After the overwhelming response to my post earlier this week on my daughter E’s anxiety , I knew that I would have to share my story with anxiety as well so you could better understand where we are coming from.
For as long as I can remember, I have had anxiety. When I was little, I remember very specifically watching a sitcom on TV and a lady was in labor. They put her in an elevator and then the elevator doors wouldn’t open and they were trapped in the elevator. This was supposed to be funny but to me it was so scary! I remember thinking, I didn’t know you could get trapped in an elevator. I am never riding in an elevator again.
After that I didn’t or at least I didn’t want to. I think my parents’ forced me on a few elevators but since we lived in a very small town we didn’t really have to use them more than twice a year. Until we took a trip to Washington DC when I was 10 or 11. We were going to visit the FBI building and had to ride up to the 11th or 12th floor. I didn’t want to go but my parents made me. I’m pretty sure I suffered a panic attack but we didn’t know what those were at the time. I remember maybe they gave me a Pepsi or something and I had to sit or lay on some chair, it’s kind of a vague memory but I do remember I didn’t have to go on an elevator ever again. To this day, I have not been on an elevator. More on this later.
Another thing I always hated was sitting in the backseat of a two door car. Once again, I didn’t like the feeling of being trapped. How would you get out if there was a car accident? I was pretty sure if someone was going to kidnap you, they would have a two door car so you couldn’t get out.
When I was maybe 9, my mom worked for the airport in the office. One day they were just taxiing a plane up and down the runway and we were able to go on the plane while they did that. All I remember is seeing that door shut and I’m pretty sure I had a freak out. I did not want to be on the plane, even if it wasn’t taking off, I didn’t care, I wanted out. NOW. I have never been on an airplane again.
hen I went to elementary school we had those heavy wooden doors. Sometimes the doors would slam shut really hard and I hated that. In fourth grade it was time for lunch and I remember the class across the hall was stuck in the classroom, the door wouldn’t open. Everyday from then on, I would worry about the door being stuck and being trapped in the classroom.
For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of thunderstorms. According to my parents it’s because when I was little, maybe two or three years old, there was a thunderstorm. We lived next to an Iron Ore mining facility that they didn’t really use anymore. It had a generator on the property though and when the storm was going on, lightning hit the generator producing quite the electricity in the air. Apparently enough that it actually raised me off the floor where I was playing. I’m sure that is what made me afraid of thunderstorms. Anytime there would be a thunderstorm I would be in my parents bedroom faster than fast. I would hide under the pillow, squeeze my eyes shut as tight as I could and cover my ears.
When I was younger we would sometimes travel to Green Bay for the weekend which was about 3 hours from my hometown. For some reason I knew that Wisconsin would get tornadoes but the Upper Peninsula of Michigan didn’t really get tornadoes.
So every time we drove to Green Bay I would stare out the window at the clouds, wondering if a tornado was going to form and blow our car off the road.
In junior high, I was teased a lot by some kids. I had bad acne and was called names like “Pizza Face” and teased for other stuff too. Every day I would go to class, they would tease me, I would ask to go to the bathroom and pretty much spend my entire class period in the bathroom hiding. I suffered from allergies and sinus infections a lot during junior high and sometimes I would just complain so I could go home and not deal with being picked on. For some reason whenever I thought about telling anyone about the teasing, I just couldn’t do it. I was ashamed.
During high school I would lay awake at night worrying about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning until my parents bought a carbon monoxide detector. Then I was worried that I would have appendicitis, not sure why this was a big one but I was freaked out about it. Those same kids that teased me in junior high were still not very nice in high school so I took an F on a speech in at least one class because I didn’t want to stand up in front of everyone. My high school years weren’t that bad, I had great friends and my anxiety wasn’t challenged too much.
My senior year of high school I met my husband. We started dating and were engaged a month after we graduated. He was going to a school in Lower Michigan in the fall and I was staying in the Upper Peninsula. It was really hard to be apart and he ended up coming home after the first semester to attend college in the UP. My anxiety was still kind of dormant at this point, nothing much bothered me. I was working retail and ended up getting the Manager’s Position at a store in the mall. Eventually I was asked to go help re-set a store in Lower Michigan. My parents ended up driving downstate with me but then I needed to drive the seven hour drive home by myself. I was a little nervous about it because I didn’t want to cross the Mackinac Bridge myself, I hate that bridge! It’s a five mile long suspension bridge so it moves a little with the wind and sometimes they limit who can cross , sometimes it is only open with one lane on each side. Cars have driven off the bridge into the Great Lakes below. Yuck!
I made the drive ok, I was nervous but doing fine. It was getting dark and now I had to drive through a section of the UP that is 30 miles long with pretty much n o civilization except the people traveling on the road. Cell phone reception is sketchy at best in this stretch and the wildlife is abundant. I am pretty sure I had a mild panic attack while driving through that area but I made it! This is probably where the beginning of my driving anxiety started.
