Coping with Anxiety: Moving Forward

If you’ve been following my four-part series on Coping with Anxiety, you know about my recent journey dealing with the symptoms and finally finding a proper diagnosis with treatment. This is the final post about my scary and frustrating journey and I want to end it on a positive note. Today I want to share a few insights on what I learned and how I’m moving forward. I’ll warn you now, this post is a little long because I had a lot to learn!

Coping with Anxiety - Moving Forward

 

I left off last week with getting treatment in the form of medication and how it helped me. You can catch up on the story by reading the first three parts here:

Coping with Anxiety: My Recent Journey – part one

Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss – part two

Coping with Anxiety: Finding Treatment – part three

What I Learned About Myself:

During this trial I learned some things about myself. I’ve always thought I’m a pretty strong person. I went through a divorce in my early thirties and raised three young children pretty much on my own for ten years. My parents were extremely supportive during that time. My mother left an envelope of money in her lingerie drawer. If I ever needed a bailout, she told me to help myself and pay her back when I could. Just knowing that money was available to me in an emergency was a huge comfort and gave me strength to carry on.  I managed to buy my own house six years after the divorce, thanks to some good career opportunities. I felt like I was doing pretty well as a single mom although I hated having to say I was divorced.

I didn’t realize how weak and vulnerable I was however, until I became really sick early last year and everything started to spiral out of control. That’s when anxiety settled in. Without physical health, I can’t work and fend for myself like I always have. Yes, I’m now married and have the support of a faithful husband, but I enjoy working and being productive. What I create (at work or at home) is part of who I am. I truly thought my world was crumbling to pieces. I was no longer “me.”

In moments of despair, humans tend to go one of two ways. We either fight, or we cave and give into that despair. I didn’t have the energy or the will to fight and felt myself falling into that horrible abyss of fear, loneliness, and feeling completely out of control of my life. Although I thought it was the worst thing I’ve gone through – it ended up being a good thing. I turned to God. And that’s where I found my will to fight.

My grace is sufficient verse

I’ve believed in God and His Son all my life. But I’ve never TRULY depended on Him … not a radical dependence where I could say, “Do what you want with me, Lord. My life is yours.” I’m at a new place in my faith now, because of my struggle with anxiety – although my faith is far from perfect.

I realize our bodies are only temporary and while they are destined to decay, our souls can grow in strength and life. I want God to shape me, mold me, and use my life to help others. The rest of life just isn’t that important. The house, the job, decorating, accumulating things, even my blog. All of that is secondary to an abundant life in Christ. I truly believe this. I don’t think I’ve ever declared it publicly.

And speaking of my blog, when I was going through my journey with anxiety, I lost all interest in blogging. I didn’t care what the house looked like. Sometimes it was even hard to enjoy nature, which is one of my favorite things!

Medical bills were piling up so I felt I had to keep the blog going. I would need the extra income to pay everything off (we have a high deductible insurance) – especially since I didn’t know when I’d be able to return to work. At least my employer was letting me work from home as much as I could. I started re-publishing older content from my blog (maybe you noticed). I didn’t know if I’d ever feel like blogging again, but I did what I could.

Once I started taking Citalopram for the anxiety, my normal desires and interests returned. I wanted to go for walks and even started running again. The decorating bug bit me once more – and this time with a vengeance! I’ve changed a lot of stuff in our house the past few months; I think I’m making up for lost time.

Pink Tulip Arrangement via Town and Country Living

 

What I Learned About Others:

After going through this journey with anxiety, I started looking at people differently. If someone is rude or pushy in the store, I try to remind myself that I don’t know what they’re going through. That person who cuts me off in traffic may be on their way for a cancer test. Or maybe she recently found out her husband is unfaithful. Or maybe that person’s teenage child is taking drugs and they’re just not themselves at the moment.

I’m learning to be gentler and more patient with people. God is really convicting me that being part of His family means loving other people – even the unlovable. Being a Christian is very relationship-oriented. I’m a bit of an introvert and often prefer to keep to myself, but I need to learn to reach out more. A lot of people are hurting. We’re a broken society.  And so, I’m learning to love others.

As a young adult, I asked my mother how to love people when you simply don’t “feel love” toward them. In her wise way she responded, “Love follows actions. Actions don’t follow love. In other words, Jennifer, act in a loving way towards other people and you will start to feel love for them.” I miss my mother. She gave me so much insight on life.

