Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 3) My Story

***This is part 3 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here and 2 here.

Coming face to face with my monster…

Everything I thought I knew about myself changed with my first panic attack.

I was newly married and in my early 20’s, working for a law firm as a legal assistant.  I was enthusiastic about my job, happily married, and had family and friends that I loved spending time with.

There wasn’t a logical reason for me to have a panic attack, however, as I would come to find out, fear and anxiety are rarely logical.

Panic Strikes

On a random night before work, I was in my closet picking out the next day’s outfit. I couldn’t tell you now what I was thinking of, besides the enormous decision of whether to wear pants or a skirt.

In an instant, the closet began to feel as though it was closing in on me and a creeping terror climbed up the back of my neck. There was literally nowhere to run from the fear that had completely ensnared me.

My brain had been put on hyper-speed, shooting me messages that were nearly incomprehensible, although, I felt them loud and clear;

I needed –

To run.

My mom.

Somewhere safe.

Feeling as though I could barely breathe while clutching at my chest, I left the closet to lie down on the bed. The sensation of being far away, as if I was outside of my body, overtook me. I was positive in that moment that I was going to die.

my “new normal”

I began to experience severe anxiety and panic attacks daily after this initial incident.

Baffled as to why this was happening, I dove inward, searching and questioning every thought and feeling I had.

As if the answer was in my own head.

Nope. Turns out that is not a fun place to be.

Remember those fears I had as a kid? They had matured right along with me and were more fearsome than ever.

Consequently, I was exhausted and at the end of my rope. I like to assume it’s how Daniel felt in the lion’s den, except the only lions staring me down were in my head and they didn’t have their mouths shut.

My life suddenly looked unrecognizable and in those next months, I had what I would consider a full break down.

Breaking apart

I couldn’t work.

Or eat.

I couldn’t sleep.

I couldn’t drive.

After about a month and a half, I lost roughly 40 pounds. I learned that applesauce and scrambled eggs came in handy when my stomach wouldn’t tolerate anything else, but sometimes those wouldn’t even stay down.

At one point early on in my journey through anxiety, I didn’t sleep for 3 days straight. Not your typical tossing and turning that can happen. I am talking eyes wide open, heart pounding, terror in the middle of the night, not sleeping. Night time was frightening because I was all alone with my fear.

My sweet husband would drive me to doctors appointments and care for me on his days off. When he worked he would leave me with my mom and grandmother during the day because I couldn’t be alone.

I was a mess… to put it lightly.

Digging Deeper Inward

I am naturally gregarious, an undeniable people person and a talker. I love my people and I love being with them.

But anxiety.

It morphed me into someone I no longer recognized and my world began to shrink. I rarely laughed anymore and life had taken on a strange color of sadness. I lost all interest in being with my friends and social situations terrified me.

The anxiety I experienced began to intermingle with depression. The longer I stayed in this intense place of panic, a hopelessness developed within me that became an unintended, integral part of who I was.

I spent days, weeks and months trying to cope, grasping for ordinary and forgetting what it looked like. I tried desperately to live my new normal, clumsily slipping along with many, many days of breakdowns.

What is wrong with me?

I had gone to every doctor imaginable, from a family doctor to a neurologist. Someone must have an answer and I was intent on finding it.

Yes, I was that hypochondriac patient.

During this time, I received a stern talking to from a nurse. After checking my vitals she placed her hands on either side of the sterile white paper where I was sitting. She leaned forward until her breath warmed my face and glared unsympathetically into my eyes, “There is nothing wrong with you, you’re completely healthy and fine and this is all in your head!”

Tears streaming down my face, I gazed back with earnest and stammered, “But I feel like maybe there is… something wrong, I mean.” Said with an almost child-like questioning, the words floated in the air as she briskly walked out of the room.

I scolded myself, feeling embarrassed by my lack of self-control and decided then to stop searching for some elusive answer that clearly didn’t exist.

After this, I began trying to reintegrate into my pre-anxiety world, all while still having panic attacks and spiraling down through depression.

