April 9, 2014

Kicking Fear in the Face--My Messy Beautiful

By Amy

I am so freakin excited to be part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project! This project celebrates the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.  (PS...the book is fabulous.)

I love Momastery.  Glennon's goal of getting women to be real with each other, to support and encourage each other is what we strive for here at Swag on Momma!  There's too much on-the-surface perfection out there, and too little opening of hearts.  We are all a little broken and a little messy, but life is still beautiful!  Here's me opening my heart to you about my journey to overcome anxiety...my messy beautiful.

*This is a pic of me trying on my cousin's wedding dress...it kinda freaked me out to be wearing that.

Sometimes I struggle with fear.  Real fear.  The kind that paralyzes you and keeps you from your daily functions.  And the tricky thing about fear?  It likes to sneak up on me.  I'll be happily sailing along in life, for weeks, even months...then it will silently creep in.  Buta I always recognize it, cause one thing never changes: it always whispers to me, "You're not good enough."

Growing up, I was very outgoing and happy, involved in the Show Choir, Newspaper staff, leadership in my Church youth group, and co-president of the art club.  I spoke my mind, I loved people, and I probably seemed pretty confident.  Basically, I didn't seem like the kind of girl who was scared.  Now, I wasn't a fearful person in general...in fact, I specifically remember standing up to the guy who was the most powerful super jock in the school when he was being a jerk to a girl in our class.  (I might have said, "Guess what.  You are NOT that hot." which was maybe not the kindest way to handle it.)  I also sang a lead role in the high school musical with lots of solos...I was shaking scared, but I knew I could do it--and I did!

However, there were other times when fear overwhelmed me.

First, I feared math.  Lame, huh?  After years of struggling, my vague dislike for the subject became deeper and more intense.  I excelled in other subjects and was talented in art and choir--but when I was in a math room, the only way I saw myself was STUPID.  I asked myself again and again, "Why the heck can't I figure this out and everyone else can!? What is wrong with me?" During my junior year, it became full-blown anxiety--I couldn't even think clearly enough to try to hear, let alone follow the teacher's explanation.  I'd sit, drowning in my rising terror, filling my lined paper with drawings to keep from crying in class.  During work time, I'd try to ask the teacher for help, but I would inevitably get scolded for drawing and daydreaming.  I couldn't explain that I was only trying to cope with the churning pit of fear in my stomach and the tears that were always waiting just below the surface.  Math filled me with shame--it taught me that I wasn't smart enough.

My other big fear was dating/relationships.  In high school, I secretly crushed on SO many guys, but as soon as I was asked out on a date, I would panic.  Bad.  I didn't even have a reason to be so afraid--I never had any scarring experience to justify my terror.  But as the friend of many beautiful, flirty, outgoing girls who made guys drool, I just generally felt less-than.  Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not flirty enough...just not enough.  And after years of reiterating that to myself, I became irrationally afraid of being paired off with one boy, even just for a 3 hour-long-date, because surely he would quickly become bored of my company, and wish he was with any other girl.  So I avoided dating.  It was safer.  I would never have to face rejection from a boy.  I had lots of really good guy friends that I was comfortable with, but as soon as any of them started acting "weird" (if any boy complimented me or showed any interest) I would run.  Even if I liked him; especially if I liked him!

Once, I heard an older boy said I was cute.  Later, I saw him coming towards me while I was wandering through the halls during class.

 The hall was empty--just he and I.  Walking toward each other.

And I was about to DIE.  My stomach was climbing up my throat, my arms were going numb, and my mind was...non-functioning.

In my panic I stuck my head in a locker.  And, no, not my locker.  I still remember being horrified at myself, rooting around like I was looking for my Biology notebook in some stranger's un-locked locker, willing that boy to walk past without noticing me.  Oy.

In college, it grew worse--I would have full-on panic attacks when I was asked out.  Anxiety was keeping me from any serious relationships, though I had many amazing guy friends and had a ton of fun at school.  The problem was, I really wanted to someday find a guy who would more than "like" me.  I wanted someone to "cherish" me.  I don't know how I got stuck on this word, but that's what I wanted.  And we would get married, have a family, and laugh and enjoy a happy, simple, awesome life together.  Not that I ever acted like I wanted to love and be loved.  But, in reality, I longed for someone to love me best in the whole world.  I literally wept when Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe FINALLY ended up together.  I sighed in ecstasy in every Jane Austen book and movie.

But you can't exactly get married without dating anyone. (and...being a mail order bride didn't seem like a smart option.)

This fear was a mountain in front of me that I couldn't seem to climb.  And after a while, I stopped trying.  I literally planned something for every Friday and Saturday evening of the entire semester, so that when I was asked out, I could just say, "Oh I'm sorry, I already have plans that night."

It seemed like a good strategy, although some would judge me as being cruel to the poor boys who had scraped up the courage to ask me out.

