Wednesday, March 18, 2015

When Gripped by Fear and Anxiety -- A Recap of the Last Few Months

It's been a crazy season for us these past few months. 

Every time I've tried to write about it all in this space, the words have fallen flat. Come up empty. Felt all garbled and messy. I couldn't make things make sense, in part because my life wasn't making a whole lot of sense.

The fear and anxiety that gripped my heart and body so often the past few months is frightening, awful, embarrassing, and consuming. I hate even admitting it... but I will because I know we all need to talk about it more.

In November I began having more anxiety and panic than I'd had in quite a while. My anxiety issues also cause my body to physically react, causing other issues, which thereby make me more anxious. It's a vicious cycle.

I was also having constant daily headaches and painful flare ups, and it all escalated as Elijah got croup! AGAIN!! This happened while we were at my mom's traveling over Thanksgiving. Right after that Tim got a sinus infection, so of course before he was even fully over that, I got slammed by the flu for 24 hours and ... you'd think it'd be over, but nope... on the tail-end of that began a viral upper respiratory infection that left me hoarse and barely able to squeak out words. Overall I was sick for 3.5 weeks, getting better right at Christmas. After we were back home from traveling to see my family before Christmas. Figures.

It was a brutal time.

We figured out that my anxiety and panic was due to some pretty major stress and anxiety as a result of being really overwhelmed. One look at Elijah and I could have a panic attack.

{Disclaimer: let me explain that this had nothing to do with my job or workplace. It was all completely related to parenting and personal health.}

It was terrible. In part it was hard to talk about with anyone, even those closest to me because it was embarrassing. It made me feel like a horrible mother. I would just be hit with waves of panic as I looked at pictures of Elijah, read information about raising toddlers, or whenever I was at home alone with him.

My biggest fear? That I'd die and leave him without a mother. Or that I'd collapse and he'd be on his own for endless hours. {With no rational reason for fearing these things. My health is fine in that sense!} Now that he's a toddler who is more aware of his environment and surroundings, I couldn't wrap my head around what could happen to him if something happened to me, with my husband an hour away at work.

I was terrified. Irrational? Yes. Unfounded? Yes. But I couldn't shake it.

The severe intensity of bad, crippling anxiety went on for weeks. Every day when we were home together I had to get us out of the house when he was awake. Walks outside, going to the mall or Cabela's or Target, being around people. Just in case.

It was utter craziness.

This all hit right at the time of the Daylight Saving Time changeover. Darkness encroaching earlier. Days feeling longer. My body taking the better part of two weeks to recover from something seemingly as simple as a time change. Cold temperatures and thereby fewer walks. Limited playtime outside. Walls caving in on me at home.

Random changes in our lives also added to my stress and anxiety - hubby possibly starting to work-from-home sometime but not certain and timeframe unsettled for months. So many questions about how this would impact us, our marriage, and our parenting. Terrifying fears that I might be pregnant again. Shook me to my very core and hated myself for that, but scared about those weird health issues {that later, as it turns out, are actually 100% anxiety related... figures!}.

No more morning nap for Elijah. Crippling fears about long, longggg days and how I wasn't sure how to fill it. The complete dread of potty-training him. His mobility and awareness - of everything. His constant watching of me and my overwhelming fears that I was screwing it all up in front of his watchful eyes. Disciplining him. Oh the discipline. Oh man. That was hard to get through between 12-18 months. Starting to understand but not quite? Ugh! Constantly feeling overwhelmed about feeding him because he's sooo picky and will. not. eat. what I want him to eat!! Doesn't matter what I do or try, he so often fights it and it's utterly draining. Not able to keep up with the chaos of the holidays, traveling, illnesses, AND keep our house under control. Mess was out-of-control. Elijah was not sleeping well. Ever. Every night he'd be waking up at least 1-3 times, sometimes for 1-2 hours at a time. 

My stepbrother suddenly dying of a heart attack at age 45. My mother-in-law having a mild stroke {gratefully she's doing great now and recovered really well!}.

None of it settled well with me. November. December. January.

Those were really hard, really grueling, really lonely months. 

