Forget Not His Benefits (Part 6)

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My road to healing has been multi-faceted. It has been a combination of prayer, lifestyle change, medication, chiropractic care, massage therapy and supplements. I honestly believe that if I had just thrown medication at my anxiety I would not be this far along in my journey. In fact, I think I would have been quite hopeless and maybe heading back down my deep dark pit to an even deeper and darker place.

Before my anxiety attack I had been in contact with a metabolic doctor. I was so convinced that food allergies were my problem that a friend reached out to me and encouraged me to get the ALCAT (food allergy test) done. When I went searching online there was only one office in Spokane who offered it and they specialized in metabolic issues. This resonated within me because if you don’t get to the root of a problem you will never truly get better. That goes for the physical and the emotional. What was going on inside of me that had made me such a mess?

I went in and had a consult and got set up for testing. We actually didn’t do the food allergy test but rather a baseline intensive blood workup to see where I was at on the inside. The place you cannot see. All of this took time. If there was one thing I was learning it was patience and endurance and that any progress at all was still progress. I was simply learning to wait. When my testing came back I found out I had a problem with gluten and dairy. I also discovered I was extremely low on Vitamin D and deficient, and when I say deficient I mean it was bottom of the barrel low on Vitamin E and B. To top it off I had an off the charts yeast overgrowth throughout my whole body. No wonder I felt so sick.

For the first time in almost a year I felt a tiny beam of hope shoot out of me and slice through my confusion and darkness. It was pointing me in a direction. After months of quiet desperation I physically felt a departing of some of the wondering. I had been quietly clawing up the wrong trees and the shift in direction released my constant companion of worry and heaviness that I had gotten used to carrying. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have a quiet mind so used to the frantic whirlwind of thoughts I had become. The winds of desperation had finally calmed down and a piece of peace took its place. I was then reminded about something that God had spoken to my heart a few months earlier as I asked Him a question about a certain family situation. What if this situation steals my peace? To which my ever so wise God said, “I am the source of your peace. Not your circumstances but me.” So even though I was in the midst of adjusting, waiting, testing and figuring things out my circumstances were not going to dictate my peace. My source of peace was Christ. I needed to be reminded.

After we reviewed all my testing I felt grateful; so grateful that I had been encouraged to take it to another level. I don’t know when I would have discovered the inside of me problems I was having if I had not seen this new doctor. I was out of balance, had an unusual yeast overgrowth and had some alarming numbers that required some genetic testing…and I thought it was just allergies and asthma.

Heading for home I was armed with a very large pill box (and a staggering supplement bill) to accommodate my needs. I was taking more than twenty pills a day to get my body back in balance and had radically changed my diet. It was restrictive but it was okay. I had to get better. If the doctor had told me to eat dirt I would have. Sometimes you have to get to a place where you really are ready to make a change and for me I was ready to do whatever it took to get my life back.

I continued on my supplements, medications and my restrictive diet for two months fully believing that by the end of my two months I would be 100% on my way to making a full recovery if not already there. After all, I had been suffering a year already right? Wasn’t that long enough? I was doing exactly what the doctor said and never missed a dose of anything. I began to notice good changes in my body. The tiredness was mostly gone, I was sleeping well and I was dropping weight. I still couldn’t run. I tried one time and my body screamed “NO” and I almost passed out. I began to accept the fact that I probably would not run again for maybe up to a year. I may not even run again ever. I was finding my new normal and finding ways to accept it.