Beautiful Pink Gerbera Daisies

Moving Forward:

I know I don’t have full control over my life. None of us do. Yes, we can control certain aspects like choosing to eat healthy or choosing a career. But anything can happen to anyone at any time. I’m trying to be okay with that and simply rest in God’s trust and care.

On occasion I will still feel a bit of anxiety coming on. The other day I was worried about something and felt a flash of that heat come back for a few minutes (not a hot flash, but the heat I described in my first post about anxiety). I started to panic but took a few deep breaths, and prayed to God. I knew I could increase my dose of Citalopram if I wanted, but I’d prefer to try and calm myself by natural means. The heat went away and the anxiety dissipated.

When I do feel a brush with anxiety now, I try to immediately focus on something else. Turning on the TV or calling a friend or going out for a walk. So far, this approach is working. I feel good the majority of the time. And by good, I mean content. And when I feel contentment, I feel joy. During my struggle with anxiety I wondered if I’d ever feel joy again. I do believe true joy comes from God. Like the joy that the apostle Paul felt when he was brutally beaten, chained, and imprisoned.

Decorating a Simple Summer Mantel with Pink Zinnias

You may not feel the same way I do about God, but if you ever change your mind, He’s always there for you. Always.

 

Final Thoughts

So how did my journey with anxiety begin? Like I said, I’ve always been pretty tough through life, viewing problems as challenges to be solved. So what brought me down? I believe it was a mix of circumstances all coming together within a year or two of each other. Our basement flooded when parts of our town flooded during a freak rainstorm, causing one of the basement walls to collapse (it’s fixed and for the most part the basement is fine now). Both my parents died within about a year of each other. I was feeling overly pressured with my blog and getting projects done around the house. And finally, work was becoming extremely chaotic and stressful. It was all just too much.

The doctor told me that you can go through life handling challenges and then all of a sudden – one thing can push you over the edge. Your brain is no longer creating enough serotonin to help you cope with the added pressure. For me, anxiety manifested itself in the form of what I was fearing at the time … physical illness. More specifically, that wicked flu with its raging internal heat. It makes sense. Someone who gets mugged might develop anxiety and be afraid to go outside. I had a friend who was extremely afraid to start driving again after a bad car accident. So anxiety can certainly vary in the forms it takes and while the fear may seem irrational … it’s very real to the person experiencing it.

Thank you for reading my story. If you think it can help someone, I hope you’ll share it. I feel God prompted me to write my story in order to help others. I only hope I wrote it in a way that brings comfort to others and glory to God.

Please know you’re not alone in this world, and thank you for reading about my journey!

 

Coping with Anxiety Series:

Coping with Anxiety: My Recent Journey – part one

Coping with Anxiety: The Abyss – part two

Coping with Anxiety: Finding Treatment – part three

Coping with Anxiety: Moving Forward – part four

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for your openness in discussing anxiety/depression. More people need to understand that this is a physical manifestation of our problem…….we can’t will our bodies to produce more seratonin. As you, I found a great doctor who understood and properly diagnosed my problem and the medicine now has me being my “old self.” I pray that others experiencing this problem will seek out medical help and then depend on God for support and comfort in all circumstances. God bless you in your Christian walk.

    • Hi Cheryl!
      The brain producing an adequate supply of serotonin is the part of anxiety I didn’t really know about until going through the experience myself. I would hear people say “chemical imbalance” but never really knew what that meant. I’m glad you’re back to being your “old self.” My doc said that’s the comment he hears the most from people he’s treating for anxiety – that they feel like their old self again! God bless you, too!

  2. I’m so proud of you. It took strength for you to share all this. I feel that it truly will help others. I’m so glad you’re better and that you are giving God the glory. He so loves and cares for us and wants us to turn to him. I hope you are involved in a bible believing church. Fellowship with other believers gives us strength. I read just this morning how God uses other people to help us. If nothing else, they can pray for us. You just keep busy and keep praying! You are loved!

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you for your kind words! And yes, I’m involved in a Spirit-filled church. I agree with you that community is important. Thanks for taking time to read about my journey and to share your care and love!

