When Camilla Field started suffering from anxiety, her freedom came through a mix of physical, mental and spiritual help.


Source: Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

My journey with anxiety started about thirteen years ago. I was in my late thirties, my husband was curate of a busy church plant, we had a toddler and a baby, and my father died just before our second child was born.

I agreed to help at church in a role that was outside my skill-set and that I didn’t feel called to. That’s when I started not to cope. It all came to a head about five years later with increasingly frequent episodes where I would end up in hospital feeling like I was about to have a heart attack and a stroke at the same time. That’s when a good friend who is a doctor diagnosed these as nocturnal panic attacks and suggested I see my GP.

It all came to a head about five years later with increasingly frequent episodes where I would end up in hospital feeling like I was about to have a heart attack and a stroke at the same time. 

As complex beings made up of body, mind and soul, freedom has come through the inter-twined guide-ropes of physical, mental and spiritual help.

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt.

Guide-rope 1: The Physical

The first response was physical. As my GP friend said, “the house is on fire, you need a fire-extinguisher”. So medication, (sometimes hard to go on to and hard to come off), really helped, alongside breathing exercises, eliminating caffeine, alcohol and hurry, becoming aware of gut health and hormones, drinking enough water, eating protein at every meal, and Psalms&Stretches classes.

Guide-rope 2: The Mental

A good psychotherapist and counsellor helped me revisit childhood trauma and understand what my beliefs and attitudes were rooted in. Like a gift from heaven, creativity bubbled up out of this time and was profoundly healing and restorative. I started to produce prints and stationery pairing my coastal photography with words from scripture, resulting in what is now my business: Fieldnote. (Also collaborating with Mind&Soul producing cards designed for anyone going through a tough time.)

Listening prayer and accountability with my prayer triplet, receiving Communion, observing the Sabbath and regular sessions with my Spiritual Director have been a lifeline

Guide-rope 3: The Spiritual

Listening prayer and accountability with my prayer triplet, receiving Communion, observing the Sabbath and regular sessions with my Spiritual Director have been a lifeline, plus retreats run by the Healing Prayer School, which have brought significant light-bulb moments and healing. (Get yourself to one of these!)

Recognising the lies of the enemy; writing repeated thought narratives down and seeing them in black and white: ‘would Heaven agree with this, or Hell?’

I’ve experienced the profound impact of forgiving, and of confessing anything weighing me down out loud, (to a trusted person) then receiving forgiveness and committing to living out of that, often on a daily basis.

(I’m not saying that if you’re anxious it’s your fault, but that we shouldn’t underestimate the weight of unconfessed stuff on our own souls.)

(Another personal game-changer has been realising that I don’t have the authority to forgive myself; it’s God who forgives us, and he gives us authority to forgive others. I’d felt stuck for ten years unable to move on from past mistakes, until this hit me.)

I’ve learnt that a lack of awareness of our personal identity and spiritual wholeness in Christ is a fundamental factor that can be at the root of anxiety. Our sense of self, of who we are at our core, needs to be solid - like a brick - otherwise when any significant weight is put on top of it, (leadership of family or work) it will get squashed and we will eventually burnout.

It turned out that my weak boundaries, people pleasing, perfectionism and catastrophising, - a toxic combination that gradually filled my ’hard drive’ to the extent that I stopped being able to function - ultimately pointed to a weakly formed identity.

I had been saying yes to a ton of stuff I was asked to do, because my fragility could not cope with the potential disappointment of the person asking. I couldn’t say ‘No’ because the stakes were too high to my own sense of self.

I would be plagued by the ‘I am not’s, a sense of ‘non-being’ in terms of this or that…not even knowing what my own will was.

And this has been a revelation to me: God calls himself ‘I AM’, which had always puzzled me. But the term ‘I Am’ says it all, ie the present tense of the verb ‘To Be’, in other words fullness of being, completion, wholeness. And because of the Holy Spirit living inside us, we inherit the essence of that solidity so that all our ‘I am not’s are absorbed by him. We have been given the same spiritual DNA as our Father; we need to know that in our core and get our affirmation from that. We are already known, loved, and chosen. Like the song goes: “You are enough, so I am enough.”

If our sense of being is not solid due to any number of factors (usually originating in infancy and childhood), it can be completed by Jesus Christ and him alone. When we can keep mentally returning to his presence in us, that is the furnace that keeps solidifying the brick. If I have him living inside me, that is all I need  - it takes away my need to prove myself and means I start from a place of peace and sufficiency. It means I can show up with both feet forward, ready to be used and fully alive.

After thirty years of following Christ, this concept has finally begun to sink in. Anxious times may come and go, but I know these guide ropes will keep holding me steady.

Here are some resources I found helpful:

‘Breath’ by James Nestor

‘Live no Lies’ by John Mark Comer

‘Winning the War in your Mind’ by Craig Groeschel

‘Jireh’ by Elevation Worship and Maverick City Music

Transformation Nutrition https://www.transformationnutrition.org

BreathGal https://www.breathgal.com

Psalms&Stretches http://www.psalmsandstretches.com

The Mind&Soul Foundation http://www.mindandsoulfoundation.org