Anxiety, Paranoia and the Pirate Living Under My Bed

About a year ago my body started acting out in the form of panic attacks.  They came about once a week at first and then became more frequent and more severe until I was having at least one panic attack every day.  At first I didn’t recognize them as panic attacks – I thought I was dying.  I’m a bit of a hypochondriac generally, so every little thing that’s wrong with me is always some form of cancer in my mind.  I once had sharp pains in my lower back and so I called my husband to tell him that I was bleeding internally and that he needed to rush home and take me to the emergency room.  I have a pinched nerve in my arm (due to a muscle spasm caused by stress – go figure) that, when it first happened, I was convinced was a heart attack so I rushed off to the ER only to spend five hours being poked, prodded, monitored and questioned and then sent home with a prescription for Advil.  So when my body recently started spazzing out on me, I knew immediately that I had finally developed that brain tumor I have been waiting for.  My face has even gone numb a few times from these episodes.  One of those times, when the left side of my face went numb I stood up, walked over to the mirror hanging on the wall in my living room and began to smile and frown back and forth slowly so I could check to see if I was having a stroke.

I have taken no less than 5000 pregnancy tests because every time I’m five minutes late, or crampy at weird times, or my boobs hurt or I’m nauseous, or I’m extra moody I just assume I’m pregnant.  Every time I’ve been pregnant I was convinced I was having twins because how could anyone be this nauseous with just ONE baby?!  Every time I have a headache I assume it’s an aneurism that’s about to burst and kill me.  I’m afraid to use paper cutters because I’m convinced I’ll cut my hand off – or at least a finger or two.  Every time I walk to my car (day or night) I have to look in the back seat to make sure there’s not an axe murderer waiting to chop my head off while I’m driving.

If I’m driving at night, I always assume that someone is hiding in the trunk or backseat (even though I looked!) and so I choose whatever music I think makes me seem the most innocent and wonderful so that he will choose not to murder me after all.  I can’t leave my arms or legs hanging over the side of my bed at night because I have visions of a pirate of some sort (I wish I could explain this one) climbing out from under the bed and chopping them off with his big curved sword.

At night, when (not if) I have to get out of bed to go pee, I have to hop back into bed afterwards because walking next to my bed in the dark means that something could reach out from underneath, grab my ankle and take me down.  If I’m driving somewhere and notice that a car has been following me for any extended period of time I assume it’s because the person inside that car is intending to follow me home, murder me and steal my valuables (as if I have any).  When my husband is late, or unavailable by phone or text I assume, obviously, that he’s dead in a ditch somewhere.  But I don’t just imagine that he’s dead, I come up with this detailed scenario of how it happened and what he was thinking and how I’ll plan the funeral and how I’ll tell the kids and whether or not I will ever be able to love again.  It’s all so very tragic.  I’m certain that Anne with an E would be quite impressed by my brilliant “scope of imagination”.

If one of my children is quiet in another room for more than five minutes, I assume they’ve accidentally tangled themselves up in the strings of the blinds and that they are dying a slow and agonizing death.  If one of them gets up five minutes later than they normally do I assume they accidentally suffocated during the night.  When every single one of my kids were babies, I had to have them sleep in the same room with me so that I could look at their chest periodically to make sure they were still breathing.  This, I’m pretty sure, isn’t a “me” thing, but rather just a mother thing – so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it doesn’t make me any more crazy than every other mom (because we’re all at least a little crazy, right?).

Anxiety looks different for everyone. Some, like mine, provide really great fodder for hilarious sitcoms or memoirs. Although I’ve spent my entire life struggling with a higher than average level of anxiety, I was surprised when I realized that I was having panic attacks. I was actually surprised. No one around me seemed to be surprised though – go figure. I spent a year in pretty extreme anxiety before I finally decided to get some help.  Then I spent about a year on medication to curb the panic attacks and help me find their source. When your body is overwhelmed with anxiety, it works hard to protect you from that anxiety while also alerting you to its presence because, believe it or not, those of us who are highly anxious don’t always know that we are highly anxious.

