Nothing like dusting off the ole blog at the beginning of Spring with a post I planned on writing back in December. Oh well. Let’s rewind back to when I was pregnant with my third child. We were living with my parents while we were adding onto our house. The whole summer leading up to Silas’ birth my husband was completely swamped with the house. We were trying to do as much as possible ourselves which meant I was called in to paint all the trim, put 73 coats on our kitchen cabinets, and sniffed stain and polyurethane while finishing our stairs at 9 months pregnant just so we could hurry up. (If you’re wondering-silas seems to be ok…I think.) I toyed with the idea of having a home birth for a minute but quickly realized I very well may not have a home when I go into labor. I told myself multiple times a day “it is fine- you didn’t have a home to take Knox home to when you had him and it all worked out.” Yes, you read that right- this was our second time pregnant, displaced, and in the middle of renovations. Some people never learn. And for the most part I stayed calm, I tried to roll with the punches, had an occasional cry fest and then would move on. But somewhere towards the end of the pregnancy something started to change. Ever since I had Sophie and experienced some severe “postpartum blues” I tried to stay very aware of the normal feelings and emotions and basically brace myself for whatever was to come. But, one Saturday afternoon Tim could tell I needed some time away. I needed a breather. So, he told me to just go out for the day-ride to Anderson and walk around Target. Sounds like a perfect dream right?! Well, I couldn’t. I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe. I was sobbing. I felt paralyzed. I was confused and poor Tim was really confused. I finally realized after the fact that I had just had my first panic attack.
We ended up moving in two weeks before Silas was born. He came. We all fell in love immediately. We had sweet snuggly days and the big kids were adjusting perfectly. It was going just about as wonderful as I could imagine it. The the baby blues came as expected. I gave myself grace and tried to stay patient as I waited for them to go away and when they finally did they so graciously left their good friend, anxiety, to stay and play. WHAT A JOY! Want to know what my trigger was? Losing control. Want to know a good way to lose control? Have a third baby. One of the things that made my anxiety the worst was actually what always made me thrive before I had Silas. People. I love people. I love being around people. Friends, family, even strangers. But all of a sudden being in the middle of a group of people-no matter who- made me feel out of control. The scenarios that played out in my head leading up to going somewhere outside of the house were constant, maybe a tad insane, and exhausting. Can I say exhausting again? I was so tired of worrying, overthinking, and replaying all the “what ifs” in my head. I would wake up tired and worn down in the morning not ready to get up and do it all over again. I remember one of my first big lows after having Silas was at Christmas time. I left a family get together- nothing happened- it went great but I felt awful. I called my mom hysterical after I got home because I had let all of my anxiousness bottle up for those few hours, tried to fake it in front of everyone, and all of the thoughts and urgency of wanting to escape with my kids and go home where I was safe and under control came exploding out of me and my emotions could not hold back anymore. I realized then this wasn’t going away any time soon. I was in the heat of it and it wasn’t going to be an easy fix. I was defeated. My obsession with control was climbing yet I felt so out of control with my thoughts and feelings towards circumstances and every day life. I begged that night on my hands and knees for the Lord to take this debilitating feeling from me. He didn’t but I knew he heard me. Days kept passing and I kept begging and apologizing to God thinking that all of this was all my fault. I felt like this was all happening because I wasn’t trusting God enough and that my faith wasn’t strong enough. I am so thankful that early on in this I heard someone say that it wasn’t a “you’re not a strong enough christian” or “you’re not trusting God enough” kind of battle. Was I perfect at trusting God? NO. I struggled with trust and faith just like any other believer. This is different- this is a mental, emotional, and hormonal battle. It is a war with your thoughts I just had to remind myself constantly that He is bigger than it all! I told myself repeatedly throughout the beginning of the year- “I bet by the next Christmas you will start feeling better. Just give it time. Silas is still a baby. You are still postpartum. Your body is producing milk so your hormones are not back to normal. Get through today. Just. Hang. On.”
