The symptoms continued to develop from there. My thoughts were my worst enemy. I became convinced that having that 4th child had ruined my life, that I had one child too many, that I couldn’t handle it. In spite of loving my little one, I often wondered if I was strong enough, could I give her up for adoption? Would that fix life? The panic attacks were relentless, hitting me once, sometimes multiple times each night, soon happening during the day as well. I was caught in a terrible spiral of exhausted thinking. Each day, I faithfully put one foot in front of the other and held my little ones close. In spite of my brokenness, I did my best to outwardly follow the steps for what I thought being a good wife, parent, and friend were. I knew I needed help. I knew something was wrong with me. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out who to turn to.
Tentatively, I tried to confide in friends and family members close to me. As my story trickled out, heads would start unintentionally shaking back and forth and lips would get thinner, disapproval written all over their faces. Instead of hearing my actual words, they heard, “What you warned me about is coming true. Nursing a baby is exhausting. Having so many kids is exhausting. No one can have kids this close together and be happy. No one can work this hard and survive. I needed to have marriage, life and finances in order before I had these kids.” My cries for help fell on loving, well-intentioned, but clogged ears. My heart cried out, “I am exhausted. Every little thing my husband does is getting on my nerves and I don’t know how to stop feeling this way. After taking care of the kids all day, I am resentful of him and his needs. The kids are wonderful, but I am so tired. If one more person touches me, I feel like I am going to explode! Will you come hang out with me and the kids? Hold the baby? Enjoy her with me? Play with the toddlers? Giggle at their funny antics with me? Visit with my big kid? Smile at his wildly creative stories and adventures with me? Will you spend time with me and help me figure out how to do life better? How do you do it? Is this all going to turn out ok? Am I going to be ok? Help me, please. I am hurting and I don’t know how to fix what’s breaking me.”
After putting my 6-month-old baby in her bed one night, I walked into the living room to tell my husband good night. He paused channel flipping, landing on a PBS program about searching for the tomb of Jesus. I stood behind the couch and watched for a few moments and thought, “Who is Jesus anyway? He’s not even real.”
Words can’t explain how shocked I was at my own thoughts. I had loved the Lord since I was 9 years old. I had always talked to Him, included Him in my days, thanked Him for the blessings in my life. Where was this thought coming from? Jesus had been with me when I got pregnant and became a single mom at 20 years old. Five years later, Jesus had answered my prayers when I confessed that I was ready for a husband, bringing David into my life. Jesus had been there for me when my next child was unexpectedly born with a heart defect and died a couple of days after birth. Jesus had heard my prayers and given me my precious rainbow baby 3 months after Preston died. My desperate prayers to Jesus were the only hope that my terrified heart had hung on to!
In that moment, my world stood still. I had a choice to make. I decided not to continue listening to the crazy voice in my head that told me I was weak, that I couldn’t handle life. I decided that first thing in the morning, I WOULD find someone to talk to. I didn’t care how much it cost. I didn’t want to lose all that I held dear: my husband, my children, my Savior. I prayed that there was a way to save my sanity. Jesus was not negotiable. This “illness” would not take Him from me. I prayed, asking Him to show me which direction to go. I actually slept that night, waking only to feed my hungry little one.
Twenty-four hours later, my husband waited in the suburban with the kids while I visited with the therapist. Her name was Amy. She was wonderful. She didn’t flinch when I told her that I had 4 kids, 3 of them under 4 years old. She didn’t shake her head when I told her how I had recently taken my 10-year-old out of school to homeschool him because the school suspected ADHD and I refused to medicate him as the school requested. She didn’t even seem shocked when I told her that my marriage was struggling. Amy heard me out, was gentle and encouraging, gave me some things to think about, and sent me home with a label for my illness, explaining that really, I wasn’t broken. I certainly had some work to do. I was going to be OK.
I saw my family doctor the next day and left his office armed with a prescription for an antidepressant. For the first time in a long time, I felt like life was looking a little less bleak. I felt hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, I would start to feel better soon.
Next week, I will share Part 3 of the story of my battle with panic and anxiety. I am super-excited to tell you how I regained control of my life. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. If you’ve experienced panic, anxiety, or depression, please let me know. I’d love to pray for you this week.