I sat on the exam table, wires in weird places and of course the baby started fussing RIGHT when I was supposed to stay ‘very still.’ I calmed her down, put her back into the stroller, and laid back so the EKG could be completed. Happy 30th – visiting my doctor for severe chest pain.
The night before, I couldn’t sleep. I finally fell asleep after crying for hours and texting my sweet love notes to my husband and my three young children, just in case I didn’t wake up.
I have always suffered with anxiety. OCD ruled my life for years, and after much therapy and medication, I had learned to mostly control my anxious thoughts and compulsions. I had been medication free for eight years, but this whole thing didn’t feel like anxiety – and with my younger brother having survived heart failure in his early 20s, I didn’t want to take any chances.
When the report came back, my doctor first uttered some reassuring words – “your heart looks very healthy.” I breathed a heavy sigh of relief before I sensed her ‘but’ coming. “But…,” she continued, “you look like you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar company. Like someone under immense pressure and stress.”
She proceeded to ask me if I WAS under undue stress and how my anxiety was. I explained that immediately after my third daughter was born, I did experience relentless anxiety. She was born right in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons I had ever witnessed, and germs are one of my triggers for compulsive behavior and anxiety.
I also explained, however, that after my hormones finally chilled the heck out I had gone back to my tried-and-true therapy exercises and have been since able to completely rid myself of the annoying sense of panic.
That’s when she explained something that made me feel like a total failure. You see, when you suffer from OCD, anxiety is just a symptom. OCD hangs out in a special place in your brain, nice and cozy and sends signals out to your body when you’re doing anything it doesn’t like. Anxiety is one of those displays it sends your way. But, if you control your anxiety, you’re just masking the problem sometimes. ESPECIALLY if you’re sleep deprived. Which…hello…newborn?
SO, basically I was so good at controlling the outward anxiety, that my brain was now sending the impulses of panic to parts of my body it could control – my heart and lungs – causing chest pain and shortness of breath that lead me to believe I was having a heart attack.
And next came the words I was dreading, “I think I should prescribe you something to help with your OCD…and maybe something else for you anxiety as well.”
I was devastated. The words were like a blow to my gut. I had worked SO HARD to rid myself of prescription pills, leading as holistic of a lifestyle as possible, and here they were creeping back into my life.
But, I also knew she was right. I knew that things weren’t good, and that for months I’ve been trying to make them better through God and my own strength. I wanted to enjoy my third baby girl’s newborn days without anxiety and compulsions plaguing me. I wanted to enjoy the spring and laugh with my children, truly carefree. And I couldn’t do that right now. Right now, I could hardly breathe. I accepted the help, picked up my little blue pills, and went home to pray.
I cried out to God. So hard, y’all. I felt like an utter failure. I am a Christian! I’m supposed to be able to kick this with HIM. But see, that’s a misconception I’m hoping to dispel with this particular post.
God loves you. He tells you to fear not over 365 times in the Bible, which I don’t believe is any coincidence. He has called you to live a life of abundance. Yet, somewhere along the way we have convinced ourselves that, as believers, we shouldn’t need the help of medication in order to thrive. That by relying on Him alone, we will be lifted up on wings like eagles.
However, let me ask you something. What if that eagle is the form of a little blue pill? What if His strength is the medication, for this season or for a lifetime, that will help your illness.
Mental illness seems to designate so much shame. We hide behind fake smiles and texts exuding happiness as we explain our absence is just because we are super busy. But why? God Himself created me. He knew how He wired this crazy brain of mine. And I am who I am because of my quirky mental illness. We don’t see diabetics hiding their illness or refusing life giving insulin. So if a little blue pill is what helps you wake up with happiness or a lighter load, where is the shame in that?
Through this time with God, all these things were revealed and more. I realized He wanted me to accept the help that HE, personally, had sent my way. That for this season, I needed to practice some self care – regulate my compulsions through medication and work on myself to get back to where I was, happy and carefree and able to throw those pills away.
Life ebbs and flows. I’m in a totally different season than I was the last eight years of no medication. And now my little blue friends are back, and I’m no longer feeling like a failure.
Instead, I’m looking at tomorrow with promise. It has the promise of clear thinking and a level head that will help me focus on God’s plan for my day and the steps He’d like me to take in order to be truly free and living abundantly.
Don’t let shame or social stigma keep you from getting the help you may need. God wants you to live with strength and power, to be unafraid of the future. Memorizing scripture and meditating on His words should always be our first line of defense, but ask Him, when you feel like you’re failing, if victory may too come for you with a little outside help.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, please don’t hide. Let the world know that there is no shame in needing some help – the people who created these drugs may have been gifted the vision by God Himself!