FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Beauty and Trust: Dealing with Anxiety: Jamie Grace

with Jamie Grace | May 20, 2024
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Award-winning musician, Jamie Grace knows the gritty realities of dealing with anxiety. Could God use your anxiety, like hers, to shape bedrock trust and beauty?

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Award-winning musician, Jamie Grace knows the gritty realities of dealing with anxiety. Could God use your anxiety, like hers, to shape bedrock trust and beauty?

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Beauty and Trust: Dealing with Anxiety: Jamie Grace

With Jamie Grace
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May 20, 2024
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Dave: Okay, before we get started today, I’ve got a question for you—not you, Ann; our listener. [Laughter] Where are you listening from?

Ann: You know that we’re from Detroit.

Dave: “Motor City.”

Ann: Shelby is in the Philly area, and our FamilyLife Today headquarters is in Orlando.

Dave: So, we’re coming to you guys from all over the country, but what about you? We would love to know if you’re in one of those areas or where else you consider home.

Ann: Text FLT plus where you are listening from to 80542 to let us know. Again, you’re going to text FLT plus where you are listening from to 80542.

Jamie: I was nine years old when my anxiety first started. It was just this feeling of being worried, but it was a worry that I couldn’t get rid of, and it was a stress that I couldn't get rid of. But to be sitting there and find out: “Well, no, this is an anxiety disorder,” was so much more frustrating than I could have prepared myself for.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: Alright, let’s talk about the last time you experienced real anxiety.

Ann: This morning.

Dave: This morning? That wasn’t anxiety; that was anger.

Ann: It was both, actually.

Dave: Go ahead and tell them.

Ann: You have not been feeling well. I was going to bed last night, knowing you’re sick. I had this water beside the sink because I take my vitamins every night. I took the water, and I thought, “If Dave wakes up in the middle of the night, he’s going to drink my water; and then I’m going to get sick if he drinks from my glass.” So, I took my cup—it had ice and water in it—and I put it in the closet.

Next morning, I was drinking out of that cup. I took my vitamins again. I was walking around the house with the cup, and Dave said to me, “That’s not your cup, is it?”

I said, “What do you mean? It’s always my cup, yes.”

He said, “Oh, well, I drank out of it last night.”

I said, “It was in the closet! Why would you go—?"

Dave: Yes, I wondered why it was in the closet, like, “Where’s her cup? Oh, it’s in the closet,” [Gulping sound] I drank it when took my NyQuil®.

Ann: And then why wouldn’t you tell me, “Hey, I drank from your cup?”

Dave: I did think, “Why is this cup in a closet, with ice?” I thought you put it there for me. [I thought], “How considerate of my wife to put a little glass of water…”

Ann: I don’t even understand. [Laughter]

Dave: Anyway, we’re bringing all of this up, because we’ve got a guest in the studio today. Jamie Grace is with us at FamilyLife Today. Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Jamie.

Jamie: I’m now convinced that is the perfect Lifetime movie intro. [Laughter]

Dave: Jamie’s written a book called Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World. That’s why I brought up this anxiety thing. Jamie’s written this crazy great book about it; finding peace in the middle of anxiety.

I know a lot of our listeners know who you are, Jamie, but I did not know—two-time Grammy nominated songwriter, singer, actress. I went online last night. [Guitar playing]

Jamie: Yes.

Dave: Is this one that was nominated?

Jamie: Look at you. Yes.

Dave: I always wanted to—

Jamie: —oh, you have the strumming down. That’s really good.

Dave: —to be Toby Mac. [Singing]

Ann: But, Jamie, you really are gifted in a lot of different ways.

Jamie: Thank you so much.

Ann: It’s really fun to have you on, because you’re fun to be around. But what you’ve written about—man, it’s something a lot of us face and we deal with, especially in [this] day and age—with your subtitle: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World.

Jamie: Yes.

Ann: When I talk to you, I think, “You’re so positive! You’re really upbeat; you’re really fun.” But this is something that you’ve really struggled with and dealt with. So, take us back to: where did this all start?

