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Anxiety Attack Epiphany

A few days ago, first thing in the morning, I had my first ever anxiety attack.  I was sitting on the couch, eating my breakfast and watching the local news when my heart began racing. The Fitbit I was wearing on my wrist clocked that my heartrate jumped from 57 bpm to 189 in a matter of seconds. I sat there for a couple minutes debating on if I should “wait and see” or call 911. Since I was still in my sexy lingerie I’d worn to bed the night before (sweatpants and sloppy t-shirt) I opted to monitor the symptoms from home. Exactly 7 minutes later, my heart had returned to my normal resting heart rate, my hands had stopped shaking and I was relieved that the EMT’s didn’t have to see me in that ratty 2012 marathon shirt I’d stolen from my husband’s drawer.

Amanda Waggener, M.I.D. (medical internet doctor) went to work. I began my degree work about the time we went from dialup to broadband. I was top of my class thanks to my proficiency with Mayo Clinic, WebMD and Google searches. I graduated with honors. Gold star stuff. Anyway, according to everything I read, what I had suffered from that morning was a full-blown anxiety attack. Anxiety is something I know. I’ve had it since I was a teenager, but an anxiety attack is new and not cool, at all.

I prescribed myself a month-long break from the stresses of my life in effort to keep it from happening again anytime soon. Step 1 was to identify the stressors. After a brief staring off into space session, I discovered that many of the stressors I can’t ditch or social services would be at my door.  However, there was a short list of my stressors that I could eliminate, short-term at least.

So, I began making a list:

Things I Need a Break from Before I Completely Lose My Sh!t

1. Facebook
2. Instagram
3. Sunday Morning Church Services
4. Volunteer Roles
5. Counting Calories

And, then, I began making another list:

Things I Need to Focus on To Retrieve My Sh!t

1. Read
2. Write
3. Pray
4. Only communicate with people who infuse love into my life.
5. Schedule an appointment with my therapist.

I prescribed my treatment commence on August 1st.  August would be the month long Zen party that my body was physically screaming at me to attend.

I accepted the invitation to my own party.

I’m only 2 weeks in on this break, and so far, I have learned that without Facebook reminding me of everyone’s birthdays, I forget them. I remember birthdays, but I forget when the day comes without that little nudge from the Facebook. I’ve not seen engagements, weddings, gender reveals or endlessly-perfect via overly-edited selfies on Instagram lately either. I have no idea what sex your baby is nor have I read the inspirational quotes below your selfies in a few days now. But, I did schedule my appointment with the counselor. Hoping, when I get there, he doesn’t tell me I’m crazier than last time we spoke. I’ve been reading and, obviously, writing. I’ve been checking things off my lists like it’s my job.

The biggest change I’ve noticed so far is the difference an emphasis on prayer makes. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

Just sitting still. Being open. Listening. It’s like Zoloft to my heart.

Prayer not only has a calming effect on my soul, but also inspires epiphanies. Like the one I had yesterday about how a large majority of what I know about Jesus comes from men standing on a stage at a church. Here’s what I know about men (ok, I’ll concede, women too), they are flawed. The light bulb moment I had was that maybe the hang-ups I have, aren’t even the truth at all. Maybe those hangups all came from the ideas that grew in me from men who went to seminary (also mostly taught by men, all 100% flawed, again, like me). This is not a feminist epiphany. Although, being female, I am pro-female, because duh. I’m also pro-lots of things. Besides the point.

The epiphany was that I need to dig deeper to discover MY truth, from my own digging and researching; independent of other’s convictions or opinions. A truth based on the Biblical findings unearthed with my own God-given eyes by using my own God-given brain in my own time.

Week 2 Update: I’m digging. My break may need to extend beyond 4 weeks as it seems like I may need some time to investigate what people have discussed for hundreds of years. I’ll keep you posted.

Excited about week 3 and week 4.

