I take a village

It had been nearly five years since I felt that way.

I sat paralyzed in front of my computer. The email notification box fading in and out over and over, my phone ringing, people scurrying outside my door. My to-do list wasn’t so much a checkable list, but a series of problems I didn’t know how to capture on paper, let alone solve. My thoughts raced faster than I could ever catch them.

Chaos swirled around me and inside me. And all I could do was stare at my computer. Sitting very still felt like the only way to restore balance.

I called my mom that night and sobbed. I told her that I couldn’t do this, that I was bad at my job. I had an overwhelming fear that I’d make some kind of massive mistake. After all, the last time I felt this way, I made a mistake that I thought would lose me my job.

She told me that I was capable and could do anything – just as any good mother would. I told her to stop. To stop saying I was capable, because I wasn’t and I didn’t want to hear that I was. And then she cried, and I cried harder, and…well…it wasn’t good.

This was anxiety. Not the anxiety that we loosely throw around when we try to make a point. This was crushing, confusing, overwhelming, panicky anxiety. It stopped me from sleeping and from eating. It made me cry on the phone, in the office, in church, at the grocery store, and in the car a lot. It made simple tasks feel like mountains. It told me I was incapable, that I would make mistakes, and to just give up because I wasn’t providing any value anyway.

Thankfully, the project that was causing this reaction was just that – a project. With an end. I just had to get there. Having felt this way before, I knew that once I got to the finish line, I’d be okay. But I knew I couldn’t get to that finish line on my own.

Because I take a village.

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Here’s the thing. When I told my people I was struggling, they wanted to help. They didn’t like seeing me upset, they wanted to make it better.

So I was honest. I was honest about everything that was happening and how my reaction to this project wasn’t “it’s stressful”, but “holy crap I can’t stop crying, and this is not normal, and I’m really not okay.”

And whenever I did that, I was lifted up.

Friends at work saw what was happening first-hand, and also understood the intensity of the entire situation. They found a balance between checking in and giving space to tackle this. And they made me laugh at just the right moments.

One friend prayed with me and gave me concrete ways to “cast my burdens on God” (1 Peter 5:7). She knew that’s what I needed – practical ways to invite God into this pain, while gently challenging me and encouraging me along the way.

Friends who have experienced anxiety gave me coping mechanisms – deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques.

My mom forgave me for making her cry, and let me vent at the end of the hard days. My cousin stopped her busy life when I called or stopped in, I felt like her only priority in those moments.

Whenever a friend asked how I was, I was honest: I’m not good, I’m struggling, but it will be over soon.

And because I was honest, my people followed up. As we got closer to the end, and the intensity was piquing, I would check my phone and there’d be a list of encouraging text messages. It was the most beautiful thing to see in those crazy moments.

I take a village.

We all take a village.

It’s okay to say you can’t do this alone. It’s okay to say you’re struggling. It’s okay to say you’re not okay.

Your village will surprise you. Your village loves you.

Let them surprise you. Let them love you.

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