It’s official. The flu has kicked my butt. I cannot breathe out of my nose. At. All. Fortunately for you, the oxygen deprivation hasn’t affected my ability to write. Due to lack of sleep, my filters are off, so what better time to candidly discuss a topic close to my heart: ANXIETY and PANIC.
I had my first episode of unhealthy anxiety 13 years ago. I remember sitting on my kitchen floor, leaning back against the cabinets, cradling my 6 months pregnant belly in my arms. I had no idea what was happening to me. I felt crazy. Sick. Hot. Cold. Prickly. Clammy. Slightly dizzy. Like I was going to vomit. Or have diarrhea. Or both. I had the irrational desire to RUN. Run from whatever it was that was chasing me. Except there wasn’t anything tangible pursuing me? I felt ridiculous. And scared. What was happening to me? I had never felt this way before. At least, not that I could remember at the time.
Since I was a kid, I have always been afraid of something “getting me”. I had nightmares along these lines throughout my childhood. Until I was in high school, I spent most nights sleeping in my parent’s bedroom, either between them or curled in a ball on the floor. I experienced a brief reprieve from the nightly torment when I was 15. My family moved to a new house in the country. I tried telling myself that the demons weren’t there, that because no one knew me in this new place, logically nothing and no one could “get me”. My mind game worked for a little while. Unfortunately, the night terrors resumed tormenting me a few months later. I spent the next 3 years waking my younger sister up in the middle of the night (sorry, Julia!) and asking her to come sleep into my room.
My mom and I talked through the situation years later. We came to the conclusion that the “someone or something is going to get me” feeling most likely stemmed from my experience with having meningitis as a 3-month-old infant. During my 90 day stint in the hospital, Mom recollected how I was poked and prodded and often had to be tied down to prevent me from pulling my life-saving IV’s out. I can only imagine what must have been going through my terrified little mind.
Three decades later, there I was, sitting on my cold kitchen floor, waiting for the crazy feelings to pass. Over the next several months, new “symptoms” began appearing. My finger tips began tingling. A few weeks later, my toes did, too. If I woke up during the night (and who doesn’t during the last trimester of pregnancy?), I would have an immediate hot flash combined with that dizzy feeling you get when you stand up too quickly. Irritable bowel syndrome and it’s porcelain throne became my nightly companions. I wrote off all of these symptoms as being pregnancy related.
The problem was, they didn’t go away after I gave birth three months later. In spite of feeling nutsy-cukoo all the time (to get the full effect of what I am writing, it’s super important that you move your index finger in a circular motion beside your ear and hear the sound of a cukoo clock every time you read the words “nutsy cukoo”), I held it together as best I could. As I walked endless circles with my fussy baby, I had plenty of time to ponder my various symptoms. I held my baby close, desperately hoping that I didn’t have some kind of disease.
Nine months after the symptoms began, they took a frightening turn. Often, I would see movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned to look directly at it, nothing was there. I started hearing things, too. Hearing movement on the other side of the room, I would look up to see what my toddlers were doing, but no one was there. The situation came to a head one night when I woke up with a horrible dizzy spell, feeling like my head was going to explode if it didn’t stop spinning. Having fallen asleep while rocking the baby, I dumped her onto the bed and ran to the bathroom and threw up, the sound of my startled, crying baby in the background. I had to admit then that something was wrong.
And that’s where I’m leaving the story off for now. Thursday, I’ll be sharing my spin on biblical womanhood (can’t give it away yet! I am teaching the lesson to a mom’s group at a local church first). I’ll be back here next Monday with the more of the story about my experiences with anxiety and depression and how I dealt with it. Love to you all!