Jamie: It’s definitely a journey, as you said, and as I mention in the book, I get quite frustrated that it’s a journey at times. I’m a very pro-therapy person. I was literally talking with my therapist last week; she’s so cool. We were just talking, and I mentioned something. She said, “Oh, I think this could be you might be worried about ‘X, Y, Z’.”

I looked at her, and I said, “Oh, no. I’ve already dealt with that. [Laughter] I dealt with that like five years ago in therapy, so I’m good.”

Ann: Yes.

Jamie: She and I just got into this almost comical conversation about [how], sometimes, we forget that it is a journey. We forget that, sometimes, we might have this anxiety about something, and then we feel better about it, and it’s like, “Okay, I don’t have to deal with that anymore;” but then something comes up, and all of a sudden, we’re thinking about that anxiety again.

That started for me as a kid. I was nine years old when my anxiety first started. It was just this feeling of being worried, but it was a worry that I couldn’t get rid of, and it was a stress that I couldn't get rid of. I am a pastor’s kid. My mom and dad started our church when I was about two years old. I grew up in church, and I had, even at nine years old, I had a very significant confidence in Jesus.

Ann: I love [that] you start your book, you say, “When I was seven, I made a decision to love Jesus for the rest of my life,”—

Jamie: —yes.

Ann: —"and when I was eleven, I was diagnosed with anxiety.”

Jamie: Yes; to be sitting there and find out, “Well, no, this is an anxiety disorder” was so much more frustrating than I could have prepared myself for; because as a follower of Jesus, you kind of, at least as a kid, just the practicality of, “Oh, you pray for something, and God helps you with it,” or “Oh, you need something, and the Bible gives you the tools to deal with it,” and that’s just kind of how it works. [Laughter]

So, having a generalized anxiety disorder is literally like being almost given this pass to: “Oh, no. You’re going to be panicking about stuff a lot.” This has crossed the threshold of an everyday awkward and has moved into: “We can actually show you that chemical imbalance in your brain,” and worry is, unfortunately, a part of your everyday life.

Ann: Yes. What did it look like? You say “worry.”

Jamie: It would be from my mom [saying] something like, “Okay,”—so we were homeschooled, right? —my mom would say, “Okay, so we’re going to hop in the car, and we’re going to do a field trip today. We’re going to go to a museum and learn about ‘X, Y, Z’.”

Within 30 seconds, my mind already processed these statistics that can happen of car accidents in the car and processed [thoughts] like, “Okay, what could happen if we get to the museum, and I can’t remember everything that I learned? Am I not smart enough? Am I not good enough?” and like, “Oh, am I homeschooled because I can’t go to regular school like everybody else, because I don’t have any friends? Oh, nobody likes me.”

Ann: Wow!

Jamie: “Oh, my dad’s not here because my dad’s at work. Oh, because we don’t have a lot of money, even though my dad works a whole lot, and my dad can never work enough to really take care of the family; but that’s not nice to say, because Dad works really hard.”

Within 30 to 60 seconds, every possible dramatic and awful scenario would just start mentally taking a toll on me.

Dave: Yes; the way you just said that, it felt like we were in your head.

Jamie: Yes.

Dave: It felt like that noise. Is that the noise you’re talking about?

Jamie: All day! It’s all day. I’m almost 30 now. I’m very grown and wise, and so, I’ve learned some really helpful tools to help silence that noise, but it’s a conscious choice to fight that noise. It’s a conscious choice to allow that quiet to happen.

I think, even though I have generalized anxiety disorder, I think—oh, I know for a fact that—even people without it have anxiety, and have worry, and have fear. We have to consciously choose to trust in the Lord that the anxiety that’s happening in our mind is, oftentimes, a liar, you know? And trust the quiet that we are having a hard time procuring is the very thing that we need.

It’s a lot of active reacting on a daily basis for me to combat the anxiety that happens naturally. Then, in addition to that, at 11, I was diagnosed with a tic disorder called Tourette’s syndrome, which is a movement disorder causing uncontrollable movements and sounds called tics.

