*Disclaimer* I have been trying to write this post for months, but have had a hard time finding the right words. Please keep in mind that this was very hard for me to write, but I hope that in sharing this with you, that someone somewhere will find help and encouragement through my story.
Have you ever been so intensely afraid of something that your heart is pounding and you feel like you can hardly breathe? I have and I’m sure at some point in your life you have been too. It’s common for people to have fears especially as children, but as you grow up you learn to face your fears and you start to realize that the things you feared aren’t really as scary as they seemed before.
From my earliest childhood memories, I remember intense fears and occasional panic attacks. Sure, I had the same fear of the dark, scary things under the bed, and other things most children fear when they are small, but there was so much more than that too. I had a hard time letting go of my fears; fear of dying, fear of family members dying, fear of something bad happening, fear of being sick, fear of swallowing pills, fear of choking, fear of the water… I could go on and on and on. I was afraid of everything.
At the time I was so little I didn’t know what was going on. I especially had no idea what a panic attack was. I can still remember several instances when I had one though and those moments are forever etched in my memory. I remember being so insanely afraid and no one being able to calm me down. The feeling that I needed to “escape” wherever I was, to get somewhere safe. My heart beating so fast it felt like I was having a heart attack and the feeling that my throat was closing up and it was hard to breathe.
Although the panic attacks only happened a couple times, I still remember how often my life was full of fears and worries. I grew up in a home where fear was the only thing I knew. I was afraid of my father. Afraid of his anger, his personality, HIM. It’s hard to explain, but he was the cause of a lot of my fears and as I look back I realize why. He let HIS fears and worries rule his life, it may not have come out like most people, but it was there. I never remember him saying that we needed to trust God or pray about a situation, it was always worry worry worry. Every situation had a reason for him to worry, and his reasoning behind it was always something that to me was scary.
My parents divorced when I was fifteen and things spun out of control. My father had been controlling and verbally abusive my whole life and now we were out on our own with my mother. That should have been a good thing, but my life felt out of control. I had a hard time coping and getting through, but I didn’t really realize how bad it was until I went to college. The stress started to affect me and the fact that I never felt like I could be myself while there. It got really bad until one summer I lost it.
I was on the phone with my boyfriend (now husband), and it had been a long day. We had for some reason gotten into a fight and it was the last straw. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I started having a hard time breathing and my heart was pounding so fast. I felt this intense need to leave and go home (I was living at college at the time) and I couldn’t shake it. It was bad. The feeling lasted for days and finally I packed up all my things and went home. I went to see a doctor and was put on anxiety medicine.
I didn’t want to take the medicine. The doctor told me to be careful because it was “highly addicting” (which is the absolutely worst thing to tell someone who worries all the time) and I thought that maybe I could control myself enough and be fine. I took a small dosage a couple times and it helped, but I let the rest sit there and forgot about it over time.
Fast forward several years later and I am happily married and just had my son Adam. I am not going to go into the entire birth story, as you can read about everything (Here, here, here, here and here ), but it was a very trying experience. I was in labor for 24 hours, tore to the 4th degree, was on bed rest for several weeks, and could barely take care of my newborn son, not to mention after a month of trying to breastfeed it just did not work out. I had a lot of health problems I dealt with for the next couple of months and it was literally so awful for me.
Things were bad at that point. I was obsessive about what was wrong with me and I could not think about anything else. It consumed me night and day to the point where I could barely take care of myself or my son. It was so bad that mother-in-law suggested I get help in the form of counseling. I was a little hurt at first, but a few months later I decided to take her up on that idea and went to see a pastor at my church. I went a few times and it was very helpful, but I still felt like something was missing.
I understood that I needed to trust the Lord, I understood that other people were worse off than me, I understood that I needed to be focusing on the Lord and not my problems, but my brain could seriously not do it. It was like I was blocked. A year later, we found out my husband was going to be deploying and I knew I needed to get some help for this deployment. I knew it was going to be a stressful time and I knew what could happen if I didn’t get help so I found a counselor to help me.
I have been seeing my counselor for over a year now and I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done. She has helped me understand my past, why I am the way I am, and she has shown me that I have problems with anxiety. She has also helped me with my faith and my walk with Lord, and has been a tremendous blessing to my life.
I have been dealing with a lot this past year. My husband’s deployment, my son’s special needs and health problems, and my own health problems. Recently I have been under so much stress and things have been very hard. I was pretty sick several months ago and ended up in the hospital one night. Whatever I had lasted for two weeks and it was the worst two weeks I’ve had in a long time. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was obsessing about what was wrong with me, I was sick to my stomach all the time, and could barely function.
