My Personal Walk With Anxiety

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.

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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.

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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

  • Stephanie Sohnchen

    Love this Lo! Proud of you for being so honest and vulnerable. x

    • Thanks Steph…much love to you xo

  • Debbie

    Thank you for sharing. Your thyriod party as you call it ,made me laugh. I to deal with thyroid issues,but before we knew what ,it can be a very scary time in ones life. Love your bible verses. Wishing you continued wellness.

    • i kept wondering how best to describe the thyroid issue!!! ha! Having dealt with it yourself, i’m sure you can attest to just how much the thyroid affects our bodies..i definitely know now:) Thanks so much for your well wishes, Debbie!

  • Savannah

    What a story! This is an incredibly honest and open account that I think a lot of women and mothers relate to, me DEFINITELY being one of them. Thank you for sharing. I loved reading this. It certainly helps to know you aren’t/weren’t alone in it all.

    • i’m so glad that you found the words encouraging, Savannah…i definitely came to understand just how important support from those around us is. It isn’t a one man story at all. Wishing you much peace!

  • Jody

    Love ya!

  • Jennie

    Thanks for sharing! We know the effects of anxiety and panic all too well at our house and it’s so great to hear you talk about it! Thanks!! 🙂

    • There is so much comfort in numbers isn’t there? Thanks Jennie!

  • Brenda MacBurney

    Thanks Laurel. You definitely are not alone in your struggles. I have experienced a panic attack and it is frightening. Thanks for sharing.

    • THanks so much for your words, Brenda..they ARE frightening…thankfully, i haven’t had one for some time now. And they are welcome to stay away for good!!

  • Julie

    Laurel – thank you for bravely sharing your story. As someone who went through anxiety that led to having to resign from my job at the age of 26, it is so comforting to know others have walked a similar path. My struggle at the time, 6 years ago, was the stigma that went with it. I can’t go on medication – that’s for crazy people. We can’t talk about this – what will others think? And yet it is the openness and honesty that lets us know we are not alone, that normalizes it and supports us in our own journeys. I too am grateful for my time with anxiety, it is these opportunities that shape us into better people and allow us to impact others lives in new, profound ways. Blessings on you today for sharing from your heart!

    • Wow…thank you so much for sharing this with me…so many of the same feelings! And realizing that the stigma originated to a large degree with my/our own beliefs…that was tough! It fills my heart to know that you too are grateful for your time with anxiety. And i hope you are able to share your message as i know that the people struggling are many…thank you thank you for your words, Julie:)

  • Ruth

    Wow! I am so proud of you for sharing such a personal part of your life. I totally get where you are coming from. Thanks for the amazing encouragement you are to me!!
    Love you tons.

    • ahh..auntie nev, you’re the best! you are such an encouragement to me too….thats the best friendship…where it works both ways, right? Love you!!

  • Lisa Wichers

    Thanks for being SO authentic!

    • Hi Lisa!!! So great to hear from you… it has been so awesome to see your journey with your beautiful little girl..she is so precious!!xo

  • Sharol

    Thanks, Laurel, for sharing this journey. You know doubt have heard the 3 T’s – time, treasure and talent – gifts from God that we can offer back for His use and His glory….but lately I’m learning that God also can use our story (or if you’re into alliteration – our testimony) when we’re willing to share it. I know this part of your story will be an encouragement to many.

    • I love this, Sharol. I have heard the 3 T’s but i love the addition of testimony (alliteration works for me!) i’m going to write that down so as to not forget it. Thanks for your wisdom and encouragement… its a story that is still a work in progress:)

  • Rachel

    Thanks for sharing your story and for being real! It’s hard to open up in the public of the internet. It’s always so reassuring to know that others have struggled too (even though it’s something I wish no one had to deal with). I too have been dealing with anxiety for the last 3ish years. It took me by surprise when I started crying at the drop of a hat, near panic attacks and overwhelmed to do simple everyday activities. I had a patient hubby and I had to take some things off my plate so I could manage just the basics. Years later it’s not the issue it was, but I have to be so careful to not take on too much responsibility or fill up my schedule. Exercise was truly a lifesaver for me, as was lots of prayer, bible study and supportive friends and family.