And I’m sorry about the birthday thing. When I get back on Facebook I’ll catch up on that, but until I’m back, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, Sorry for your Loss, I can’t believe your kids are already so big, Get Well Soon and Congratulations!

Outwardly Calm, Inwardly Turbulent

Outwardly calm, inwardly turbulent.  I took this pic from the window of an airplane yesterday. It was a beautiful, mild, spring day with blue skies and a spackling of fluffy white clouds. The sky looked calm and peaceful, yet the flight was riddled with turbulence. We were instructed by the pilot to stay buckled up as the plane rocked back and forth, up and down through the picture of serenity that I watched pass by through the airplane’s tiny windows.

Only a short time before the roller coaster ride of a flight began, I had been sitting at the crowded gate waiting for my turn to board. The voice from behind the ticket booth said in a muffled tone over the speaker, “1st class passengers, passengers with disabilities, those traveling with children under the age of 2 or active military are welcome to board now.” It is a great time for people watching. Since I always buy the cheapest ticket to get me from point A to point B, I’m normally in zone 4, last to board, and can be found seated no more than 4 feet from the crapper.  I sat and waited as all 120+ people boarded, one by one. I observed as some shoved their way through, as though there was a prize for being the 1st to get on the plane. I saw the ones with rambunctious kids I prayed I wouldn’t be seated near, the panicked person, the one who slows the line by oversharing with the man scanning boarding passes about when, where or why they are traveling despite his obvious disinterest of their unsolicited explanation, the vacationers in Nike shorts and the business people in suits with iPhones to their ears on conference calls. It’s a social experiment I always find entertaining.

This time, a young boy and his mother caught my attention. He was among the 1st in line. I noticed he was holding a carry-on bag and she was not. I also saw that she couldn’t quit touching him. Hug, back rub, hug, kiss on the cheek, hug. The ticket agent scanned the boy’s ticket. The teen then turned to give her one last hug and walked away.  The woman stood waving at him until he was out of her sight. She turned around, wiping tears, and walked back into the hustle-bustle of the airport. As a mom myself, my heart sank in my chest for her. I could feel her pain as she walked away without him…away from her protection…away from her reach.

As usual, I was among the last few to board the crowded plane. I walked to my seat all the way in the back, threw my laptop case into the overhead, and plopped down in my seat. I looked up and saw that the boy I had just observed at the gate was sitting next to me. He seemed uncomfortable. I make it a rule to immediately pretend to be in a coma-like state of consciousness the moment I buckle my seatbelt to help set the expectation to the traveler next to me that I’m not interested. This time, I couldn’t do that. “I saw you at the gate. Was that your mom? Are you okay?” He kept his head down, looked up at me by only moving his eyes, and shook his head yes. “You look 15. I can spot a 15-year-old because I’m a mom of a 15-year-old,” I continued. He finally lifted his head and laughed, “Yep, I’m 15.” I let him be for a while and sat quietly beside him.

We had a bumpy takeoff, which turned into a turbulent first half of the flight. I saw that he began fidgeting and rocking in his seat. “Is this your 1st time flying,” I asked him? “No, but it’s the first time I’ve flown by myself,” he replied. I started engaging him in conversation in effort to help distract him from his anxiety, much in the same way I do with my son when he’s about to get a shot at the doctor’s office. We talked about his dad that he was going to see in Michigan, what he wanted to do after high school and how his parents make him take choir at school even though he hates it. The plane finally found some smooth flying air and the knocking about stopped. Sam, I discovered was his name, seemed to relax and began playing a game on his phone for the rest of the flight. After we landed and walked off the plane, his dad was there waiting for him. Sam looked at me and said, “It was nice meeting you. Bye.” I smiled and nodded as we walked in separate directions within the airport.