After my two months I got another round of blood tests done and excitedly waited for my results. I was eager to meet with my doctor to see what my next step was. I was excited to see how I was better and how I would walk out of there with just maybe one or two supplements a day. When it was time for me to receive my results I plopped down in the chair expectant for a stellar report. The good news was my vitamin deficiencies had come back into balance and the genetic test proved to be a simple fix of taking a supplement to keep my body in balance. But then came the news I was not expecting. My yeast levels had not changed at all. They were still off the charts. I had eliminated most of the sugar in my life (sugar feeds yeast) and I had faithfully taken my prescription twice a day. Why hadn’t that worked? Apparently, I had a resistant strain. I left my doctor’s office and found myself back on another two months of a prescription medication, a natural anti-fungal that tasted like diluted perfume and an even more strict diet of only meats, nuts and vegetables. I also had to add a few more supplements because my restricted diet had made me deficient in a few things. Why was my body so angry at me? Why wasn’t it obeying me?

I headed home and swung by the pharmacy to pick up my medications. Even though I felt so discouraged the visit forced me to reflect on the “why” of why all this was happening? I wondered if what God was really doing was more of a complete work in me. I had a feeling God was doing far above and beyond what I could imagine because He knows me and loves me. Yes, He was helping me and teaching me to walk through anxiety but on a deeper level could he be setting me free from addiction?

For over twenty years I had battled emotional eating and I had prayed to God that He would do what it took to set me free. Food had been a bondage I could not break. Believe me I had tried only to gain back all the weight I had lost because I had not dealt with the root of the problem. Was now the time for me to break free? I had just done a strict two month diet and was going to do another three months of an even stricter regimen. Gone were the things I had run to when I was happy, sad, angry, anxious or depressed. I couldn’t turn to them anymore. Was God saying two months wasn’t enough to set me free from my food addiction? I contemplated who I was and I settled in a place of trust. Maybe, just maybe I needed more time defeating this unhealthy relationship with food that had been with me all of my adult life. I recognized that I had gone from an attitude of this is only a change for a little bit to get better (then I can eat again!) to I’ve just made a whole life change and when I am balanced and healthy I will not go back.

As my thoughts continued to ponder I left the pharmacy and made my way back home. I could not have done any of this on my own. He in His grace brought me to a place of brokenness so that I might find healing. I couldn’t see it a few months ago but I could see it clear as day now. He was getting me ready for something. Something I could not do until I was broken and the pieces could be swept out of my life, not left for me to glue back together. Was I going to embrace the change and stand firm in the way He wanted me to go? I desperately wanted to. Realizing the depth of the work He was doing I saw my pinpoint of light shine brighter in my darkness illuminating my path to lead the way. I don’t know how long the path might be but does it really matter? I can see the path and all that I need to do is simply put one foot in front of the other and follow it.

Forget Not His Benefits (Part 4)

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Those next few days after Christmas were the worst. I had no idea that an anxiety attack would wreak such havoc on my physical body. It was like every cell in my being had been revved up to its highest ability and now every cell in my body was completely and totally exhausted and needed who knows how long to recover. How could something in my brain be so debilitating to me physically?

Because I had “made it” through Christmas and put my hostess hat on I had a pretty good idea why I had taken my one step forward and ten steps backward. I had been on the Lexapro and Ativan for almost a week now. During this time I had more than one person warn me about the addictive nature of Ativan (which neither doctor who saw me said anything about) so I began to wean off the drug. I knew that it was only masking my symptoms. Although I really, really liked how I felt after taking it (the suffocating feeling was gone), I knew that I could not continue if I were truly to get better. I went down to half doses every eight hours and then half doses twice a day. I could still see I was improving with the weaning so on day eight I took my last dose around lunchtime and I completely stopped the Ativan. I was nervous that was for sure. I had barely made it through “The Croods” that morning (I was due for my last dose in the middle of the movie) and had to breathe through the last 40 minutes while lying on the couch with a kid flanked on either side. If a Disney movie could stress me out (all that action and father/daughter stuff) and put me back in bed for the afternoon then I may be in big trouble the next few days. However, it just didn’t matter. I was going to stop and I was going to make it through it.

