Anxiety Elephants, Part 1

Anxiety Elephants, Part 1

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck9 Minutes

CVB: I love the cover and the title of this book. It’s excellent. It really pulls you in.

Caris Snider: I wanted the title Anxiety Elephants because everybody understands what anxiety feels like. So when you get that imagery of an elephant sitting on your chest, you can understand what that feels like. I worked with Brickstone Creative Group for my book and they had a graphic designer named Melinda Martin. She talked with me about what I saw for the cover. I gave her a palette of some colors that I really liked. After a couple of tries, she came back with the cover and I was like, this is it!

CVB: I thought so, too. The first time I saw it I thought, “Oh, that’s a winner.” So tell me why you wrote the book. My understanding is that you also had struggled in this area.

Caris: Yes, I have struggled. Several years ago I had a severe struggle with anxiety and depression and it was debilitating for me. For so long in my life, honestly, I was a master of the mask, if you will. I thought that you had to live in this perfect life. You cannot fail. You cannot mess up for God to use you and for people to learn from you. And I was of the belief that anxiety and depression were not real. I just thought it was people feeling sorry for themselves.

When they would come to me for help at the beginning of my ministry, my answer would be pray harder; try harder; read your Bible more; do better; suck it up, buttercup. It was not the compassionate Jesus. Then I began to have anxiety attacks and I had those feelings of overwhelming fear and dread fill my life. It was paralyzing. I wanted out. I wanted to live. I wanted to enjoy the day and not be worried all the time, living in pain. And I couldn’t.

I was scared to tell because I was afraid of the rejection. I was scared people might turn their back on me or think less of me. That’s where I was with my battle with anxiety and depression and because I denied the anxiety and I didn’t deal with it, it built up into depression. I was hiding and then I felt useless, hopeless, and worthless.

I hit rock bottom, honestly, and I didn’t talk much about this in the book, but I had a miscarriage. At that moment, it was as if the enemy came to me and was like, know, you’re no longer needed here. You’ve hurt everyone you’re around. You just need to leave this earth.

In that moment, God, in his goodness reached out and said, “Look up.” When I looked up, there were helpers – my counselor, my doctor, my church, and my family.

As I began to start sharing my story, friends would ask me, “Hey, how are you doing?” Often I would answer, “I’m good. I’m fine.” You know, we do that a lot. But when I stopped saying that, I started saying, “I’m not doing good. I’m struggling with anxiety and struggling with depression.” They would look at me and say, “You too?” It was like a light bulb.

It was like God said, “See, you’re not alone. There are so many in the world that struggle. There are so many believers who feel that they’re alone. Let me use you to share what I taught you.

So that’s kind of how all this came about.

CVB: Obviously this was a journey, and a journey takes time. So how did you begin on the journey and what were some of the things that you learned along the way?

Caris: Yeah. I’m still on the journey. I feel like I’m still learning new things. One of the first things I learned is that I had to acknowledge it. I couldn’t deny anymore this elephant in the room…

CVB: That’s sitting on your chest!

Caris: Yes, that’s sitting on my chest. I had to name it. I had to call it what it was. And so acknowledging that anxiety gave me so much freedom. “Okay, this is what it is. I’m still here. I’m still standing.” So with that acknowledgement I started getting help, talking to a counselor, talking with counselors at my church, and even talking with my doctor and my friends. Just beginning to get that help is important because I couldn’t do it alone.

So many times we try to just fix it on our own, and I couldn’t. Allowing those into my life that had that expertise really helped me – having that community, that tribe of people that I could reach out to say, “Hey, this is a bad day. Can you pray for me?” And they would pray for me, and acknowledge what I was going through. But then they would say, “Okay, what can you do to move forward out of this?” so I wouldn’t stay in that bad place.

Journaling was huge in getting those negative anxious, dreadful thoughts out. Then I would replace with what God’s Word says about this – replacing them with good, positive, life-giving things. I learned when I got those things out, if I didn’t replace them with something good, the enemy would just come back with his friends. So replacing those thoughts, that was huge.

There were also some practical things like deep breathing to help my brain. When you’re in that anxiety mode or in this fight or flight mode all the time, you are thinking, “Do I fight? Do I run? Do I freeze?” So when we take those deep breaths, it turns that off and allows our brain to get back into that thinking mode where we can make good decisions.

So I learned to take deep breaths. I learned to sleep and to take care of my body. Our world is so full of social media right now, and just filled with constant news, so I wanted to scroll. I had to leave margin so that wasn’t filling my time.

Another practical thing that has truly been so simple, but it’s been so helpful is having an attitude of gratitude. The book of Philippians tells us to think on things that are true and good. It says to come to God and bring our requests with prayer and thanksgiving. Scientific studies show your brain can not be anxious and in a thankful place at the same time. So gratitude is like a built-in anxiety blocker.

CVB: That’s pretty cool.

Caris: Intentionally think about what you are thankful for today. What are the good things in your life? Get specific. Name the color of your favorite shirt, or the song that you like to listen to on the radio. If you’re constantly thinking about things that are positive, that’s really powerful.

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