Uncovering the Roots

Sometimes it feels like I am taking a step back, looking at a massive tree with a ton of roots growing deep into the ground, and I am unsure where to start digging.

My anxiety and worry takes on many different roots which each manifests into smaller and more irrational fears. These smaller fears take over in certain moments and feel like panic.

Picture a massive tree. It is magnificent with large branches that provide a ton of shade. It’s the type of tree that has large roots that pop out of the ground often tripping people as they walk by. Now imagine someone trying to rip up this tree all by themselves. Sometimes they try to pull off a few branches. However, as we all know, pulling off a few branches is not going to get rid of the tree.

You have to start with the roots.

This past year I have been learning about the deep roots of my fear. These roots often manifest into smaller worries throughout the day. But due to the deep ingrained nature of the roots, it often feels like these smaller fears are completely taking over.

Today I am talking about the root that so often comes out in many different forms.

The fear of being out of control.

This deep rooted fear manifests itself into different worries like being sick, getting in a car accident, or losing someone I love.

In the moment, it’s hard to see that my fear of being out of control is taking over the situation. All I can see in the moment is that I am terrified of getting into a car accident, so obviously I must need to pull over.

As I feel more and more out of control, I grip for anything nearby to try and make this fear go away. But in reality, I am just trying to tear the branches off of the tree without getting to the root. I try to not think about sickness and avoid even the topic of it. But when it comes up again, I feel my body go into a response of panic. I’ll try to avoid my fear of accidents by driving side streets, but then when I see a picture or video on my phone of a car wreck my body goes into a panic.

I need to look at the root. Where did this root come from? When did it start to grow? A lot of our deep rooted fears start in childhood. So where did this one come from?

For me, the fear of sickness and feeling out of control in my own body stems from getting a terrible case of the stomach flu as a young girl. I know this might sound silly, but stick with me for a moment. I was so sick and felt like I couldn’t stop my body from being sick. And I felt terrified. I remember getting better but still being so afraid of my own body that I wouldn’t eat a full meal because I was afraid that I would get sick again. I became so skinny out of sheer worry.  

Being out of control often translates into a fear of losing the people I love. What if I can’t control life’s circumstances to keep all the people I love right near me? This stems from my first experience with the suddenness of death. We lost a really good family friend when I was in high school and I was faced with the haunting realities of life and death. This created a deep fear of losing anyone I love. So every day I would tell my mom I loved her multiple times before she left the house in the morning just to make sure that she knew that I loved her. I was afraid to make any one mad in case they were gone when we were on bad terms. This translated into a need to perform and make everyone around me happy. I was stuck in a deep pit of anxiety.

These are just two examples where this fear began to grow into a deep root. There are other moments and experiences that have built upon this root causing it to grow deeply.

And today as I stand over that root, I feel like I am slowly chipping away at it. It first starts with recognition of the root, which I am doing right now.

But I am also learning that I can’t pull up all of these roots by myself. It takes a tribe of people around me. Helping me. Encouraging me. And reminding me that these roots do not define me.

It also takes a dependence on the One who created me. I often hide in my worry and anxiety feeling ashamed that I try to control my situations around me. It's often said in Christian communities that you just need to trust God more and give Him control. But as someone with control issues, this never really made sense to me.

But what if trusting Him meant showing him how deep these roots truly go? He is beginning to show me truly how far this root stems. He is grabbing my hand and helping me tear this root up. And He is pointing me to the people that are around me, guiding me, supporting me, and all the while reminding me that I am not in this alone. And in this process of discovering the roots, I am learning to attach myself to the true vine. And what it means to bear a new kind of fruit. One of a peace that is beyond understanding.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Elyssa Schultheiss