Of course my husband was well aware of it all {or at least most of it} but what really ended up helping me were the regular conversations and prayer sessions with my mom. Talking to someone who had been through the thick of it, raised us kids mostly on her own after I was 5, and had come out of it much stronger and more godly than many thought possible. She's one of the strongest women I know and is such a prayer warrior.

During this time I clung to God's Word and His promises. I shed a lot, lot, lot of tears on the phone with my mom. Melting down and being prayed over were sometimes exactly what I needed to be able to just breathe again.

Also in the midst of this, our pastor was going through a sermon series that was hitting me very, very hard personally. A lot of things to think over and deal with. Things that brought attacks from Satan as we dealt with strongholds in my life. And I know I wasn't the only one. It was an exhausting, draining time, and even our pastor said it was so for him.

I saw both my primary care doctor and my holistic doctor/chiropractor during this time. I had one panicked phone call to my doctor that caused a visit the next day for a check-up and though everything was fine, another medication was added to my repertoire. Ugh. I was also taking my anti-anxiety medication as needed, and for the first time had one day where I took two of them in one day {which is fine but totally got me jittery and I hated it}.

I was feeling very much at the end of my rope and sanity.

I mentioned to my chiropractor the additional medication, and he in turn introduced me to a female hormone supplement. That. was. amazing. !!!! {Don't worry, it's all-natural, nothing hokey going on there with hormone stuff.}

He was confident that this was a cause of hormonal imbalances - having not gotten back to normal postpartum, as well as some blood sugar and/or thyroid issues. It was making me all out of whack and he said we needed to work on me being more balanced. These supplements have truly been a God-send!

I had been continuing to see him every 1-2 weeks for check-ups, treatments, and adjustments for these issues. And voila!

I've been doing so much better. I still have some tough moments, but nothing at all compared to what it was.

In January, Elijah had more issues that required even having an emergency visit to the chiropractor {who is really more of an alternative care/primary care doctor than what would come to your mind when you think chiropractor}.

As we dove deeper into working with him and learning more of what he can do for us, we've been amazed and completely taken aback.

Alternative medicine is definitely agreeing with us! We are learning so much and changing the way that we look at medical care completely. Our doctor is incredible and truly an extraordinary gift! I was surprised because I had no idea that this could all be this insanely helpful.

I'm not saying this is for everyone, but it's certainly working for us!

Right after the medications helped me level out, our pastor also had a message that helped me see that I wasn't alone in my struggles with fear and anxiety. For some reason I'd been thinking I was crazy.

No, really. Crazy.

Like I was the only Christian having such a hard battle with this. I was beating myself up constantly. He said not to {and so much more, but you get the idea}.

It was a total relief. To realize I wasn't alone. That it's a spiritual battle.

That broken strongholds {like fear & anxiety} will battle to be rebuilt. And we cannot let them. We fight. When we fail, we get back up again. Every word he preached was like a breath of fresh air to my soul at that time. I desperately needed to hear it, and leaned in on every word. It's been life-changing!!

I also did some research about anxiety disorders. I've been trained more fully on blood pressure issues and what to watch for. I know way more than I ever did before about issues I've struggled with for years. It's been hard, but also really good to be more educated.

So hard. So good too.

Life always seems like it would be SO much easier if we never had these crazy hard things to go through, but then we'd never find the positive or learn what we need to grow. That's always a hard truth to let sink in!

I'm pretty much completely past everything from those hard months. I've learned and grown a lot. I can safely say I'm not who I was back in October, that's for sure.

Elijah and I find our days very full now. Full and wonderful, relaxing and memorable, challenging and exhausting, good and joy-filled. I don't worry about any of the things that freaked me out so much previously that all just hit at once. As I read more information and get more educated on all of those things, I find myself at so much more ease. The trick for me is not to fear the unknown, but to just research and understand it better!

The other thing has been just really, truly soaking Elijah in for who he is, and not worrying about the stage he's in. As I grow in knowing myself more as a mother and how I want to handle things with him every day, I see that everything will work out just fine.

He's nearly 21 months. And we are in shock and awe of just how incredible he is!! So smart, so funny, so sweet, so loving. What an awesome gift from God!

I know I have nothing to fear. I'm still working on never having bad anxiety. It's a sprint, not a marathon... right?! ;)

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