The Secret Life of a Girl With Anxiety
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*Disclaimer* I have been trying to write this post for months, but have had a hard time finding the right words. Please keep in mind that this was very hard for me to write, but I hope that in sharing this with you, that someone somewhere will find help and encouragement through my story.
Have you ever been so intensely afraid of something that your heart is pounding and you feel like you can hardly breathe? I have and I’m sure at some point in your life you have been too. It’s common for people to have fears especially as children, but as you grow up you learn to face your fears and you start to realize that the things you feared aren’t really as scary as they seemed before.
From my earliest childhood memories, I remember intense fears and occasional panic attacks. Sure, I had the same fear of the dark, scary things under the bed, and other things most children fear when they are small, but there was so much more than that too. I had a hard time letting go of my fears; fear of dying, fear of family members dying, fear of something bad happening, fear of being sick, fear of swallowing pills, fear of choking, fear of the water… I could go on and on and on. I was afraid of everything.
At the time I was so little I didn’t know what was going on. I especially had no idea what a panic attack was. I can still remember several instances when I had one though and those moments are forever etched in my memory. I remember being so insanely afraid and no one being able to calm me down. The feeling that I needed to “escape” wherever I was, to get somewhere safe. My heart beating so fast it felt like I was having a heart attack and the feeling that my throat was closing up and it was hard to breathe.
Although the panic attacks only happened a couple times, I still remember how often my life was full of fears and worries. I grew up in a home where fear was the only thing I knew. I was afraid of my father. Afraid of his anger, his personality, HIM. It’s hard to explain, but he was the cause of a lot of my fears and as I look back I realize why. He let HIS fears and worries rule his life, it may not have come out like most people, but it was there. I never remember him saying that we needed to trust God or pray about a situation, it was always worry worry worry. Every situation had a reason for him to worry, and his reasoning behind it was always something that to me was scary.
My parents divorced when I was fifteen and things spun out of control. My father had been controlling and verbally abusive my whole life and now we were out on our own with my mother. That should have been a good thing, but my life felt out of control. I had a hard time coping and getting through, but I didn’t really realize how bad it was until I went to college. The stress started to affect me and the fact that I never felt like I could be myself while there. It got really bad until one summer I lost it.
I was on the phone with my boyfriend (now husband), and it had been a long day. We had for some reason gotten into a fight and it was the last straw. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I started having a hard time breathing and my heart was pounding so fast. I felt this intense need to leave and go home (I was living at college at the time) and I couldn’t shake it. It was bad. The feeling lasted for days and finally I packed up all my things and went home. I went to see a doctor and was put on anxiety medicine.
I didn’t want to take the medicine. The doctor told me to be careful because it was “highly addicting” (which is the absolutely worst thing to tell someone who worries all the time) and I thought that maybe I could control myself enough and be fine. I took a small dosage a couple times and it helped, but I let the rest sit there and forgot about it over time.
Fast forward several years later and I am happily married and just had my son Adam. I am not going to go into the entire birth story, as you can read about everything (Here, here, here, here and here ), but it was a very trying experience. I was in labor for 24 hours, tore to the 4th degree, was on bed rest for several weeks, and could barely take care of my newborn son, not to mention after a month of trying to breastfeed it just did not work out. I had a lot of health problems I dealt with for the next couple of months and it was literally so awful for me.
Things were bad at that point. I was obsessive about what was wrong with me and I could not think about anything else. It consumed me night and day to the point where I could barely take care of myself or my son. It was so bad that mother-in-law suggested I get help in the form of counseling. I was a little hurt at first, but a few months later I decided to take her up on that idea and went to see a pastor at my church. I went a few times and it was very helpful, but I still felt like something was missing.
I understood that I needed to trust the Lord, I understood that other people were worse off than me, I understood that I needed to be focusing on the Lord and not my problems, but my brain could seriously not do it. It was like I was blocked. A year later, we found out my husband was going to be deploying and I knew I needed to get some help for this deployment. I knew it was going to be a stressful time and I knew what could happen if I didn’t get help so I found a counselor to help me.
I have been seeing my counselor for over a year now and I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done. She has helped me understand my past, why I am the way I am, and she has shown me that I have problems with anxiety. She has also helped me with my faith and my walk with Lord, and has been a tremendous blessing to my life.
I have been dealing with a lot this past year. My husband’s deployment, my son’s special needs and health problems, and my own health problems. Recently I have been under so much stress and things have been very hard. I was pretty sick several months ago and ended up in the hospital one night. Whatever I had lasted for two weeks and it was the worst two weeks I’ve had in a long time. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was obsessing about what was wrong with me, I was sick to my stomach all the time, and could barely function.
