Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss

Living with anxiety can feel like you’re lost in an unfamiliar abyss, especially if you’re not even aware that you’re suffering from anxiety. Such was the case for me. If you’re new to this story, last week I started a four-part series about my struggle with anxiety. Today is part two of the series – feeling like you’re alone in a dark abyss.

Coping with Anxiety

My journey started with a cold and wicked flu. I was told the nasty flu bug that invaded my body would last seven days, but unfortunately days languished into weeks. It was the strangest experience and the most sick I’ve ever been. I would have a bout of that internal heat for 12 or more hours, and then it would disappear. I’d start feeling better almost immediately, thinking it was gone for good, and then wham! I’d be right back in its grip. This pattern kept repeating itself.

The heat would flame up in my upper back and radiate through the rest of my body. Each time this happened, it drained the energy right from me. My legs felt weak and wobbly and my appetite all but disappeared. With no relief in sight, I once again called the doctor’s office and they prescribed prednisone (a steroid), hoping that would kick it out once and for all.

Ugh. The steroid made me more flushed and didn’t appear to help. A few days later I called the doctor back and asked if I could stop the prednisone altogether. The dosage was low enough to do so (it’s not a good idea to abruptly stop taking prednisone). Shortly after that, I went back into the office for testing. I’d heard that lymphoma can cause bouts of heat and worried maybe I had something far more serious than the flu. Luckily, I tested negative. The doctor also x-rayed my lungs – all was good there, too. He told me the virus was probably just being stubborn and to give it another week or so.

This pattern of heat/no heat went on for a couple more weeks. I wasn’t convinced this was just a flu bug. I was sure something was seriously wrong. The doctor ordered additional tests – autoimmune disease, thyroid issues, the list goes on. With each test I worried. I also wondered if I’d be one of those people that had some strange new disease. Every time I told a medical professional about the heat they’d say, “that’s weird.” Not what you want to hear when you don’t feel well. I made my husband promise that if I did have an undiscovered disease, they wouldn’t name it after me!

At this point I started praying a lot. I was raised in a Christian home and have been a Christian most of my life. My teenage years were rebellious however, and I remember telling my mother at that time that I couldn’t be a Christian anymore. But then I grew up and found God was still there waiting for me, even though I rejected Him time and time again. As an adult, life’s activities would get in the way and my faith often took a back seat. I was a single mom with a family to feed and needed to focus on work, cleaning the house, taking care of kids, and anything else that was there to distract me.

But now I found myself in a lonely and scary corner of the world. Life was going on without me. I was missing my family. I missed being around people at work. I couldn’t make any plans because I didn’t know how I would feel. Sometimes I’d try to make plans to see one of my children, only to have to cancel at the last minute. Is this how the rest of my life would be? Would I ever feel normal again? For that matter, would I ever feel joy again?

Coping with anxiety

I was worried and scared. I wondered how people with really serious illnesses ever managed. I wondered if I would be one of them. I also thought about the apostle Paul and how he’d rejoice when he was imprisoned. I wanted to be like that! I wanted my faith to be strong enough that anything could happen and I would still praise God and His precious Son, Jesus. But I wasn’t physically strong and didn’t know how to find energy to be joyful in the Lord. I kept praying … and crying.

My doctor kept trying to tell me I probably just had heart burn. Heart burn? Seriously?? I know what heart burn feels like and this wasn’t anything like that. I tried telling him that it wasn’t heart burn but he started talking over me, not listening at all. He just told me to take Prilosec whenever the heat came back. I thought, “this guy thinks I’m just some kind of hypochondriac who’s imagining things.” Fed up, I left his office, and decided to get a second opinion.

I did a bit of research in hopes of finding a doctor who had a reputation for accurate diagnoses. I didn’t really care about his bedside manner. I just wanted someone to fix me. All my research was pointing to one doctor. Luckily he was accepting new patients. Before I went to see him, I wrote all my symptoms down, in the order in which they appeared, starting with that innocent cold. I didn’t want to forget anything and I wanted to make sure he understood the whole story. I also sent my recent test results to him.