Anxiety Disorder is kind of like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the way it’s so often misunderstood. Everyone thinks they have anxiety disorder just like everyone thinks they have OCD, but if you spent a day with someone with OCD you’d realize that it’s a bit more serious than you think it is. My daughter recently came and told me that she was OCD.  I asked her how often she washes her hands or what things she was doing that she was unable to control. “Nothing,” she said. “Then you’re not OCD.” I replied. The same is true of anxiety disorder. It’s not that I worry a lot. It’s that I am unable to be logical in my worrying. I worry about things that I know are absolutely impossible or at the very least incredibly unlikely. I am compulsive in my worry and it often takes over my body making it impossible to breathe, talk, reason or think clearly.

I think the most helpful thing has been talking about it and accepting that I’m busted up inside.  I stopped trying to pretend I wasn’t in pain.  I stopped worrying so much about everyone else’s opinion about my pain – and trust me, there were plenty of opinions. Anxiety, like depression, looks different for everyone. And there are so many silent sufferers. For me, it will always be in the backseat trying to climb behind the wheel. Anxiety is just part of my every day life and like so many others, I am so weary of pretending that it’s not. I’ve been anxious my entire life. I can’t imagine my life without it.

I am in a good place right now, thanks to my doctor, my family and some really beautiful little blue pills. I used to be ashamed of that. I’m not anymore. My husband takes medication for his disease and I take medication for mine – although his is an “acceptable” disease and mine is often believed to be “made up”. Don’t care. I will do what I need to do to be present in my life and present with my family. And you should too. Let’s not let other people dictate our health or well-being. Doing what you have to do to take care of yourself and your family doesn’t make you weak – it makes you a warrior. I am a warrior and I finally have my fight back. I will not apologize for or be ashamed of my journey. I hope you won’t either.

 

Unabashedly Me

If you could live your whole life over again, what would you do differently?  It’s a familiar question.  We’ve probably all heard it before, or even asked it of others or ourselves.  My regular reply has always been, “nothing”.  There isn’t anything I would change because every decision, every event, every sadness, every difficulty, everything that has ever happened to me has made me who I am and led me to where I am and I wouldn’t change that for anything.  Right?  Blech.  Well, I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately and I think I’ve come to a new conclusion.  If I had my whole life to live over again, what would I do differently?  Everything.  Every single thing.  I don’t mean I would change the details of my life up to this point.  I’m not wishing I could unload a kid or anything.  I mean that I would live it differently.  I would DO it differently.  Same events.  Different me.

Charles Swindoll once said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.”  This quote has been a kind of mantra of mine since my early high school years, which is many years before I knew who said it.  I’ve always believed that our reactions to our circumstances is what truly matters in the way that we live.  We have a choice how we respond to things.  However, although I’ve believed that wholeheartedly for over half of my life, I don’t think I fully understood it until recently.  It’s not just about positivity or a good attitude.  It’s not even about hopefulness, I don’t think.  I believe it’s more about understanding that much of our life is about the way we think.  The way we think about ourselves, the way we think about others, the way we think about our circumstances – our difficulties – our wins and our losses.  It’s about perspective.  And perspective is a choice – an important one.

If I could do my life over again, I’d give it a go with less fear.  I’d stop worrying about what everyone is thinking about me.  I’d concern myself less with whether or not I fit in.  I’d spend my energy fighting against shame, being unabashedly myself, without altering one funny little detail to please anyone other than my own self.  I’d believe people when they told me I’m pretty.  I’d care more about my friends than my waistline.  I’d spend more time doing stupid things.  I’d look at my children longer and study every feature of their tiny little faces.  I’d hold hands more, hug more, kiss more, love more.  I’d work harder at forgiveness – of others and myself.  I’d have more confidence in my abilities, my strengths, my talents.  I’d make more mistakes, and not worry as much about them.  I’d give myself unlimited chances to do better, live better, be better.  I’d risk more.  I’d travel more.  I’d keep less for myself and give more away.  Mostly I’d accept myself as I am and love myself more entirely – all of me – every wrinkle, every fat cell, every quirk and every flaw.