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post, Rachel! Do i ever agree with you…when anxiety comes with no apparent reason, it kind of knocks you down. Yay for the supportive husbands and family out there who have helped out!! I also found exercise to be very therapeutic…thanks for sharing what has been helpful for you:)

  • Bonny

    Thank you so much for sharing! About two months ago (10 months after having my first child), i experienced my first ever panic attack. Since then, it has been quite the struggle keeping my anxiety in check. The unsuspecting wave of anxiety can be almost too much for me to handle. I’m just now beginning to feel as though I’ve got a bit of a handle on it … though I’m pretty sure this will be an ongoing journey for me. My prayer in it is that God would use it for His glory. That this new part of my story would lift Him higher … in my life and in others.

    Anyways, I so appreciate you sharing. For being open. For allowing the opportunity of comfort in numbers.

    Also, would you mind telling me the blogger that you mention is also struggling with this?

    • Bonny…so lovely to “meet” you! I can completely relate to the struggle of trying to keep anxiety in check… i had it described to me as a rock that starts rolling from the top of the mountain..as it continues down it gathers not only speed but picks up debris along with it..becoming bigger and more devastating. Anxiety does seem to tend to be a slippery slope doesn’t it?? A great visual my counsellor gave me was to envision myself picking up a stake and spearing it into the side of the mountain to stop the “boulder” in its tracks..i think of that OFTEN! In my head, i might look silly doing it, but it has helped me so often when i’ve felt it getting out of control. I’m so happy that things are looking up for you…may that continue! And the fact that you are already willing to share it with others is amazing!!! I will be thinking of you often!
      The link to the other site is here:
      http://www.designlovefest.com/2014/01/anxiety-insecurity/ Have a wonderful night, Laurel

  • Andrea

    beautiful Lo. Love you long time

  • Julie

    Thanks for sharing Laurel……can so relate!
    Hopefully one day I will be on track with you……hugs

  • Rhona

    Such a comfort to be able to hang on God’s promises…that He will never leave us. Thanks for sharing, peace and joy to you.

    • Thanks so much, Rhona… i couldn’t agree with you more. Super grateful that God is in charge and that i can trust the promises He has offered to me:)

  • Danielle

    Thank you for sharing your story! It was exactly what I needed to hear today. The past 2 weeks I have been dealing with a lot of the same experiences. My mind is exhausted of worrying about all the what ifs. I know God is teaching me through this time. The verse you posted in Deut. has been a verse I’v been going to all week. Things are starting to look up. Thanks again for being so open and honest. It really helps to know others have been through this type of thing too.

    • Hi Danielle…that is awesome that things are on the “uphill” for you…i hope this post gave you a little boost to keep you moving in that direction:) The verse is Deut is such a comfort to me…and glad that it is to you too. I agree that knowing that we aren’t on our own is a huge source of encouragement. We can all be there for each other!

  • Thanks so much for sharing, Laurel! You are not alone 🙂

  • Charleen Siemens

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I have not experienced thyroid issues, but have definitely gone through anxiety and panic attacks. LIterally thought I was dying. You are a brave soul that will used mightily by being transparent and vulnerable.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Charleen! I feel like i’m in some amazing company:) Not fun stuff…but amazing how we can all help one another, right? Thx again!

  • Cora Ellis

    Wow Laurel, thank you for sharing. You are definately not alone. Very encouraging Bible verses, thanks for posting.

    • THanks Cora…i’m so thankful that others were able to give me these verses …they provided and continue to provide me with huge comfort:)

  • Marcy

    Only by walking in these shoes do people understand. Mine was hormone-induced too…depression first, then settling into debilitating anxiety. I think it’s harder for us as Christians than for non-Christians. We are not “supposed” to be anxious. I fight to be free but my professional help says my hard-wiring has changed and I must agree that I can only manage it. Thank you for sharing, especially for your tips in managing.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Marcy… i definitely questioned why i would be suffering as i know God is a God of comfort. But i have learned that anxiety picks us, we don’t pick it. I am glad that you find you can manage it…it’s hard to sometimes accept that i’m not always as carefree as i once was..but i have found that settling in on very specific ways of addressing the anxiety (that i know have been successful in past) gives me a great deal of comfort..and is sometimes even a little empowering! I’d love to share more in future some of the little things that have helped me… maybe another post down the road? Thanks so much for sharing, Marcy.

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