That night I went to bed conscious that I was done with the Ativan. I woke up around three o’clock in the morning like usual (one of the side effects of Lexapro can be insomnia). But, I had hope that as my body adjusted my sleep would adjust too. An hour or two later I fell back to sleep but when I woke up again I felt terrible. I had a sick feeling in my stomach like I hadn’t slept in days. My jaw was clenched so tight my head hurt and my teeth chattered for a few minutes after my initial waking. I leaned over to grab my phone to check my text messages and e-mails and there sitting in my inbox was my daily Bible verse. It was Psalm 103:2-4. I began to just glance through it. It isn’t the easiest thing to concentrate when your head is pounding, your jaw is aching and your teeth have a mind of their own. The verse said, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion…”

Forget not His benefits. It hit me hard and the truth of the verse fell all over me. That verse was meant for me right at that moment for my situation. I knew then and there that I had everything I needed to make it through the next days of darkness. I had to take some action and forget not His benefits. His benefits for me are forgiveness, healing and pulling me out of the pit. I had already been forgiven but I needed healing and I needed out of my pit. I was going to forget not His benefits and I was going to praise Him for His perfect timing. Out of all the days in the year my Bible verse on the day I was coming off of the Ativan was this one. What a great, mighty and faithful God I serve.

This verse became my anchor in my hurricane. I was out deep, very deep in my ocean pit. But it didn’t matter how deep I was or how far out I was. I had an anchor I had been given that morning and I had thrown it overboard. The chain was as long as it needed to be. I was positive and absolutely sure that after I threw it out, it went down, down deep into my oceanic abyss and connected with the bottom where it hung firm. I was not going anywhere as the storm raged on because my benefit in Christ was healing. My benefit in Christ was removal from my pit.

I pulled myself out of bed so sick and so weak but I knew I had to eat or I would not have the strength I needed to get through the day. I made my way to the kitchen where I made myself a shake with extra peanut butter and protein powder and a few berries to taste and managed to consume it sprawled on the living room couch. After that I made my way back to my room, lay on my side, breathed through my nose and said over and over that I would forget not His benefits. The tightness was terrifying and my shallow breathing was alarming but I knew that I knew that I knew that my God was not a liar even though I did not feel one bit better.

I made it through the day and watched as each time passed for me to take an Ativan and I stood firm on my decision to not take one more pill. My Lexapro needed weeks to work and I was going to count the days and trust for improvement. I had read a helpful article that anxiety was an emotion. Although it was terrible it wasn’t intolerable. I recognized that what I was experiencing was anxiety. No need to be anxious that it was something else. I had already been checked out at the hospital. My lungs were clear, my heart was fine and my blood work was perfect. I was not going to die. I was going to make it. I was going to forget not His benefits. My mind was on high alert and full of irrational thoughts but the truth of the Word of God kept cutting through again and again and again. I was being tested but I hung on. This test would not last forever.

That night our youngest boy had a small cold and a cough and as I lay in bed awake most of the night my mind terrorized me with anxious thoughts. Was he still alive in his bed? Was it a deadly cold? Was it some mysterious illness and in the morning I would find him dead and I hadn’t checked on him? What kind of mother was I? My anxiety spiked high but I chose to lie in bed. I lay there breathing through my nose and waiting for morning. I would not get up and check on him. He just had a cold. He was fine. I would not bow down to my irrational thoughts. God was bringing my healing. Had he not told me the day before my anxiety attack that my healing was coming? Forget not His benefits. He pulls you out of the pit. My pit was deep but he was pulling me up.

The next morning my darling little boy wandered in with his stuffy nose looking for breakfast and I was relieved, and felt empowered. Victory for me. I know there is a difference between a mother’s instinct and anxiety and I knew the night before wasn’t a check in my heart to go rescue my boy. It was anxiety’s ugly crippling head tormenting me and I didn’t let it beat me. I was not going to forget His benefits. I began talking to my husband about my irrational thinking and he recognized how exhausting it was to talk yourself out of an anxious irrational thought in your head. For someone who doesn’t struggle with anxiety it was eye-opening for him as I explained how the night went with my thinking. I found that voicing my whole thought process was releasing and helpful. I was going to talk more about my fears and not be alone in my prison.

That is how I entered day two of coming off the Ativan. I woke up pretty much the same way with teeth chattering and the sickness you feel when you are so tired and have not slept nearly enough. However, this time my teeth ached too. My mouth was so sensitive and the thought of eating any food made my stomach roll but eat I must. I got myself out of bed and did my routine of getting a shake again. It was so much work to walk down the stairs, get everything out and make that shake but I needed to do it so I did. Then back to bed to make it through day two. The ironic thing about coming off Ativan is you have anxiety. So, as I went off medication that helped with my anxiety I felt more anxious. This was a wicked, vicious cycle that made me more and more grateful that I had an anchor in my storm.

Day three I woke up (after very little sleep) and felt a tiny bit better. It was tiny, but it was better. My stomach still lurched and my teeth still chattered but they didn’t chatter as long. I noticed the little change and that little change helped me hang on. I continued to practice breathing through my nose and taking deep breaths into my belly and holding them to relax my body. The next day was the same with a tiny bit of improvement and the next day was even better. I still couldn’t wait to take my Lexapro at eight o’clock at night. Some of my worst times were in the morning when I woke up and the hour or two before my next medication dose at night but I recognized those times and did things to cope. I rested in my bed, I prayed, I breathed and I listened to a lot of worship music. It calmed me and helped me remember all the promises I have in Christ. By day six I felt like I was over the worse of the withdrawal. I had been sleeping better and the teeth chattering was mostly gone. Every day I got about 1% better, and that was 1% better than the day before, which meant I was heading in the right direction. Sometimes in the storm that is all that really matters, that you are moving in the right direction. The direction that takes you out of the storm. But after this storm would I ever be the same? I didn’t know so I hung on to my anchor, closed my eyes and waited for my rescue.

Forget Not His Benefits (Part 2)

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The day I landed in the hospital I had no idea I would be there. I woke up that morning and I knew I wasn’t feeling 100% but that wasn’t new. I had promised a friend I would help them take a load of garbage to the dump and I just couldn’t go back on my promise. After I dropped the kids off at school I began to feel woozy. I attributed it to not having eaten that morning so I stopped off at the local grocery store and bought some orange juice and nuts. Protein and a little pick me up. As I sat in the car my hands began to shake so I drank half of the orange juice and started in on the nuts. Immediately my mouth was like cotton and the food was like sawdust. Washing down the dry substance in my dry throat with the rest of the orange juice an alarm went off in my head. What was going on? This was not mynormal body behavior. I called my doctor to make an appointment and found out they couldn’t get me in until four o’clock that day. That was fine. I had a friend to move anyway. I drove over to her house and sat in the car feeling foggy, and the shaking seemed to worsen. As I got out of the car and walked into her house I just looked at her and said, “I don’t feel very good.” Immediately she sat me down on her steps and pointed out that I was shaking. I informed her that I had an appointment later to which she replied, “Oh hell no, you are going to the doctor now and I am driving.”

We got on the road and the trip down the hill was a quiet blur. I could feel myself descending down, down, down somewhere but I didn’t know where. My body was literally shutting down. Wisely my friend brought me to the main urgent care and as I made my way into the waiting room I leaned on the counter, looked the receptionist in the eye and said, “I can’t breathe really well and I have tightness in my chest and I think I’m going to pass out.” She ordered me to sit and a nurse brought a wheel chair out to take me back. As I lay on the bed I fell further and further down my hole. My blood pressure was sky high and I couldn’t stop shaking. I was shaking all over. My pulse was racing and my breathing was accelerated. I couldn’t stop from going down that scary road. Immediately my mind went to my husband and to my children. I couldn’t die now. I had too much to do. But whatever was happening to my body I had no control over and I surrendered to my weakness knowing there was nothing I could do to stop the decent.

