Wednesday, September 27

Two Years in the Dark and Dusk

About two years ago, a little more, I sat in my GP's office and looked at her through tears.

I was depressed, unable to deal with "normal" things in my life, suffering from panic attacks, and worst of all, feeling guilty about all of it.

NOTHING in my life was bad. I had a gorgeous 3 month old baby, 3 other healthy and amazing children, a loving husband and and awesome marriage. I also had a supportive moms group, an amazing homeschool community, a church family at the ready to come to our assistance at any crisis, and family that was always, always there and more friends than anyone should be allowed to have. Most of all, I had a solid faith in, and vibrant relationship with, my God who never changes. I was SUPPORTED.

I had absolutely zero reasons to be depressed - except postpartum hormones. And I wanted them fixed. But the doctor had no answers, and she offered me some medicine to deal with the symptoms. I tried the medicine, but I have low blood pressure naturally and the medicine lowered my blood pressure even further to the point of blackouts and dizzy spells. So that was off the table.

I didn't know who to call (for a variety of reasons that I will not go into) for counseling.

So I continued the only way I knew how - one step at a time. My reality was waking in the night with panic attacks, covered with sweat, heart racing and pained, unable to breathe, and unable to sleep when it was over. During the day, I was hiding from the children when I knew a panic attack was coming, locking the door behind me and praying through the symptoms, trying to think rationally and repeating to myself that this was a panic attack and I would get through it, and that I was not dying.

But honestly, a little piece of me was, because I was afraid to go anywhere that I was with my children alone, I was paralyzed by the knowledge that at literally any second, a panic attack could strike, and what if I couldn't hide it from the kids. It was scary enough to suffer through them but how could I explain it to my babies? Or take care of my babies during an attack? How could I explain it to strangers? Or what if one of them called 911? So we stayed home.

I visited several natural doctors, one of which suggested a hormone balancing supplement that contained gluten (which caused 3 days of agony) and for which no substitute existed. The other one suggested I get more sleep and rest, and ordered expensive testing that may or may not give answers. The panic attacks and new baby nixed the "extra sleep" idea, and I decided to forgo the expensive testing. I read pages and pages of articles about postpartum depression and hormones and natural methods for hormone balancing. I continued my THM way of eating, hoping that the lack of sugar would at least keep the symptoms somewhat at bay, or at least allow my body to heal faster. I tried essential oils, supplements, and potions. Nothing really helped. Some things just simply take TIME.

I'm only detailing these struggles because IT. WAS. SO. REAL. And so hard.

Today, it's been about 10 months since my last panic attack, but they were full force, 3+ times/week up until then. I think it's important to note that to the best of my knowledge, these panic attacks were random and without trigger. They were not because of a lack of faith or trust in God. The root of the issue was hormones. I mean, there was more to it than that, our endocrine systems are a glorious and horrifying mystery - but I journaled the situations around the attacks and there was no seeming connection.

I talked to a friend a couple of weeks ago who asked how I was doing. My response was, "OH so much better!" and she was so glad, and asked what I did to help. I pondered that. And laughed a little - "Well, I...I suffered through it, prayed for healing, cried a lot, and waited. And I watched YouTube videos to learn coping mechanisms for dealing with panic attacks."

But the truth is, I also let go of a lot of things. We made the absolutely heartwrenching (at the time) decision to put the boys in school. God provided the perfect solution for us at the exact right time. They are in school for a second year. I don't know if it will be right for us forever, but it is right for us for now. During the years of waiting for the dawn of this healthier time, I learned a lot about hormones and sleep patterns and a lot about myself and my God. I learned in a very tiny way about suffering. There are so many others who suffer more, suffer longer, suffer better than I, but God had lessons for me in my relatively small struggle.

Anyway, that is all background. For this:

The first doctor I talked to mentioned how stress has a "bad" connotation, as in "I'm stressed about a lack of _____ or the pressures of ________" but that good things in our lives can be stress too. Stress is really just too much brain stimulation. Too many instances where adrenaline kicks in can take a huge toll. She mentioned the idea that we have so much fast paced technological stimuli coming at us every single day JUST ON OUR PHONES and we expect our brains and bodies to cope with that as if it's normal. Then add in "real life" and it quickly becomes overwhelming, especially with kids who have complicated schedules and multiple activities, and/or kids who are waking up in the night, or who are constantly needing to be rescued from outlets, busy roads, and other toddler tendencies. We are constantly, constantly multitasking; asking our brains to push to the absolute max without relenting. The expectation from ourselves (and from our society!) is that we should just be able to bounce back from the stimuli and be resilient!

She mentioned that God created the day for work and the night for rest but we are constantly on "go" from before dawn to past midnight and expect our fallible bodies to just deal with it. As she spoke, my heart resonated a big, giant YES to these things. And so it has stuck with me. I'm still learning to let go and learning to say no and guarding my heart from false guilt and expectations that are Other than God's expectations. I'm learning to discern when I'm acting on my own ambitions apart from God's plans. I will never be perfect at this, but it is the best lesson that has come from my years in the dark and dusk.

So if you're feeling on edge today, and Facebook is getting overwhelming, step away. If you can't watch the evening news for awhile, it's OK. If there's a way for you to slow down, do it. Read a book instead of watching a video. Put your phone in time out, even just for a couple of hours. Close your eyes for a few minutes this afternoon. Say no when you can. Breathe. Take a walk without multitasking. Delegate. Let go. Find a substitute. Enjoy the sunset. Watch the stars. God put them there to remind you of Him. Be still, be dependent. It's more than OK; it is good.

We are created to work for God's glory and to learn of our dependence on Him by honoring His design for our bodies in our times of rest. It is more than OK to rest and thank God for His gracious gift of human limitations. May He be glorified.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jenny. Your transparency and honesty were a blessing to me today. Been there...and still am there. Still guarding my mind and heart, and I probably always will, but once I learned it wasn't something "wrong" with me, I've been able to face it more honestly from my own heart over the last few years.

Sara said...

Jenny thank you so much for sharing this is almost exactly what I have been dealing with, it is HARD, you are brave! I would love to pick your brain about what you have learned about hormones because my panic attacks are seemingly for no reason at all as well. It's so nice sometimes to know you are not the only one struggling even though I would never wish this on my worst enemy.

Rebekah Shaver said...

Bless you my friend! This is so beautifully written and Sooooo true! Those hormones can get out of whack when the babies do not even come from our own bodies (we foster newborns to age 2). I've learned this the hard way!

Tim and Sarah Valiante said...

Thank you, Jenny! There are so many who suffer from what many call depression, but there is hope! Thank you for sharing your heart and the lessons you have learnred through it all! God is good and He gives peace as we lean upon Him in the stillness! Love you, sweet sister!