Rebekah Lyons is a book-loving mother of three. She lives in Nashville, TN, but ministers to women all over through her books Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning and You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are. Having struggled with panic disorder in her past, Rebekah is a voice of hope and healing to women facing challenges with mental health. We got to speak with Rebekah about her faith, writing, mental health, and her family.
How did you come to know the Lord?
I accepted Christ at age 5, and I grew up in church and Christian school. I believed the story of Jesus was true, but didn’t understand what I was being saved from. When I was alone with God in a secret place I felt free, but sometimes when I walked into environments with others I felt the pressure to perform for approval. Over time, the need for approval got louder than my intimacy and union with God.
Did you always know you wanted to become an author?
I never planned on writing books, but I did not have a TV as a child, so I read books my whole life. I learned about life through the power of story. As an adult, my mom told me I should write, and I had never heard that or imagined myself as a writer. Today I know that readers make writers. When I began my adult life, from moving to NYC, raising a special needs child, and living with panic disorder, I realized I had a story.
What caused you to want to write a book about anxiety?
I actually didn’t have anxiety, but I developed panic disorder in NYC. It got so bad I was debilitated and wouldn’t get on a subway, elevator, train, or walk in a crowd. I lived in NYC, so these things were impossible to avoid. I lived a crippled life for a year, and cried out to God a lot in that season. I felt lost, and wasn’t sure it would end. It was a new normal for me. I’ve always been a high capacity person, tackling obstacles head on. During this time I lost my perseverance and tenacity. A year in, in September, friends came around and prayed over me. I woke up in the middle of night with a panic attack, and cried to God to rescue me. In that moment something shifted; my body broke on the bed and all was calm. Things changes from that day forward, and I entered a new season of healing. I noticed others around me struggling with the same thing, and noticed that they were sick inside, so I began to tell my story.
What advice would you give young women struggling with anxiety?
What I’ve learned about it since is that it’s our younger selves relapsing into places of fear from childhood, where we didn’t feel safe. Our younger self, who didn’t heal, resurfaces and tells us that we’re afraid. Healing is to recover young wounds, confess them. We must ask God to show us where we didn’t feel safe, so that we can heal from the inside out. I went to counseling, and recommend that. I also know that God doesn’t give us spirit of fear. Anxiety isn’t a diagnosis you struggle with forever. You have to work through painful hidden things. You can walk through it. Now this doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to be afraid, but anxiety or panic disorder doesn’t have to control your life. More women struggle with anxiety than ever before, because of social media, and the consequential disconnect from true community. We become fractured selves. We must recover spiritual disciplines, put our phones down, put social media down, be still, and practice vulnerability in relationships. All together we must put our fractured selves back together.
How can girls who do not struggle with anxiety reach out to and best love their friends who do struggle with anxiety?
Being present when they’re afraid, and make them feel safe. Give them permission to share what they’re feeling, and remind them they’re not alone.
What advice would you give to yourself in your teen years?
You don’t have to work so hard trying to prove yourself. Who you already are is pretty great. Work on loving yourself, and other people will love you too because they recognize self-confidence when they see it. Show your flaws because that makes you who you are, and helps you connect with people. We all have struggles, so there’s no need to pretend we don’t. Be honest with your struggles, and desire to get better from community. Genuine friendships are some of best resources for mental health.
What have you learned from being a mother to a child with special needs?
I’ve learned that we all have special needs, and some are more visible on the outside, while some are hidden inside. Everyone has a unique story. What I’ve learned is that Cade might seem like he has needs on the outside, but inside he is one of the most joyful and peaceful people I know. Cade brings a lot of gifts to our family that we need. I also find that I feel the most peace with him, because I know I can come as I am. He puts no expectations on me. He loves freely, and I get the sense that he loves as Christ does. Cade always responds to kindness and always offers it. He never intentionally picks a fight or initiates conflict. Cade leads with love in our home.