I apologize for the lack of more INFP related posts as of late; this post kinda is but not quite.
I am currently taking an Abnormal Psych class, and recently we were discussing the anxiety disorders, with PTSD, panic attacks, phobias, and OCD being some of them. It inspired me to reread one of my favorite psychology books, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, which is a memoir of David Adam, the author, and a book about his struggle with OCD and his extensive research into OCD. Much of what he has to say has struck with me more so than it did when I last read it (thus this post).
As of recently, I’ve been looking back on my life and reevaluating many events and struggles I thought normal. Many times I’ve struggled with anxiety and thought everyone around me had similar levels of anxiety when approached with similar situations, but now I think I was wrong.
Feeling anxious every morning going off to my high school job, having extensive levels of what I would say is social anxiety, constant overthinking, constant worry, etc.
I think it would be safe to say I struggled with social anxiety or some form of anxiety for several years a teen, and I mean DSM-5 style social anxiety.
Now, you may thinking, okay it’s normal for someone to take Abnormal Psych and think you have the disorder of the week you’re covering.
It’s because of that thinking that I’ve never considered myself to have any disorder of any kind for so long. I’ve taken many psychology classes and have heard the same adage of sorts over and over again, “Everyone who studies abnormal psych thinks they have some disorder of some kind”.
For a long time I thought my anxiety was of my own creation. I overthink too much; I need to stop. I worry too much; must mean I’m not trusting in God.
Even still, I trusted my emotions too much and let anxiety take a hold of me. Over the past three years, my anxiety had reached peak levels, and my mind became a torture chamber.
Over the summer, through prayer and through learning not to listening to my emotions, I finally reached a point, maybe even a testimonial one, of contentedness and trust in God. Everyday I think about where I was a year ago and how much anxiety ruled over me, and I feel relieved to be here in my life.
However, this comes with a catch. Yes, I am trusting God more, but I still struggle with anxiety. This is just how my mind works. It overthinks, it goes nuts, and I get nervous. I’ve trained myself to the point that I can let my mind run but still manage to sit in the background and watch the blazing fire with some sanity. It doesn’t affect me as much as it used to, but it means that for a couple minutes I know I won’t have mental clarity. I trust God to give me peace, and He often does, but I also know there are good days and bad days, and on the bad days I shouldn’t listen to my overthinking brain.
It annoys me, now more than ever, Christians who say that anyone with mental disorders are just looking for attention, aren’t praying enough, or aren’t trusting in God. For a very small minority, that might be the case, but for some an unhealthy mind is as normal as an unhealthy body. Miracles happen, yes, but often, prayer and trust alone won’t get rid of fat or cancer, and prayer and trust alone won’t always get rid of OCD or schizophrenia. Many times have I heard, especially from people in my Abnormal Psych class, of fellow Christians demonizing my classmates or my classmate’s families for mental health issues. Many times, again, they would tell them that they must not be trusting in God and the anxiety is their fault.
It’s because I’ve reached this point where I’m trusting in God and not listening to my overactive mind that I’m hesitant to rule out mental disorders. Now that I know I’m not, well, overthinking my overthinking, and that the problem isn’t a lack of trust in God, it seems more likely I may struggle with a DSM-5, severe form of anxiety.
Now, this isn’t to say trusting in God didn’t help, I think at least 1/3rd or 1/2 of my anxiety was due to me struggling to trust God. That still leaves a majority of my anxiety and worries.
So, I trust God, but that means I can’t trust my brain. Right now I’ve found techniques to ward of intrusive thoughts and anxious tendencies. I am a much more open, social guy now than I was two years, maybe even a year ago.
Is there improvement? Sure, but it hasn’t been until recently that intrusive thoughts have plagued my mind. For normal people, an intrusive thought (say you’re standing on the edge of a cliff enjoying the view. An intrusive thought in this situation would be “I could jump right now”) may disturb them for a brief moment but it leaves eventually.
I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts that plague my mind for days, even weeks. Eventually they do pass, but they are more disturbing than other forms of anxious thoughts, like overthinking or just general worry. I’ve found ways to combat them, but intrusive thoughts can lead to OCD, especially in anxiety prone people.
Everyone has intrusive thoughts, but for some intrusive thoughts are constant or one intrusive thought can torture one’s mind for very long periods of time. These thoughts are much more dangerous than typical worries, and in almost every OCD case, despite knowing how irrational it is, compulsions are the only way to get rid of the anxiety. For instance, this isn’t one I struggle with but have heard cases of some who do: someone might have the thought that a family member will die soon, and then they tap on a wall the number of family members they have to prevent their death. Obsession, then compulsion, then brief, mental relief.
Maybe I’m just worried about my worry, as silly and redundant as that sounds, but it was until recently that I’ve looked back and realized how different my mind has worked compared to the people around me. I am anxiety prone and while trusting God helps a little, it doesn’t stop my brain from being excited easily. Sure, through trusting God and praying constantly that I can be at peace some days and learn not listen to my raging thoughts, but that doesn’t stop the initial excitement, that trigger of nervousness.
I’m going to say this phrase again, but no, I’m not that worried about my worry. It concerns me though that I do know my mind has and can do worse. It concerns me that I know I could be prone to OCD.
I can pray about it, I know, but I feel like I’m on a college campus hearing about the stomach flu going around. There’s a chance I won’t get it, but when I see everyone getting sick around me I know I should be scared and cautious.
Sorry if this seems a depressing post, but I think the post will help with anyone thinking the mental unhealthiness of them or their family members is because of spiritual unhealthiness. Sometimes it is, but other times it’s something more severe. If you feel convicted that your anxiety or struggles are spiritually related, then that’s good, constantly praying and learning to trust in God will bring you peace. But if you think it something more, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, as mental health is a serious issue.
I know, right now, I can live with my anxiety, but I don’t want it to get worse. And as much as people hate labels, I kinda want to be told I have a disorder of sorts like OCD, ADHD, or some other anxiety disorder. Not because I want pity, as the severity of those disorders are sobering and daunting to me. Would it scare me to be told I have an anxiety disorder? Definitely.
However, I do want someone to tell me what I’m feeling isn’t normal. That I can be helped. That I don’t have to feel this way anymore.
I guess I just need some rationale behind my… irrationality.