As soon as I was released from the hospital, my anxieties were tested. You see, the world and the people in it do not stop being ugly because you have had a breakdown. Todd did his best to make my transition as easy as possible. For weeks, we stayed in the protective bubble of our home–even now it’s where we are most. Events would come up and Todd would say, “I would rather not go.”
It never dawned on me he was lying. He’s never been someone who sugarcoated things for me. If I’m wrong, he tells me. So when I mentioned I didn’t want to go to a particular family event, I was surprised when he said OK without hesitation. I go to EVERYTHING. So I thought he was just being fair. Then came my best friend Shawn’s birthday party. I knew I had to get my butt there. That girl has done so much for me. As soon as I ready to go…..full on panic attack and another cancelation. I was letting the people I love down. I was letting Todd down. I was letting myself down.
I expressed how surprised I was that he wasn’t putting up a fight when I wanted to stay home from things. He said, “I don’t want you to have to do something that’s going to bring on any extra stress.” It was then that I realized how much he was catering to the new fragile me. He had done it so nonchalantly that I hadn’t even noticed he was doing it.
I needed to step up. I can’t expect him to change his whole life because of me. He has stepped up and now it’s time for me to return the favor. After that I went to everything again. A couple of things helped me break out of my bubble.
First, I started therapy. Now I’m someone, as you all know, who didn’t believe in it. It’s now one of my favorite things! Just talking to someone who is not biased about your situation is helpful. Also when you’re trapped inside your own head, you don’t make the decisions you normally would–every decision you make is out of fear. You need an outsider’s perspective that has absolutely nothing to gain, no hidden agenda, except to make you the best version of you.
I learned that I needed to set healthy boundaries for things that caused me stress. That it’s OK to not go to everything, regardless of what others think. That staying away from people or things that bring out the worst in you is a healthy thing, not a bad thing. That staying at home is actually really unhealthy if it becomes a habit…and that a lot of your anxieties are your own insecurities.
I think it’s easy to feel like other people or situations cause your stress, whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers. It’s easy to blame others when you feel you are misunderstood, judged, or wronged in some way. The truth is we pick who is in our lives and how much they are in our lives. If it’s stressful, then we can distance ourselves–that’s our choice. What’s that quote? “Not everyone deserves a seat at the table of your life.” If we feel certain people are worth the investment, we can try to mend that relationship or we can put some healthy boundaries there. If it’s work where you feel you have no choice…I’m learning we do have a choice. We can choose how we react to things. People will find you quite dull if you don’t react and will usually stop involving you. Most want you to react, and when you give them that satisfaction, the only person it harms is you.
This is all easier said than done. If you keep working it, keep trying to be a better you, you’ll be a healthier you. If you think you are cured or you are the best version of yourself, you probably need more therapy. We always need work.
Second, was an unlikely friendship that I didn’t see coming. The day I was released from the hospital, the cardiologist I had seen before I was admitted called to ask how I was doing. Boy, was his timing perfect. We were driving through the pharmacy picking up all my meds. I laughed and said, “Well, I guess I’m better.” I explained what had happened. He scheduled a follow up with me.
I was surprised he had personally called. I had seen a lot of specialists the last few months, and he was the first and only one to personally follow up. My appointment was a week later. It was the 8th, just one day shy of Nash day. I brought the staff cookies and the cardiologist a coffee mug I was sure he would love after our last talk. It said, “Don’t confuse your google search with my medical degree.”
I sat in the lobby absolutely exhausted. I was back at work, back to taking care of Crue, back to life and all that that involves. I was so exhausted I could barely pay attention to him. As he sat across from me, he again let me explain all my anxieties and ask the same old boring questions. One thing I have learned through this process is that if something bothers you or the answer you get is not what you wanted…ask again. Ask whatever questions will help you to stop asking yourself the same question. We anxious people have an inner dialogue of worry and questions that circulate nonstop. The best way to get them out of circulation is to get them answered.
I asked him again why he didn’t think I had POTS. He replied, “It’s not that I don’t think you do, but it’s a diagnosis of elimination. You were obviously dehydrated, your electrolytes were off. You need to check the more likely things off the list first.” I told him it was nice to be at U of M where I felt heard. I didn’t mean that in any way toward him, but he quickly replied, “I hear you!”
I laughed and said, “I know.” It’s funny because as much as I want my heart to not be the problem, I truly felt if it was, he would find the answer I so desperately needed. It was then that our conversation became personal. He asked about the hospital and I was blunt like I usually am now. He then told me of his own tragic loss of a family member. When I got home I couldn’t get what he told me out of my mind. The loss he shared was absolutely tragic, and I felt like an outsider to a horrific event instead of the one in it. I felt like how it must feel when I tell others my story. I was so exhausted when he told me and also so caught up trying to process it that I couldn’t remember if I had said anything in response.
