I did. Very much so. And for twenty years. I have to admit sharing this particular story was probably one of the most vulnerable choices I’ve ever made. But my drive to help others who are trapped by fear, anxiety, and panic, and unable to live the life they desire drove me to share my story. I never would have gotten married to Chris in 2011, had I not gone through this healing journey to get over my fears.
I want to share the opening of Finally Fearless with you, excerpted from Chapter One:
I thought I was getting married.
I also thought I was finally putting my panic disorder and anxiety issues behind me. I can’t seem to climb out of this deep, dark pit. Yet, I feel God is prompting, calling to me:
“Write about it. Tell your story.”
I wrestle with Him, asking, “Why? Why should I share my story when I feel so unhealed myself?”
Maybe in telling it, I will find healing. There’s only one way to find out.
It’s late 2003 as I embark on this journey to pull together the pieces I already started, and to write anew. To make this story whole.
Only I don’t have an ending.
Until I get married, I will not be able to test whether or not I’m truly healed of my anxiety disorder. I promise; that will make sense soon enough.
But everything just fell apart.
I’ve never felt more alone in my life. This natural life. Physical, tangible life. But I’ve also never felt God’s presence this closely. His voice clearer.
Maybe this is the season. Maybe my healing is finally within grasp. Maybe in sharing my story so openly, others with similar problems and challenges can also find healing. Maybe that will make the past twenty plus years of pain worth it.
I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have.
Cheryl’s Journal, a short story (2003)
When she found herself at the crossroads, she didn’t know which road to take. To go left meant running from her feelings, her fears and pain. But the path was so dim, faint, colorless the entire way. There was no light at its end.
To go right meant jumping straight into a long stretch of darkness. Mile after mile. There would be fear and trembling with every step. But at the end of the road to the right lived colors, hues, the light.
She asked herself, “Which road should I take?”
She chose the left. It may have been dim, but at least it wasn’t terrifying.
For years, she dragged her feet down that road. With each step, she saw nothing of the life she craved. She felt no fear, yet she also felt no joy. Her life was changeless. Predictable. As she looked ahead, the future held more of the same—nothing of the life she hoped to reach. The path led her down the dead end road.
She knew she had to turn back and go right, down that road of darkened, unmapped territory.
She traveled back, mile after mile, before she returned to that fork in the road. Then, she chose the right path. It was dark, daunting, lined with fears to face. But if she refused to walk through these shadows, she’d never find the light. That’s the hope she held so tightly.
A Small, Small World
Have panic attacks destroyed any of your dreams? Has fear and the experience of anxiety shrunk your world down to a few safe places? Have your fears caused you to modify where you can go, what you’re willing to do, whom you’re willing to be with? If so, there’s good news: you don’t have to stay that way. You can seek healing. There is a way to restore your world back to its normal size with the breadth that includes all the treasures life has to offer. If you’ve been stuck on the dim road where anxiety gives you limitations and few safe places, it’s time to choose a different path. Now is the time to choose the path that leads toward the light. For me, that light came through God, Jesus, and the healing balm of the Holy Spirit.
Through this book, I will share my story. I’ll share how I let anxiety rule my life, choosing the dim road that held no hope. I’ll share how I finally chose to face my fears and walk toward the light no matter how frightening the path was. I was able to change from the road on the left to that road on the right because God held my hand every step of the way, even when I didn’t feel it. I hungered badly enough for the kind of peace that only God could provide to walk through storms, refining fire, and every dark place to reach it.
I hope you’ll open your heart’s door and journey with me. Perhaps together we can change the way you face your anxieties. Wouldn’t you love to be on the path towards freedom from the debilitating effects of fear?
An estimated forty million Americans suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. It’s the most common mental condition, yet only one-third receive treatment or help.
Keeping our disorder a secret is destroying our spirits, trapping us in a jail cell barred with panic, fear, and anxiety. It’s time to break the silence and reach out for the help that’s available. That can only begin when we first admit we have a problem: to ourselves, to other people, to our healing God.
I am not a psychologist or medical doctor. Most of the time I struggled with an anxiety disorder, I had no idea what was wrong with me and felt alone.
Have you ever felt like you are the only one in the world who has this challenge? Have you kept it a secret because you feel like no one will understand? I hid my problem because I didn’t know there were forty million others who had it, too! And for at least ten of the twenty years I had an anxiety disorder, I didn’t even know what it was called. That is why I decided to write this book. I want you, my readers, to know you are not alone anymore.
Throughout this book, I will share words I believe God has spoken directly to me during prayer or through dreams. God spoke to me in ways that were able to heal my heart and heal me of my anxiety disorder, freeing me from living with panic attacks and irrational fears. If you don’t know how to already, I encourage you to learn how you can hear God’s voice so you can welcome Him to heal you divinely. If you read any of the books I talk about, put Dialogue with God by Mark and Patti Virkler on the top of that stack. (Please note: Dialogue With God now has an updated version since I penned this book, called 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. I also recommend The Holy Spirit: Amazing Power for Everyday People by Susan Rohrer).
Hearing what God has to say heals us because God is the Wonderful Counselor. When we learn how to hear and discern His voice, He can speak healing and encouragement to our hearts. He can offer comfort and advice. But if we are not listening, we will not hear. And for many of us, it’s simply because we don’t know how or we’ve never been taught.
I firmly believe I would have recovered a lot sooner if I had known how to hear God’s voice earlier. I know His counsel helps with emotional struggles because I’ve used this to help with other emotional problems, like depression. I never would have crawled out of that dark hole without God’s intervention and words spoken to me. But God wants to talk to all of us, not just me! Don’t think of this as some special gift I have. God loves all of His children and wants nothing more than to be in communication with us.
I don’t know if panic ever goes away. The only test is living and seeing if you ever have an attack again. Since none of us know the future, it’s hard to tell if panic is ever gone from our lives. I can testify that what used to take over my life is now in the background, a distant memory.
However, if panic or anxiety are at the forefront of your life, there are so many different things you can do to walk actively toward the healing God can give you. That walk will be explored throughout this book.
Let’s journey together on the path toward healing, toward a life that is fulfilling and free from overwhelming fear. Notice I didn’t say anxiety-free, for that would be tough for anyone who breathes.
If you or someone you know battles this problem, I hope my story can help you. To order copies of Finally Fearless, visit the links below that go to Amazon, where the Ebook version of the regular book and the paperbacks of both books are available.
Finally Fearless Workbook Ebook:
Now available as a two book set:
Watch the Finally Fearless Video: