A question that has been asked of late is what triggered your anxiety attack? That is not a short answer. In fact, I don’t think I can even answer it yet. I’m patiently waiting to dig in deeper to get to the root of why I struggle with anxiety. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t born anxious. Let’s go back eighteen years…maybe even further. I can most certainly tell you when anxiety became a part of my life. It was the day my dad died.
Did I have a happy childhood? Yes, I did. A very happy one. I was grateful to grow up in a two parent home with parents who loved each other and parents who loved me. I had a really great older brother (yes there was a period of a few years where he was the perfect one and I was the annoying one but isn’t that normal?) and lived in this tiny pocket of a town in the interior of Alaska with a most unique and quite wonderful group of people. My life was lived out in the boonies (I’m not kidding) and friends were family. I went to a small school that housed kindergarten through 12th grade and I knew everybody. My town was about community. I had lived in Montana until the 1st grade and then in March of my 1st grade year we made the long trek to Alaska and settled in for almost the remainder of my education. Alaska was my home.
My dad got his dream job my senior year of high school and we moved across the nation to New Hampshire. Could this be when some of my anxiety began to appear? Possibly. I don’t remember feeling anxious though. I remember feeling angry and cheated out of my senior year with all of my friends and community. However, as we settled in New Hampshire it became an adventure and I met people I never would have known. It turned out alright.
After I graduated high school I looked into college in New Hampshire but soon discovered that the cost was the same for in state tuition as out of state tuition in Idaho. Originally when I was in Alaska I had thought to go to the University of Idaho because they were a sister school to us. So, since the cost was essentially the same I gave up on the idea of an Ivy League school and went with my original plan. In the summer of 1993 I packed up my suitcases and my parents drove me to Montreal, Quebec to catch a plane for Idaho. Things were different back then…you could just flash your driver’s license at the Canadian border and be on your merry way.
I enjoyed my first year of college in Idaho and returned home for the summer to work as a waitress at the local restaurant. Yes, THE local restaurant. My dad could not move to a bigger town right? In Alaska I was in a town of about 1,200 but in New Hampshire it was a mere 300 people. The summer went by quickly and before I knew it I was back on the plane and back to Idaho for my sophomore year of college.
I didn’t know it at the time but that year a lot of things would change for me. Things I would never imagine. In September I found God, or rather He found me. I had grown up in church and my parents loved God so much but for some reason I just didn’t get it. I didn’t really get what He did for me. That he died for me and loved me and forgave me. I knew that in my head but I didn’t know that in my heart. I had a good fall semester in school and was eager to learn more and more about this God who loved me so much. That Christmas I went home to New Hampshire for break. Everything seemed fine but my dad was sick with what we thought might be a bad flu. Well, that was too bad to be sick over the holidays. Whatever he had caught though he just couldn’t seem to shake. On Christmas day he quietly made it through the morning family time and festivities of opening presents. I was sad that he wasn’t feeling well but I honestly didn’t give it a second thought.
The next morning my mom took him into the hospital (that was twenty miles away) since he was getting worse and not better. My brother went along. Later that morning I got a phone call from my mom. They had run a blood test on my dad and his white blood cell counts were very high. My mom, brother and dad traveled down to southern New Hampshire that day to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical center for further testing. He was admitted immediately and they confirmed what my mom had feared. My dad had leukemia and he may not make it through the night. His white cell count was 208 and it should have been 4.7 to 6.1. The doctors wasted no time and got him set up on a machine that spun his blood and extracted the white blood cells from his body. All night he was on the machine. There was no way they could administer chemotherapy with all of the overgrowth of cells. It would kill him. My dad made it through the night and lost 15 pounds as his body fought to survive and the machine whirled the death cells out of his body. It was a miracle he was still breathing. If my mom had not brought him in when she did he would have most likely died in his sleep that night.
I was alone at home and my brother was with my mom to support her. I made a few phone calls to my dad’s closest friends hearing the shock over and over again in the voices of those who loved him. The cancer was out of the blue and hit people hard. It hit us hard. It hit my dad hard. He was in for the battle of his life. Little did I know that this would begin the battle for my mind.