I have to admit something to you. I didn’t know I suffered from anxiety until just a year ago. And now that I know I do, I look back and I realize I really had my first symptoms of anxiety in 6th grade. It has manifested itself in many different ways over the years but now it doesn’t have to be a mystery anymore.
I went my whole life thinking maybe I had some mystery illness that the doctors couldn’t diagnose because it was so rare. I went through hundreds of frustrating doctors appointments and ER visits, tests and medications; only to go home with nothing. The doctors told me I was completely healthy! How could that be?
- In middle school I would go 3 weeks without going to the bathroom. Because of that I didn’t have energy or an interest in playing. I couldn’t eat and I was pale as a ghost. I lost a lot of weight during this time.
- Freshman year of college I would literally fall asleep driving just 20 minutes across town. I would have heart palpitations, dizziness and feelings that I was losing control. From the time I left high school to now, my weight has fluctuated 100 lbs up or down, weighing anywhere from 147 to 247.
- In 2011, I would pass out at work and get so disoriented I would be putting staplers in people’s bags as I would check them out at the register.
- During my pregnancy with our last kiddo (Carson), I would go into an empty room, lay down on the floor and just cry. I would go to town to run an errand and not return for 6 hours. I didn’t want kids or a husband anymore. I would stand at the stove and forget how to cook, then suddenly feel panic.
- Just 4 months ago, I found myself on the side of the highway -splitting headache, so shaky I didn’t have the strength to drive. I found myself calling my husband asking if I should call an ambulance. I called my parents and could barely form complete sentences. I had pain in my jaw and arm along with chest pain and palpitations. I felt like I was having a heart attack.
I find each of these episodes to be directly related to a severe stress in my life.
- In middle school, my parents divorced.
- Freshman year of college, I broke up with my abusive (emotionally and physically) boyfriend.
- In 2011, I had just given birth to my first daughter outside of marriage. Her paternal grandparents insisted I have an abortion or give her up for adoption and wanted nothing to do with us in the first months of her life. Then I broke up with her dad after 7 times of being cheated on.
- During my pregnancy with our son, my husband was working out of state for 28 days at a time only to return home for 5 days before leaving again. I also, had some health complications (including a hole in my uterus big enough to deliver out of with no incision necessary!) all while seeing a doctor who refused me ultrasounds and did not believe me.
- And finally, 4 months ago…..although I believe it to be a very positive move, we moved our family of 5 across the country from Colorado to North Carolina. Selling our house, considering bankruptcy, packing and driving for three days, all within just 2 short months. We now live 28 hours away from everything we knew and all of our family.
I am NOT writing about this so I can find a group who will attend my pity party. I wanted to write this because I KNOW there are people out there who suffer from anxiety, whether they know it or not. It is a very scary feeling. Once you do identify the source – anxiety – you have a choice to either take medication that will numb you or continue to suffer. I have chosen not to take medication this time, although I have in the past. I wanted to try natural ways like exercise, eating healthy, carving out quiet time and surrounding myself with people who mean something to me. It works. But it doesn’t work 100% of the time. I still have my days. I get sad, depressed, and confused. I overthink and doubt myself.
I think the thing that I’m learning though, is that God gave us emotions for a reason. Even Jesus cried. Don’t get down on yourself for feeling. Don’t envy people who seem to have more self control than you do. Can I tell you that I used to be the girl who never made a production out of her emotions. I never used to tell anyone how I was feeling and you could count on me to be even tempered through any situation. You know what that got me? Panic attacks.
Please, reach out to someone for a coffee date to chat. See a doctor. Cry when you need to cry. Scream when you need to scream. Most of all, please make time for yourself to do the things you were created to do.
*If you are a reader, I started and finished this book within a week during the deep parts of my anxiety. It isn’t even about anxiety specifically, but Shauna touches on a subject that effects all of us at one point or another. Present Over Perfect is a reflection of Shauna Niequist’s experience with making herself physically ill trying to do too much and how she overcame that feeling by saying no. I highly recommend this read if you are feeling even a little overwhelmed.