I eventually lost my job because of my inability to fully concentrate, I was forgetting important details. Not to mention all of the time I was missing for sick days and doctors appointments. This caused even more depression since I felt like a complete failure at life.

What on Earth was wrong with me?

The worst part – no one seemed to have an answer.

Where was God?

Although I believed in Jesus as my savior when I was a young girl, God currently felt like a distant deity –  unhelpful and far too big to care what I was presently going through.

I was doing all of the “right things,” praying and reading my bible. So, the question remained, why was I still going through this and when would it end?

The more I heard that worrying was a sin the further I sunk into my pit. The thoughts I struggled with were horrific and overpowering. Surely, no other Christian could possibly have such thoughts. I came to the conclusion that I was a defective Christian, or worse yet, maybe I wasn’t one at all…

Shutting my mouth

The fear of my own mind overwhelmed me and led me to a place of despair. Sadly, I decided to no longer speak openly about what I suffered, for fear of what people would think.

During the many years of pain and silence that followed, I came to understand why people would take their own life. This feeling terrified me most of all. And from here, a belief system grew, coiling its way through my every thought, fed by numerous lies and fears, that took root deep within me.

The Enemy had me right where he wanted – alone in the dark, feeling helpless and hopelessly cornered.

Thankfully, the truth of Jesus burns brightest in the darkest of places…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, link-up today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

 

Anxiety and Depression Series – (Part 2) My Story

***This is part 2 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here. 

 

Anxiety is defined as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fears often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating and increased pulse rate) by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. Merriam Webster online dictionary

The very core of anxiety is found in the last sentence of the Merriam Webster’s definition – Self-doubt about one’s ability to cope with it.

Torn in 2 Directions

The Greek word Merimnao, found in several verses within the new testament of the Bible, including Philippians 4:6, be anxious for nothing – Has a meaning of being pulled apart.

Merimnao= part, as opposed to the whole; drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts.

Anxiety is most definitely a pulling in two different directions. It is standing on the tightrope between hope and panic and feeling that any moment I could fall into the latter. It is the overwhelming trepidation that says impending doom is near, all the while, the opposing voice of truth and sanity explains you’re fine.

Anxiety is a dividing, a pulling between the truth we know and our emotions that take over. Every day we choose between fear and faith, trust over worry and as the dictionary’s definition explains, it is self-doubt that fuels anxiety.

This is precisely where my story begins.

 

Anxiety

For a very long time, I didn’t have a name for it. I just knew something wasn’t right.

From some of my earliest memories, I was afraid. 

Several things terrified me as a girl, including heights, death and the dark. Many children have fears, however, mine loomed far larger than simple childhood apprehension. I worried obsessively about things that an eight-year-old shouldn’t have been concerned with.

I have vivid memories of sweating profusely as I cowered on the floor of our car, positive we were moments from death because we were driving over a high bridge.

As a young girl, I went through a phase where I was certain I was going to die because I was too skinny since I could see my ribs. Images of my body simply giving up and my heart stopping bombarded me. My mom would tell me to eat more if I was worried and explained I would be fine, but I struggled to believe her.

I also suffered from severe migraines as a child and into my teenage years. I have wondered now if they were partly due to the stress I endured from fear.

There was no practical reason for my phobias as a child, this was simply a part of who I was. Aside from my fearfulness, I was a happy child. My parents tried reassuring me when I was afraid that nothing bad was going to happen…

Until it did.

Where fear becomes reality

When I was ten, my oldest brother died in a car accident. He was 17, a senior in high school and he died only three months before his 18th birthday.

Gazing backward over the layers of time since his passing, I see now that he was just a baby, only two years older than my own son currently is. A life that had so many possibilities, cut short.

Losing my big brother exasperated my worries and made the fear I struggled with seem insurmountable.

