Coming Home: My Battle with Anxiety

 I have lived in the small town of Atascadero (about 15 minutes north of San Luis Obispo, CA) since I was one. When I turned five we moved into the house that my parents still live in today (and hopefully always will!).  I never imagined my home being anywhere else but there. In fact, when I was young I would tell my parents that I wanted to be their next door neighbors…okay, maybe I still feel this way… They really are the coolest parents ever and make some darn good food that they are always willing to share. 

I always loved the phrase, “Home is wherever we are.” I even have a sign that says that hanging in my kitchen. When my husband Logan and I got married he became my home; although, my brain was a little lost because home with my parents was the only home I ever knew. I slowly began to wrap my head around the fact that my parents will always be my home but now I get to have another home: a home with Logan. 

When Logan and I got married we spent our first three months in Pleasanton, CA for his summer internship. It was the perfect little getaway from our hometown to kick off our marriage. I finally got to make my home with Logan and I couldn’t have been more excited. While we were there we made new friends, got connected with a great church, and fell even more in love with each other! I also can’t forget to mention that I got to spend my first three months of marriage as a stay-at-home wife! Yes, it was pretty darn awesome. Pleasanton was quickly becoming our new home. As summer was coming to an end, we had to get ready to head back down to our hometown. Logan had to finish his last year at Cal Poly and I would go back to work as a nanny. Pleasanton was and always will be the place where Logan and I began–a place we can call home.

When September came, we packed up all of our things and headed back to Atascadero. Our second week back “home” we left for our honeymoon in Hawaii. We had decided to go on it once Logan’s internship was over so that he wouldn’t miss out on the internship experience. We landed in Hawaii full of joy and excitement, only to be hit with the reality that honeymoons aren’t always rainbows and sunshine. (We got plenty of rainbows, just no sunshine.)

Every single day we were there it rained…and rained…and rained… Our snorkel trip was canceled and our luau was rescheduled three times! Not to mention I had caught some nasty virus before we left so I was left congested and feeling sick for the first few days. Although we had some setbacks in our plans, we were determined to have fun, even if that meant just relaxing in the room watching movies all evening while the rain continued to fall. 

Finally we were able to go to our luau… We got all dressed up and waited in line for what seemed like an hour just so we could get in and find our seats. Since the luau had been cancelled so many nights in a row, they decided to make it up to everyone on the same night…at the same time… It’s safe to say it was a packed house! While we were enjoying the show I began to get this weird feeling throughout my body. I couldn’t explain what exactly it was. I wasn’t really sure what it was at the time. I began to feel sick to stomach and had to ask Logan if we could leave the long-awaited luau early. I just wanted to be back in our hotel room where I would feel safe and better. 

Back at the hotel room, things only began to get worse for me. My body was shaking uncontrollably, my head felt like there were little bugs crawling around inside, and my stomach was in complete nervous stomach mode… Logan sat there holding me close, helpless and unsure. Suddenly it occurred to me. I have felt this way before, never to this extent, but I remember these familiar emotions and symptoms. I asked Logan to search Google for symptoms of a panic attack. Yes symptoms! I had no idea what was going on with my body but remembered it could be anxiety and if it was then I would be okay. I couldn’t take it anymore so out of desperation, I did what any newly married woman would do… I had to call my mom.

My mom is awesome and on top of that, she is a nurse. BUT…there was one problem. It was 2AM in California and there is no way she would be awake. I gave it a try anyway… No answer. (But since she is awesome she ended up waking up later that night and texted me to make sure I was okay.)

We established it was a just a panic attack and then we needed to figure out a way to calm me down. I thought about what my mom might tell me to do and we decided that turning on a funny TV show should help distract me from the anxiety I was experiencing. 

THANK GOD FOR “THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIRE”

I finally was able to stop shaking and calm down enough to fall asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling less panicky but still had the uneasy stomach. We had two days left and I knew I could get through it and make it back home where I would feel fine again. 

I made it the rest of the trip without any more panic attacks. I still had plenty of anxious feelings and thoughts but I was able to keep the panic down enough to get through the trip. (Isn’t it crazy that I had to “get through” my Hawaii vacation?) When we landed in San Jose, we stoppbed by In-N-Out Burger and began the drive home to Atascadero. As I drove closer and closer towards our home, the anxiety did NOT lift off my shoulders. I continued to feel the impending doom all around and through me.

