I have been intending to get back to this story for quite some time, sharing all my tips and tricks for how I recovered from anxiety and panic. But God had another plan. Instead, I have been drowning in plain sight.
It is not uncommon for me to have short seasons of mild anxiety. In my case, the tendency toward anxiety and panic attacks appears to be hereditary. The majority of my siblings (maybe all of us?) deal with it in some shape or form. It is not uncommon for us to pause for a moment during family get-togethers, look around to see who is within hearing distance, and whisper, “How are you doing?”
Most often, we gently smile at each other and respond, “I’m ok,” weary eyes indicating that, yes, anxiety still torments, but we’re dealing with it.
Next comes, “Need anything?”
“Nope. Hanging in there.”
Yep. That’s what anxiety does. It lurks, bothers, teases. Robs us of peace. Steals our joy. Wears us out. Lately, I have felt like a raw, unfiltered version of myself. I need to buy a shirt that says, “I am not responsible for what I said when I was anxious.”
When I began sharing my initial journey with anxiety and panic with you guys here on the blog several weeks ago, I didn’t realize that I was on the verge of the worst season of anxiety that I’ve had in 8 years. After 5 weeks of all-day anxiety and nightly panic attacks, last week I had to admit to myself, my husband, and God, that I’m “sick” again. I have spent more middle of the night hours crying out to God because of anxiety and panic attacks recently than I care to admit. Therein lies the first truth that I wanted to share with you: You didn’t cause your anxiety.
In my opinion, the development of anxiety and panic attacks is sort of like a car accident.
You didn’t cause your anxiety.
A car accident occurs when several bad conditions occur at exactly the wrong time, coming together to cause an accident. For example, the distracted driver in front of you looks up from his radio and realizes that the light ahead is red. He immediately slams on his brakes. You react quickly, braking hard as well, and are easily able to avoid rear-ending him.
What if this same scenario occurred with a few small details changed? The distracted driver in front of you looks up from his radio and realizes that the light ahead is red. He immediately slams on his brakes. At the same moment as you see the driver in front of you slam on their brakes, your cell phone rings. You react quickly, braking hard as well. Because of the wet roadways, your vehicle skids. Due to your slower response time (your cell phone rang!), there wasn’t enough space between you and the car in front of you, so you plow into the back of them, causing major damage. That’s what it is like with anxiety. Several factors come into play to cause the actual issue.
The second truth I want you to understand is this: Healing doesn’t necessarily mean you will be anxiety and panic attack free.
Healing doesn’t necessarily mean you will be anxiety and panic attack free.
For some of us, anxiety and panic attacks are going to be part of life. We can learn how to live life in a way that reduces the number of episodes of anxiety and panic that we experience and the severity of the attacks, but healing doesn’t always mean that they will go away completely. Currently, I am on the mend, healing from my last anxious season. That night I finally admitted that I had a problem signaled the beginning of my healing this time around. I’m happy to say that now, a week later, I haven’t had a panic attack in several days!
The third truth that I want to share with you is: You can’t fix your anxiety.
You can’t fix your anxiety.
I know, that’s not what you wanted to hear. But, I promised to always be truthful with you guys. What you can do is create a situation that gives your body and mind the best possible chance of getting better. For me, during my initial mental breakdown 13 years ago, that meant therapy, making an effort to take better care of myself physically, and immersing myself in a daily bible study.
Before I get into the details of what I do, I want to make sure you understand that I am not a medical professional. The information contained on this website and in this blog post has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to be considered medical, psychological, or spiritual advice. Nothing on this website or in these blog articles is intended to replace advice from a qualified medical professional.
Whew! Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss therapy first. I did not walk. I did not pass go. I RAN to a therapist. I started that morning by calling every single female therapist in town until I found one that could see me THAT DAY. I was scared, not of the anxiety and panic, but of the crazy thought that my Savior, my Rock, my Inspiration, Jesus, wasn’t real.
My first therapist’s name was Amy. God bless you, Amy! Amy talked me through what was happening to me, explained what anxiety and panic attacks were, and helped me to understand that I wasn’t truly broken and most likely didn’t have a horrible fatal illness. I continued seeing Amy for a couple of weeks, but, because I couldn’t shake the feeling that my healing would include a spiritual aspect, I switched to a Christian therapist. Over a period of 2 years, I ended up seeing 3 different therapists. Each of them had strengths and weaknesses, and it took trying 3 before I settled on one that I liked. Weekly visits with my therapist kept me focused on my goals and eventually, I graduated!