My hubby and I were married in the summer of 1998 when I was just 20 years old and he was 21. He had one more semester of school before we moved away for his first job. He had interviewed and lined up a job the spring of 1998. I was pretty excited to move away. Before the wedding I went with my mom to try on wedding dresses. While I was standing there all of a sudden I felt lightheaded and things started to fade. I was passing out and I’m not sure why. That freaked me out so now I was constantly worrying about passing out. I worried that I would pass out while in front of the church on my wedding day. I worried about passing out at work. One thought was maybe I had low blood sugar so I made sure I always had sugar or carbs nearby. I probably ate too much to overcompensate to make sure I always had high blood sugar. Thankfully I stayed skinny during this time because french fries with cheese all over them and Sprite are not the best sources of nutrition. I never did pass out again so who knows what happened that day but it was just another link added to my chain of things to worry about.
Ange… I had terrible anxiety. I finally went and talked to someone about it. I wrote down everything that i worried about daily and the list consisted of around 32 worries a day. It was tearing me up and my marriage too. Once I let go of all my worries.. I feel much better. I also take medication to help me with my anxiety/depression. It is more common than we think!
Ange..I do not have anxiety, but I have dealt with depression. Beth Moore did an awesome devotional yesterday on her blog about anxiety. You should check it out, it was a wonderful teaching.
Lisa Scibilia says
Ange, first of all I want to beat up all those kids that were mean to you when you were in middle and high school. Kids are so mean. If I could ask God for ONE thing that my kids learn from me it's kindness. Please God, help my kids to be kind even when it's hard. Second, you went through those struggles and God gave you that beautiful little girl for a reason. How lucky she is to have a mother that understands her! You will teach her how to deal and be resilient and strong and kind!
Thank you for opening up about your journey. You're a fabulous home renovator/decorator/blogger AND you're genuine!
Can't wait to meet you in person in June 🙂
Keeping you and E in my prayers. xoLisa
Pia @Jello says
Oh girl! Yes!, I think everyone had worries as a child, but for some of us those worries went much deeper. Worrying and phobias are different though.
I remember when I was a kid reading a weekly reader (anyone else remember those?) and there was an article about a concrete bridge breaking apart and crashing…. Along with a picture!! Who looks at a story like that and thinks to themselves, "hey that's the perfect cover for our mini magazine for young children!"? Then somewhere along the line I learned that when a car hits water, you can't open windows or doors. Well that lead to a total freak out about ever driving on or under a bridge. Driving over water? Every single window was down, no matter what.
I had fears about everything, always with the underlying true fear of not being able to leave, to be out of control. To not draw attention to myself.
Several years ago,I was driving my car , which was a soft side jeep. It was winter, freezing cold but no rain or ice or snow at all. I was driving from Boston back to Maine where I was living at the time. Merging from one highway to another, my car slipped on something. Not used to driving in ice or snow or whatever, I am a southern girl after all, I didn't know what to do. It was so fast, over in an instant and n eternity at the same time. I skidded a bit, did a few 360s and then flipped over and down into the embankment before my car stopped on its side. With my side being on the ground. Somehow during tht whole thing, the top came down. To this day I say miracle. Those suckers were bolted in tight.I found out later thati hit a patch of frozen antifreeze. Apparently it freezes!
Anyway, I had been on the phone with a friend and it had slipped during the accident. I fished it out of the car, said I think I just had an accident I'll call you back and crawled out of the top. Not having a clue wht to do. It was freezing and I was somewhere outside of Boston. I have no family here! I had just dropped my youngest two children, my only children at the time, with my ex husband. Then all of a sudden people who saw it happen are everywhere all around me, offering blankets and coats. There had been no traffic, I head no idea anyone even saw it. My panic ripped through me and I was freakingout! I wanted to leave! Instantly! I asked one guy to help me turn my car right side up so I could leave! Apparently, that's no an acceptable thing to do 😉
People stayed and literally made me wait for the police. I can't believe they didn't give me a breathalyzer for how weirdo i was acting. They thought I was just dazed or some thing, and I was, but really I was having a full blown panic attack. The policeman wouldn't let me leave, the ambulance came and again, I resisted saying I was fine, call me a cab (!!) . In the ambulance, I freaked again because they TIED ME DOWN in case of back or neck injury. Holy smokes. You don't tie down a girl having a panic attack! Which of course they didn't know.
Even at the hospital I refused an MRI and cat scan,just wanted to leave. Still can't believe they let me leave. Honestly, if I were those nurses, I probably would have wondered if I were on drugs or drunk or something. I took a cab ride home to Maine. 2 hours. Thank goodness for Amex!
Long story short (too late?) I had phobias, worries, panic, etc. but guess what? I'm fine now. Bridges? No problem. I enjoy driving over the bridge to the beach now… Doctors offices? Not a huge issue anymore. Social functions?Happily there. I say this not at all in a boasting way, more to offer hope! I'm a kazillion times better now. I still have lingering issues sometimes but those are more learned responses than actual fear if that makes sense. Seeing a doctor WORKS. Therapy WORKS. Prayer WORKS. And thank God, medication WORKS!!!! Haha
Cassie @ Primitive & Proper says
wow. i have never had anxiety like that and i can't even begin to comprehend how you feel/felt and what you went through. being a child you are supposed to be care-free. that must have been hard for your parents to watch you struggle. i am so glad you are sharing.
i also learned that we are the same age- i was 20 in 1998, too! there's a fun fact for you.
and i will happily walk staircases with you at haven so you don't have to go in any elevators.