I’d stop comparing and start living.

kim

Unstoppable Me

Somewhere deep inside I believe I can do anything.  That belief doesn’t always manifest itself in my day to day activities, but I really do believe it.  I’m naturally quite impulsive and also generally quite confident.  When you pair those things together, you have a bit of a strange combination.  When I watch doctor shows I imagine that I should go ahead and go to medical school so that I can fix all the people.  When I watch law & order type shows I imagine myself as a bad ass attorney sticking it to the bad guys.  Side note: I rarely imagine myself in law enforcement.  Mostly because I’m scared of the dark, but also because the idea of me carrying or shooting a gun is enough to make anyone who knows me shoot their drink straight out of their nose.  It really is just that hilarious.  But anyway.

I once tried for an entire hour to pick the lock of my mother-in-law’s front door because we had accidentally left her house key at my sister-in-law’s house and since I had watched seven straight seasons of Alias, I was the obvious choice to find a way in.  You know, because of all my super spy training.  In unrelated news, I wasn’t successful at picking the lock, but I did watch my husband laugh harder than I ever had before or ever have since.  The point is that I have a natural tendency to believe that nothing is beyond my reach – that I can do pretty much anything I want to.  If I’m being honest, I love that about myself.  I hope and pray that my four daughters will somehow pick that up from me.

The strange, and disappointing, thing about it, though, is that I rarely take that belief and actually try to make it reality.  Something happens to me somewhere between the believing and the doing that keeps me from the trying.  I can’t figure out what that is, but if I ever do I know I’ll be unstoppable.  

I believe that we are all made for so much more than we allow for ourselves.  So much more than we think we deserve or think we can achieve.  If I could follow through on that silly notion that I can do anything, I wonder if I would actually be able to do anything.

Dream With Me – A Book Review

John M. Perkins was born to sharecroppers in Mississippi in 1930.  His mother died when he was a baby and his father abandoned the family, so he was raised by his grandmother and other extended family members. At the age of 17, after his older brother was murdered by a town marshall, John ran away to California. About thirty years later his son, Spencer, led him to Christ and a short time later he returned to Mississippi with his wife, Vera Mae and their children in order to minister to the people there. They started a foundation called The John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation which they still lead today.

Dream With Me: Race, Love and the Struggle We Must Win is a memoir of struggle, hope and determination. It is a truly beautiful book by a remarkable man who made a significant impact on our nation’s history. Mr. Perkins interweaves his own personal story and struggle with wisdom he’s learned in his almost 60 years of ministry. In this book, his voice is firm yet tender and comes across as both authentic and impassioned. His insights into America’s racial divide are deep and powerful. Mr. Perkins paints a picture of a better future for those among the margins – not only racially, but financially. This book isn’t necessarily a roadmap about how to get to the reconciliation that desperately needs to happen, but it does make you believe that it is possible. In sharing story after story from his own life about enlightenment, change and reconciliation, Mr. Perkins gives us a wisdom that can only be gathered from years of mistakes and heartbreak. He pours out his own pain on the pages and allows the reader to learn from his journey in a way that is raw, real and truly beautiful.

I take from this book a desire to know more about John M. Perkins, a longing to see his dream become reality and a greater understanding of where we’ve come from as a country and where we might be able to go. This book is an inspiration for all who yearn for both justice and grace. There are so many lessons to be taken from this book and I highly recommend it!

My Favorite Quotables from Dream With Me By John M. Perkins:

“God’s love and justice come together in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and we can’t be about one and not the other. They’re inextricably connected.” p 29

“Love is the first, middle and final fight.” p 30

“Once you know their hurts and feel their pain, your neighbors’ issues become yours too.” p 75

“The oppressed already have a voice; the problem is that no one is listening.” p 75

“Our unity – our reconciliation – bears witness to the world of the surpassing love of God in Jesus Christ.” p 84

“Both sides are yelling too loudly to listen to one another. We have accommodated the racism and the segregation in society for so long that we have lost our ability to hear or understand one another.” p 105