I knew we had many mutual friends so I found him on Facebook and sent him a private message. I thanked him for taking the extra time with me, someone who most likely doesn’t have any heart-related issue. He had treated my anxiety as if it was his main priority. I’m sure others would have said, “Listen lady, you don’t have a problem and I’m pretty busy,” but he never did. I thanked him for sharing his story, apologized for his loss, and finished by saying, “We are the lucky ones to have the best of guardian angels.”
Soon after he messaged me asking me about church, specifically which I attended. I replied, “To be honest I haven’t set foot in a church for years…my faith is a continued work in progress.”
It was then that he invited me to his, and then not-so-subtly followed up every Saturday night with a reminder. He apologized if he was badgering and promised he would stop as soon as I came once. I remember saying I couldn’t believe he was such a godly person–I would think he would be more scientific. He replied saying something I’ll never forget. He said, “I’ve seen it a hundred times: I just treat patients; God heals them.”
It was then that I thought it couldn’t hurt. Anything that could help at this point was worth a try. One reason I hadn’t been in church was I didn’t know anyone who I could go with there. Remember, I am now an anxious person in group settings. Here was my opportunity.
The pastor at this church does his sermons with a theme of sorts. The month I started attending, the series of sermons was called “World War Me.” It was pretty much geared toward anxiety and our need to put things in God’s hands–to live by faith and not by fear. Wow, did I come at the right time! I started looking forward to church. I sat with the cardiologist and his equally lovely wife, and I found myself moved by their faith in God.
Certain sermons I cringe…like when they talk about God’s purpose, or putting your faith in God. These are hard things for me to do. I used to love church. I would walk out feeling touched by God. Now I sit there more as a skeptic. I think of what they are trying to relay and I treat it more like homework I have to work on in my own life. I question everything.
Although I’m not there yet, I know I will get there. There are days I feel like God is sitting beside me holding my hand and others where I want to scream, “Hey, wait a minute! I did put my faith in You and look how it turned out. You want me to do that again?!”
I’ve become more speculative and blunt, not only with God but in all the rest of life as well. If it bothers me, I’m going to say something. If it upsets me, I’m going to say it, even if that means questioning God. Never before did I lash out in anger during prayer or question God. My prayer was always thanking Him for my life and the people in it and asking Him to watch over them. After Nash died, it became a gateway to talk to Nash, and that’s all I did.
Now when I pray, I ask Him to calm my mind so that I can hear what He is trying to convey. I ask Him to help me better understand why Nash had to go. I ask Him to calm my insecurities and give me strength. I ask Him to work in my life and show me He is there. I have actual subject matter now. Every new Sunday I’m filled with new questions and every night the debate begins again. I throw out those questions to the universe and await its reply.
I’m becoming the strongest version of myself. I know what you’re thinking. Strong?! I can barely leave my house. I’m here to tell you anxious people are the strongest people you will ever know. When leaving the house is as hard as giving a speech, naked, in front of a million people…and yet you continue to do it every day…that’s strength. I no longer need the approval of others. I no longer cower when upset. I no longer second guess myself on things I feel strongly about. I’m a work in progress, but I like where I’m headed. I have slowly weaned off my meds, and Todd and I are deciding whether to give it a go one last time and add to the family we have already created together or to be content with the family we have now. I will tell you one thing: this decision will not be made out of fear. I will not let my anxiety dictate wether I’m going to have another child, and I’m not going to let my fear of the future stop me from being content with what I have.
Regardless of what we choose, I’m the healthiest mentally I’ve ever been. I have so many people to thank for that. God, for putting people in my life that got me one step closer to Him. My family for their unwavering support…and me.
Yes, I said it: me. It was always hard for me to give myself credit for anything. I think most of us are that way. With every new test this world throws out, I have survived. With every new obstacle in my rearview mirror, I have gained more and more confidence. If I got through that, I can get through this.
So if you find yourself down and out or wrestling your own inner demons, take a few recommendations from someone who has been there. Don’t be afraid to cut things out of your life that add to your stress, even if those things are people. Therapy can only help. Get your butt to church. Even if you don’t believe, start asking the universe those hard questions. I think you will be surprised by its answers. Don’t dwell on the negative…when one thing goes by another will replace it. Remind yourself you’ve gotten through them all and you will this current stress too. Oh, and one last thing: I recommended Dr. Dan for all things involving matters of the heart .