Several mothers in conversations at last week’s Walk to Remember in Houston told me that some of the most comfort they found was in the posts where I was real about the broken stuff. It is why I try to not hide behind facades…and why I try to be open about struggles, even though that’s often misunderstood or judged by some. But, it’s in the realness others are encouraged.
I’ve never been a person prone to panic attacks. The idea of loss of control is abhorrent to me…well for myself. I’m quite gracious and understanding if someone else feels a loss of control. But, apparently I don’t afford myself the same grace.
After my mother died, having suffered more than I ever thought was possible for a human being to suffer, I felt differently about health issues or visiting the doctor. I developed a strong aversion and outright fear of any medical intervention or concern. The depth of this fear was realized when I had a migraine that landed me in the emergency room, disoriented from effects of medication on a trip home from a visit to our NE Ohio branch to offer trainings a couple years ago.
I stood beside the bed asking why my hands and feet were numb, refusing to lay down in the bed.
“You’re having a panic attack ma’am.”
“I don’t have panic attacks,” I protested vehemently, “I take care of other people. I don’t lose control.”
But, the lack of control was quite evident as panic literally gripped my body, squeezing my heart, stealing the air from my lungs, making my legs and arms feel like jello covered weights hanging from me. Five hundred anxious thoughts raced through my brain and I could barely pick out just one…enough to discern through the tangled mess of my brain to write a text to my husband to come and get me.
Later, we found out I was having a reaction to some of the migraine medicine I was given, which caused serotonin toxicity, a condition triggering unreasonably high anxiety and irritability. The loss of control for me was incredibly traumatic. And I’ve been hesitant to see a doctor for much of anything since that fateful Emergency Room experience. The entire ordeal…and the intense fear of being out of control of my body and mind, mixed with the stark reality of my own mortality caused me to make some changes in my own Healthcare regimen…and part of that included limiting any medical interventions.
Which brings us to yesterday.
When I….a woman who has birthed five babies and buried three, who has been poked and prodded…scarred from IVs and shots, had a couple surgeries, had needles placed in her uterus, stands in birthing rooms, holding the hands of mothers while amniotic fluid splashes and birth happens without missing a beat, a woman who calmly and gently cares for tiny babies…sometimes in various stages of broken and sees only their beauty…stares death in the face again and again, standing in the place where heaven meets earth again and again…
I had a panic attack. At the dentist. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to hide my racing heartbeat, the tightness of my chest, the rapid breathing, the legs and arms turning to utter jello. Embarrassed by the image of my forty year old self crying silently, unable to keep the tears from falling while in the dentist chair, I heard myself apologize, while making every effort to keep my breathing steady and my voice calm.
“I’m having a bit of anxiety. This is so embarrassing.”
They tried to explain the procedure, thinking I was afraid of the minor dental procedure. As a teenager I had 8 teeth pulled to make room for braces, and my wisdom teeth. Without missing a beat. I’m not afraid of the dentist.
Yet, the tears fell, as I willed myself to remain in the chair. Reminding me…that deep inside, there are still some broken places. Places that don’t listen to reason. Places that know how fragile life is, how we are not exempt from suffering this side of heaven, places that fear any medical procedure or lack of control.
It is something so misunderstood. Something I will admit I once perceived as weakness, at least in myself. Anxiety. Panic attacks. I choose to pray through mine. And use other natural remedies, like essential oils. I think of scripture that offers solid truth that’s unchanging when fear grips me….taking those thoughts captive as the bible instructs. But, in my human flesh, I can’t control my body’s fight or flight response.
I just want to speak to the stigma for a moment. Anxiety is a very real thing. It’s an intense battle in the mind. And having that battle doesn’t make a person weak or inept or unable to perform well. I am typically calm in many trauma-induced situations, entering into raw grief with others on an almost daily basis. My triggers are when my own health is somehow compromised and I fear medical interventions that affect me in ways I can’t control. I think anxiety is often trigger specific for people. And, at other times it can come over you without provocation. This post isn’t meant to be an in-depth research on the subject.
I just want to share one of my personal broken places…to say that being a bit broken doesn’t mean we are weak or less capable. Loss and trauma can leave a person susceptible to anxiety and post traumatic stress responses. Speaking it aloud can often help us understand one another as we all walk together with our own broken places, open and vulnerable…and real.
Real is my favorite…even in the broken.