For me, anxiety has been a manifestation of lost and stolen boundaries, that led to a lack of integrity. Sometimes life can undo us, and sometimes we make decisions that lead us to our own destruction. I guess it was a combination of both in my life and the result was anxiety and depression. I feel that anxiety and depression usually go hand in hand.
For many years I have been seeking healing in these areas. I have been miraculously set free from the hold anxiety and depression had over me, however it still takes time to walk in the healing and freedom. It was heavily ingrained in me to function from a place where anxiety and depression played the leading role in the drama of my emotions.
As I have been working on retraining my mind and seeking wholeheartedness, I have discovered that integrity or dignity are crucial to the healing process. Finding my integrity and wearing dignity like the crown I was always destined to wear is still a work in process but the most important work needed now, to bring closure from a long journey of torment.
Integrity is the evidence that you live exactly as you intend and your word means exactly what you say it means. There is no manipulation or dishonesty, no division, no insincerity. Having integrity gives you the confidence to respond to life in an authentic manner; to deal with things that challenge or excite you and everything in between with solidarity, soundness and virtue. Sounds amazing!
Dignity is like the clothing integrity wears. Integrity is inward, dignity is the outward representation. How you respond to tricky situations, or how you interact and relate to people will either show the beauty of your dignity adornments, or reveal that perhaps dignity is still a work in progress. You can't fake dignity for very long. It has to start with integrity and be built from that.
Both of these require a knowledge of your identity. When integrity and dignity are lacking, it usually has to do with confusion, brokenness and distraction from our true identity. At some point, despite what the media or other's say, we have to become adamant about who we are. For me this is knowing that my worth is a birth right and I am loved by my creator. I don't care what anybody says, that is the truth and I need that truth to build my life on. And let me preface all of this with the image that any life journey is never straightforward or linear. It is always up, down, in, out, circular, multidimensional and multifaceted. So learning all of these lessons have sort of come about in and amongst each other. Learning how to be adamant about who I am didn't neatly fit into the position of first before the rest of the lessons I mention below. And I am still learning how to build who I am from that truth —what do I like, what do I need, what do I represent, how do I dance through life, what music am I making with my words, what aroma am I sending up to heaven with my thoughts, what masterpiece am I making with my hands, what tapestry am I weaving as a mother... I could go on. So be encouraged if you feel a mess in all of this. This is hard but you are loved.
Back to anxiety...
Anxiety (and perhaps depression too —feel free to swap out anxiety for depression throughout and see if it speaks to you) thrives in an environment of little or no integrity. We were created to thrive in integrity. But because life has a way of throwing us into darkness, or we have a way of selling ourselves short... we can get a little lost and anxiety can easily take over.
Sometimes anxiety comes as a shock. After a trauma for example, you can suddenly find yourself feeling anxious. Your heart starts beating erratically, or physically hurts and breath can become shallow and a chore. Your mind races through worrisome tunnels and you aren't sure how to get out of the mess you find yourself in. Even in this case, integrity is still key. Trauma can come like a horrible storm, and it can thrash about on your boundaries and sense of security. All you have known to be safe and true can suddenly look like a lie. This is an attack on your integrity; your belief system, your sense of the world and how it works, your perspective on life, your purpose.
A few things help the process when integrity needs to be restored.
Honesty —though hard— is one of the best moves forward to being whole again. Being honest about your emotions, helps you process them. Being honest about why I feel life has failed me, or why I feel God has forsaken me (insert your own) is key to then processing the information around what is happening to you. Not being able to process big emotions and life events that cause pain or anger etc. leads to that feeling of being swallowed and overwhelmed by problems which is anxiety's biggest tactic.
Being honest also about what you need in the moment where you may feel overwhelmed and anxious is crucial to allowing you the space to heal. Answering those needs will slowly heal your boundaries and cause you to rise up again in a strength found in gently loving yourself through the pain. For example, when trauma hit my life and I finally came to terms with what I needed I made it a priority to go buy something from a thrift store almost every week to feel like I had some sense of purpose. It was cheap and a creative challenge that wasn't intense but rather fun and rewarding and gave me a project to help my mind process things.
Boundaries are the next thing I want to talk about. It is not just a coincidence that establishing boundaries requires honesty. I have lived a life of staying silent in fear of hurting people's feelings. Sadly, this only made the bitterness, pride, anger, jealousy and fear fester. I should have been honest. That would have helped me establish good, healthy boundaries that could have saved me a lot of pain. I didn't know how to gather myself and heal, because I had nothing to gather myself with —no sense of security and safety thanks to good boundaries.
Boundaries are so important to the healing process because they protect us. We can ask the question, is there any area of my life where I feel overrun, discarded, not heard, betrayed? And then we can spend time processing that and learning how we can bring back strength to our boundaries in those areas. Perhaps, like me, you need to establish boundaries in areas for the first time. Either way backing them and being honest about them will slowly start to build that foundation of integrity. This will be hard, because you may need to speak up and challenge people/things/habits/choices in your world that are causing your boundaries to be dysfunctional or disrespected.
As you continue to align with your true core —your needs, actual thoughts, actual beliefs— a few things will happen. You will start to respect yourself more in one breath and in the next you'll be shocked at who you really are. It is a tension that is an important part of the healing process. When our boundaries become smashed, we become broken (which is OK), which sometimes makes us cruel and bitter, judgmental and sinister. We have to face that. But know it’s not the true version of who you are, it’s the one you've become and need to become to walk through the valley. Just know that you don't have to stay in that broken version of yourself, and you can rebuild. But the only way to truly do that is to face it, accept it, walk through it and process it. Integrity will always bring us back but it’s a process. We will have to live with what we've found in the mess for a while until we let go, heal, trust again and open our heart up to love.
The journey of how we got to that place of anxiety should always be recognized and respected. It just shouldn't hold us back from moving forward. And while it often isn't our own fault (no one willingly becomes anxious) it is our responsibility to take what we have and learn, heal, recover, renew, dig deeper, find the magic in it all and become more authentic.
Only I can turn MY life around. Only I can hold on to this way of living or change it and see a different result be it peace, joy, respect, love, depth, truth.
Lastly, forgiveness is probably the most important lesson I have learned. It helps to forgive and release those that hurt you, even if it that means forgiving yourself. Your boundaries may have been stollen or discarded by the ones who were meant to uphold them or even help you establish them. Your boundaries may have been crushed my life's events or trauma. All of that hurts, is very real and valid. But once you've noted it and processed it (which may take a long time and that is OK), you need to forgive. I feel as though forgiveness is the work that prepares the way for dignity –we need to let that forgiveness weave those jewels of dignity in our crown.