WHEN STRUGGLES ARE USED FOR GOOD
In February 2011, I was the sales manager for a multimillion-dollar healthcare company. In this role, I had a hefty load on my shoulders This load multiplied as I attempted to balance both work and my family life. At the time, I had two young boys that were two and four years old. It’s hard for me to admit, but at that time my career was WAY more important than my family; I ate, slept, and drank my job. I was always stressed out over the demands it had on me; I was tired, worn and crabby. Unfortunately, at the end of each day, my husband and our boys got what was left of me, and that was not much at all. And God, well, back then He was non-existent in my life. Not that I didn’t believe in a God, but I didn’t have a need for God back then.
“My journey with anxiety has been extremely difficult, but if you fast forward to now, I can proudly say that I am off my anxiety and panic medicine and free from the chains of FEAR. That does not mean that I don’t feel fear or experience anxiety still. Instead, I have learned to stand on the Word of God in those moments.”
I had a lucrative career, and we got to do really cool things. For example, in February of 2011, my husband and I were vacationing at a fantastic resort. Little did I know that the vacation was going to be the start of one of the biggest struggles of my life: severe panic and anxiety disorder. I didn’t know it or understand it at the time, but on the sunny beaches of Cancun, I had my first panic attack. It hit me out of nowhere. I mean, I was on vacation for crying out loud. I was supposed to be relaxing, right? Wrong! Heart pounding, thoughts racing, sweating then chills, shortness of breath, stomachache, abdominal cramping, these were all the things I experienced during my first attack. It lasted about 30 minutes and then it went away, only after I breathed deeply into a fan blasting in my face.
My husband was aware of what happened, and we both thought it was super weird, but we just chalked it up to bad water or something I ate. Then the next one started once we landed in St. Louis, MO, but this time it felt different. I had funny black dots popping up in my vision with severe tingling in my arms and back as well as tight muscle pain in my chest. I had only had a migraine once or twice before in my life, and I just thought I was starting to get one. Looking back now I can see all the signs of stress and how it correlates to panic attacks. The funny dots in my eyes started to pop up when I turned my phone on, and I saw that I had over 200 emails sitting in my inbox from work.
My husband and I got home, and it just spiralled out of control from there. The symptoms I experienced in Cancun, all came rushing back, but this time, tenfold. I called my PCP at 4 am, and he told me to go to the ER. I landed a spot in the hospital with the full work-up. I had MRI, blood and cardiac screening. They put me on some meds that knocked me out, but as soon as I would awake the symptoms came back. They sent me home anyway. Once I was home, it wasn’t any better. I couldn’t sleep, eat, concentrate, or take care of my children, and this went on for weeks. My body was finally blown from stress, and I experienced a medical nervous breakdown. In my darkest moments, I even had suicidal thoughts.
“My nervous breakdown is now what I call a nervous breakthrough! That pain and suffering has been redeemed and that experience is now being used for a higher purpose. It is now my life mission to educate, empower, and inspire women to live Fearlessly.”
In the middle of this nightmare experience, I had to get ready for a follow-up appointment with my PCP which was on February 23rd, 2011. As I paid my copay, I began to feel the shortness of breath, tingling, and the feeling of “wanting to get the heck out of here.” It took all I had to sit and get my temperature and blood pressure taken. I just wanted to pace the hallways. Finally, the doctor came in. We discussed my symptoms and hospital visit and he diagnosed me with “severe anxiety and panic disorder.” I wondered how in the world this could be me. Surely it couldn’t. I thought I was always in control. I had never heard of such a thing. He wanted to put me on depression medication and told me to stop drinking coffee, as I paced the exam room with a huge 16oz cup of it. I thought to myself, “I’m not depressed,” and the rest of what he said was just a blur. I saw his lips moving but I did not comprehend anything, and at that moment I began my journey of “understanding anxiety”.
The road to understanding and dealing with my anxiety has been extremely difficult, but if you fast forward to now, I can proudly say that I am off my anxiety and panic medicine and free from the chains of FEAR. That does not mean that I don’t feel fear or experience anxiety still. Instead, I have learned to stand on the Word of God in those moments.
My nervous breakdown is now what I call a nervous breakthrough! That pain and suffering has been redeemed and that experience is now being used for a higher purpose. It is now my life mission to educate, empower, and inspire women to live fearlessly. In 2015, I started a nonprofit organization called Fearless Women. Our mission is to help women be set free from the chains of fear and anxiety that once held me, and so many others, down. We do this by holding monthly Fearless Women events with thousands of attendees, creating original small group Fearless Impact materials, connecting women to Christian Counseling and have even begun ministering to teens (this summer we held our first ever Teens’ Camp)! In addition to Fearless Women’s mission, God has given me a platform to speak out about my journey, and I regularly get invited to speak at churches, MOPS groups, and women’s ministry events. What the devil intended for harm, God used for good.