“I believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings. The Bible states clearly that God created men and women in His image from the very beginning. No matter how damaged people become, they still bear that image. No matter how much people have been oppressed or how much they have oppressed others, the part of them made in His image is worth rescuing and restoring. Since we all inherently bear this image, we also inherently have dignity. We do not give people dignity; God gives it to them, but we must work to affirm it in others and ourselves.” p 129

“Dignity has always been part of the justice equation.” p 135

“Love is most powerful when it is unexpected – and when it does not come cheaply.” p 148

“A free society cannot exist for long if too many people in that society put their own image above that of their community.” p 167

“During my lifetime, I fear that more people have seen the church as a messy contradiction defined by division and hot-button issues than have seen it as a prophetic voice living out the gospel. Most people outside the church see it as estranged regarding issues of race, economics, sexuality, and so many other things. They see the church as a place that condemns, rather than loves. They hear the voice of the church speaking a language of hate, rather than a language of redemption and reconciliation. We have lost the fullness of the gospel.” p 188

“The fullness and adequacy of the gospel is a message of togetherness and love across ethnic barriers.” p 197

“In the midst of seeking and telling truth, we find God’s presence.” p 197

kim

 

BakerBooksBloggersSquareLogo

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

The Gatekeepers – A Book Review

As a political junkie, I absolutely loved The Gatekeepers. Chris Whipple takes you inside the white house of the last 50 or so years, giving you a rare look into how our executive branch functions.  With superior writing and incredible insight, The Gatekeepers is truly a must read for anyone with any interest in politics, government or even the occasional white house gossip. There are so many interesting insights into the exclusive group of men that served as White House Chief.

From Nixon and the Watergate scandal to the Obama years and everything in between, Chris Whipple gives us a glimpse into the minds and lives of the most powerful men in Washington’s more recent history.  Each chapter’s title is a quirky little nod to the chief (or chiefs) of staff represented in the chapter – nicknames, jokes, mistakes made – all memorable, all unique and special.

More than a simple history review, The Gatekeepers is filled with lessons of leadership, ego, humility, preparedness and so much more. The wisdom represented in these pages serve as a roadmap for future leaders – especially anyone who finds themselves leading from the second chair. There is an interesting perspective represented in this book that sheds light on what was, or was not, able to be accomplished throughout each president’s terms in office based on who held the office of chief of staff. It truly is remarkable the impact each of these men have had on American history.

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected to due to the tremendous quality of writing and the humor strewn throughout. It will whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. It is both informative and fascinating, an easy read and incredibly thorough – a political page turner that I enjoyed immensely and highly recommend.

 

kim

Blogging_for_Books_Lockup_2

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.com for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own

A Timetable for Grief

jim and grandma

It’s been three and a half years since Jim died.  I haven’t really talked about it much because, well, what would I even say.  It’s all so tender and fragile and holy.  It’s been three and a half years since we all stood around his bed and said goodbye.  None of us wanted to, but we had no choice. So we did. I stood in the back of the room because I didn’t think I had a right to stand closer. He was my uncle.  Not my brother.  Not my partner.  My uncle.  I didn’t have a right to be up close as he took his last breaths so I stood in the back and held mine.  In that cold hospital room, with the stupid blue chair and the horrible view of the roof and the air conditioning units I watched him die.  And some of me died there too.

Parts of me that believed that life was good and right and real died that day when the most real person I ever knew stopped living and left us all there to figure out why the hell it happened.  Even now as I write these words I still have no idea.  You know how sometimes you look back on things that have happened and say, “so THAT’S why that happened.  I understand now.”  Three and a half years later I still can’t make sense of it.  And maybe that’s just it.  There isn’t a reason.  He died because he got sick.  That’s it.  End of story.  Maybe there’s no lesson there at all.

I don’t think I’ve taken a deep breath since that day.  I’ve been shallow breathing for nearly four years.  Filled with so much sadness and grief and anxiety that I can’t catch my breath.  I got an up close and personal view of how fragile life actually is and it wrecked me.  Jenny Simmons writes, “Life is so deathy.”  She’s right.  It is.  But here’s the thing…the deathy-ness of life can keep us from the living.  It’s kept me from living.  It just feels so horribly wrong that the sense of wrongness takes up residence inside us and prevents us from taking deep breaths and seeing the fleshy colors of life all around us.  The weight of death wrapped itself around my shoulders, refused to let me go, and I’ve been sinking underneath the heaviness of it.

