When I was about 9 years old I remember standing in the living room of our house. My parents were out on a date, the babysitter was in the other room and I was watching from behind the couch, out the big window for them to come home. I had tried to call them, but they weren’t answering and I remember feeling panicked. My mind instantly went from normal nine year old, to imagining them in a car crash and then continually calling them until they answered.
That was the first time, that I can remember, feeling totally out of control. The first time, I experienced complete anxiety.
Life went on, I struggled with thoughts like this off and on, but nothing unmanageable. After graduating high school, it got a little worse and I ended up going on medication for about a year and then eventually weaned myself off and continued through life, with those same moments of panic, but the ability to move past them.
Shortly after I got married, My husband and I started a long infertility journey. I remember it was summertime, I had woken up in the middle of the night and was just crying. I had the yuckiest feeling, one that I had felt more times than not and it’s almost hard to describe. My heart was racing super fast, my palms were sweaty, I physically felt sick, like I was going to break into a million pieces or throw up and I couldn’t get my mind under control. Before I knew it I was hyperventilating, Marcus was rubbing my back and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t catch my breath, I couldn’t calm down.
That was my first panic attack.
Little did I know, that would be one of many.
Shortly after continuous anxiety for days, I started researching, figuring out ways to help and figured out that exercising was a big game changer. I made the connection that my anxiety was at its worst when I was dealing with things that were out of my control (infertility) and when I hit our apartment gym everyday, the feeling seemed to be less and less. It’s like I was literally running it away.
Again, I handled it. I had rough days, but it was manageable for the most part.
Then flash forward a few years, we finally got pregnant and we had a beautiful baby girl. It was getting bad again before having her with the stresses of everyday things, jobs, finances, you know, life. But in that moment when I physically held her in my arms, something changed.
I was so happy, but so worried, all in the same moments.
The next few months were hard and honestly, post partum depression kind of took over. My emotions were everywhere, I struggled and it was a lot of adjustments, a lot of different medications and I still remember it just being a whirlwind, almost like I was in a fog.
Then the moment that changed everything happened. Blake had what they called an “ALTE”, apparent life threatening event. You can read about it, here. But to sum it up, she stopped breathing while we were driving. It was the scariest moment of my entire life. In fact I’ve been through some crappy things and none of it compares to that moment. From then on, my anxiety would get worse and worse, every single day.
It turned into weekly panic attacks, struggles to get out of bed, let alone function and with anxiety came depression. Before I knew it, my constant fear of driving and checking if she was breathing, turned into literally picturing us getting into a car crash and the most terrible things happening. I could literally picture it all. I couldn’t stop the thoughts, I couldn’t control it and before I knew it I was making myself so sick or in some cases, putting myself into a panic attack. I would convince myself that the worst possible thing (wherever I was, whatever I was doing) would happen, was happening.
I would travel and my mind would instantly go to catastrophic. We would go to a movie, same thing. Blake would be sleeping and I would make myself sick. Literally, every situation, everything, my anxiety took over.
Like a sick, twisted disease, it was consuming me. I could barely function. Not to mention I was burning the candle at both ends between Motherhood, Work, wifely duties, church, whatever. Then you added anxiety in the middle of every part of that and I was exhausted, I was sick all the time, I couldn’t breath most nights, I felt like my world was crumbling around me.
When finally, I woke up one morning and I said, enough. I CAN’T live like this. I just can’t do it. I’m literally killing myself. Not to mention, I do NOT want my daughter to see me like this, so I made a plan. A plan to figure out how to conquer this, how to get through it and how to deal and get through each day, calm, collected and happy.
Which is exactly what I’m in the middle of now, working towards just that. And so at the risk of making this blog post WAY too long, I’m going to split these up into a few posts. Next week I’ll share what I’m doing, some steps I’m taking and what is and isn’t working and just continue on sharing because honestly, I know what this feels like and I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone. I know it sounds cliche, but I mean it — we should be rallying up together and I want every, single, person struggling with anxiety (extreme or not) to know that one, you’re not alone and Two, it’s going to be okay and you can do hard things.