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you had cancer, you would FIND A WAY to get to the doctor. Don’t give up on seeing a therapist because your budget is tight and insurance won’t cover it. Call your local churches, the American Red Cross, and any other non-profit you can think of. There are often special programs for those that can’t afford therapy. When all else fails, tighten your belt a few notches and eat more beans, rice, and scrambled eggs (I’m not even kidding a little here) so that you can afford to see a therapist at least once a month.
One area that I was immediately able to address was my physical health. Although I couldn’t do a whole lot about the sleep that I was missing because I had a new baby, I could eat better, catch more cat naps during the day, and add in nutritional supplements to enhance my body’s ability to deal with the side effects of stress. Instead of eating the sandwiches or chicken nuggets the kids were eating for lunch, I ate more fresh fruits and steamed veggies. I cut back on caffeine and sugar. I realized that if I brought my toddlers into my bedroom and closed the door while the baby napped, I could doze while they watched tv. I made myself drink more water.
A second aspect of improving your body’s ability to deal with stress is nutritional supplements. (There are affiliate links in this post, meaning that I will receive a commission if you purchase the products using the links I provide). I have taken good quality prenatal vitamin for years. Intermittently, I have also taken omega 3 supplements and a probiotic, although I am trying to be more consistent about that now. I currently take Plexus XFactor, MegaX, and ProBio5. I am super-duper happy with how I feel after 8 months on them, plus I am getting the same results taking just these 3 as I was with the supplements I took during my last pregnancy: New Chapter Organic Prenatal Vitamins (easily the best multivitamin that I had ever taken, until I tried Plexus XFactor), Jarrow Methylfolate, Jarrow B-Right, Natures Sunshine Chlorophyll, Island’s Miracle Proboitic, and Young Living NingXia Red. And my current 3 supplements are altogether much less expensive! (I do want to point out that I love each of these products individually and don’t have any complaints, other than, overall, they cost more than the Plexus products I currently take.)
Last, bible study. I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember. I was baptized when I was 11 years old. Not only have I almost always attended church, but I have also almost always volunteered to serve in some capacity. I love my Savior with every fiber of my being. I honestly believe that my choice to work on a short, light, bible study every night for 10 minutes before I went to bed had a tremendous impact on my healing. My Lord is my Comforter. I started with these short little studies by Elizabeth George.
They are short and very inexpensive. I love them all. My favorites were the studies about Mary and the book of Judges. If you order one today from Amazon (using my affiliate link, of course!), you can have one in your hot little hands in 2 days! The reality of life is that we should always be studying God’s word.
So, where am I now? I have been panic attack free for several days and the anxiety is minimal. This time around, I could easily pinpoint what I believe was the trigger: I had just had the flu and hadn’t been eating well, plus our income is down, plus the baby isn’t sleeping well. Stress plus overly tired momma = a tendency towards anxiety attacks for me. Currently, I am reading the bible through cover to cover (jotting down scriptures that speak to me in a spiral notebook) and working on The Armor of God (Priscila Shirer) with a friend. I have added a couple of other books, too! When Panic Attacks has been on my To-Read list for a long time and I love Dave Ramsey recommended Thou Shall Prosper (amazingly insightful if you are an entrepreneur).
Several years ago a friend introduced me to essential oils. I seriously LOVE them! There are several diffusers in my home. I have used essential oils almost nightly (both in diffusers and topically) this last 6 weeks. Valor and lavender are my favorites when I am stressed and restless, but I also use cedarwood, Rutavala, a “chill out” blend that I found the recipe to online, Joy, Peace and Calming, Stress Away, Present Time, Surrender, and Vetiver. All of these sit on the cabinet beside my favorite chair in my bedroom.
I am vigilantly keeping watch over myself, making sure I am eating the right things and studying God’s word daily. David and I just “happened” to have a marriage conference to attend this past weekend (don’t you love how God works?!). I am cutting back on good activities and keeping only the best activities on our calendar. I am making sure that I keep family first, watching for those joyful moments that fill us up and inspire us to keep on keeping on. If you are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, don’t despair. There is recovery, hope, and healing for all of us! How do you deal with anxiety or panic attacks?