Journal

After scheduling the appointment but before actually seeing him, I started feeling better. I was having good day after good day, with just slight moments of not feeling well. I thought about cancelling the appointment but felt God was telling me “no, you need to go.”

And so I went. I started feeling a bit of that heat on the way to his office. I wanted to turn around but the thought that God wanted me there made me resolute. Amazingly, the doctor listened attentively. He asked me a lot of questions and sat and thought about what I said. What a patient man! I also let him know I’m not a fan of medication and prefer a more natural approach to wellness. He told me since all these other issues had been ruled out through testing; my problem was likely neurological or psychological. He prescribed two more tests to rule a couple of other things out.

Since I was experiencing more and more good days, he told me to try and relax more. Eliminating stress from my life would also prove beneficial. He wanted to see me in another two weeks. The latest test results came back negative so that was good news. I still didn’t know what was really wrong with me, but I started to suspect it was anxiety. The doctor alluded to it. I just didn’t understand how anxiety could come so quickly, and how did the flu play into it all?

Although that incessant heat was gone more than it was with me, I had an underlying fear it could engulf me at any moment – just like it did before. The longest I went without the heat was three weeks straight. Why would it come back out of the blue? It made no sense to me – which is why I kept thinking there was something else going on.

That following Saturday I made plans to see my entire family. We were going to my daughter’s house and everyone would be there for pizza and movies. Nothing major, just a casual gathering. I couldn’t wait. I woke up that morning feeling content, a feeling that I hadn’t known for weeks.

I was just relaxing in bed in the early light with my eyes open, savoring the day ahead of me. And then it hit me. My vision instantly distorted. My depth of vision was all off. I snapped my eyes shut. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. I sat up in bed and opened my eyes, looking around the room. Everything was distorted. I could see everything; it was almost like looking at everything under water. I walked to the window to see if my distant sight was distorted. Yes, the neighbor’s truck looked in a weird position compared to the house. I panicked.

Crying Statue

“Lord,” I cried, “What’s wrong with me? Why is this happening?” I sat back in bed and tried breathing slowly. I also decided to just focus on one thing close up. I sat staring at my hands, forcing myself to breathe slowly and regularly. Very slowly my vision came back into focus. I was afraid to move. Afraid any movement would make my sight wonky again. I waited a while. I was scared, but determined to see my family. I called the doctor’s office to tell them what happened. The doctor said I likely experienced an ocular migraine, but that if it recurred to go to the ER immediately. I’ve had ocular migraines before, but never like this.

I did go to my daughter’s house that day and mostly sat on her couch, a feeling of dread hanging over me the entire time. The distorted vision really freaked me out. I’m happy to say it didn’t happen again. I was looking forward to seeing the doctor later that week.

And this is where I’m pausing my story until next week. My journey does get better – I don’t think I could write about it if I was still in the abyss. Next Thursday I’ll talk about my treatment.

Before I close, I want to give a big hug and heart-felt THANK YOU to all of you who opened up about your own anxiety when commenting on last week’s blog post. I read each and every comment. Some made me cry. Some made me smile. I’m praying for you. I want you to know how deeply touched I was and how much I hope and pray that you will find comfort, joy, and peace!

 

More in this Series:

Coping with Anxiety: My Recent Journey – part one

Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss – part two (today’s post)

Coping with Anxiety: Finding Treatment – part three

Coping with Anxiety: Moving Forward – part four (coming January 25, 2018)

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Comments

  1. I have not had that experience, but appreciate your sharing this with us. Not having a diagnosis is terrible as I have experienced lately for a physical ailment which put me in the hospital for 8 days. . I was given a solution and am so thankful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. It is helpful to hear first hand for those of us who have not experienced anxiety, we can be supportive and understanding of those that do.

  3. Hanging on your every word. Can’t wait until next week to learn more. I appreciate you trusting us enough to share your story.