A nurse took my vital signs every few minutes and I could tell she was relieved that my blood pressure was going down. A doctor came in and talked about the testing that needed to be done to rule out a pulmonary embolism. She informed me that if that was the problem I’d have to move to the ER and did I still want to stay at this facility. It would cost me extra money to move me. What? Was she crazy? I could barely move and I was still tumbling down the rabbit hole. I thought she was probably the craziest and least compassionate doctor I had ever met but I really didn’t care because at that moment I just might be dying. I told her no I wanted to stay so they started on all the testing.

First they had me give a urine sample to prove I wasn’t pregnant. As if I could be. I know there are laws but I have six adopted children to prove I wasn’t pregnant. So with monumental effort and help from my friend I slowly headed over to the bathroom to prove my point. When it came back negative I just smiled inside. Victory for me! Next they had me go downstairs for a chest x-ray. Yes. Downstairs. I shuffled out of my curtained room past the waiting room into the main entrance to an elevator where I shuffled to the receptionist in the x-ray room who then had me take a seat. I’m surprised I didn’t just pass out then and there. They called me back quickly and I stood and hung onto the machine with almost all of my body weight pulling me down while they took my chest pictures. Then it was back out of the x-ray room and into the elevator back through the main entrance and waiting room of the urgent care. When I made it to the hall to go back to my room I stopped abruptly and felt the whole world go black. My friend grabbed my arm and the nurse raced to my side with a wheelchair. As I sat down I thought, “My that wheel chair would have been nice for my recent hospital tour.”

Wheeling me back into my room I could not get out of my wheel chair. “Please, just let me sit here.” I said to the nurse. She complied and took my vitals while I sat slumped over. About ten minutes later I was feeling worse and asked for the nurse. I asked her to check me again so she did. The doctor came in and reassured me my vitals were ok. After that, because I had dropped another notch down my hole, I asked them to please help me lie on the examining table. Maybe lying down would help? I asked my friend to put on my worship music on my phone knowing that in the past during times of great distress, it helped me focus on my hope and not my problem.

After that my friend had to leave so a family member came to sit with me and as I lay on the table, still descending, I wondered again what was happening to me. By this time I could not move. It was like I was paralyzed and I could feel the heat rushing through my body. My face was flushed and the whole of me was tingly like it had fallen asleep and was just waking up. Like a foot you had sat funny on and was just coming back to life. It terrified me. Why couldn’t I move?

The doctor came back in and said that my lungs were clear and my vitals were normal. What? What do you mean my lungs are clear? I. Can’t. Breathe. She said they would do one more test. An EKG to check my heart but she was pretty sure she knew what was happening to me. I was having what was known as an anxiety attack. My mind raced as I processed that information. Anxiety attack? The doctor asked if this was my first one. Through clenched, chattering teeth while on the verge of hyperventilating I said that I had never had one before. It took every effort for me to speak. It was forced air through my mouth and as I answered her questions the heat in my body rose and the tingling intensified. Were there any big changes in my life? “Yes.” I told her. “We…just…moved…” Was it a good move? She asked. “Yes.” Now the tears slid out of eyes. “I’ve…had…a…few…hard…years. Family…stuff.” I said. Then I was done. I couldn’t say anything else I was so upset.

After the doctor left the room a compassionate young nurse came in to hook me up to check my heart. She was swift and silent. In the dark room my worship music washed over me, speaking hope in a very dark time. He was good. He was my hope. He was my light. The nurse thanked me for the music and how nice it was to come into my room. It was only a few minutes later that the doctor came in to tell me that absolutely everything was normal and this was most definitely an anxiety attack. I was not going to die. I could feel my body begin to relax and the heat started to flow out of my body. The tingling lessened and my breathing became more normal. The red stain that had crawled up my neck and illuminated my face began to fade. Her telling me that my vital signs were normal helped the attack begin to pass and as I lay on my side feeling limp, wiped out like I had just run a marathon, I stared at the wall and wondered what was next.