21 Nov FINDING REST IN THE ARMS OF THE FATHER
From an outsider’s perspective, I was living quite the life in New York City. Professionally, I planned events for one of the top design schools in the nation. Academically, I was enrolled in a graduate program working on my thesis and only ONE semester away from a master’s degree. I lived in an amenity-filled apartment in Brooklyn, just steps away from the best shops, restaurants, museums, parks, and theaters the borough has to offer. I was a member of a missional church community where love and support was around every corner. But, I was missing out on truly living.
Let me walk you through a few days in my life before I caved:
>Saturday, November 9, 2013 – Class from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM with group meetings during lunch, then homework after school
>Sunday, November 10 – Repeat, church
>Monday, November 11 – Work at 9 AM, then worked an annual fundraising event from 12 PM to 12 AM (12 hours!)
>Tuesday, November 12 – Work from 9 AM to 5 PM, then a school group project from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, followed by thesis writing
As you can see, I was busy. But I was so busy that I didn’t even make the time to take care of myself so that I could keep up with all my busy-ness. My brain never rested. I’d lay awake at night as my to-do list ran through my head, or I’d sit at my desk until hunger pangs made me step away. I’d hop the subway into Manhattan, gobble down a slice of pizza on my way to group meetings, and then had zero ability to process through a 5-person dialogue. I would go 4 nights without sleep, or a whole workday with just one break. This, my friends, is not living. This is anxiety.
After more sleepless nights than I can count, many phone calls to family in Texas, and more tears than I’d ever cried, I made it safely home into my mother’s arms the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (luckily bypassing the first NYC winter storm that year). I landed in Austin with a crushing weight on my shoulders that I could no longer lift up. I needed to push a “reset” button, but how? I had a lot to finish up in New York before I could move forward.
You see, years ago a doctor told me I had Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder for which I took medication. My dosage had been increased even more and prescriptions were added to help with chronic insomnia. But, gosh darn it, my brain and my pride just would not give. What was I to gain from being the best employee, writing a thesis with brilliant people, or volunteering to boost my resume? Well, apparently I fought too hard. I would gain nothing if I wasn’t living for the ONE who created me…the ONE who gave me these passions in the first place. Gosh, did God humble me. I sat in a corner in my sister’s bedroom with her at my side just weeping and pleading for an answer, for sleep and rest, and to feel like a normal human being instead of a walking zombie. I wanted to serve a greater purpose.
With my family’s endearing support, I entered a treatment clinic for anxiety and sought to learn more about panic attacks since I had been having at least one per year and wanted to put them forever to bed. If I had to rate mine on a scale between 1-10, they would come in at an 11. A panic attack can be physically debilitating. My heart will skip beats, I begin to feel light-headed and short of breath, all while having chest pains and radiating pain down my left arm. It’s quite easy for my brain to tell my body I’m having a heart attack since I was actually born with a congenital heart disease, for which I’ve had three successful surgeries. Even with a positive cardiologist check-up in October, I experienced about two panic attacks per day where I felt as though I might die.
The night before I was admitted to the clinic, my twin nieces, Eleanor and Maggie, were born. With pessimism written all over my face, I felt like I was entering the worst few weeks of my life as my sister and brother-in-law were experiencing the most joy life could give. I wanted to be happy, but I felt sad and worried about myself and my ability to just function like I had the past 30+ years. I was being somewhat selfish. I knew I needed help, but I really didn’t want it. I knew I needed my dad by my side while my mom went to be with her new grand babies. And he came with no hesitation at all. But for the next month (and over the holidays), I went through the most intensive counseling and group therapy sessions, all while sharing intimate hotel quarters with my parents. And I wept and wept. Even after a full month, and still no handle on my insomnia, the clinic ran out of answers and simply prescribed a sleep study. I wanted so badly to take it in my environment in Brooklyn, but boarding a plane and heading back to “the city that never sleeps” did not seem like the wisest decision, given I could not even drive a mile. My mother drove two hours to pick me up and take me to the nearest safe place – her home in Wichita Falls.
HOPE was no longer in my vocabulary. Well, not many words were anymore. I was not sleeping, I was taking loads of prescribed medication, and I could not carry on a conversation to save my life. When your body and mind don’t emotionally and mentally rest, weird things happen. I lost my appetite. I lost some of my short and long-term memory. I had no desire to see friends. What was I going to say? That I quit my life in New York because I just couldn’t make it? Really, I feared what people would think. And I’m pretty sure that was my problem all along.
It does not matter what others think! Health and happiness are of utmost importance. I was not healthy going to work with no sleep. Tears streamed down my face at sporadic moments…even in front of my professor. I could not go back to “my life” in New York City if I didn’t find rest first. Well, I’m happy to say that I finally found rest…rest in the arms of a Father who knew every minute of my life. He knew I’d live just under 4 years in New York…that I’d come to ‘learn’ to sleep again at my mother’s home…that I’d resign from a steady job…that I’d need to take a break from school…that I’d be back in my hometown exactly four years ago, typing these very, VERY hard words long before I was a speck in the apple of His eye. And that, my friends, is comforting.
That humbling trial just four years ago was quite literally hell on earth. I didn’t think I would see the light of day. But I can sit here now and thank my God for His hand in the matter as it’s brought me to a very joy-filled season of life. I absolutely love living in Austin! It’s the perfect city for me. I have my own business with Young Living Essential Oils, and the time and financial freedom I now have are huge blessings. My community of friends is next to none, and I’ve met an incredibly sweet guy. I am thankful to be alive on this beautiful earth, and while my anxiety and panic attacks have not gone away, I can manage much better now and am passionate about supporting others with the same struggle.
Remember – God is for you! I want to leave you with two very helpful promises found in scripture:.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7