Anxiety – A Liver Runs Thru It

Nope. That isn’t a typo. Just a very astute title to a drawing by one of the women at The Lighthouse, a residential treatment program for substance abuse in Oxnard. It was the second of Lisa’s drawings representing the way she currently experiences anxiety like so many of the other women in the program. More about that in a bit.

The image at left was Lisa’s first drawing – what anxiety used to look like. Initially she was reluctant to draw a picture of her anxiety for fear that if she did she would give it power. What a fabulous teaching moment she offered: when we can begin to name our anxieties, quite the opposite happens. As we name our anxieties and share them with others, they often understand what we’re talking about. They can also help expose them to the light of day by identifying the grain of truth within them, countering faulty thinking, and exploring appropriate ways of dealing with anxiety. When we risk doing that, then they tend to diminish. Our power grows over them.

Empowered, Lisa began to draw. Curious about the teardrop shape with the black dots, I asked her to tell me about it. She said it was her diseased liver, damaged after many years of drinking. She’s living with  the physical consequences of attempting to cope with life through alcohol. However, she said her anxiety now is about taking care of herself, a foregin concept, and very hard work, after so many years of substance abuse. That’s what she’s anxious about. What an insight! Don’t you think her picture suggests she going to the heart of the matter in dealing with her diseased liver?

Lisa’s second drawing, pictured at left, is a series of gently undulating lines of different colors that she entitled A Liver Runs Thru It.  As she and the other women at her table talked about their anxiety, they described it as being a diffuse anxiety – a nameless current that just always runs through their lives. They likened it to the river in the movie  A River Runs Through It; sometimes gentling flowing, lapping at the banks, sometimes caught in circling eddies, at other times spilling over fallen branches and logs, or  rushing and tumbling over whitewater rapids, gathering speed, plummeting over a cataract to crash on rocks below. In the past, they’ve felt helpless and swept along by life. Now, they are learning that the flowing currents of their anxiety can be named and tamed. Great food for thought and conversation as they continue their recovery.

I imagine all of us live with some level of anxiety. I know I do, although it’s mostly mild and seldom interferes with life. As Lisa progresses through her treatment program, she’s learning to live more gracefully with her anxiety. She’s a liver. She’s learning she can live through dealing with her anxiety – a sweet twist to her picture’s title Anxiety – A Liver Runs Thru It

What role does anxiety play in your life? What’s the metaphor that describes anxiety in your life? What’s the image you’d draw of your anxiety? Or your used to be anxiety? Or the image you hope for? Are you a liver?


4 comments to Anxiety – A Liver Runs Thru It

  • Love the wavy line drawing. Definitely seems like anxiety is finding its “flow.” Thanks. Connie

  • "Karinski"

    I have 2 levels of anxiety. the first is just living in China. And the image that comes to mind is that of a caged animal. Always restless.
    The second comes from teh anticiaption of moving and all that entails. The image…a frame full of balls, everywhere, compeltely chaotic.

  • Sara Blackburn

    I almost always feel anxiety when it come to the successes and failures of the children and youth that I work with. Sometimes I can feel myself begin to panic when one of them starts down a path that is different from what God would choose for them. (This now spills over into my feelings for my own child as well.) I often feel responsible when one of our students begins to fail at life even when I have done all I can to point them to God and His good path. Naming that several years ago has helped me panic less, though I am still anxious daily over the lives of our students, I can now processes that anxiety. I know that I can’t make them all succeed and that it is likely that many will choose the wrong path. It will always break my heart and my chest will always get tight at the thought of one of them not making it, but I don’t let it consume me anymore. It is easier to leave them in God’s hands and pray that one day they will find their way back to Him.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    My anxiety level rises or lowers with my sense of ability to achieve what ever I want to do.

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