Our second day back in Atascadero my parents went out of town and asked us to stay at their house to watch the dog while they were gone. I was excited to get to stay at my old house in my old room. Surely the anxiety would go away there–I’ve lived in that room since I was 5 years old!

About three hours into the evening I began to have another full-on panic attack. My mom was on the phone with me for about an hour talking and keeping me calm. 

Weeks passed. The anxiety wasn’t going away. 

A month goes by and I hit rock bottom. 

It was the end of October when I was asked to do an overnight babysitting job about an hour away from Atascadero. It was a family I watched pretty regularly and lately, work was the only thing keeping my mind off the anxiety, so I happily agreed to do it. As the night went on, it was clear I was not ready to handle it. I began to feel awfully sick to the point of actually getting sick. I had to call Logan to pick me up and ask one of the other family members on the trip to take over for me. Embarrassment and shame covered me, on top of the anxiety. 

I was in the doctor’s office the next day. I demanded she allow me to go off my birth control pills immediately and clear my system of all artificial hormones. She allowed me to do that but also prescribed me Xanax. I felt like I was losing control of my life. 

I remember praying and praying, asking God to take this from me: “I can’t do this anymore, please just take this!” 

Another month passes and my anxiety slowly begins to get better. My prayers begin to change. 

“God, help me be a woman of courage and bravery today. Teach me to walk by your strength and not my own.”

I began to understand that God wasn’t punishing me or causing it to happen, but He was allowing it so that I would run to Him. I began to understand my need for Him so much more. 

When January 1st came, I was determined to not allow anymore panic attacks and to divert my thinking whenever I felt anxiety come on. I am excited to say I have not had any panic attacks since December 2016! I still have struggled on and off with anxiety but through March and April I’ve taken HUGE strides towards healing. I finally feel like myself again. I feel able to do what God calls me to do and live more intentionally, less out of fear

Having anxiety after coming home to Atascadero was the last thing I ever would have thought to happen to me. But I can now say I understand why. God has taught me so much from this experience and I share about it quite often in hopes that other people struggling with this can know there is hope. There is healing. It wasn’t through Xanax because I never needed to use my medication. It wasn’t through any sort of vitamin supplement. It was through God and God alone. 

Home has become much more than a place for me. Home is where I am loved and accepted. That can be a number of different places: with my husband, with my parents, and with our friends. Home is much more than a place. No amount of anxiety or panic will change that. 

This first year of marriage has had some really amazing times, but it also has come with its struggles. Logan and I have had to learn to fight against the anxiety in my life and rely completely on our Savior. No matter how much I wanted Logan, my mom, and the doctor to “fix” me, God was waiting for me to come to Him in my brokenness.

The struggles get better. It may take way longer than you want, but God knows exactly what He is doing. During my time with anxiety, God taught me a couple of things: 

  1. God was not making this happen to me. He did not look down on me and say “You’re life is too good. Take some anxiety to shake things up.”
  2. God was allowing this to happen. I spent a lot of time begging God to take this from me. Why is He allowing me to suffer like this? But He kept saying “Just wait.” 
  3. I am in desperate need of our Father in Heaven. My relationship with Christ has grown enormously during this time. I spent so much of my time talking with God and asking Him to reveal His plan to me. 
  4. My prayers were not being answered for a reason. I prayed and prayed for God to take the anxiety from me. But eventually I began to pray for God to make me a woman of strength and courage, to teach me to walk by His strength and His strength alone. 
  5. Healing takes time. Today, I do not feel overwhelmed with anxiety. I still haven’t quite made it through a day not thinking about it and allowing some nervousness in, but God has given me the strength to conquer and fight it. And some days the fighting is hard, but I have a God who will always fight for me. 
  6. Home is so much more than a place. It is about the people who surround you and show you love. 

The strength I have comes from God. I was offered medication, supplements, and therapy, but I am so filled with joy knowing that I found my strength in God. 

And for that, I am thankful. 

 

Coming Home

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