While my body was recovering from her delivery, I had a lot of help but also a lot of stress. So when I was diagnosed with and treated for high blood pressure, it was no surprise, but it made me think. I worried and worry snowballed quickly.
Normal baby worries. Normal financial worries. I worried about my health and Sarah's health. I worried about breastfeeding while Sarah was in the hospital. I worried about money and our bills going up. I worried about needing a car. I worried about one normal worry after another. I barely noticed when my worries graduated from normal.
What if I die? Who will take care of my kids? Who can understand the physical and emotional needs of my girls? What if I die when I am alone with the kids?
I had a panic attack. The first time it happened, I literally thought I was dying. I was not thinking clearly, and I did the only thing I could think of: I called my sister so I would not be alone. I made her stay on the phone with me. I needed to know that if something happened, someone would know and make sure my kids were OK. I could not get around the fear. It was oppressive, physically and emotionally.
I went to the doctor and he told me I was not dying. I did not believe him. I thought I must have described my symptoms wrong. I went to another doctor.
"It was anxiety."
"It did not feel like anxiety. I felt like I was dying."
"That is what an anxiety attack feels like."
The more I worried, the less capable I felt. This feeling is a far cry from the insensible peace I remember and wrote about when Sarah went through some of her worst times.
Some people like to talk about feelings as though they are nothing. "But is it real?" It is tempting. If I can disassociate feelings and reality, I can decide how to feel.
On the other hand, some people like to immerse themselves in feelings, as though they are the only reality. Again, that is tempting, until it is terrifying.
Worries are real. Emotions are real. Problems are real. Even the physical effects of these are real.
I have read in a few places that it is not uncommon for mothers of children with special needs to worry more than normal about our mortality. Who would willing, aware and able, step into my shoes?
That is why I thought it was worthwhile to share. Fear may be a rational response, but fear is not rational. I can not reason my way out of these feelings. In retrospect, it is easy to laugh about irrational fears. It is easy to talk about how important it is to avoid the stress snowball. But can I point to a specific moment a specific worry, and say where I went wrong?
The phrase, "give an inch and he'll take a mile" comes to mind.
I keep coming back to this quote from Chrysostom. It is likely that there is a better one, but this one stuck a couple years ago and has become familiar.
"By restraining our grief, on the contrary, we both please God and conduct ourselves becomingly in the eyes of men. For, if we ourselves do not succomb unrestrainedly to grief, he will quickly take away the portion of grief we feel; whereas, if we give way to excessive grief, he will permit us to become entirely possessed by it. If we give thanks for it, we shall not be disheartened." St John Chrysostom
Only, I can't. Having a panic attack was quite a blow to my courage. Having more than one took its toll on my confidence. I cannot do this. And that is the point.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7
Everyone has a breaking point. If we rely on ourselves, it is only a matter of time before we find ours. I do not want to trivialize fears. But it is our choice whether to go to God or "succomb unrestrainedly." I trust my Lord, not just to be my strength, but also to help me back to my feet when I stumble away and fall down.