One day I went to my usual appointment with my counselor and told her what was going on. She suggested that maybe I was sick because of all the stress I had been going through with my son’s special needs, his schedule and everything else going on in my life. I talked to a few other ladies and also my mom who told me that she has had similar health problems in the past because of anxiety. I discussed it with my husband and finally went to see my doctor.
I was put on anxiety medicine and I was scared. I knew that this is what I needed. I knew that people who loved me and had been trying to help me had been pointing me in this direction for awhile, but I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. I didn’t want people to know that at times I felt like I was crazy. I am supposed to be able to handle everything right? I am supposed to be trusting in the Lord? But it’s not always that black and white especially when it comes to anxiety.
I talked to my counselor all about my fears about taking those pills, and she told me that I wouldn’t think twice about taking a pill for my thyroid (I have hypothyroidism) because that’s what I need and have to have. She told me it’s the same thing with anxiety. If I can barely function on a day-to-day basis sometimes and it’s affecting my life then it’s time to get more help. She explained that anxiety is a disorder and is actually something that affects my brain.
I started doing my own research on Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I found that I have almost every single possible symptom on the list. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to at least try this medicine. And so I did. I have been on Celexa for two months now and I can’t tell you how much better I am doing. I feel a little more happier, have a little bit more energy, and don’t feel like my world is falling apart at the seams. I feel like I can breathe easier, and I feel like my thoughts are clearer and that whatever was blocking me before is gone. I feel like ME.
So now you are probably wondering why am I telling you all this? And this is the part I have been waiting to share for a long time. I get so many emails from other military wives and special needs moms asking me how do I do it? How do I handle all the stresses I talk about on my blog? And the honest answer is I don’t and I can’t. People don’t see what happens in the quiet of our home, and in the quiet of my heart. The turmoil I have faced for years. Living with constant fears and worries that I can’t get rid of even though I know it’s not right.
If you are reading this and feel like this is you, you don’t have to deal with all this alone there is help out there. I see and hear things every day and I think to myself, “Wow that person has anxiety.” I realized a lot of people have it and have it bad, but they just don’t realize it. Anxiety became a coping mechanism for me. It was something that was always there, and something that at the time I knew I would always have and never go away. It was my default. But now, even my husband has noticed small changes in me and I am pleased with the results. This doesn’t have to be your life, you can get better!
Now for the skeptics who are reading this and who are against getting medicated this is for you, so please read on. I don’t think medicine is for everyone. I don’t think you should rush out right now and get on medicine. Why? because there are plenty of other things you can do to combat stress and anxiety. Get more sleep, exercise, see a counselor, and pray just to name a few. It’s when you are doing all those things and are still having a hard time getting through – that’s when you need to start talking to your doctor.
I’ve had a few friends who were very concerned about me getting on medicine. I was sad because people do not understand the journey I have been on through all of this. The years of worry and fear, they don’t see how it sometimes plagues me day and night. If it had been post-partum depression everyone would immediately have wanted me to get help. Somehow that’s more acceptable in society than having an anxiety disorder. But you know what? I had post-partum ANXIETY. Yes, there is such a thing. And I still deal with anxiety every day. The fact that I am doing the right thing by getting help and changing my life makes me happy. I want people to know that this is a disorder and it’s serious.
People think that I look fine, or that they can’t tell so I must not have it, but they don’t know what goes on in my head and that’s what the medicine helps. It helps stop those racing thoughts and worries before they even start so I can live a normal life and not be obsessing and stressing over every little thing.
You might be surprised at the symptoms that anxiety and stress can cause in your body. Here are just a few for starters:
“Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can vary. They can include:
- Constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns
- Restlessness and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or your mind “going blank”
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy or being easily startled
- Trouble sleeping
- Sweating, nausea or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat
There may be times when your worries don’t completely consume you, but you still feel anxious even when there’s no apparent reason. For example, you may feel intense worry about your safety or that of your loved ones, or you may have a general sense that something bad is about to happen.” – www.mayoclinic.com
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about what you should do to limit the stress in your life or ask if medicine might be right for you. You can read more about anxiety disorders here:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): When Worry Gets Out of Control
- Anxiety Disorders
- Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms
If you have any questions or feel like you need to talk to someone about this, please feel free to email me. Also, here is a blog post about coping: Tips for Coping with Anxiety.
This was beautiful. I love how you were so honest and shared something that can help SO many other people. Your journey has just begun and you have an amazing road ahead of you with fun times. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Erin
Thank you so much I really appreciate that! So true and I look forward to the better days. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
So informational, and I’m sorry you have to go through this. I have anxieties, too. I stress too much, I have social anxieties, and I have had several panic attacks that have sent me to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack. I am learning to recognize the triggers and am trying to live more laid back.