  4. What a journey! This chapter reminded me of what happened to me 10 years ago. I’m healthy, steeped in Wellness, and am at One with Spirit then and now. My episode began in the grocery store and someone beside me sneezed and when I turned around to glare at this man, he turned around to look at me, in apology I believe. Soon a fever struck and I was so enervated I couldn’t function. I chose not to go the doctor route. What a wild ride! I would feel just fine and start functioning again and suddenly the symptoms reappeared. A couple of times I felt so good that I headed to the grocery store and be struck down again and would go to my car to sleep (pass out). A month later, I was fine although mystified by what had happened. You are in my prayers and sending Abundant Blessings of All Good to you.

  5. Thank you and God Bless!

  6. Jennifer, as one who as suffered from anxiety and depression most of her adult life, I can totally relate and truly empathize. The grips of anxiety can come at any time and often disguise itself in physical problems. I have been on anti-depressants for many years; they have helped my anxiety tremendously. My prayers are with you. I LOVE your blog and I look forward to your entries. Hang in there & know you are not alone. Please keep us posted.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Karen! I’m finding a lot of people suffer from anxiety – more than I would’ve thought. Maybe we all just need to slow down! I too am on medication and it’s helping tremendously!

  7. Jennifer, as I wrote last week, I can totally relate. Even the ocular migraine! I had one as I was in the midst of my struggles too…they are very scary! I thought, “Great, what now?! I’m going blind?!”
    So much of this involves fear, the unknown, feeling out of control in your body and mind, etc. And then it’s a vicious cycle.
    I look forward to hearing how you started to become well. It’s amazing what are bodies are capable of. Good and bad.

    • Hi Christine! I thought the same thing as you – that maybe whatever I had was going to take my eyesight. Ugh. That awful fear which is often irrational but very real to the person experiencing it. And you’re right – it becomes a vicious cycle. My new doctor said he often sees these things take on a life of their own. It was good for me to hear that so I knew it wasn’t just me. 🙂

  8. I can’t imagine what your experience was like since I have never had that. I also was raised in a Christian home , in fact, my father was a minister. I too had a few years of rebellion but not long. I recommitted my life at 19 and it was the best thing I have ever done. It seems you are doing better but I will pray for you.

  9. Sandy Frankel says:

    Thank you Thank you Thank you to all you brave women sharing your stories.
    I have found that receptive tasks-sewing ( I have a tub full of baby quilts, dolls, stuffed animals,baby gifts) baking ( I have gained a few but perfected the cinnamon roll) even cleaning. Gardening, and yard work. Hiking, walking, movies-looking for houses on the internet. I am a zillow, redfin, sothbys expert.
    Whatever gets us through our tough times- We are all here to hold each other up!

  10. I am so glad you gave us a very detail report! I am retired banker and when I was younger a nurse! I can see the anxiety as main factor. Every hour breath very deeply 3 times-inhale and exhale. That gives oxigen to your brain! Try. With all that I was praying for you and 1st thing came within the prayer was anxiety. In this testing time praise and sing unto the Lord! Talk to Him and with Him. Do not tell Him: do this or that-He es patiently waiting for a Tkfull heart! I found a newspaper cut with a title When God says No. I was trying to copy but not able. Hope you can send me an email to forward you. Prayers doesn’t cost a penny but helps me a lot to intercede for you. Have Unity in One Spirit with Him and I will keep praying strongly for You. You are special even in the way you share all details in decoration, you are spevial! Keep you In Him! That is me best to share with You! Tks

  11. Wow, what a scary time for you Jennifer. I had a lot of anxiety in my early 20’s and then in my mid-20’s I had heart palpitations that really scared me. I also dealt with doctors who had no clue. It’s amazing to me how many of them are out there. I finally found a retired cardiologist who still saw patients one day a week and diagnosed me right away after seeing my test results. he was surprised the other doctors hadn’t caught it right away. Driving home that day, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The diagnosis combined with quitting my stressful job did wonders for the symptoms I’d been feeling. It is amazing how anxiety can affect your physical well being and the different ways it can manifest in your body. I am happy you are feeling better now!

