of my life. I am broken. We all are. This brokenness drives us to Christ and His wholeness.
What I have now is context.
The Fear Is A Lie.