Silas’ second Christmas came and he was a little over 1. I was still in love as ever with his chubby self. But I was still a hot mess. Still trying to control every aspect of my life and my children’s lives. Not wanting them to go anywhere without me which meant never getting a break. Grocery shopping with all three literally made me want to vomit. Trust me, I almost did in the Aldi parking lot. I thought surely someone would kidnap a kid while I was distracted or that Silas would start screaming at checkout and everyone would stare at me or be disappointed that I didn’t have better control. I CONSTANTLY feared one of the kids would get sick and someone would end up in the hospital(to be honest I still struggle with this one). But, it had been a year and I thought for sure I would be better but I had a tough pill to swallow in the fact that… I wasn’t. I was certainly having better days. I saw specks of light but I sure wasn’t at the end of the tunnel.
Silas turns two, another Christmas comes, and I finally feel like anxiety is not controlling every aspect of my life. I was definitely struggling in some circumstances but I at least felt like I could breathe. And dang it, I was going to write a blog post about how anxiety sucks but to just hang on because your shoulders will eventually get lighter, you can stand a little taller, and your exhaustion will eventually soften. But I just never got around to it. I’d start the blog post in my head just to forget what I had thought up. Then, the middle of January came. I was having a super anxious week but couldn’t really figure out why.I was snippy with the kids and Tim. Not like Chihuahua snippy- I was an actual ready to attack pit bull (no offense to pit bull owners) . I didn’t feel right. My anxiety was steadily climbing. I had already planned a day with my mom in Greenville to go shopping so with the kids in tow we go. I was feeling super out of control, the kids were testing my limits (nothing out of the ordinary) but my heart rate was climbing and I was getting foggy brained. While at Target I noticed a man who seemed to be at every corner I turned. I may have thought too much of it but something just wasn’t sitting right. The boys were in the buggy I was pushing so I specifically told Sophie to stay close. Not even a minute later I turn around to say something to her and she is gone. I start calling her name and probably within 30 seconds she sticks her head around the corner and said she was just an aisle over. I didn’t care if it took me 3 seconds or 30 minutes to find her. The pain in my chest was unbearable. I had a cart full of crap because hello, Target, but I looked at my mom and said “I have to go”. I took the kids immediately- sped walked through target while tears filled my eyes, got to the car and had a full on panic attack. Probably the worst I had ever had. The breathing I learned in birthing class wasn’t gonna help this! We ended up leaving Greenville early and the whole ride home all I could think was how I felt like I was back at square one. I lost all that I had worked for. The most defeating feeling. It took quite a while to get over that.
I have had the best of friends walk through all of this next to me and they have shown me Jesus, they have continuously prayed for me, and have given me wise words and encouragement. Battling anxiety does not need to be done alone. Reach out so someone that you can trust. Share with them what makes you anxious. Speak about how you feel to someone who will listen. It will make this burden so much lighter. If you are married- regardless if your spouse understands it or not-explain it to the best of your ability because personally-until I did-it usually caused arguments because because he had no clue what was going on. My husband did not and does not understand any of it. I’m not going to be facebook fake and act like he reassured me the whole time, knew just what to say, and brought me tissues to wipe my tears. A lot of times he stared at me like a deer in headlights. Sometimes he gave me tough love and said something along the lines of- I understand this makes you anxious but right now you need to put your big girl panties on. Sometimes I needed reality to slap me in the face because you can get LOST in it. But sometimes I needed him to just let me cry and have my back when I couldn’t stand on my own. Looking back I’m glad I had him to bring reality back to the surface because even though it made me want to physically fight him in the moment I can see that he walked with me though it and that my friends is dedication.
I wish I had this happy ending where its completely gone but I’ve come to the conclusion that all of this may never go away. Thankfully, I can rejoice in the fact that I can see light. It has gotten easier. I feel better now than I have in the past two and a half years and I am so SO thankful to Jesus for that. I have prayed more and talked more with God these past two years than I have in my whole life. I have reached for Him over and over when usually my pride would stop me. I can boldly say that I’ve treaded these dark waters for a reason. It’s just reasons I have yet to learn but one that I know will not be in vain.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Ps 18:16-19
Photo Credit: Erin Drago Photography