Then also, obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD, which is similar to anxiety, but basically causes more actions than thoughts; so repetitive counting of something, or tapping, or moving; repetitive pursuing of textures. If I see a texture, I need to feel [it]. [I think], “Oh I need to go figure out what that is!” Or a texture that I just cannot touch, I’m like, “If that blanket comes near me, I will probably cry.” [Laughter]

Then also ADHD, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which really just affected all the other. [Laughter] It’s a lot, you know?

Ann: That is a lot.

Jamie: It’s a lot. I was 11. Sometimes, I look back, and I think, “Kid, were you okay?” [Laughter]

Ann: Yes. Well, I’m thinking of our listeners that have kids that, maybe, have had some of those diagnoses.

Jamie: Yes.

Ann: Or maybe they’re dealing with anxiety and depression. And yet, to look at you on the outside, I would never know any of that. [Laughter] Plus, you’re super successful, you’re doing a ton, and you’re young.

So, age 11, there you were—you had these crazy diagnoses with a lot of different things. Then what?

Jamie: The first thing was relief. My symptoms really were at their heaviest when I was nine—well, between nine and fifteen—but the onset of them was like nine years old when the tics were really bad. I was constantly squeezing my hands, my feet. Some of my tics were, oftentimes, injuring myself. I would be in the car, hitting my head on the window. The way that my legs and arms would flail would—oftentimes, I would hit myself or hit myself in the stomach.

Again, these things are all uncontrollable. It’s just the way—if you’re nerdy like me, and you’re like, “Oh, how does it happen?” The neurons in my brain that are supposed to signal to do things; there’s a little mix up in the wiring. We live in an imperfect world. These things happen, unfortunately. The main thing was my tics, so getting that diagnosis was such a relief, because it felt like, “Oh, there’s a word. There’s an understanding.”

Ann: “There’s a reason.”

Jamie: Yes, exactly.

I, like a lot of other kids—I mean, statistically, this is just much more—but I dealt with things like asthma, as a kid, which is pretty common. I had an inhaler just in case I needed it. It wasn’t too bad by the time I was in middle school. So, getting my diagnosis of everything else was kind of exciting, because in my head, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to get, I guess, like an inhaler for Tourette’s.” I don’t know! [Laughter] I had never heard these words before, but I assumed they would give me some medication.

But my relief, it dissipated so quickly, because I just remember my neurologist sitting there and saying to my mom, “Hey, just so you know, there’s no cure for any of this stuff. There’s not even medication for it. There are medications that we can try, but nothing is, for sure going to work.”

Ann: And then, even, the medications you were on—that was rough.

Jamie: They were horrible. I feel so much for parents that are still going through this today with their children because—now, don’t get me wrong, there’s been so much research and study; we’ve grown so much in the medical community; I’m so grateful for all the people that have put in the work, but—if you are a parent of a child dealing with illness, that’s a full-time job.

I’m so grateful for my parents because they fought for me relentlessly. I would try one medication, and it would have me dealing with things like hallucinations, or sleeping day after day after day, or not sleeping at all, or just complete loss of my personality. I was on a heart monitor at one time because one of the medications was affecting my heart, and the payoff just wasn’t worth it. The benefits of the medication, rather; it just wasn’t worth it. It was miserable.

It’s tough because, like you said, a lot of times when people meet me or if they see me, nine times out of ten my hair is purple or pink. There’s always something—

Dave: —it’s a little of both right now.

Jamie: Yes. [Laughter]

Ann: It’s so cool.

Jamie: Thank you. It’s always elaborate; always something going on. I think, sometimes, I’m overcompensating for that childhood situation that I went through, because it was horrendous; this five-to-seven-year gap in my life, where I was miserable. It was awful; I was very depressed.

Ann: Tell us about your mom, who was fighting for you, and even your dad.

Dave: Yes, I’d love to know: “Did they ever lose it? Were they always patient?” I’m just thinking, if I’m in the car and my son is banging his head on the window, there might have been times, where I’d [have said], “Can you just stop that?”