  3. Once again, thank you for sharing, Jennifer. You’ll never know how many people you helped. (Your mother’s words in action). I wish you continued joy and contentment!
    God Bless.
    Linda

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am so happy that you reached a good destination! xoxo

  5. Thank you for having the courage to write this. Glad you are feeling better. May God continue to heal you and bless you.

  6. Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have often wondered how you work full time and produce this, my favourite blog, on a daily basis. You are amazing is so many ways.
    I live in Canada and we are so fortunate to have a healthcare system for all. It really upset me to hear how the lack of proper healthcare in the USA can so adversely affect the lives of it’s people, and so quickly with the daunting healthcare bills.
    I am so glad that you found the strength to heal, the world needs pepole like you❤️
    I hope you will continue to blog for us, and don’t be too hard on yourself!
    Cathie

    • Aw, thanks for saying my blog is your favorite, Cathie! I have found ways to make blogging less stressful. I truly enjoy it but sometimes pressure myself to do too much … so I’m not pressuring myself anymore. If a project doesn’t get done that I wanted to blog about, then it simply has to wait until later. 🙂 Hopefully the US will figure out what to do about healthcare. I know people who’ve almost lost their homes due to medical bills.

  7. Debbie Wilson says:

    Jennifer, Thank you so much for sharing your story on anxiety. I too suffer from this and have really had a hard time lately. My 38 yr old son who lives with me had a seizure last February on his way home from work. He was not hurt and I was so thankful to God. He could not drive for six months so I had to drive him to and from work. He finally was able to drive last Sept. Then in Jan of this year he had another accident similar to the earlier one. He was on his way home from work and totaled his car. Again we think he had a seizure and he walked away without a scratch. Drs are trying to work with him on meds, etc. but I have been so stressed over thinking he won’t be able to ever drive again. I am again driving him to and from work. Then one week after his accident, I was in a hit and run accident on my way home after babysitting my granddaughter. I was in shock that this was happening and thankful again that no one was hurt. A man stole a car and ran a stop side and hit my car, knocking my car across the road and almost down a bank and into a creek. I braked so hard trying to avoid the creek and was able to stop just before it. I was bruised a little but not hurt. Again, God was faithful to protect me. I have really been down and a nervous wreck even trying to drive again. I too have asked my Dr to give me something for my anxiety and will begin taking it. You are so right when you say we can’t control everything and I try to put everything in God’s hands but it isn’t always easy to just let go and not worry. I worry about my sons future since he is unmarried and lives with me. Who will help him when I’m gone? I know God has a plan and he has brought us thru these things for a reason so I’m trying to remain hopeful but it isn’t always easy. Im sorry to be so long but I too enjoyed reading your blog and it helped me realize others feel the same way and it can get better. May God continue to heal you, bless you, and watch over you. Thank you for listening to me.

    • Hi Debbie!

      Thanks so much for sharing your story! I’m so sorry to hear about your son and hope that the doctors will be able to help him. What you’re going through is the tough part. Finding a reason for what’s going on and applying the right treatment. And omigoodness – you are so lucky you didn’t crash into that creek when you were hit. What a truly frightening experience that must have been. And the other driver didn’t even stick around to see if you were okay? I’m glad you weren’t seriously hurt. I think I’d be nervous driving again, too. I pray that God will give you the peace and grace that only He can give. I know it’s not always easy being hopeful – sometimes that can even feel totally out of reach. I pray that God will heal you, too!

  8. You are a brave and strong person to put it all out there in the hopes of helping others. I hope you continue to do well and to enjoy life without anxiety and worry. You obviously have found a way – your way – to deal with this very human condition and everyone who follows your blog and everyone who knows and loves you wishes you well. You’ve had the power all along to deal with it, so don’t let the little things in life derail you, and don’t underestimate yourself.

  9. Sandy Burdette says:

    You are absolutely right, God is always there for us. He helped me through some rough times about 5 years ago when i had a nervous breakdown. Faith and loving friends and family are what got me through. God bless…

  10. Thank you for your series. A sufferer myself I have posted this to my Facebook friends and family. Medication and talking about it has helped me so much. My cat listens and loves me and snuggles up with me and keeps me from feeling so alone. Angels come in many forms. You are one !

    • Hi Frances! I’m glad to hear you’re a fellow cat-lover! We have 4 kitties but they seem to like my husband better than me (probably because he’s the one who feeds them – at least, that’s what I tell myself). Thank you for sharing this with your friends. I’m glad you sought treatment and have been able to talk about. And thank you so much for your kind words – they truly touched me!