One day I went to my usual appointment with my counselor and told her what was going on. She suggested that maybe I was sick because of all the stress I had been going through with my son’s special needs, his schedule and everything else going on in my life. I talked to a few other ladies and also my mom who told me that she has had similar health problems in the past because of anxiety. I discussed it with my husband and finally went to see my doctor.
I was put on anxiety medicine and I was scared. I knew that this is what I needed. I knew that people who loved me and had been trying to help me had been pointing me in this direction for awhile, but I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. I didn’t want people to know that at times I felt like I was crazy. I am supposed to be able to handle everything right? I am supposed to be trusting in the Lord? But it’s not always that black and white especially when it comes to anxiety.
I talked to my counselor all about my fears about taking those pills, and she told me that I wouldn’t think twice about taking a pill for my thyroid (I have hypothyroidism) because that’s what I need and have to have. She told me it’s the same thing with anxiety. If I can barely function on a day-to-day basis sometimes and it’s affecting my life then it’s time to get more help. She explained that anxiety is a disorder and is actually something that affects my brain.
I started doing my own research on Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I found that I have almost every single possible symptom on the list. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to at least try this medicine. And so I did. I have been on Celexa for two months now and I can’t tell you how much better I am doing. I feel a little more happier, have a little bit more energy, and don’t feel like my world is falling apart at the seams. I feel like I can breathe easier, and I feel like my thoughts are clearer and that whatever was blocking me before is gone. I feel like ME.
So now you are probably wondering why am I telling you all this? And this is the part I have been waiting to share for a long time. I get so many emails from other military wives and special needs moms asking me how do I do it? How do I handle all the stresses I talk about on my blog? And the honest answer is I don’t and I can’t. People don’t see what happens in the quiet of our home, and in the quiet of my heart. The turmoil I have faced for years. Living with constant fears and worries that I can’t get rid of even though I know it’s not right.
If you are reading this and feel like this is you, you don’t have to deal with all this alone there is help out there. I see and hear things every day and I think to myself, “Wow that person has anxiety.” I realized a lot of people have it and have it bad, but they just don’t realize it. Anxiety became a coping mechanism for me. It was something that was always there, and something that at the time I knew I would always have and never go away. It was my default. But now, even my husband has noticed small changes in me and I am pleased with the results. This doesn’t have to be your life, you can get better!
Now for the skeptics who are reading this and who are against getting medicated this is for you, so please read on. I don’t think medicine is for everyone. I don’t think you should rush out right now and get on medicine. Why? because there are plenty of other things you can do to combat stress and anxiety. Get more sleep, exercise, see a counselor, and pray just to name a few. It’s when you are doing all those things and are still having a hard time getting through – that’s when you need to start talking to your doctor.
I’ve had a few friends who were very concerned about me getting on medicine. I was sad because people do not understand the journey I have been on through all of this. The years of worry and fear, they don’t see how it sometimes plagues me day and night. If it had been post-partum depression everyone would immediately have wanted me to get help. Somehow that’s more acceptable in society than having an anxiety disorder. But you know what? I had post-partum ANXIETY. Yes, there is such a thing. And I still deal with anxiety every day. The fact that I am doing the right thing by getting help and changing my life makes me happy. I want people to know that this is a disorder and it’s serious.
People think that I look fine, or that they can’t tell so I must not have it, but they don’t know what goes on in my head and that’s what the medicine helps. It helps stop those racing thoughts and worries before they even start so I can live a normal life and not be obsessing and stressing over every little thing.
You might be surprised at the symptoms that anxiety and stress can cause in your body. Here are just a few for starters:
“Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can vary. They can include:
- Constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns
- Restlessness and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or your mind “going blank”
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy or being easily startled
- Trouble sleeping
- Sweating, nausea or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat
There may be times when your worries don’t completely consume you, but you still feel anxious even when there’s no apparent reason. For example, you may feel intense worry about your safety or that of your loved ones, or you may have a general sense that something bad is about to happen.” – www.mayoclinic.com
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about what you should do to limit the stress in your life or ask if medicine might be right for you. You can read more about anxiety disorders here:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): When Worry Gets Out of Control
- Anxiety Disorders
- Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms
If you have any questions or feel like you need to talk to someone about this, please feel free to email me. Also, here is a blog post about coping: Tips for Coping with Anxiety.