Jamie: Yes.

Dave: But obviously, it’s a medical condition.

Ann: Or as mom, I’m crying. I’m thinking, “Lord, what are we going to do?”

Jamie: I don’t know how they did it; I don’t. I don’t know how they do it now. I mean, I still have stuff. Just think about the very stereotypical dynamic of the youngest child who’s married with their first child—you know what I mean? Like the dynamic of me being like [whiney]— “Mom!” I’m annoying. I’m a Millennial.

I don’t know how my parents are even still so gracious and so patient with me. That’s just the Lord, honestly. But my mom—I struggle to call her a stay-at-home mom, because I think she was like a work-on-demand homeschool mom. Because we didn’t really grow up with a lot of money, so my mom would say, “I’m going to start a cookie business really quick”—kind of like that, you know? But she also homeschooled us.

She is the literal person that took the literal paperwork to my neurologist and said, “It’s called Tourette’s syndrome, and my child has it. I dare you to challenge me.” They looked at it, and they [said], “Oh, you’re right.” She never stopped fighting for me, and she still does.

Ann: You’re a mom. It’s that mama-bear thing in us.

Jamie: Yes.

Dave: Well, I mean, it sounds like—again, I don’t know your mom; it sounds like—she was extremely firm and went after what she needed to get, but also, tender and gentle with you. Is that true?

Jamie: Oh yes, for sure. I can’t remember one time that she did not extend [to] me the grace that I needed, really. She’s also very comical and very much a realist as well. Don’t get me wrong.

I remember, once I was [about] 12, and there was something that I was really obsessing over, OCD-wise. I said, “It has to be this way. It has to be that way,” and she—for context, I was super nerdy; so, at 12, I was already in 9th grade—I was planning for college and stuff.

My mom sat me down, and she said, “Hey, let’s talk about this real quick.” She said, “In this house, you can be who you need to be. You can do what you need to do. But I want you to understand something: the world is not going to give you the grace that I’m going to give you.”

She said, “I’m never going to tell you not to have OCD, because that’s not how it works. But you have to be mindful that, if college is something you want, if moving out of the state by yourself is something you want, I just need you to be mindful [that] the world is not set up for little black girls with mental health issues. So, whatever that means—you need me to go with you, you need to stay with me, [or] you need to stay with me and dad; whatever it is.” I always appreciated how real she was with me.

Ann: Yes.

Jamie: She definitely wasn’t one of those moms [who would say], “Just be yourself baby. The world will deal with it,” because that’s not practical. I like that she said, “You be who you need to be, and you do what you’ve got to do, understanding that the world will never give you the kind of anything that you might feel that you deserve or need.”

Dave: Did that give you the confidence you needed to become who you are?

Jamie: I think so. It helped me feel so comfortable with being different. I think, so often, even now as a society, we always want to talk about: “Oh, we’ve got to come together and talk about all the things that make us the same.” And yes, that’s a beautiful, important thing. But I also like to embrace what makes me different. I wasn’t born to fit in with everybody else. I wasn’t made to be like everybody else.

So, when I went to college, it taught me how to be an advocate for myself as opposed to [thinking], “I have mental health stuff. I have severe anxiety. They better adapt to me.” It taught me, “No, I need to learn how to become an advocate for myself. Whatever full-time job I have, I’m also going to have to become a full-time volunteer advocate for me and my mental health.”

Yes, it gave me a lot of confidence; but also, it reminded me that I also still [can] call my mommy if I need her, because, yes, sometimes, I do. [Laughter] A couple of weeks ago, I called her. I said [nasal voice], “Oh, mom, I have a doctor’s appointment, and I’m not sure what to say about a medicine I need for some arm pain.” [Laughter] She told me what to say. I was like, “Yes!”

Ann: That’s awesome. [Laughter]

Well, I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking about Philippians 4:19—and you even quote this verse in your book, where it says, “My God will meet all your needs”—all of your needs—"according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

I listen to you, and I think you’re this little girl who was born. God wasn’t surprised at your diagnosis, and He wasn’t surprised. I’m thinking of Psalm 139, where it says He knit us together in our mother’s womb.