  11. Marlene Stephenson says:

    Thank you Jennifer and have a wonderful day. Watching nature and walking helps me too.

  12. There simply aren’t words to convey How impacting your story is to me and those who read it. I often think about how I took my children to the doctor and paid that doctor to stick a needle in them because we knew the end result would bring healing to them. If I had stuck a needle in them unnecessarily I could have been arrested for child abuse.
    We can trust God; He knows what needs healing. Pain that pushes us to Him is always redemptive. And it will always be for others. Just ask Jesus.
    Well done, good and faithful Jennifer. 😇

  13. Great post Jennifer. I am so thrilled you found peace. I am happy you are back to you

    Cindy

  14. Thank you for sharing this very touching story. As bad as things were for you physically, sounds like several good things came out of the bad. You are stronger and have a deeper faith. I love your blog and hope you do it for many more years. Wow, you were certainly blessed with a wise mother! Thanks for sharing your story.

  15. Just read your blog and very inspiring ! we all need to surrender to Gods plan ! Each of us react differently in any given situation and I agree that anxiety is so hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have it ! I too suffer from anxiety ! So, each day we put one foot in front of another and do the best we can in any given situation! Give it to God! Cast your care! Right? Easier said than done! I will leave you with a message I have in my room on a large sign , it says, THE WILL OF GOD WILL NEVER TAKE YOU WHERE THE GRACE OF GOD WILL NOT PROTECT YOU !AMEN !!!!

  16. Norma Rolader says:

    I am so thankful for you sharing your struggles and your journey with us … I have been on this rollercoaster for several years and for 2 yrs I could not leave my home and was a struggle just to go see the psychologist diagnosed with severe depression, severe anxiety and severe panic attacks… They say it was from trying to be to strong for too long and thinking you had to handle it all and now I had steps back due to my husband of 42 yrs is in in-home hospice and now I have to do it all and hard watching someone that is your friend, your love and your soulmate to go through all this … I am proud of you and may God continue to strengthen you

  17. Cathy Brooks says:

    I relate so closely to your story. In November 2017 I was shocked to find out that my chest pain I had been having for weeks were directly a result of a 80% blockage of my main coronary artery. I had angioplasty and stent placement. I am a healthy 46 year old female with zero risk factors and no family history of this disease. On my first night home from the hospital, I experienced my first panic attack and have been battling anxiety for three months. As you stated, I also feel my anxiety is an accumulation of many circumstances including starting a new career 2 years ago as a registered nurse, a flood in our city from Harvey, and an unexpected emergency surgery and hospitalization of my teenaged daughter a month before my cardiac event. Fortunately all of these events are behind us and we are all healthy but I am left with this residual anxiety and some bouts of depression. My anxiety manifests as heartburn, shortness of breath, pounding heart, and flutters. After two months of counseling, cardiac rehab, amazing family and friend support, and mild anxiolytics, I finally caved in and started an SSRI (Escitalopram), not the same as Citalopram. I’ve been on a very small dosage for 6 days and will bump up the dose on Wednesday. Your story has given me hope and relief. I have not yet been back to work and believe that being home with too much time on my hands is certainly making it more difficult to recover at this point. I am so happy for you to have reached your new and improved normal! I am well on my way, too.

    • Hi Cathy!
      Thank you so much for sharing your story! You’ve certainly been through a lot recently, but I’m so happy to hear you’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I never knew that anxiety could manifest itself in such a physical way. I’m not surprised to hear that you started feeling anxiety after getting home from the hospital. That must’ve been so scary since you have no risk factors for heart disease. I’m glad you were able to have surgery to correct it. I’m glad your daughter is doing okay now – and I can’t imagine the horror of a hurricane. Did you start to wonder how much one person could take?

      I’m glad you decided to try taking the SSRI. It was truly a lifesaver for me! An added bonus is that it helps me sleep. I hope you’re able to return to work soon. It did help me once I got back to the office and into a routine again. That was difficult to do though, until I started the SSRI. I think you’ll find yourself feeling fairly normal once you’ve been on the medication for a few weeks. I’m so glad my story has given you hope and a sense of relief. I have a necklace that says “Hope” to remind myself to never forget that there’s always hope. 🙂

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