Jo Ann says
I could have written this story myself and just signed my name. I have claustrophobia from nearly smothering to death as a baby, I hate bridges, being closed up in airplanes or elevators, going through tunnels, could never have an MRI, etc. I don't like being anywhere where I think I couldn't get out in a hurry. Have to have the outside seat in theaters, church etc. Thankfully I'm not as bad now as I was when younger. I still occasionally have panic attacks. I'm so sorry for everything you've had to go through.
Ange, I just wanted to stop by and double check that your linky was working and I was connected. I see it is.
I am going to come back tomorrow and read this with a cup of coffee in the morning. I love to write, so I also love to take my time when I read. Looking forward to it.
As promised, I am here reading this slowly today, not with coffee but with love and encouragement. I am writing this AFTER commenting on your post on E's anxiety.
One encounter with fear and that is all it takes to open the door to anxiety, panic, worry, over-thinking and stress. Most of it, if not all, is typically based on deception and never comes to pass. Fear was never something I dealt with until I became a mother; however, never to the point of anxiety or stress disorders.
Through my daughter, who has dealt with fear since she was a child, I have learned much about it. One of the very first Bible verses God led me to give her early in life was, "…Perfect love casts out fear." from 1 John 4:18 Christ is perfect love. Having a greater revelation of all that He is is typically the answer for all of us. She memorized this verse and repeats it often as needed. By observing how fear, which was never an issue for me, jumped on me through her own, I've seen how it's quite an influencing culprit. It spreads like a virus. Its best treatment is facing it head on with plenty of truth, God's Word, and by confronting the very things we're afraid of as God may lead, gently and in His timing, without forcing.
I will be praying for you and E, Ange. It is my honor.
Erika . . . with a K says
Bridges totally make me anxious!! My knuckles turn white driving over them!
Eerily, I also suffer from each and every thing that you did, exactly the same at the same ages, as well as same situations, even drive thru car washs create panic attacks for me. The only thing that has helped is prayer, I have not been on an airplane since 18, now 40 ! However, I have 4 children and I do not want them to suffer my fate. I feel it is too early to tell if they have my anxiety issues. God Bless you and your family.
I'm pretty sure I would have anxiety going across a 5 mile suspension bridge! I didn't realize there were bridges that long! Wow! I remember when I was very young, my parents made me walk out on a very narrow walking bridge in Colorado made out of ropes and wood. There is a photo of me on the bridge with my Dad and I am crying. I don't know how old I was, but I remember how frightening that was.
So we have to swap retail stories!!! I've been in retail management too! lol
Ever since 9/11 I have struggled with flying. I didn't fly for many years after. Even now I have to say a prayer for the pilot, co-pilot and plane. On Sunday flying back from S. Carolina, I sat behind the people who were in the exit seats. I looked those people over and remember thinking, "Will those people really remember how to open those doors if there is an emergency?"
Over the years I have learned to rely on my faith as much as possible to help me with things I fear. I am so sorry to hear about how people treated you…makes me sick. This is a wonderful post and I am grateful to know you even more!
Leslie Dawn says
Hi! I just found your blog because of that beautiful bedroom you created. I loved it because it's the exact thing (well sorta) that I want for my room…now, if only my husband would see my vision. 🙂
Your story sounds EXACTLY like mine. Except my claustrophobia came from my dad not letting me out of the covers and "playing". He was just playing but it definitely scarred me for life.
I never really had panic until I was out of college. As a kid…I worried about tornadoes, elevators…and yes…I looked for the quickest exit just in case I needed to leave.
I didn't experience a "panic attack" until I was exercising one day and I felt like I was going to faint…no one was with me which caused me to panic even more. I really didn't know I was having a "panic attack"…so, I got in the car (stupid) and started driving to Wal-mart. I eventually made it to Wal-mart, called the ambulance and had to have someone come pick me up.
I felt bad about causing a ruckus but, I literally thought I was dying. After that, I would get panic attacks just from driving. That was the worst because I felt like I was trapped at home.
I got on medication and it helped A LOT. I have been off an on it a few times since this happened…I guess it's been around 4 years (currently on it). I know it's all "mental" but, it is really hard to not let your brain take control of your thoughts…even though, you know that nothing bad will happen.
I was really doing fine until this summer. I was on a mission trip in Belize and started getting dizzy. I guess it worried me more because I was in a foreign country. So, I have been back on my medication since then.
One thing that has really helped is praying and believing that God is going to take care of me no matter what. One time, I was in the midst of panicking and I got my bible out and started reading Psalms..and my panic went away (it was really cool).
I'm hoping to get off the meds soon (I take Zoloft, 50 mg). I really don't like to take any medication but, sometimes, I feel like it really helps.
Sorry for the long reply…just thought I would share with you and let you know that you are not alone. My husband is a little more understanding now but, he use to think it was ridiculous. I'm very glad you shared your story!