After the birth of my fourth baby, I braced myself for a new, crazy life. With four children under the age of six, I knew that life was going to be hectic; however, I was unprepared for some of the challenges that came my way.
When my youngest was about a month old, I noticed that I was having frequent, unbidden thoughts that caused me great anxiety. These thoughts were affecting my ability to be positive and happy. Some days, the anxiety consumed me so much that I had a hard time thinking about anything else. I struggled to keep up with my various responsibilities, I lost patience with my kids too easily, and I felt hopeless.
One of the feelings I have experienced most often is fear — fear of the world around me, which was seemingly spiraling into deeper and deeper turmoil; fear of terrible things happening to myself or my loved ones; fear of never being able to achieve my goals and dreams, for one reason or another. The thoughts of these fears coming to fruition made me unbearably sad, and sometimes extremely panicked. At times it was difficult to think about the future or feel any sort of hope, because I would immediately think “But what if…?” My mind was becoming trained to think that happiness was never coming.
With the support of my husband, I visited a mental health counselor to try to get some of these feelings sorted out. The counselor was very helpful and supportive, and immediately recognized my symptoms as signs of postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. While the diagnosis was somewhat frightening, it was also somewhat relieving to finally have a name for my feelings — a label to put on an existence that was previously mysterious.
At the height of this trial, life went on. I had four young children to care for — feed, bathe, clothe, take to the doctor, and clean up after. The commonplace routines could not stop. It was one of those commonplace routines, however, that ended up giving me a major boost, right when I needed it.
I was putting my two-year-old son to sleep. It had been a difficult day, full of fearful thoughts and a generally troubled mind. When I asked my little boy what bedtime song he wanted, he requested “I Am a Child of God,” which is a song the children at our church sing very often. I began to sing,
“I am a child of God,
And He has sent me here…”
I froze. Many different phrases of this song, in their beautiful simplicity, had struck me before, but this was the first time this particular phrase really jumped out at me.
“He has sent me here.”
This world that I felt so afraid of? God sent me here. I believed that, and I had believed it from my childhood. And yet, if I really did believe that, how could I be so afraid all the time? Why was I afraid of this place that my loving, all-knowing Heavenly Father had sent me to? Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t need to be.
The peaceful feeling I had when I sang those words that night made it difficult for me to finish the rest of the song without quite a few tears. But as I have thought more about this phrase and what it means for my life — for all our lives — I have come up with a few ideas that have helped me battle my anxious thoughts.
1) There is a plan for my life.
God didn’t send me here without a purpose. Why would he? Why would he make us, his children, face life’s challenges for no reason? I believe that as loving Father, God sent me here because He has a plan for me. He wants me to learn, grow, and become better. Any challenge I face has that ultimate purpose.
I didn’t end up here by chance. God deliberately sent me here. He sent me to this time and to this place. He knows what He is doing. If bad things happen, it is because God knows that they need to happen in order for us to reach our full potential. He does not direct or inspire wickedness, but he does allow it to happen, and He has taught us how to persevere through it and in spite of it.
3) Earth is the best place for God’s plan to be carried out.
I was sent here, to Earth. This place, and its people, will help me to achieve God’s purposes. The bad things that may happen here will not stop His plan from being carried out. As long as I don’t let them, they will also not outweigh the tremendous happiness and joy that I can experience here.
It is not easy to remember these things in the midst of an anxiety attack — when my mind is racing and my heart is pounding and I feel like the world as I know it is ending. But the more I reflect on these truths during my good moments, the more they become a part of me, and the more power I give them to push away my anxiety and my fears.
I’m still facing my mental health challenges, but I have faith that God wants to help me overcome them and help me grow because of them. I have faith that God wants me to find help: He wants me to visit all the counselors I need to visit, to take the right medications if necessary, to care for my body and my mind in ways that will lead to happiness and peace. He wants me to be healed.
The fact is — I know that God is there. He is real. I know that He loves me. I know that I am one of His precious children. And I know that He sent me here. Knowing these things has given me strength and solace throughout my life, and I have faith that this knowledge will continue to help me through this trial, and through all my trials to come.