After I was diagnosed with GAD, I ended up meeting with a wonderful social worker named Sue. I loved her, she was a big help to me in learning how to deal with my anxiety. I eventually was able to go into stores by myself and from there I was able to start driving a small amount by myself. I remember feeling anxious anytime I hit a red stoplight but after a while I desensitized myself to that. Although I was able to get over my fear of driving around town, I never tried going outside of town again. I wish I would’ve worked more on this as it is still a struggle for me today. My max reach is about 15 minutes away from home by myself or with my kids. Once I drove from our town to a big city about two hours away when the two oldest girls were 4 and 2. Hubby had been in Chicago for work and was going to get dropped off by his boss in the city I was driving to. For most of the way there I just reminded myself that God was with me, He was in the passenger seat and I could just reach over and squeeze His hand for strength. I had made it almost all the way there when I was hit by a huge panic attack. I pulled into a gas station, took the kids out and went inside. I told the lady behind the counter what was happening in case for some reason I passed out. Thankfully I was meeting a friend at the mall so I called her, thankfully she was able to meet me at the gas station and I followed her the last 15 minutes of the trip into town. That trip should have been counted as a success in my book because I made it, it was rough but I did drive there. Instead though I see it as a failure, I didn’t make it all the way. What would I have done if my friend wouldn’t have been able to meet me? I was so worried about hyperventilating to the point of passing out that I didn’t want to drive because I could get in an accident and/or someone could steal my children or I could injure or kill them if I did pass out while driving. After that, I have never attempted to drive anywhere far away by myself again.
When we moved this past summer my husband thought for sure that my anxiety would kick into high gear again, especially driving in an unfamiliar, larger city. I had one anxious moment when I went to pick up a Craigslist find but other than that I am even amazed at how well I’ve done. We live in a city now where there is an actual highway with on and off ramps that runs through town, much like an interstate. I have no problems getting on and off, merging with traffic and driving with 3 to 4 lanes of traffic around me. I would hate to be stuck in traffic though, that would be enough to have me panicking! Thankfully traffic doesn’t get too bad here and I don’t have to be in rush hour because I don’t have a job and our kids take the bus to school.
Besides the driving, another point of major anxiety for me that was quite an awful ordeal was the dentist and my wisdom teeth. For those of you who remember this, bear with me. When I was sixteen I was supposed to get my wisdom teeth out, they were impacted so it was supposed to be the surgical removal of the teeth with anesethia. I remember going to the dentist, getting in the chair, seeing all the tools laid out that looked quite scary and the dentist coming over to my chair. After feeling around in my mouth he said that they were quite impacted and he felt that maybe they would erupt closer to the gum so he wouldn’t have to dig around so much to get them out and I should come back in 6 months to a year. I shot out of that chair and said to myself, I am never getting this done, ever.
Fast forward to 2005, my wisdom teeth are all through the gums and one has a cavity in it. My dentist told me I needed to have my wisdom teeth removed because they would all eventually have cavities. The medical clinic in town is where most everyone went to have their wisdom teeth removed and it was covered by our insurance. The appointment would be made, I would fast from eating because they were going to put me out and each time I would cancel the morning of after crying, fighting with my husband and having a panic attack. I did not want anesthesia and I was freaked out. This became such a horrible time of shame and embarrassment for me, I did not like myself, I did not like how I felt, I did not like how my anxiety was ruling my life.. People were constantly telling me things like “Oh, just don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine.” If people could only understand the irrational fear and how it doesn’t make sense, we know that but it feels so real!
Finally in 2008 I managed to find a dentist who would pull out my wisdom teeth without anesethia and even gave me some meds to take beforehand so I wouldn’t be so anxious. I had two teeth extracted and it was so freeing to do it! After 3 years of dealing with it, I did it! The next month I ended up needing emergency surgery for my ectopic pregnancy so I still had to be put out just for a different reason. I felt like God was telling me, see with victory you can do hard things!
Well I am sorry to say, I am back into my prison cell as I need to have my other two wisdom teeth removed but I’ve been putting it off for 3 years and have a cavity in my lower wisdom tooth. Hopefully I will be posting about this soon telling you there was another victory!
One last thing I want to point out is that I have memorized scripture about fear,
prayed over and over for God to help me and done some visual exercises of laying my worries at the cross. I know that worrying is a sin. Sometimes we like to judge others and say things like “They aren’t trusting God” or “Anxiety and Depression aren’t real, they are just a result of you not trusting God.” “Really, you just need to believe God can heal you” or my favorite, “Sickness is really a sign of sin in your life.”
I love God and I want to find freedom from this disease but that might not be in the cards for me. Paul talks about the thorn in his side, something that he never comes out to tell us specifically what it was. Here is the rest of the passage from 2 Corinthians 12.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am also not using this verse as a cop-out for seeking victory over this area of my life. Because I struggle with anxiety doesn’t mean I don’t love God or want victory over fear. I do! Trust me, I do!
So if you know someone who struggles with anxiety or other mental illnesses, please just be there for them, listen to them and even if you don’t understand, let them know you are there to support them.
Thank you for all your kind emails, offers to talk on the phone and loving comments. You have touched my heart by sharing your own struggles with me and for being so supportive! I’m planning on updating you all with some progress in this area of my life as I work through this myself and with my daughter E. God is good, all the time!