At just ten years old, standing huddled in the street between our house and the neighbors, I heard the words coming from my dad’s shaky voice that would change our family forever. “There was an accident and your brother died.”  I had four brothers, so when he said “brother” I wasn’t sure who he was talking about. I looked over and saw James standing next to me sobbing, Robert, several feet behind my dad, face stained with tears. And there, next to my mom just a short distance behind us, my littlest brother, Daniel, oblivious to any crisis since he was six.

It was Paul Michael, my oldest brother, and my father’s namesake who was missing from the picture.

Dad was laughing as he spoke, which confused and upset me. I gazed upwards, seeing his dark-rimmed glasses with the sun just behind him peeking through the trees. Hearing unfamiliar noises slipping from between his lips, I realized then that his laughing was actually gut-wrenching sobs. I had never heard my father cry before and mistook it for laughing. An anguish I couldn’t comprehend passed from his lungs into the warm September air.

Having three children of my own, I can only imagine the grief my parents must have felt that day. They went from having five children to four in an instant.

Reality slapped me square in the face and I discovered my mortality in a very real way. The rest of my family, much to my dismay, was also quite mortal. I would spend much of my time worrying about them for years to come.

We spent the next several days in a haze as my mom and dad laid their oldest son to rest in a cemetery on a hill…far too soon.

And their only daughter became entangled with fear that would, unfortunately, follow her closely the rest of her life.

The painful reality of life and death

I became well acquainted with death at an early age and not just because of my brother. For the next several years my family would receive phone calls about deaths of people close to us, family and friends alike.

I had gone to more funerals than weddings by the time I was 20.

The harsh realities of life and death became apparent to me, and in turn, I feared the possibilities. The terrible feeling of impending doom was a constant in my mind.

Fear, it seemed, was something that was innately etched into my personality. Dealing with death at such a young age combined with my already fearful disposition left me vulnerable. Because I had never learned what to do with my fear and grief, I didn’t understand that there was an appropriate way to handle these emotions.

No, these deaths were not the cause of all of my anxieties. However, every circumstance in our lives has the capability to shape who we ultimately become.

I didn’t know this as a ten-year-old girl, but fear was shaping who I was becoming.

Coping

By the time I was older I had developed coping mechanisms that kept me living a “normal” life. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings or what I went through in my head. I learned to shove, shove, shove.

Due to this, a perpetual cloud of worry hung over my head. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop… so to speak. Over time and as life marched on, this feeling began to build in the back of my mind.

I decided that if stayed just one step in front of the worry monster, I could outrun it.

Until the day it caught up with me…

To be continued…

Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!

 

I’m hanging out at the #tellhisstory, Betheeinspired, and  #TeaandWord link-ups today. Come join me and read some other encouraging blog posts!

   

Now let’s link-up!

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Do you struggle with anxiety and depression?

The Necessity of Hope

It’s normally assumed that a proper telling of a story should begin at the beginning. I suppose it only makes sense, we humans like chronological. The problem with the beginning, at least with my story, is that you don’t see the hope, not right away at least.

I’m sure if you’ve experienced any kind of trauma, you can relate. Our stories of brokenness don’t normally open with hope, do they? We tend to pull the curtain back only to find that turmoil, hurt and pain have the starring roles.

I want something else to have the starring role here.

with anxiety and depression

What do you do with anxiety and depression?

Over the weeks to come I’m sharing my journey of living with anxiety and depression. The good, the bad, the ugly and the in-between. I believe in bringing our stories into the light to share our bumps, bruises, and scars with one another. There is momentous value in the painful parts of our stories.

However, these days, I try to put the spotlight where it should’ve been all along. For that reason, I’m starting somewhere else.

I’m starting with HOPE.

If you glean only one thing from our time together, I want it to be hope.  I believe that hope is the single greatest conqueror over fear.

If there is one emotion intrinsic to anxiety and depression, it is hopelessness. It feels like a ride that you desperately want to get off of but can’t figure out how. Before you have even begun you already feel defeated. This is where anxiety and depression thrive, in the darkness of “I can’t” and “this will never go away.”

I’d love for you to try to make a conscious commitment to walk away from that kind of thinking. I’m not implying that you stop feeling or telling you that by thinking positively all your problems will dissolve.