Today, when I looked at this photo of the blue sky and thinking of the teenage boy with a wide smile, one wouldn’t guess the turbulence that was going on inside. The sky. Sam. His parent’s divorce.  His unhappiness at school.  Me. I think most all of us at some time or another. Sunny and warm on the outside, but deceivingly peppered with turbulence on the inside. Reminds me of how we are all not that different from each other.  Reminds me how human connection is sometimes all we need to relieve the turbulence. Reminds me to be kind. Reminds me that one day I will be in a zone 1 boarding group and those people will be turbulent too because all zones of people are.

But zone 1 still sounds nice.

Sweet 16

A couple weeks ago something terrible happened to my daughter. Brace yourself. Take a moment if you need.

I don’t know how else to say it besides just coming right out with it: It was a Friday night and my teenage daughter had no plans.

It was tragic.

She had no other alternative but to hang out with her lame parents on the couch and watch the dumb movie they rented from Red Box.

She was in a dark place mentally so in anticipation of the evening she asked if she could take a quick drive around the neighborhood in the golf cart to clear her head. We agreed it was a good idea. We had to help get her through this however we could.

She was gone for all of 5 minutes when my husband’s phone rang. He sprung from the couch yelling into the phone, “Where are you? Are you okay? I’m on my way!” He ran out the front door shouting, “She wrecked, but she’s ok!”

Before I could get past our front porch she was already home, being delivered to me by her dad with a blanket around her shoulders. Crying hysterically.

After I tended to her bumps and bruises, checked her pupils, looked for broken bones…all the normal mom checklist stuff…I asked her what happened.

She told me she was driving down the street when she saw the headlights of an approaching car. She did what any clear minded person would do. She turned off the headlights from the golf cart. Duh. After they passed, she turned her headlights back on at the exact moment that she plowed into a truck parked on the side of the road.

“Why would you turn off your lights?” I asked in the calmest most chilled tone of voice I could muster.

“Because it was embarrassing for anyone to see me all alone on a Friday night, driving a golf cart around the neighborhood!” she said.

Of course! Totally logical.

Her dad comes back with the golf cart. The pieces of it, I should say. When she hit, she flew through the windshield and landed on the pavement. Hit so hard the axle snapped in half and the wheels fell off. It’s a miracle she wasn’t seriously injured.

This is not what’s bothering me really. It’s just what led me to tell you what is.

Today is her 16th birthday. I’m taking her tomorrow morning to the court house to test for her drivers permit. Instead of a golf cart she will now be driving a 2-ton car.

Hide your kids. Hide your wife.

Will she turn off her lights on a Friday night, when she’s all alone, driving 60mph on the highway, to spare herself the embarrassment of being seen?

Will she walk away unhurt if she ever gets flung through a windshield again?

As I’m driving about my day, I get a panicky feeling now when I see a moron driver because I immediately think of my baby sharing the road with him.

Will she know how to handle driving on black ice? I don’t, but I really hope she does.

Celebrating her sweet 16 today makes me thankful. It’s been an exciting 16 years watching her grow into her own independent person, but it feels like with that independence that I’m letting a piece of her go.

I’m losing some of that comforting pseudo control I think I have. It sets my anxiety into overdrive. I’m not ready. The 16 years went by too fast. AAAAHHHHHH!

“Ask and it will be given to you…” Matthew 7:7.

I’m not sure I buy it exactly. I’ve asked many times for things and was not given them. Nevertheless, I keep asking. I gather that when I ask for things that are heavenly and pure that it may be the sort of thing he’s speaking of giving to people when they ask. I bet if I prayed to hit the lottery he’d be less likely to say yes then when I pray for more faith. The whole “blessed are the poor” thing probably knocks me out of his favor with the ole lottery prayer, but I must think he wouldn’t be stingy on my request for peace and deeper faith.

It’s my only hope. Praying for faith.

Faith that he will look over my girl. His girl.

Faith that he will protect her. Faith that his control is good and sufficient.

Faith.  I’m praying for more of it.

It’s the only way to keep from suffering a nervous breakdown over this.

