As I picked up the phone and listened, I heard utter desperation, I heard unspeakable pain, and soul wrenching anguish… There was loud and soulful sobbing, and also the kind that is so painful, no sound can be uttered at all. My heart was breaking… I know this pain, I know that cry, that desperation, that complete and utter anguish… I felt everything that was happening on the other end of that call. I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed, as I spoke to this precious beautiful soul.
I’ve had this call before, I’ll have it again. Different people different situations, but it’s all unimaginable pain. This pain is something I can understand, it is something I live with every day. The reasons and type of pain may vary, but I experience it all. I live with PTSD, anxiety, depression, anxiety attacks, and extreme chronic physical pain on a daily basis. I have wondered, when it will end? I have prayed and asked that it be taken from me. I have wondered why me? From the time I was a young child until the present, I have had more pain than most people will ever experience, in their entire life. It seems unfair. There are some people who never have a difficult life, who have situations that at one time, I would’ve considered superficial, which they could not bear. I now know, that all pain, all suffering, is unbearable. My pain is deeper than some, more extensive, and ongoing, but that doesn’t minimize other people’s pain. Pain is just that, pain.
There was time when I did not understand anxiety, or anxiety attacks. I hate to say it, but I thought the beginning and end of it was simply a person that worked themselves up into a lather, and panicked. I wish I hadn’t been so uninformed.. I really thought it was something that was completely within a person’s control, and that they could stop it. If only, they would attempt to calm down. I had no idea what they were living through. I am so sorry I ever thought those things.. I never said it out loud, but I am sure that it was evident in my demeanor in some fashion. I am terribly sorry I ever thought that way.
I remember being in a vehicle with my best friend in high school. We came upon an accident, that had already taken place. As we approached I remember, how she began to get so nervous and cry. I told her, just don’t think about it, relax.. It was not long before she was in complete hysterics. I recall thinking, why won’t she listen?
I now live with anxiety, it was a long time in coming. I should have dealt with this my entire life. When I began having anxiety attacks, I was engaged to marry my husband. That dumfounded me. At the time I thought it was because we loved each other so much, which we did, and I couldn’t handle being separated from the man I loved so deeply, much less go back to a place that wasn’t even my home. So when we married, and he would be gone for a time, I was completely baffled as to why that was still happening to me, only even worse.. The thing was, I didn’t realize that i was having anxiety attacks. I didn’t understand at all what I was feeling, or why it was happening. I was out of control, and couldn’t come back to reality, in fact that was my reality.
My husband is a good Christian man, and we are very happy together. Not perfect, no one is, but happy none the less. “So why now?” I recall thinking. I was no longer in an abusive relationship, this should have happened then, but it didn’t, or so I thought.. While I was in that relationship, it was quite easy for the symptoms to be masked, as I had a physical reason for the manifestation of panic, fear, and tears. I dealt with that for far too many years.. I was out of that now, and happy. So once my husband and I were married, I finally realized something was wrong (after almost five years) I was completely befuddled.
My former therapist knew I had PTSD, anxiety, anxiety attacks, OCD, perfectionism, and that I battle anorexia. However she never mentioned that I should perhaps seek medical intervention. Although, that may have been due to my weak emotional state at the time, (and multiple major issues) that I needed to walk through with her. It wasn’t until I had an anxiety attack over this past summer, that I would learn that I was even having them..
One weekend this summer my husband was gone with my son, and some other fathers and sons, at a retreat. That weekend I found on the very first day, immediately, I could not stop crying.. That lead into a vastly deep and dark place… I felt my heart racing, and palms sweating. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, I could hardly catch my breath between my racing pulse, and the weightiness I was feeling. I felt panic stricken, like I was going to die.. or worse yet, what if he did?? I began to spiral, spinning completely out of control. I could not function, I could not think, not rationally anyways.. I had to take care of my daughter, and could not. I could not focus. I could not get out of the deep abyss I fond myself in.. I could not sleep, eat, and certainly could not enjoy anything at all. I was in utter and complete confusion and despair.
That week I saw my therapist and described what happened, telling her I was not rational in any way that particular weekend. She told me “you’re right, you were not rational, you were having an anxiety attack. So what are you doing to manage that?” I was confused, and asked what she meant by manage it? She said with medicine. I told her I wasn’t on anything. I mean, I told my doctor, but she didn’t say I needed anything, or ask me about it, so I thought I was fine. That is where my journey to relief began.
