My Mental Health Story: Stronger
My Mental Health Story:
I have struggled with General Anxiety Disorder for as long as I can remember. I remember being 5 years old in a Rainforest Cafe, about to eat lunch with my family.. And then all of a sudden feeling an overwhelming sense of not being okay. Physical symptoms always went along with this terrible feeling. Nausea, sweats, fatigue.. When this happened I had to go to the restroom to escape and I could never eat after all of that. This happened a lot to me when I was younger, although, I had no idea what it was. Restaurants and crowded spaces, particularly ones where social interaction was required of me, were my triggers.
As I grew into a teen, these episodes subsided. I hit high school and it all came back full force. Everything above, x100. With the addition of random chest pains, a racing heart and constant worry about everything. Mixed in with some worst-case scenario thoughts on a day to day basis. I missed school days, hurt my relationship with my (now) almost husband, worried my parents… and I still thought this was normal. I had no idea what this thing was. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I thought everyone had worry that was constant and came with horrible physical symptoms!! I thought I wasn't a good enough Christian. I wasn’t a good enough girlfriend. I wasn’t cool enough. I wasn’t enough, period.
Then one day I googled my symptoms. Now, I hate to say it, but Web MD helped me out that day. I realized I probably had something going on in my brain. But maybe I didn't? Maybe I was just a worrier?
The short version of this story is that I started talking to people. My mom most of all. I discovered mental illness runs in her side of our family. She helped me in ways I will never be able to repay her for. She is my rock and confidant in this struggle. Someone who understands. Someone who I can swap stories with, even today. I also saw a doctor and improved my diet and saw great changes in my anxiety that actually stuck for many years. Until September of 2018.
Enter: Panic Attacks.
It was a normal day. I had a meeting with a client scheduled for later that afternoon. I had gotten engaged a couple of weeks before, and this was supposed to be the happiest time of my whole life. I went to the meeting in a quiet coffee shop, just like any other day. While listening to this wonderful client of mine tell me about her dreams and visions for her photo shoot, I began sweating. I felt a tingling sensation up my spine and head. Heart racing, hands shaking. I felt like my arms weighed 100 pounds. I tried to lift them and type, but it was like I couldn’t move. All of this, paired with the overwhelming, all consuming, extreme sense of fear and that I was not safe or okay. I thought I was having a heart attack, stroke or something of that nature. I thought I was dying. I ended the meeting abruptly, and (while I was so fearful of trying to stand) got in my car and began crying on the phone to my mom while my fiancé left class to come get me. While I waited, I just cried and couldn’t move. I couldn’t stop shaking. I thought I needed to go to the hospital ASAP, but we ended up staying in my apartment for the rest of the day while I proceeded to have a couple more attacks. I couldn’t even use the bathroom with the door closed, I was so fearful of being alone. I was so confused. So betrayed by my own body. At the time, I didn’t even know what to call these things that I now know were panic attacks. I thought something was wrong with my heart or my brain. Something had to be off for this catastrophic physical response to occur over and over again.
The testing began. I insisted on an EKG. Blood tests. The works. All came back perfectly healthy, and I couldn’t understand why this was happening if my body was healthy. I was against medication for anxiety for as long as I can remember. I didn’t want any chemicals messing around with my brain. It felt like a bandaid… But the attacks kept happening and they were brutal. I couldn’t do my job, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t go to the store, I couldn’t live in my apartment... I had to stay with my parents! I could not be alone. After a few weeks of this, I was done. I wanted, no needed, that bandaid to function. So I made an appointment and was prescribed Paxil for my panic attacks.
I so wish this was my happy ending. So many people get wonderful immediate results from medication. And I do now! My medicine has worked wonders… It just needed some time. I experienced horrible side affects the first week of taking my medicine. Shaking, sweats, loss of appetite and, worst of all… It actually triggered panic attacks. I remember having 8 in a row one day, with my parents beside me not knowing what to do.
I do not know how I made it through that week of adjusting to my meds. I had so much fear and doubt. I am a Christian woman, and I was so mad at God for this. But He taught me so much through this time. Clinging to Him and His promises were the only thing that got me through. I am on the other side now, happily on medication. There are still minor side affects like hunger and tiredness. BUT no more attacks. I don’t know what my future holds or when/if I will ever get off this medicine. But it is working for me now, and I will take that win.
Through this struggle, God birthed The Kimberly Place, my new business. I want people to feel at home there. To feel like they belong. To lean on the community for support in your darkest of times. I want people to leave there feeling