I’m going to share something with you today. I’m a little embarrassed by it, but I feel the need to share it with you. I’m going to share something that has caused some of my deepest anxiety to come to the surface. Every time I have to face this, I feel my heart race, I get a cold sweat, my hands go clammy, breathing gets more rapid, and my vision actually “tunnels” a little bit. *deep breath* Here goes, please don’t judge me too harshly:
There. I said it. Not feeling very many reassuring words out there just yet. Maybe they will come as I continue.
I’m not sure where it all began. My earliest memories of fitting rooms had me inside with an armload of jeans while my Mom stood outside telling me to come out and show her how they fit. I’d rush to get changed and then step outside for the required tug, smooth, “Show me your butt”, and “How do they feel?” before going back in to try on another pair so I could go out and do the dance again. (Disclaimer – Mom cared and wanted to be sure I didn’t grab the wrong pair. She wasn’t out to embarrass me. – OK. Back to my story)
I remember thinking it would be better when I started shopping on my own and I didn’t have to go in and out so many times in order to come to an informed purchasing decision. With age would come the freedom to understand whether or not I needed a “scoche” more room for freedom of movement and comfort. What I didn’t expect was that the anxiety would not lessen.
Going into the changing room continued to be a problem. The moment the door closed behind me it would all start. The sweat, breathing, rapid heart rate would all come rushing back again. Was it the sense of confinement? The fact that I am taking off my shoes AND pants in a place where strangers are walking past my door or curtain? How would I defend myself? Could I run if I had to? Was it standing in a place where I could not help but question the hygiene of the person that had been in there before me?
Eventually I decided that I would just grab what I wanted off the rack and just buy it. When I got home I could try it on and then just return it if it didn’t fit. Not convenient, but it was a solution. Not a good one as I did return a pair of jeans four times one time after trying to figure out just what size felt best and had the right “scoche” factor. I knew I had to try to get back into the room again.
So, the new practice of psyching myself up of the fitting room began. I took a little time and started thinking more about what I was there to purchase. No longer would I purchase shirts and pants at the same time. I got no time for that. Too much exposure and tucking is required. Also, when going in I will rarely have more than two or three items. We’ve only got a few minutes before I am curled up on the floor next to a pile of pins and a suspicious Kleenex. Get in. Get done. Get out. That became my mantra.
Honestly, I think most of it is the fact that I am a big guy. I’ve been the size of an average adult male (or larger) since about the 6th grade. When I get into those small rooms, I just start feeling closed in. It’s not a true claustrophobia because I have no problem crawling under my house where I actually need to exhale to slide under the floor joists! I just need more space. (Another true confession – If it is available, I will always use the handicapped fitting room. Apparently the ability to turn a wheelchair around will also help lower my anxiety.)
Coming out of the fitting room is the only thing on my mind from the moment I enter it, and when I swing that door open I almost feel like breaking out into song or screaming “Freedom!” all Braveheart-style. The world gets a little bit brighter, the air feels fresher (there might be some truth to that), and life feels like it is worth living again!
When it comes down to it, I know the problem is not the fitting room. It is a stressor. Stress is the enemy. It comes in different shapes and sizes for different people, and it changes with your circumstances and life events. I’m on vacation right now and have been since last Thursday. Stress right now is low, and I am loving it! That was not the case a week ago.
Last Monday I woke up to get ready for work and I was literally sick with stress. I’d had a headache behind my right eye for about three weeks, and my stomach was a rollercoaster. The thought of getting up and going to work had me in a near panic. The stress was all work-related, but it was not “bad” stress. Just the stress of a large project nearing completion that requires a number of last minute details to be taken care of immediately – if not sooner! My boss and the people I work with are all feeling it. The end is in sight, but we aren’t there yet. We’ll all have a big hug then!
Lying there in the dark I decided to do something I had failed to do for the previous three weeks. I prayed about it. Not just a quick, “Please help me, God”, but a sincere prayer asking Him to show me what I needed to understand in the situation that might make it more manageable. I asked Him to give me wisdom, peace, and a clarity in the midst of the mess and change me where He needed to so I could get through it.
I got up and went to work feeling lousy, and I knew that the day held a lot of hours for me that included coming back in to work that night. Shortly after arriving, my head started pounding, and as the morning progressed it just got worse. Something happened around 1pm though.
I remember sitting there thinking that I had not felt this kind of stress since I worked for Kellogg’s. The last three months there were terrible. I was working 12-16 hour days and was in a constant battle to keep up standards and increase sales. Then it hit me. During those three months with Kellogg’s I was fighting for my job. All of the long hours, distractions, demands, and hard work were in order for me to keep that job. It was a job I hated, working for people that didn’t really want me around. I was in a completely different situation then.
Now I work for an organization that appreciates the things that I do and actually helps me become better at my job. Pretty big swing between those circumstances. It has been very busy. Nobody working there will question that right now, but the busy-ness of the situation was not the problem. Busy was not the cause of stress. The cause of the stress was the fear of losing my job – again. Pairing busy, stressful work with a fear from the past made it all the more stressful.
As I sat there, I believe God chose that moment to remind me that I was going to be okay. I was not in jeopard of losing my job. I was just busy. Things will be alright. Just lean on Him and it will be okay. The moment I had that thought, my head stopped hurting. A week later, my stomach is returning to normal. I’m on vacation, and that is helping too, but without that thought of security, I can assure you that this vacation would not be as good as it is!
A couple days ago I read this verse in Psalm 18:
“He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19
Just like I feel that relief when I am finally able to escape the fitting room, God brings me out of those stresses and shows me that the world is wider than I have made it. He shows me that by confining my view to my problem, I can’t see the breadth of Him! When I shift my view to Him I see the possibilities, the freedom, and His grace for living. He rescues me from myself and He does it for one, simple reason. He delights in me. He loves to see me live. I don’t mean just regular living, but Relentlessly Living.
Living Relentlessly in the face of stress is maintaining a fierce dependency on God. Recognizing that my issues are mine and that God is not hindered by them. In reality, my issues and my frailties are where He is longing to come to me. He expectantly waits for me to realize my need and reach out to Him. That is where the peace of God is found. Seeing only Him in the middle of the chaos.
I hope this serves as a help to you if you are facing a stressful time right now. If you aren’t, then buckle up! It’s coming! File this one away for when you need it. If it has been help, or if you would like to share a similar experience – even if it is about fitting room fears – feel free to share it with me through the comments or e-mail below. If you know someone this might help, please share it with them as well.
Be Relentless in your life – even in the fitting room!