After a few appointments gone wrong (medicine prescribed that interacted in a very negative way with my migraine medications) causing serotonin syndrome, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Now let me tell you how God orchestrated that. A few months prior I was in a McDonald’s and I saw a girl that looked so incredibly familiar to me. I thought perhaps she just has one of those faces.. I kept thinking about how familiar she seemed, then thought, huh, she really looks like a girl I went to high school with. She was studying something with a friend. So even though it was incredibly difficult for me to go up to her, interrupt them, and ask her if she was who I thought she was, I did so. Not because I wanted to, I am an introvert, and I also hate to interrupt people. In addition to that, any “no” EVER, makes me want to curl up into a ball and die. No matter what that looks like, someone saying hi, but it wasn’t to me, an unreturned message, not being available when I ask about getting together, you name it. So I most certainly did not want to go up to her, in fact I tried to leave. But I felt so strongly that God wanted me to go up to her, I could not leave without doing so, even though I did attempt to. It turned out that she was in fact, the girl I thought she was.
I would later find that she works at a hospital with psychiatric patients. Through our developing relationship I learned so much more about psychiatrists and their patients. That eased the stigma I had in my mind about those things. Another friend of mine that walked this road with me, with her professional experience, softened the hurt, burden and stigma that I once held. Having that burden lifted, enabled me to seek out my own psychiatrist once I was informed I needed a little help.
In conjunction with prayer, worship, and reading scripture/doing devotionals (which is the only way I survived/ functioned to that point without turning to destructive alternatives) I began to take some medication that he prescribed. One day, there was a series of four or five events with my children, which would normally have made me absolutely insane with frustration and anger. When the first set of circumstances arose, i just walked away. then another, I went and sat down by my husband. Then yet another, all of this in twenty minutes or less. I recall saying, “I’m just not going to react, it’s not worth it,” to my husband. When the next event took place I felt the same, and was in awe that i was able to be so self controlled, and truly self controlled on the inside as well. I was annoyed, but not at all the way I would normally be. At this point I am always yelling, and a ten for anger, giving consequences and such. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t reacted yet.. I said to my husband, “the medication must be working!!” I realized that after four days, just as my doctor told me, if it was going to help, I would start noticing it. Boy did I ever! I hadn’t even noticed what day it was, so this truly took me completely by surprise.
I was overjoyed, but also incredibly sad.. I was relieved as I realized what it was like to be “normal,” which I had never felt before. Not that I realized I was anything else, that simply was my reality. I thought it was that way for everyone. That only added to my feelings of failure. I couldn’t understand why everyone else seemed to be able to handle all of that terribleness. Why couldn’t I? I had a reason I was utterly unaware of.. I was so sad once I became aware of how terrible I had been towards my family. I was filled with regret over what they had endured. I apologized to them. I had hope, for a better life for all of us, especially them. I felt better, not being a constant ball and stress and frustration. I can not begin to feel you the relief that I felt, and my family as well.. It was like the compacter had been released me from it’s grasp of clenching my shoulders, chest, heart, and mind…This is what life was supposed to be like.
Friends, I urge you gently, if you are suffering, seek help. Reach out a friend, and find a good doctor. If you think live with someone that suffers in this way, try to be patient with them. Know that they can not help what is happening, it is not a choice. Gently talk to them about how they are feeling and asses the situation. I HIGHLY encourage finding a good therapist, psychologist, or counselor… They have the proper training, and education to help your loved ones. Do research, find out how they are rated, ask around if you know anyone that does see a therapist of some sort, and get a referral if you can. Becoming self aware, prayer, and intervention, is the only way to the road of healing for all of you. I can not stress this enough!
I am grateful to God for putting the proper people in my life to get the help that I needed. Two of my friends are therapists, another a psychiatric nurse, still others prayer supporters that I know I can count on, and call on anytime. You need a good support system. I f you don’t pray, find a church home, God will provide.. I have that now, thanks to the Lord. He placed each one of them in my life, at the proper time. God is good.. He has always been there for me every step of the way. Working in the background where I was unaware of His beautiful weaving.. He wove beauty out of ashes. Yes, He still does, and I have faith that He always will.
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