Jamie: Yes.

Ann: He’s looking at you, and He’s celebrating [saying], “Look at My daughter. She has so many gifts. She has so many talents. And yes, she’s got some things. I know about those; I’m not surprised by those, yet, I’m going to use her.”

I think that’s such a good reminder for all of us, because sometimes, we can look at our brokenness, we can look at our diagnosis, we can look at our kids, and we can think, “Lord, do You see what’s happening?”

He says, “Yes, I see your girl. I see you.” I think it’s a really good reminder that God is saying, “I’m with you.”

Jamie: Yes.

Ann: “I’m with you in it.”

You’ve been a great example. I love hearing the story of you and your mom, that she’s fighting for you, and she’s speaking truth to you in love and grace. That’s what our Father God does for us as well.

Dave: And in some ways, that’s what we get to do as parents. We get to be the voice of God to our kids. Whether they fit in with everybody or they don’t, they’re looking at us to be the voice that says, “This is what Jesus sees and thinks of you.”

Jamie: Right; exactly. No, I love that so much and, especially, what you were saying about the Lord just not being surprised, you know? [Laughter]

Ann: Yes.

Jamie: It takes me to this incredibly vivid memory. I have a collection of like 34 very vivid memories from childhood. It’s so random, but I have this one: we were waiting for my mom to come out of an antique mall or something. My dad and I were sitting in the minivan. I asked him, “Can you just tell me? If God is so smart, why doesn’t He just tell me everything that’s going to happen?”

Ann: Or even the question that a lot of us ask is: “Lord, You could heal me. Why don’t You just heal me?”

Jamie: Yes, exactly. I really thought I had it all figured out. I said, “Dad, all God has to do is just fix it,” and just tell us everything.”

I remember, my dad looked in the rear-view mirror. My dad is so—he’s so beautifully poetic and dramatic—he could have turned around, but I feel like he was doing this for dramatic effect. He looked in the rear-view mirror, and he said—this is not his voice, but it has to be for the story—he said [deep voice], “Well, if He told us, we would not have a reason to trust Him then, would we?”

I thought, “That makes so much sense!” My mind was blown, and then [he said], “Man, I’m going to preach that one day.”

I remember telling him, “No, Dad. I’m going to preach it.” I like to remind him: “I’m preaching it, Dad. I am,”—because I try to make that my life’s work: “I’m trusting the Maker here. I could be healed of Tourette’s syndrome tomorrow. Yes, I could beg God to just tell me the plan for the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years. I could go there if I wanted to,” or I’m just choosing to trust Him; He’s not surprised by any of this.

I’m just choosing to say, “Okay, Lord, You’ve put me here for a reason. You’re allowing me to walk through this stuff for whatever reason that might be.” I always try to remind myself: “Job went through worse. At least I ain’t Job. You’re allowing me to go through all this stuff. I’m here. I’m present with You, Jesus. I’m just choosing to trust that You have a purpose for all of this that is so much greater than what I could plan for myself.”

Shelby: If I can trust your character and your motives, I’m going to trust how you’re involving me in whatever plan you might be involving me in. Kids can probably say that if they know and trust their parents. Honestly, I can say that with full confidence when and if I’m trusting the goodness, loving nature, and sovereignty of God. That immediately puts the weight of all that’s going on in my life onto the relational aspect of my connection with God instead of the outcomes or circumstantial aspect.

I like Jamie’s perspective here because it leans in the right direction, the relational direction.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jamie Grace on FamilyLife Today. Jamie has written a book called Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World. Man, we live in an anxious world right now, don’t we?

You can get your copy of Jamie’s book right now by going online to FamilyLifeToday.com and clicking on the “Today’s Resources” tab, or you can find it in the show notes. Or you can give us a call to request a call to get your copy at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

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Now, tomorrow: how do you monitor your own thoughts and find peace in the process of that? Jamie Grace is back tomorrow with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that and so much more related to your mental health. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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