So glad it was helpful to you! I think the triggers are important to learn, but sometimes I feel there is nothing you can do to prevent some of them – things like stress. Sometimes it’s just life and that stress will be there. But I agree living life more laid back and doing things for yourself are a few of the many ways to help! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I appreciate you sharing your story. I know it was probably very difficult.
I have a family member who struggles with anxiety. I had no idea what it was like until I went through it with her. She struggles daily and it’s especially difficult because so few of her friends and family understand. I’m not sure you can understand unless you’ve been through it or watched someone you love go through it.
Thanks again for sharing.
Thank you, I appreciate that. That’s very true, its hard to understand unless you go through it because it really is a mind thing. I struggle with people “not getting it” and I wish more people could understand. Thanks for sharing and for your encouragement!
Kathryn, I am so happy to hear this!
I would never have pegged myself as someone with an anxiety disorder. I just thought I was a wimp, didn’t like scary things, being home alone, etc. I figured it was normal.
When Matt deployed last year, I nearly lost it though. I stopped eating, I was nauseated all the time, I considered moving out of the country just to get “away” from whatever was wrong. I was seeing my counselor every week, and when I started sobbing uncontrollably in his office one day, he told me that I should call my doctor and ask about going on antidepressants.
So I did. And almost instantly, my life changed. I could eat and sleep again. I could function again. I could leave the house without having a panic attack.
And in addition to my depression being treated, I realized I wasn’t having anxiety anymore, either. Previously, when the sun would set, I would get panicky and go around to check the locks on every door, every window. I would close the curtains, and put things up against my bedroom door so no one could get in. I slept with pepper spray, a baseball bat, and a maglite flashlight.
On Zoloft… I didn’t feel like I had to do those things anymore. When it got dark outside, I locked the door, and that was that.
Anyone who judges you or me for being on medication to help control depression and anxiety… they just don’t know.
YOU know, though. You know that you’re doing the best thing for yourself and your family.
Keep doing it! 😀 😀
Wow girl our stories sound very similar, I’m so glad you shared! I did the same things during Jon’s deployment. I slept with this HUGE metal flashlight next to me every night and with the closet light on because I wanted to be able to see the room enough to know what was going on. I knew I was different, but I felt like I was crazy at times.
I’m so glad you got help and are doing better it’s amazing what a little help can do! Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate it!
I suffer from anxiety and secondary anxiety from my husband’s anxiety disorder which is far worse than mine. There’s definitely no shame in being on medication and I’m so glad that you are brave enough to come forward about it…
I’m glad I have a friend in my life who is dealing with this because it’s nice to know that I’m not alone!
Thanks Aprille. Me too. It’s hard to get support from people who just don’t understand it. Will be praying for you guys and think and pray for your husband’s anxiety often!
I began with terrible anxiety in college and ended up dropping out. Boy, those were dark times. That was the one time I remember feeling completely hopeless. I, too was sick! I thought there was something terribly wrong with me and I remember laying on the couch in the middle of the night one night just waiting to die. It wasn’t until I started on some meds that I was able to see a little glimmer of daylight. I still struggle daily but I’m a zillion times better than I was 6 years ago.
Thank you for sharing. Sometimes it is nice to know that there is someone else out there who understands. God used it though. I got closer to The Lord than ever. I fell into His merciful Arms and He was there to catch me. That’s when I truly learned how to really love Him.
Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story! I dropped out of college after a major panic attack too and decided to just finish at home through online classes. It was a big help and made a huge difference.
I am so glad that you are doing better though and I totally agree. I think God is using this in my life to help others and to help me depend on Him more. Again, thanks for sharing and for your encouragement!
I’m glad you tried the medicine and that it is working for you. At a low point in my life i was depressed and my therapist subscribed Zoloft, explaining the chemical imbalance that was going on in my brain. I am thankful it was a temporary period for me. I am sorry that you have to go through this daily. I have only had one anxiety attack – which led me to therapy, so i know a “little” about how you feel. I could not imagine having to fight that regularly. God speed and i wish you the best!
Thanks so much for commenting and for sharing. Sounds like you did the right thing by going to a therapist and getting help. I am so glad I did too. 🙂
You will help a lot of people with this post. It is great you listed all the symptoms of GAD send discussed your own suffering because of it. So happy you are finding relief from the meds. Stopping by from SITS.
Thank you so much I appreciate it! 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story! My parents divorced when I was 15 also, and my anxiety became acute. I had this fear that my anxiety was a flaw in my very being, that it meant I was a bad person, and why couldn’t I just let it go? Learning that an anxiety disorder is just that, a disorder, was very freeing. And support from others who had gone through anxiety was such a relief–I wasn’t alone!
Wow thank you so much for sharing! I have always thought it was a flaw as well and learning that it was a disorder has definitely helped.
