I was cleaning the basement and I found a few boxes that needed to be thrown away. I tossed them onto the ever-growing pile of boxes that’s been in our basement for longer than I care to admit. As I tossed the last box on the pile I decided it was time to carry them upstairs and get rid of them. If they are hiding in the basement I’ll never get rid of them. It was too windy to burn them. There was no way they would all fit in the trash can for the next trash pickup. So I decided to put them on the front porch. If I’m forced to look at them every time I drive up the driveway then I’ll actually get rid of them. I’ll just add a few of them to the trash each week until they’re gone.
I like things to be neat and tidy so I cringed as I put the boxes out on the front porch. I was putting my trash out for everyone to see. And I’m feeling the same way right now as I type these words. It makes me uncomfortable when I think about everyone knowing what I’m going through. I’m putting my trash out for everyone to see. Sometimes we have to drag our problems out of the basement so that we’ll actually deal with them. When we’re forced to look at them we have a greater chance of getting rid of them. I risk being judged. But I choose to tell my story anyway because my story matters. My story may look a lot like your story. I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone. Your story may look nothing like mine but I pray that the words I’m getting ready to share will touch your heart in some way. I’m glad you’re here to join me in my story.
Anxiety. I really hate that word. I hate the way that it makes me feel. It slowly started creeping into my life 2 years ago. I tried to ignore it. Then I prayed for God to take it away. I looked up scriptures about anxiety and I told myself to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7). I went forward at church and had people pray for me. And yet it continued to torment me every single day. I was having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I was experiencing fatigue that was so severe that walking across the house was difficult. My mind would frequently go blank. I couldn’t concentrate and I was extremely irritable. Every day I had moments when I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I lived like this for a year. I finally decided it was time to call the doctor. Tomorrow. I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.
That evening a picture came across my facebook newsfeed. The top half of the picture was a pill bottle and it said “What they say you need”. The bottom half was a picture of a Bible and it said “What you really need”. The picture sent a message that was loud and clear. If you’re a Christian then all you have to do is read the Bible and your anxiety will go away. As I sat on my bed and continued to look at that picture I was reminded of the voices from the past. The voices that said if you’re depressed or have anxiety then you need to pray more and read more. Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety. If you go to the doctor for medication then you aren’t trusting God to heal you. I allowed that picture to condemn me. As I fell asleep that night condemnation covered me like a blanket. The next morning I didn’t call the doctor. I chose to continue suffering.
As 2016 unfolded I believed that this year was going to be a better year. But then a series of events took place that added a great deal of stress to our life. Our insurance company quit paying for the girls therapies. We had to begin the process of finding a way for the girls to receive their therapies. We decided to stop homeschooling and enroll the girls in public school. I attended several meetings to set up their IEP for this school year. The girls behavior problems escalated and we decided to attend PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy). I spent 10 hours filling out paperwork for our family to start the PCIT. I jumped through all of the hoops to get us on their schedule only to find out we would have to wait 8 months for our first appointment. I secretly wondered if our family would survive the long wait. I was relieved when everything was in place for the PCIT and for the girls to start school in the fall. I finally felt like I could rest and that my life was going to get better. But it didn’t.
I started having panic attacks. They would come in the middle of the night, at a graduation ceremony, or even at church. I found myself fleeing from social situations because my heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would drop the girls off at their class at church, go sit in the sanctuary, and then flee from the room as soon as the worship music started. The sounds of the instruments and the crowd were just too much for me to handle. I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks. Then one morning I woke up, took a shower, and went back to bed because the fatigue was so severe. I did this 3 days in a row. On the third day Brett came into the bedroom and he sat down beside me. He told me that he loved me and he couldn’t stand to see me like this. He asked me to go to the doctor. I agreed to go because it was clear that the anxiety was no longer just affecting me. It was affecting my entire family. The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment.
As I told the nurse my symptoms she smiled and she told me that I’m not alone. The physician’s assistant also told me that I’m not alone. As I walked out of the doctor’s office I felt foolish. I waited 2 years to see a doctor. I’d let the anxiety get so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I’d allowed the fear of what people would think of me become more important than my health and my family. And I regret it.
I’ve been taking anxiety medication for 4 months. I’m finally able to sleep and fatigue no longer torments me. I still have moments each day when I feel like I can’t breathe. And I’m still irritable. Ask my sweet husband. So even though I’m on medication I still have some anxiety symptoms. The boxes on our front porch didn’t disappear overnight and neither has my anxiety. But each week a few boxes disappear and the pile gets smaller. I trust that as time passes my anxiety symptoms will decrease and hopefully one day they will disappear. But right now I recognize and celebrate each victory along the way. Last Sunday was a victory. Brett patted my thigh during the sermon. He could tell I was having a hard time and he was telling me he was proud of me for coming to church and not fleeing from the sanctuary. I’m learning that victory isn’t just at the end of the race. But it’s in each step that you take from the beginning to the end.
God heals. I know that with all of my heart. But He doesn’t always choose to heal in the way that we want Him to. I wanted my healing to come in an instant. I pray and then God makes all of my problems go away. Isn’t that what we all want? But it’s not always what God thinks is best for us. Sometimes God chooses to walk us through our problems instead of around them. God is choosing to walk me through this one step at a time instead of instantly delivering me from it. I will learn lessons through the journey that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d been delivered from it.
I don’t understand anxiety. It knocked me down like a freight train during a time when I felt like things were finally falling into place for our family. I wasn’t sitting around worrying. I was hopeful for the future. But anxiety knocked me down anyway. 11 years ago I became mom to 2 little sweethearts who have disabilities. And I now understand something that I never understood before. People who experience anxiety need to be shown grace instead of judgment. We have no idea how many meltdowns a mom and dad have watched their child have that day. Or what the test results said. Or how many times a mom has heard her child say the same phrase over and over again. Or what kind of battle took place when a child had to put his clothes on. Or if the mom and dad we see at the store have been sitting beside their daughter’s hospital bed wondering if she’s going to live or die. There are so many people in this world going through some really hard stuff. So let’s pause and think before we hit the share button on facebook. Let’s make sure that we’re showing people grace instead of judgment.