But, I couldn't very well tell them, "Actually, no thanks, because I'll get so emotionally worked up from now until then, that I'll fight nausea and dread every day, and then the day of our date, my IBS and churning stomach will cause explosive diarrhea for hours. And then I'll cry and have one of my roommates call and cancel with you. Now, I need to function for the rest of this week--I have classes and homework, so lets both avoid some suffering by agreeing that you should not ask me out."  

I didn't think that would go over well.

So I continued to avoid facing the fear.

At the age of 21, I decided to serve a mission for my church.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon) many young people go on missions--I had always wanted to go and serve others, and hopefully help bring others closer to Christ.  After agonizing over the choice for a year (since I did not want to be going just for a convenient way to avoid dating and relationships for a year and a half) I was finally still enough to recognize and feel God's approval for my decision.

While serving a year and a half mission for my church, I learned a lot about facing fears.  As a 22 year old, I discussed religion with trained Ministers and Preachers, I faced off drunk dudes on the street, and I invited people to learn more about Christ who looked like they wanted to punt me over a fence.  Plus, I was far away from my family and home that entire time...quite a stretching experience for me!  I got to see and help others overcome HUGE struggles.  They taught me that, "Oh heck yes, people can do hard things."  During this time, the Lord was my one and only lifeline.  I was forced to face fears on a constant basis.  And, I was surviving!  I started BELIEVING what God had always been telling me...that I was His daughter with infinite worth.  That I was Enough.  Enough for Him to send His perfect Son to die for me.  I truly came to know that Christ would lift me and help me face any trial, any struggle and yes, ANY fear.

And I was so freaking sick of letting it control my life.  In fact, I was ready to kick fear right in the face and knock out some teeth.

When I got home I had a truly solid faith that with Heavenly Father's help I could accomplish anything, even DATING.  I wasn't about to let fear rob me of my goals and my future.

God knows me well--He sent me Patrick three weeks after I got home, when I was still in my peak of faith and gutsy-ness.  But it still was terrifying.  I prayed a heckofalot while starting to date my husband.  But, I didn't retreat!  It was a miracle!  I knew how good and fun and hilarious and kind this short, bald guy was (I never anticipated loving a guy with no hair! haha!) and OH, how I wanted to be brave!  I knew he was worth facing the fear.

God kept me moving forward, often reassuring me that He was with me.  I was always kind of waiting for the day that Patrick would see that I wasn't enough and then stop liking me.  But, he never did.  And he got a pretty realistic picture of my craziness!  I was such a weirdo and seriously awkward most of the time we dated.  Example: the first time we held hands, he actually held my fist, while I covered up my face in my jacket collar.  I told him to let go--he laughed and told me to relax--we'd been together everyday for a month...It was time to start holding hands!  A few months later, he attempted to kiss me two different times, but I flat out refused.  I knew I loved him and wanted to marry him, but...I was the oldest girl in the world with virgin lips!  What if I sucked at kissing!?!?  A few weeks later, it took ONE HOUR of coaxing before our actual first kiss, while he sat all leaned over from the diver's seat with me huddled against the car door on the passenger side, muttering crap like, "Let's just forget about it, ok?!"...hahaha...I can't believe his patience!  And, it turned out that I liked kissing once I got used to it!  I *ahem* REALLY like it.  On June 19, 2010 we were married.  Life is not perfect, but it is really happy and oh-so-good!

It was a relief to overcome the dating anxiety.  Nowadays, I am so much better at controlling my response to fear.  I still face the normal day-to-day insecurities, like everyone.  But, now and then, when I feel anxiety start to pull me under, I have to realise that once again, I've been listening and believing that old familiar whisper, "You're not good enough."  So over and over, I have to choose faith instead of fear.  I have to trust that God will be by my side, even when bad things happen.  There's beauty and joy and happiness in life, if I can choose to see it.  He can magnify my meager efforts.  Even if I am just hanging on for dear life, I am still enough.  I am His.

I had to choose faith as a newlywed when we struggled with adjusting to life as a couple.

I had to chose faith as a freshly graduated, shakin-in-my-boots first-year High school Art teacher.

I had to choose faith when I was in labor and my baby's heartbeat kept dropping, and I felt wild with panic...My mind cycled these two phrases over and over: "Faith not fear!" and "Father, please keep my baby safe!"  And, after lots of pushing, he arrived, cone-headed, swollen, and safe.

