The day after this picture was taken, I had my most severe anxiety experience to date. I was walking through Kroger like usual and everything was status quo. I was pushing my cart from the produce to the meat to the frozen veggies. It was just a normal day. But little did I know, my body was revolting.
Let me give you a little bit of background. I have chronic inflammation. A doctor once called it fibromyalgia, but to be honest, I don’t think that title is specific enough.
Eight years ago, on a walk at Allerton Park, I went from enjoying the day with my family to being hunched over in severe back pain. It was like someone flipped a switch and my life changed forever.
I saw numerous doctors and specialists, had countless tests run and was placed on a wide variety of medications. Every test was inconclusive and every pill caused more harm than good. Each doctor had something different to say. I was told that I needed to exercise more, that I needed to start meditating to reduce my anxiety, that I had oversensitivity and I’d have to learn to cope. And then one day, my family doctor looked me square in the eye and told me that modern medicine had failed me and that I needed to seek alternative treatments.
At that point I had already been going to a chiropractor and massage therapist regularly and had just started an anti-inflammatory diet. These treatments over the past few years have completely transformed my quality of life.
Most recently, I found a naturopath that was willing to test me for food sensitivities and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Now I’m able to see what foods actually cause my body harm and on the flip side see what necessary vitamins and minerals in my body are running on low.
You see, in the past few years, my symptoms have developed far beyond pain and inflammation. I have anxiety that spikes for no apparent reason, nerve pain and numbness, changes in how my eyes and brain communicate that prevents me from driving, and other things I’ve grown so accustom too that I don’t even realize they aren’t “normal”.
So that day in the grocery store, I was having severe anxiety. And let me tell you, anxiety, panic and myself are very well acquainted. But this was different, this was something unfamiliar and especially terrifying. I was standing there in the frozen food department, and suddenly it felt like I couldn’t breathe and my legs felt like jelly. In an aisle full of hungry holiday shoppers, I started running with my cart down the aisle, praying that I could just make it to a secluded area away from people where I could catch my breath and lean on something.
So there I stood, propped up against the cooler that held the kids frozen dinners, staring at the paper towel selection, sobbing because I knew I needed to buy my groceries but I knew I couldn’t stand in line to check out. My anxiety wouldn’t dare allow it.
My lovely mother graciously checked out for me as I darted to the bathroom. When I say darted, I mean darted. Like a flash. I didn’t know what I was going to do there, but I needed out. It felt like the walls of the store were closing in on me. I stood in the bathroom mentally pacing trying to figure out my next step. I whipped out my essential oils and doused myself in anything that could help calm me down.
I simply couldn’t catch my breath.
After a couple of minutes debating if I’d be able to exit the store myself or if I’d be taken out later that night on a gurney, I decided to make a break for it. I grabbed my purse and charged out the bathroom door. In my mind, the walk from the bathroom to the exit was about 8 miles long. It seems like it happened in slow motion. But I made it, I got to the car. Even in the car though, my mom knew something was really wrong.
My anxiety is never that severe. After 15 years of anxiety management, I have pretty decent coping skills. But in the car that night leaving the grocery store, I couldn’t find the breath to tell her what was going on. I could only weep. I started talking and had to pause and tell her I needed to sit silently just to catch my breath. Which, spoiler alert, I eventually did.
You know what? I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t losing my mind. My body was having a very rare reaction to a supplement that was supposed to relieve anxiety, inflammation, and asthma.
After seeing two doctors, getting steroids, x-rays and an EKG, it was determined that my lungs were inflamed. Not infected, not bronchitis, pneumonia, or asthma. They were simple inflamed.
Something that was so intentionally and purposefully chosen to put in my body, rejected me. How could that happen? The tests results were there to prove my body needed that supplement to aid its healing.
I went from hopelessness, wondering why God would let such devastation occur, to seeing the hope and goodness He has blessed me with. Maybe, just maybe, God was speaking to me through this darkness.
Maybe he allowed these dark points in my life to occur because he wanted me to walk through them with Him. He never abandoned me or betrayed me. God never promised me a life without pain, but He did promise I’d never have to walk this life alone.
There’s more to my story than the battles I have faced. Without my faith in God, this would be a tragedy, a story without hope. But my pain has purpose. It may not be something I can fully understand or comprehend today, but my Creator will use this story for His glory.