I couldn’t accept it, so I didn’t.  My heart has stayed there in that room, frozen in time, because I haven’t been able to deal with it yet.  And I’m terribly embarrassed about that.  I feel ashamed that I’m still grieving.  Like, why can’t I just get over it already?  Everyone expected me to get over it years ago, so I put on my happy face and pretended.  But really, inside I’m just numb and angry and devastated.

I keep feeling the need to explain why I loved him the way I did, why his death has me so messed up.  I feel the need to validate my grief.  But I can’t figure out why.  Is there some rule about who we are allowed to grieve for and whose death we have to move right past?  I don’t feel like I have a right to be this sad.  But I am.  So where does that leave me?  Not only am I still, nearly four years later, filled with red hot grief – I’m also ashamed to admit it so I’m keeping it entirely to myself.  So add to the red hot grief a paralyzing loneliness that I didn’t even realize was there.

I was pregnant with my fifth child, our first boy, when my uncle died.  I was terrified I would lose that baby as I had lost one many years before. So as we buried Jim, I buried my feelings along with him.  I became numb, the feeling parts of me closed off as tightly as I could manage while still being able to hug and hold all of my sweet babies. Bittersweet living. A new baby came and new friends and opportunities and all along the way I showed up just enough to take a ton of pictures, laugh a little and then crawl back into my hidy hole.

As I begin to emerge from my little cocoon, I realize that I am certainly not the only one who’s been here. There are so many of us who struggle with sadness, depression, anxiety or grief and we never really talk about it. For me, it was mostly because I wouldn’t have known what to say. And I’m usually pretty in touch with my feelings. I generally understand myself pretty well. Grief changes all that self-awareness though, I think. At least it did for me. I suddenly had no idea how to deal, or even what exactly I was dealing with. I heard someone say once that sin takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay.  Well, I wonder if the same is true of grief – although I would never compare grief to sin.  Grief takes you hostage. It pulls you away from the living. And it cannot be interrupted, ignored or avoided no matter how hard you try. Grief has its own timetable and it will not be determined by those who grieve, we are simply along for the ride.

I wish that someone had told me that grief is different for every person. The timing will be different. The feelings will be different. The intensity and effects will be different. None of that means that anyone’s grief is more or less significant than anyone else’s – it simply means that grief (like anxiety and depression) is different for all of us. I wonder if we have to actually be present within the grief to ever come back out of it? I wonder if grief isn’t something to just get through, but rather something to experience freely and fully so that we can take from it even more memories of the people that we lost. I have memories of my grief that are entwined with my memories of and with my uncle. This may sound strange, but they are as precious to me as the memories I have with him living. They feel tender to me and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

I’m grateful for my season of grief and for however long it decides to last. I will fully participate in it. I will not try to push it down or away, but will listen to whatever it has to teach me.

I pray now for each of you who are traveling your own grief journey. Let us not be ashamed or discouraged. Let us be willing and ready to remember and be thankful that we have had the beautiful and enduring privilege of loving someone so deeply. May God bless you in your grief and me in mine. 

kim

Tranquility – A Book Review

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal is filled with scripture, journaling prompts, inspirational thoughts and prayers and beautiful artwork.  There are over 100 pages that guide the reader in thoughtful reflection and provide an opportunity to journal prayers and thoughts. The majority of this journal is focused on finding peace, comfort and assurance – there are several verses focusing on fear, contentment, and many verses centering on peace.  There are also quite a few pages focusing on music or worship as a way to calm an anxious heart – which I particularly love.

IMG_1997IMG_1998IMG_1999

Tyndall’s Living Expressions Collection (www.livingexpressionscollection.com) also has another coloring journal, and several other lovely books and journals that are equally beautiful – including journaling Bibles with beautiful illustrations throughout.

I have reviewed two other coloring journals from this line.  You can check out those reviews below.

All is Bright – A Book Review

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal – A Book Review

 

Tyndale Blog Network

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.