And I really had to choose faith in the first few weeks after his birth.  I was a wreck.  My babe had reflux, couldn't breastfeed, and cried and cried and cried.  So did I.  I felt myself once again sinking under fear and hopelessness...drowning in despair.  I didn't know what I was doing and I was so lonely in my house all day with this little person who was so angry.  His cries sounded in my mind like "You're a failure.  So much for a motherly instinct.  You can't even take care of a baby.  You really aren't good enough."  Over and over I pleaded for relief, and slowly, just like Christ lifted Peter from the waters of the sea, He lifted me.  When I struggled to find happiness, I had to earnestly CHOOSE to see the good.  I tried to recognize and focus on the beautiful moments I did have with my infant.   I forced myself to reach out to people and to go on walks.  I started this blog!  I vented and cried to my loving husband who helped as much as he could while both working full-time and going to school full-time.  And, we got through!  My son's reflux chilled out and I found my momma groove.  And we love our stinker so much!

And now, expecting baby numero dos, I have to choose faith.  A few months ago, I developed an extensive blood-clot in my leg and ended up spending a couple days in the hospital with a bright purple, enormous leg.  And now, I have to give myself blood-thinner shots twice a day for the rest of my pregnancy.  It sucks...but, it's ok.  Every time I get ready to give myself the shot, I look fear right in the face and say, "No.  You will not win.  I will do whatever it takes to keep myself and my unborn child healthy. "

And when I feel like a crappy mom cause I get frustrated with my toddler, I have to forgive myself, keep trying my best, and trust that the grace of God will make up the rest.  And when I see family and friends that I love struggle with illness, depression, addiction, disappointment, and trials, I start to feel crushing worry for them...but, I have to trust that they are in God's care.  I can reach out, serve, and love, but it's not in my power to save them--they already have a Savior!

I am not going to let fear dictate my choices and life.  And though I'm far from perfect at this and I have weak times, I'm trying.  And that is what our Father asks.  With His help, I am enough.

And you know what I truly believe?  YOU are enough, too.  You deserve a life full of joy.  YOU are worth everything.  I know that, because every one of us is His beloved and cherished child.  We're not perfect, but we are striving everyday.  The daily efforts are shaping us and helping us become more like the Savior.  And His grace will make our meager efforts enough.

Friends, whatever your hurdles, whatever you fear, remember, that with God's help, with loving family and friends, with courage, YOU can overcome.  Choose to live in faith.  Take risks for worthwhile goals.  Do things that you love, even if you aren't a pro.  And love.  Life will be SO much more full than if you spend your days cowering in the shadow of fear.  We can choose faith and send fear packing...after all, perfect love casteth out all fear.

PS. How about you?  Have you ever dealt with anxiety?  What do you fear?  What do you do to fight the fear?  I'd love to hear. :)

Also, if you are new here at SOM, Welcome!!!  This is a place where we share stories, tips, ideas, and laugh our heads off!   It's a lot of fun...We'd love to have you join the party! :)  (Psst, that means you should go click the little "Like" or "Join this Site" buttons...don't be shy!)


  1. Hooray for patient men. I have one too!

  2. I'm SO happy you found Momastery and were brave enough to post this! What a beautiful story. A reminder that we ALL have fears and all need a little extra faith sometimes.
    Best of luck with that clot. Scary, I know.

  3. Love reading all your posts Amy! You are an inspiring writer with inspiring stories of "kicking fear in the face" I love that! Kristine

  4. Reading this was like looking in the mirror a bit. I have always had anxiety, and sometimes it is worse than other times, but it has taken a lot of faith to help me realize that this can be a way for me to grow and rely on the Lord, and has taught me a lot about the atonement and how it can help me to overcome this trial.
    Thank you for opening up about your story!

  5. You are so inspiring Amy. When I was younger; I had a debilitating fear of people. Social situations...anything. And I hated being so shy and scared all the time. Yes, I completely understand the nausea and all that when you get asked out...I had to cancel a few dates because of it. I decided I didn't want to live my life like that. With God's help I was able to push past it. I purposefully put myself in programs that required me to step out of my hidden bubble. I joined drama clubs, speech clubs, debate,A Capella groups, etc. It took 4 years and I finally got to where I could manage. I still find I had times when I start to slip back into my "bubble" of fear that i call it. I have to remember that is not where God wants me to be. He wants me out with his other children, sharing love, being a friend and not hiding by myself.

  6. Wonderful that you have been over to overcome your fear with Heavenly Father's help. I find that when I have the worst fears or problems, if I turn to Him, I am able to carry on, even if my knees are still shaking. I often have to remind myself of that fact though. Great post.

  7. I have a major anxiety problem. I used to struggle with it a lot growing up. Thankfully it has gotten a little better with time. It is SO hard! I am so glad that you have been able to overcome!

  8. Hooray for bald husbands!! I never thought I'd fall for a bald man either, but I love mine and wouldn't trade him for any thing or any one in the world! Love your story!

  9. Hooray for bald husbands!! I never thought I'd fall for a bald man either, but I love mine and wouldn't trade him for any thing or any one in the world! Love your story!

  10. So glad I found this post through the Be.YOU.Tiful link party. Thanks for sharing your story! It makes me think of Marianne Williamson's quote: "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." Thanks for helping us all see ourselves more clearly!


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