    • Hi Tamara! Thanks for sharing your story! I too find it amazing that there are doctors who seem un-knowledgeable. Between my aging parents, my hubby who was pretty sick a couple years ago, and my recent bout with anxiety, I find that you really need to be proactive with your own health care. My former doctor had prescribed medication that could’ve resulted in some of my symptoms (tests proved this false, but still). I’m glad you were able to get relief for your situation!

  12. Marlene Stephenson says:

    There are so many different ways we can have anxiety and some attacks are far worse than others.I can look back at some of the things i did and thank God i lived alone or they would have admitted me. I am glad i knew God as my Saviour or i would have felt so all alone but i knew He would help me through it all. Thanks for sharing and thank God for doctors who will really listen.

    • Hi Marlene! You are right about the many ways anxiety shows itself! I’m so glad you found comfort with God – I don’t think I could get through life without Him. 🙂

  13. Nancy Pirrello says:

    Jennifer, what a scary and frustrating time for You! Reading about your symptoms is so eye opening. I told you about my husbands anxiety issues, and heat and ocular migraines also effected him. I think your description of the heat is so interesting how exasperated you must have Felt! Looking forward to the next chapter..

  14. I’m having anxiety over having to wait a week between posts! Ha. Seriously, thank you for sharing your story. The anxiety of having anxiety! I know very well those moments of “praying and crying”. Those moments when we are totally and fully letting it all go to God.

    • Ha Ha, Donna! As I’ll share next week – I had anxiety over taking anxiety medication! At least I can look back on that and laugh now. So grateful God is always there for us!

  15. I so feel for you! My anxiety started when I was a kid, with chest pains. I have mainly trained myself to not be anxious, but occasionally it gets the better of me. Others in my family deal with it too. Fantastic that you are talking about it!

    • Hi Tracy! It’s so sad to hear that children can suffer from anxiety. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to train yourself not to be anxious. I’m currently working on that!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. What a journey you have been on! My son has anxiety that results in severe panic attacks, so we know what a toll this can take. As with most chronic ailments and illnesses, the events are often shared. God bless you on your path to spiritual and physical wellness.

  17. Hi Jennifer, I went back and read your previous post., and I can totally identify with what you’ve been through. I’ve been through over 2 years of a mystery illness, and I’ve seen so many doctors it’s terribly frustrating. I don’t know how this ends, but you mentioned you’ve had Autoimmune testing. Going through all the AI diseases seems endless, but do not rule out the possibility. Thank you so much for being open and honest about your journey. That’s what we need to be hearing. There will always be decorating posts, but honesty here in blogland is so much more important. What you’ve been through could save someone’s life. I’m still working on finding out for sure what exactly I’m dealing with, but most everything is pointing to the AI illnesses and Gluten Intolerance if not Celiac Disease. You’re in my prayers, Jennifer, I’m so happy you’re finding answers. xoxo Debra

    • Oh Debra, I’m sorry to hear you’re still on your journey of finding out what’s going on with your body. I do hope you get a diagnosis soon so that you can then start treatment. I found it helpful getting a diagnosis because then at least I felt like I could DO something about it and not feel so much like a helpless victim. I’ll keep you in my prayers, too!

  18. You are helping so many by sharing your story, including me. Thank you.

  19. I missed the first part of this, how can I read it now

  20. YOU ARE SO BRAVE.
    Thank you, thank you.

  21. I have suffered from panic attacks and anxiety all my life. Even as a little child. That makes me so angry because a child should not suffer. But today, at age 51, I’m healthy in my mind, improving myself daily because of God’s goodness and the ad of medicine. We live in a world that is NOT run by God. That’s why bad things happen. That’s why we get sick. That’s why we die. I’m thankful God made a way for me to live today, unlike those millions who suffered for centuries before me. They had no hope of diagnosis or treatment. God has made a way for me.

  22. This is all so scary, Jennifer. You are brave to share this with all of us. I am so happy to read that you are doing better now. May good health remain with you!

  23. Thank you for sharing. This is interesting. I have never experienced anything like the heat that you felt. I have had the vision that you are describing.

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