I’m asking you to make room for something else – make room for hope.

The lies in your head will tell you that you are alone, that you are the only one that is beyond help. Those same lies whisper that there is no hope for you. It is just simply not true.

My friend, I want you to grab hold of one truth before we even begin talking about the specifics of anxiety and depression.

Hope is a necessity for healing and for change.

There is hope. 

For everyone. 

Meeting the God of Hope

There was a time I truly believed I was the only person in the world that couldn’t be helped. I really believe that if I can overcome daily panic, anxiety, and depression, anyone can. I realize that is an audacious statement to make, but we have a truly amazing God.

The comfort and hope I have gained are found in a person that just happens to have hope in His name.

The God of hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

He is the God of hope and our hopelessness and brokenness are His specialties.

He’s not the God of “I really, really, really hope that this happens.” No, it’s a different kind of hope. In this verse, the word hope means a joyful and confident expectation. Do you see the difference? He’s not a cross-your-fingers and wishes kind of God. He is a God that we can have complete confidence in.

A God we can hope in.

My prayer for you, my dear reader, is that you will come to trust the God of hope with your emotions, greatest fears and biggest doubts. He’s big enough to take it.

No matter what you’ve been through or how long you have gone through it, there is always hope. 

I pray also, that you find this blog and thereby find a safe place of “me too.” Even if you do not experience anxiety or depression, I am fairly confident we all know someone who does – and really, everyone will most likely deal with these emotions at some point in their lives. My desire is that you find some valuable information to help in the fight against fear for yourself or someone you love.

Maybe, just maybe, you can walk away with a little more hope.

There is a  God that is so much bigger than our fears. He is the God of hope.

Where to begin to combat anxiety and depression

I can say without hesitation, you didn’t get here overnight, therefore, you are not going to do one thing that suddenly changes it all.

When I was in the thick of anxiety and depression I found myself searching for a big solution. When really, it was a whole lot of little things that lead to the big change I had been grasping for.

Here are a few things you can do today to start turning the tide:

  • Begin with hope and move forward from there. Make a choice to believe every day that things can change, you can change. You are not beyond help.
  • Speak Truth. In the really hard moments of anxiety and (or) depression, your brain is going to be screaming that you can’t get out of this. You have been believing the lie that you just can’t. These lies have become ingrained in your mind and have turned into a belief system.

Find scripture or other truth that specifically combats the lies you are believing, write them down, memorize them and speak them to yourself. Plain and simple, replace the lie with the truth. (I’ll talk more about this in later posts.)

No, it’s not a magic wand. Yes, it takes time and effort on your part. But truth kills lies. Speak the truth and you will see hope increase.

  • Be okay with where you are. Right. Now. Yes, we all want to be better, do better, feel better Right. Now. But sometimes it starts with being ok where you are in this moment. Give yourself permission to be anxious. Let it be okay for you to feel the depression. You were made with emotions, God-given emotions. Your emotions are not the bad guy. Be okay with allowing yourself time and looking under the hood to figure out what needs a tune-up… You are a complex, unique, remarkable, one-of-a-kind individual. God made you that way. Working out the kinks will take a little time, and yes, a little hurt along the way.

And that is Okay. You know why?

Because hope comes from suffering.

What do you do with anxiety and depression?

Every day you show up, equipped with truth, believing there is hope and allowing yourself to be where you are – when you persevere you are building up your reservoir of hope.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

There is no shame in hoping.

Find hope. Believe that there is hope. You were not meant to walk this life crippled with panic, fear, and sadness. I promise.

He promises.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” …Jesus   John 10:1


A necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a professional with letters after my name. I am someone who has lived with anxiety and depression for over 20 years. Read about me here. I may have life experience and insight… But I would suggest you seek professional help if you feel you need it.

***If you came upon this site and are not sure about this whole Jesus thing, let me just say, welcome! I hope you’ll stick around and maybe enter the conversation about Him and who He claims to be.

