My Struggle With Panic Attacks
The panic attacks started towards the end of high school. I was your typical over achiever with a lot of things on my plate between being involved in plays, clubs, AP classes, choir, not to mention issues at home, and I wasn't a talker. I was a stuffer. All my emotions, worries, feelings, stresses, I kept to myself. I had lots of friends, and several best friends, but because of my home life and my other stressors... I didn't feel people wanted to hear about those things. I preferred to keep my problems a secret.
It was a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and the bottom of my throat. All of the sudden I wouldn't be able to breathe. I would get anxious, and I would just want to scream or cry and at one point just fall to my knees. I would work myself to exhaustion. I would go go go and not take time to just sit and rest and think about things. I have always preferred to keep a high paced life. I'm not one to sleep in, or sip my coffee, or mope about the house. The minute I'm up, the race begins.
The worries, and stresses of life didn't go away. It got so bad during my senior year that I finally sought help with a guidance counselor. She sat me down and very calmly but matter of factly stated, "Kristi, you just had a panic attack." I remember her reaching into her small fridge in her office and grabbing me a mini water. As I sat there and drank it down, it was the first time I felt relief. I was ready to stop running. I was ready to start opening up and talking about the things at home that were bothering me. And I was thankful that this woman had a name for what I was feeling.
I sat there and we talked. I explained some issues I was facing at home, and she listened. I told her how alone and overwhelmed I felt. I told her I was often angry and anxious and didn't know why. She recommend some support groups... I never took her up on that offer. But later in college I did see a counselor often to talk. It helped a lot.
My panic attacks stopped after that. I thought they were gone for good. And actually I even forgot about them and my struggle with them...until I became a mom. And once I had Amelia...our fourth...they started coming much more frequently. Between the crazy move, and the fourth kid, and homeschooling, managing a home, cooking meals, cleaning, being involved at church...I just really lost it. There were times I pictured myself not being here anymore. I really struggled with doing it all and being everything to everyone. I lost who I was, what my purpose was, and I felt everything starting to slip out of my hands...and I was sinking, down, down, down in quick sand, and no one, not even John could help me. I was here all alone with these 4 children. And I just couldn't keep up.
And then as if matters couldn't get any worse, a panic attack would hit me head on. It would happen before guests would arrive, or after dinner time when trying to bathe 4 kids, and pick up the house, and keep the peace seemed like the most daunting task ever. I. Can't. Do. This. I would text John that line frequently. The attacks got really bad during January, February, and March. We all got the flu, one by one, and while I'm bringing kids to the doctors for ear infections, and nursing a newborn, and feeling sick myself, I just wondered what more I could take.
Anxiety is one of the worst feelings because how do you explain to a friend that you feel like you're falling apart or you would rather not be here when you should be happy? I mean what do I have to complain about? I have an awesome husband, a big house, 4 beautiful and healthy kids, come on lady, suck it up and get with the program, right? Who am I to complain? I'm tough! I'm super woman! No. I'm not. I'm just a human trying to make it. So I didn't tell anyone. This is the first time I'm even writing about it. Yes, I say it's hard having four kids all the time, but I often don't say just how hard it really is.
So, how did I get to grips with these attacks? Well, first I realized they were hormonal. They usually happened right around my cycle. And that was very eye opening for me although I should've known that it would be that simple. I also needed to tell someone I was struggling with them, so back in February/March I opened up to my prayer warrior friend Debi. I was praying for her and her cancer journey and I felt close enough to share with her what I was going through. I have to say it was very humbling and made me feel very vulnerable to tell her I was struggling with feeling so out of sorts. She even mentioned she was surprised because I make having four kids look so easy, but we all know that appearances are not always what they seem.
Knowing that Debi, and two other special prayer warriors in our group were praying for me really did encourage me that I wasn't alone. It also forced me to talk about it more with John and to pray about it on my own.
I wish I could say I haven't had an attack for several months. But the truth is I still occasionally get them. I think as a perfectionist (my pride always gets the best of me) it will always be a struggle of mine. I want things to go a certain way and look a certain way, and life with 6 of us under a roof isn't meant to be quiet, calm, or perfect. Life is messy. Life is chaotic. And life is noisy. (My three pet pieves.
A verse that I always cling to is Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I will always cling to God. In the good moments I cling to Him because He has blessed me, and in the scary moments I can cling to Him when I am afraid. He is such a good God because He is always there. I am not ever alone. During the winter months especially I started to get depressed being indoors. I just wanted to get out of the house! It was so cold! It kept snowing! I was getting so impatient. But God was right there with me, encouraging me along the way. I had to learn too, that I can't rely on people. I need to put Him first and go to Him first. God is my strength. He helps me and upholds me when I can't do it and when I can do it, it is because He is helping me! I don't have to be super woman because I serve an extraordinary-super God.
Breaking the silence and talking about my panic attacks isn't easy. I had to admit that I don't have it all together. I do struggle day to day. I have good days and bad days. But it sure feels good to talk about it finally and to share. I know I am not alone. So many of us suffer in silence instead of sharing our stories. And our stories are so powerful because God has made us in His image and we all have a purpose. If I have learned anything from my home life it is that it is never good to suffer in silence. We are meant to connect with people and cling to our creator!
This post was inspired by my friend Christa Cordova. She encouraged a group of us to blog about each of our unique stories of how God works through our struggles and redeems our circumstances. #notfinefriday