I’ll also try to focus on the upside.

I’ll have a runner now. Someone to make trips to the grocery for me. Someone to drop off our dry cleaning. Someone who understands the importance of headlights.

So Happy Sweet 16th birthday baby girl. Momma loves you. Call me when you get there. And when you leave. But not while you’re driving.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here praying for faith to relax and enjoy it all. That and stiff cocktail should do the trick.

Broken and Crumbly

I woke up at 2am, heart pounding, sweating.

It sounds like it could be a chapter opener from a cheap romance novel, but I am neither cheap nor romantic feeling at the moment.

It could have been the pimento cheese sandwich and big piece of chocolate cake I ate before bedtime.

Or it could have been that my bedroom felt hot, despite the reading on the thermostat and the fan blowing over my bed that I use mostly for white noise.

Maybe it was the sweet lady who helps run an orphanage in Myanmar, who prayed for me after dinner at a friend’s house.  Maybe that’s what had my heart triggered. I didn’t understand a single word she said aside from the couple times I overheard her softly say my name in an accent you don’t hear around Kentucky. For all I know she could have been passionately praying for rain, but it felt a little too personal for that.

After several failed attempts of trying to relax enough to go back to sleep, I finally succumbed to my thoughts and allowed myself to begin sorting them through.  I decided I should at least be productive if I’m going to lay here awake.

In keeping with being as real and transparent as possible with this blog (because otherwise what’s the point really?) I will risk my people pleasing, appearance keeper-upper tendency and admit to you this:

It’s been a bad year.

I have only had one or two other years in my entire life that could measure against this one. When I think of my life this year the first image that pops into my mind is a pile of rocks. Not to sound too Charlie Brownish, but “I got a rock.”

At 2am, when I’d much rather be sleeping, I was lying in bed thinking it over. Thinking of all my disappointments and wondering when and if they will end.

I thought of friendships that were tested this year.

Some of the biggest joys in my life are the people I discover on the other side of a storm. You really don’t know how good anything is, truly, until it’s been tested. Until it’s been proven. Before the test, you just have to take people at their word.  People who can walk with me in my wins, and walk with me through the losses.  The ones who know my many flaws and still love me….those are my people.  Test driven friends make everything feel better.

Some of my biggest disappointments are the friends who are only there for a season. The ones who celebrate victories, but run away during the defeats.  They are also priceless. They make us wiser and tougher. I’m grateful for them as well. They grew me even though it hurt.

I thought of how fast my kids are growing up. I thought of how much I hate hearing that cliché, but how true it is anyway.

I thought of how much I wish my Dad could see all their milestones and enjoy them with me.  I thought about how much I miss him.

I pondered of all the trials and anxieties that somehow managed to all fit inside this calendar year.

I wondered if it’s over yet. If at the end of being busted up into chunks if  I’ll turn around only to be further chopped away at until I’m reduced to being a pile of gravel sized pieces.

I have to admit this to myself and, for some reason, feel led to admit it to you.

That’s not to say that I’m not also simultaneously dripping in abundant blessings.

I don’t think life is ever all good or all bad, but right now, this year in particular, the balance is off.

I’m still me.

I carry on.  I take care of my kids.  I snuggle up with my husband at night. I work and contribute, but it’s a broken version of myself. I’ve crumbled some, but still all-in-all together in one piece.

I am being reshaped.

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, broken and weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner

So if I have to be the broken version of myself for now, I may as well be useful.

Repurposed.

Upcycled.

Reinvented.

I’m being made new!

Despite how much the hits are bruising, I’m being molded and made better than before.

And as though it is an audible signal from God, my daughter’s alarm is going off.

Time to close the laptop and get kids to school.

Time to go to work.

Time to keep living, keep moving, even while the ground shifts beneath my feet and remind myself that this is all part of a grander plan.

Tonight, though, I’ll be giving Tylenol PM a try.