A few months ago, I went through some shit. That’s the best way I can describe it, concisely. Sorry to those who have sensitive sensibilities, but this is my blog, and I can use profanity when and where I see fit. And this is such a time.
I don’t say this lightly. I honestly thought and felt for awhile that I might die. I have struggled with anxiety and depression probably my whole life, as far back as I can remember but was never diagnosed with any problem until I finally broke my silence about it back in December 2014. I told my doctor, my primary care physician, that I had just gone through a break up and I felt like it was my fault because of my anxiety issues. She gave me an assessment and then suggested I go to counseling and go on a low dose of Prozac, to see if that might help. I did go on the Prozac but told her I could not afford the counseling and did not look into it further. I honestly wish I had tried harder back then to get more help, but I did not know how deep the rabbit hole went, until things started to get progressively worse.
I started experiencing panic attacks in February 2016. I went off the Prozac six months later because I was convinced these attacks had been brought on by the drug. To this day, I don’t know if that is true, because even after I went off of it, I continued to experience attacks and they grew more and more frequent and intense, until May 2017 I was in an almost constant state of anxiety over one thing or another. By this time, my doctor had practically begged me to try another anti-anxiety med – this time she was pushing Zoloft, but I was afraid to try anything else, fearing my problems would only get worse, not better. Well, they did get worse – without the drugs.
I stopped being able to sleep. For four days straight, I could not sleep, at all. I’m not even joking, not even slightly. It was terrifying. I could not function. I could not even make a meal for my daughter. I began crying and could not stop. I called my mom. She came to get Emma and myself and that night at my parents house, I took some Nyquil and finally slept for the first time in four days. But the next night, nope. No sleep again. And the next night, and then I could not go back to work. I did not feel safe to drive. I did not feel like I could handle my classroom. I called out, then again, and again. Finally, they told me I would need a doctor’s note to return. And I did end up seeing my doctor, that Tuesday I went and she prescribed – you guessed it – the Zoloft.
This med instantly calmed me, and I did fall asleep that first night I used it – for a couple hours. Then I woke up, calm, but still could not sleep. And to boot, I had a burning sensation all over my body. My skin felt like it was burning from the worst sunburn you could imagine, only it looked fine. There was no rash or redness, just the sensation. It got worse the next day. I vowed I would not take the pill again. And I didn’t. But by now it was the weekend (because for the first two days after I was prescribed the Zoloft I did not want to take it, but finally succumbed on Thursday night out of desperation) and I could not see my doctor. I had a panic attack, after not sleeping Friday night at all, and ended up calling 911. The paramedics came and took my vitals, they said I was fine. I explained my situation and they had me call my mom. She took me to the ER so I would not incur an 800$ ambulance bill. I got some ambien from the ER doctor. I slept some, but not all that great.
When I went back to my doctor’s that next week, she gave me Lexapro and Trazodone. The Lexapro was for anxiety, and the trazodone was for sleep. That combo helped almost immediately but then my body had to go through some adjustments. The meds made me dizzy and out of it for the first several weeks I was on them. I also started therapy with a Christian counselor. That has honestly made all the difference in the world. Meds can help to a certain extent, but they cannot do the whole job.
Now, it is August, and I have started my new job at a new school. I am much happier than I was before, but the road has been a long one. When I would lie awake at night, trembling all over uncontrollably and not able to relax, I would beg God to let me sleep and help me, but I could not. Knowing that God can answer prayer (hello, Emma) but knowing that answers aren’t always in the timing that we would like (also, Emma) I knew that there was a lesson to be learned through this, and that God wanted to do something, I just did not know what it was at the time. Now, I feel like I am finally beginning to understand.
People who do not struggle with an anxiety disorder really have no idea how bad it is or what it is like. They can’t. It’s something you have to experience yourself to know how truly horrible it is. There really are no words to adequately describe it. You must go through it. So after I began to feel a little better, I began to see how I could potentially help other people who struggle with this, because I have been through it and understand what it is like. Being able to understand something and empathize with another human being on the level of their pain is a gift, and that is what I regard this experience as now. A gift. I know that sounds a bit odd – but God can turn awful situations into beautiful ones. I have only to look at my daughter to be reminded of that. Isaiah 61:3 says “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.”
The scripture I have personally been led to, time and time again throughout this mess, has been Isaiah 26:3 which says “You will keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.” Trusting God and keeping my mind fixed on Him have been my goals for the past couple months now, and it is not an easy task. I have to continually surrender my desire for control and even my desire to live. I have to continually ask God to help me to trust him, to teach me to trust him. Because my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. In other words, it does not come naturally for us to to do this. We want to be in control of everything, and that is just not possible.
One thing I realized early on was that I have a fear of dying, not just because everyone does, but because I am afraid of what will happen to Emma once I am gone. I had to give that to God and trust that He will take care of her and provide for her. She is in His hands now, but I have to continually choose to place her there.
While Emma spent the first three months of her life in the NICU, I had to trust God that He would sustain her life and allow her to live and let her come home with me. That was tough, but because it involved her, and not so much myself, I was better able to cope and give it to God. When I started to fear for myself is when it got tougher, but the same principles I learned almost ten years ago still apply today. Take each day as it comes and give it to God, minute by minute if you have to. And the same God who never left my side during that crisis has never left me through this one either.
“Through the valley of the shadow…I will not fear.
I am not alone, I am not alone, You will go before me, You will never leave me.”
(Kari Jobe sings that song. Music has been a great comfort to me during this time, as it always is, and has been a way for God to communicate to me when I did not feel Him as near to me as I would like. KLove is always on in my car, and has been for awhile now. It’s my lifeline.)