 

Join me over at

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Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

I never thought I'd be

Thankfulness can sneak into the most unlikely of places.

The end of this year finds me rapidly heading out of my 30’s and smacking straight into 40. (No, an exact date need not be mentioned here.)

 As I look back over these years, I’m thankful for many things, which include obvious blessings, like my family and amazing friends. And of course, my Jesus.

Although, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for a few things that surprise even me.

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For:

Slow starts and small beginnings

I’m not going to be shy about telling you that I’m new around here. You, my dear readers, are on this journey with me as I learn, and by God’s grace grow. I’ve been overwhelmed lately with my to-do’s, whether it be for my blog, homeschooling, or any number of other things in my life.

If it were up to me I’d have it all be full-grown and magnificent immediately. You know, snap my fingers and voila, D.O.N.E!

However, that’s not God’s plan. Instead, I feel as though it’s all progressing so S.L.O.W.L.Y.

While feeling frustrated and overwhelmed today, I realized that God’s grace is all over the slow starts and small beginnings of life. His lovely grace is apparent in giving us sweet, tiny, extra lovable babies at birth. Not full-grown 15-year-olds, with stinky, size 10 feet, facial hair and a deepening voice that more often than not talks back. (Oh, I’m sorry, too specific to just be an example?)

The recognition that I wouldn’t know what to do with an instantaneous full-grown-dream occurred to me. With tears in my eyes, I stopped and thanked Him for where I am. right. now.

Without those slow starts and small beginnings, there would be no hard lessons learned and magnificent little triumphs.

I’m thankful that He allows us to dip our feet in the water slowly. He is gracious to allow some changes gradually, even when I wish things would progress much faster. He knows this anxious girl can only handle a few things at once.

I may want something badly, but He knows just what I can handle now.

His timing is perfect and I’m thankful for that.

Thank you, Jesus, for slow starts and small beginnings.
For Anxiety

This is something I can genuinely say I never thought I’d be thankful for.

But.

I am.

I was once an extremely fearful girl. Filled with panic, fear, depression, and pain.

I sometimes read words I used to write back then, meeting up with that fearful girl every once in a while to remember where I’ve come from. There is a place for sitting with her, listening to her and remembering the journey.

I do this, so as I sit with others I can listen to them and relate to their journey.

When I was in the midst of that painful place I never imagined the beauty that could come from it. While in the storm we find it nearly impossible to see far enough in front of us to know it can be a gift.

I used to beg God daily for my anxiety to go away and I longed to forget the rocky road I had walked. I saw no value in the cuts and bruises I had sustained along the way.

I’ve since learned that forgetting would render me ineffective.

I can choose to hide them and go inward or I can take those scars, show them to the world and offer encouragement to other hurting souls.

You don’t even have to be finished with your path to be used by Him, which is the most beautiful part.

There IS beauty IN our pain and redemption in our ashes when we allow Jesus to use them.

It’s not just a trite saying.

Every time I sit and remember the fearful girl, I walk away a little more thankful for me. Because after all, I’m still her.

I’m thankful for my story.. for anxiety.

Because;

There’s hope in my scars.

Healing in the tears.

Wisdom from the pain.

Encouragement to be shared by an imperfect woman living an unfinished story, written by the ultimate story-teller.

Jesus, thank you for showing me your love even in my anxiousness. Thank you for showing me that perfect love casts out fear.

For my imperfections and weaknesses

There are many things I don’t love about myself. I’m learning every day to appreciate my imperfections because they are a part of who I am.

I laugh loudly. (And may have been known to snort while doing it.)

I talk loudly and give my opinion far too easily.

I love ice cream and chocolate Way. Too. Much.

I tend to talk far more than I listen.

I’m a procrastinator.

I give up too easily.

I jump to conclusions.

I’m fearful and highly sensitive.

My imperfections and weaknesses abound…

And I am thankful for each one simply because;

 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving that you never thought you would be? What things do you feel you could never be thankful for? And, what do you long to be thankful for but just can’t be right now? Bring them all to Him and lay them at His feet, dear friend..