Today i feel like i’m letting it all hang out so to speak. You know that bad dream you have when you’re walking through the halls of your high school in your bikini and you’re like “what the”?? Kinda feeling like that. In fact this post was really not ever in my plans. I do love to make a personal connection through the blog..i’m a
pretty very open person, but i’ve never really felt that this would be the platform for sharing this part of my lifestory. But never say never…last week as i was catching up on a blog that i love, i read a post that just hit me between the eyes. The author, a beautifully energetic, ambitious soul has recently been struggling with high anxiety…and in the multitude of comments that followed her post, i was astounded at how many of her readers agreed with her and felt that they were in the same paralyzing place.
Hours and then days after i read it, the words would not depart from my mind. Their written feelings are incredibly familiar to me and there was a time i woulda been outta there…too fresh, too close to home. This time was different though..i felt prompted to share that i’ve been there and that its not a death sentence…life, full of genuine joy was waiting for me.
My belief is that a person isn’t best to walk through deep valleys in their life, make their way through them (with help!), learn so much in the process and then hide it like it never happened. So, here i am ….flawed and emotional and such a work in progress. And whether or not u finish this and think i’m a kook (i’m gonna try to be ok with that) is out of my hands, but if there’s just one of you who this resonates with and gets a wee glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, well then the risk was hands down worth it!
A year after Lincoln was born some crazy stuff started happening to my body. Physical symptoms began: losing an unnatural amount weight after i had him (like 90 pounds…umm..that should have been a major red flag!), my hair began to fall out long after acceptable post pregnancy timing, my skin changed becoming sallow and thin, my heart would race uncontrollably. The emotional effects were more worrisome than the physical. I was overcome with full blown panic and anxiety. Debilitating.
My mind was consumed…racing thoughts and unexplained bursts of adrenaline and crazy huge anxiety. I remember walking aimlessly around my house because i couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything…like a hamster on a wheel…my mind did not turn off and it was, in a word, exhausting. I have never felt so emotionally and physically depleted and there was no reason for it…so round and round it went. The feelings of anxiety and panic followed by feelings of uselessness, disappointment and failure. This would, in turn, make me even more anxious. I also remember waking up to the panic. 4:30 in the morning often had me running up and down my stairs to burn out the adrenaline that coursed through my body. i haven’t loved mornings since.
Oh if it could have just been a mind over matter situation…but no, it pretty much took over my life. i wasn’t able to do much, let alone take care of my kids…i depended on Scott, my family and some who became like family to fill the “mommy” role. While i was incredibly grateful, that was hard. If i couldn’t even take care of my kids, that meant i was pretty messed up. What value did i have to offer anyone? I’ll be completely honest. This was not living. As awful as i felt, i was pretty sure that God’s plan for my life was not for me to live in this dark place. But on my own, i wasn’t able to move forward.
This anxious and paralyzing headspace was not in character for me… life had been so good: awesome hubby, three great kids, picket fence (or should i say wrought iron gate?)…you get the idea. I was the happy well-adjusted middle child who had coasted through life relatively unscathed. THIS did not fit my profile. Well, first lesson learned…why not me?
I could write for a long while about what i was feeling….so many emotions that i had not experienced in my first 30 years of living: panic, anxiety, exhaustion, and awful fear. Let’s just admit it, fear sucks. Fear of not knowing when the next panic attack would come, fear of what people thought of me (that was a biggie), fear of living like that forever, fear that those who loved me would tire of having to compensate for me. The list never seemed to end.
The one redeeming point that was positive was that i was willing to do WHATEVER it would take to “get better”. I had every test known to man, was poked, prodded, measured, weighed and visited countless doctors. Bottom line, my thyroid was literally having a party and my body was following right along. Thankfully, over time my thyroid righted itself and physically my body healed. What did remain was anxiety. That took more time to figure out. Counselling was my savior…over the months i was able to learn to first: get over my own self-imposed belief that if i need counselling, i was a failure. Second, i learned to read my body and the signals it was sending me when anxiety loomed…and to know that the feelings would go away..sometimes it might take longer than i had hoped, but those panicked moments would pass. Third, we figured out what actions i could take to help minimize the dreaded feelings. And learning to rise up against fear. Well, that was a big one. But so incredibly monumental in my journey. So important that i have some ink to remind me. The promises of God seriously armed me against fear. And those around me continually brought those words to me so that i was constantly encouraged.
Once the fear was confronted, it became someting that i could manage. Anxiety is in my life period. Because of it i look through a slightly different lens than i used to. But it no longer rules me…i manage it. What does this mean? Well for one, i’m fiercely protective of my sleep. My unconventional hours that i keep are just plain odd to some. My habits of staying up late were heightened during my times of anxiety. It’s when i felt like i had energy and my mind was sharp. It has stuck with me and old habits die hard!
I’m not a homebody but anxiety has taught me that home is a safe place. i love to be out..i’m a social being! But, i also love to come home..it’s not just where i hang my coat. It’s where i got better and well, i wish i could explain it better, but i just feel safe here.
Verbalizing the feelings of worry. Oh so important for so many reasons..often Scott will just logically have to remind me of what “is” not the what “if”. Don’t know why, but just knowing that Scott or Pam or my mom know what i’m wrestling with affirms that i’m not alone.
When i see the red flags of anxiety popping up, i tend to go to the things i am able to manage. As i mentioned: Sleep or down time. i make sure if i have a day that threatens to overwhelm me, i will schedule in time to be home for some moments of quiet. I also have a barometer (we’ll call him Scott) who is “on it”. He usually takes one look at me and knows with no words being spoken. They say eyes are the windows to the soul…apparently this is true for me!
i’m still me. And dare i say i might be a better me? Man, i NEVER thought i would ever say that i am grateful for that period of time in my life, but here it is: I am grateful! It has made this unrealistic bubble that i was living in disappear and what it has been replaced with is a profound gratefulness to God for showing Himself to me in my deepest time of need. Enormous gratitude to my family and friends for helping with my family’s physical needs and for just lovin on me! Thankfulness for the wisdom of counsellors who helped arm me with what i call my “tickle trunk” of tools that allow me to be an active participant in managing anxiety. And tremendous joy…yes JOY that i experience daily.
You may have heard the analogy of the pen light. In a normally lit room a penlight emits almost no noticeable light. But in the pitch black, that tiny pen light becomes all you can focus on. That rings so true for me. In a time that i felt was incredibly dark, God’s love became so very clear. Through His presence and through treasured people in my life.
This is my story.
“I have made you. I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut 31:8