Hi Kathryn. I followed you over from SITS. I was drawn in by your name, because I lost an infant daughter and she was also named Kathryn. Then I saw what your post was and knew I had to come. We are so very similar. I have also been dealing with anxiety and depression – for many years but it really reared it’s ugly head with everything we went through with the babies. I also am hypo-thyroid, and have a Lupus like disease. I also had a horrendous first delivery, first BF experience, and was on bedrest for 2 months with my last pregnancy. So, I totally get where you are coming from. And I really appreciate the fact that you shared all of this. It is very difficult to talk about, but it is so nice to know that I am not alone with my struggles. Thank you for the resources provided. I will definitely follow this blog! Oh – I was a Marine Corps wife and Active Duty AF myself! 🙂
Thank you so much, I am so glad this was helpful to you! I am so sorry for your loss. I miscarried a baby before I had my son so I understand a little of what you went through. I appreciate your commenting and sharing, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. God Bless!
A very moving and brave post. I’m glad you were able to write it. Anxiety is so very difficult to deal with. I’ve suffered from panic attacks too and in the beginning you truly believe you are having a stroke or heart attack. The mind/body/spirit connection is an actuality that many people scoff at as new age crap, but in actuality, if one’s mind and spirit are in turmoil, the body reacts in debilitating ways.
I admire those who suffer with anxiety but are still able to get married and have children. I feel like my problems with anxiety have in some ways prevented me from having a relationship that could lead to marriage. I try to alleviate my stress and fears through meditation, acupuncture, exercise, and a magnesium complex I get from Whole Foods called Calm, but there are times I feel I should be taking something stronger.
I am thankful my anxiety is not just general and across the board or all the time or has an unknown cause. Mine really kicked in at age 38 when I realized my life was no where near being where I thought I’d be at that age, with no knowledge or plan of how to catch up to my age. I’m constantly working on acceptance and trying to enjoy the present, but it’s very hard.
Visiting from SITS
Thank you so much and I so agree with all of that. I never realized why I was like that when I got married and I knew that there were times and things that made me worse, but that was it. Luckily, my husband has tried to be understanding and even though he does not understand what I go through, he supports me getting help. Thank you for sharing your story and your journey I appreciate it.
This was a beautiful post Kathryn. I love and appreciate your honesty…you’ll never know how many will be touched by your transparency!
Thanks Ashley I hope so! 🙂
I’ve been suffering with intense anxiety for the past three months where I get weak, fatigued, lack of interest in my goals and work. I went through irritability, the urge to walk around in circles nonstop, dizziness, blurry vision, swollen tongue, sore gums, nightmares, bowel problems, short term memory loss, and constant butterflies and adrenalin rush. As you can see I’m a train wreck lol. I’m a 21 year old male who tries to be as optimistic as he can and instead of falling down, refuses to do so and instead reach up. But I get very worried sometimes for no reasons, I’ve been through many disappointments and fears throughout my life. I am afraid of the littlest things both inside and outside my body. I’ have a lot of friends and have been blessed but I am very very timid and shy and that not only prevents me from advancing in life but also brings me down. but I try to break out of that by working to get out because that is the only way. But all of a sudden I got sick and through that my negativity returned, so hard that I developed intense anxiety. For three months I was a train wreck and had no idea what to do, my doctor kept saying I was fine but I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I came here did I start to feel a whole lot better. Everything you said I’ve read before and could relate to almost all of them.
It wasn’t until I saw your last post, the Bible verse, did I feel different. When I read that I just bursted in tears because I was too afraid to tell anybody what I’ve been going through, but when I do tell them to people I felt could help me they just say I’m fine when I’m not when I was physically and mentally and emotionally sick. It felt good reading that, and I am a Christian but ,through my anxiety , have started to feel a bit negative about religion and Christianity. I just felt weird but in a good way reading that and bursted in tears of joy. I’m a guy who loves to workout and watch sports and fight in MMA but that moment made me open up uncontrollably. I feel fantastic since then and I am looking forward to move on and not only advance in life with or without this anxiety but also to reach higher and reach my goals. By doing good deeds I feel better and less guilty about myself and my self esteem rises unlike anything you can find by “fixing” yourself physically on how look or how you are with people. It’s all about how you contribute in life with other lives. And you gotta be patient in healing from anxiety. Though anxiety might always be there, it doesn’t have to control you. You can control it just like you can control what time you want to go to bed or what you want to watch.
Thanks for posting Philippians 4:6 my friend, you’re awesome lol!
If I could help, I did meditation, exercise, patience and optimisim and helping out others and becoming selfless and they worked best for me in getting better. I also took an herb called Rhodiola Rosea and it helped me too. It’s not a drug like anxiety drugs in an herb like tea and such that maintains balance with brain functions with stress. The Russians used it and they were impressed. I suggest giving it a try along with the other things I did. Good luck and GOD Bless!