September 13, 2020

There is one sound that the instant I hear it, I swear every cell in my body wakes up.  It doesn’t matter what I’m in the middle of doing, but as soon as I hear even the faintest sound, I become so aware of my surroundings and my environment. It is the powerful sound of thunder.  You see, I have this deep, extreme fear of thunderstorms that I can’t even try to hide. As long as I am indoors, I am okay, however you will see me constantly peeking out the windows listening for hail or looking for funnel clouds like a crazy lady.  If I happen to be outdoors when a storm is passing, I must immediately seek cover and will not dare come to the outside world until it has passed.  I’ve tried to be brave and get out of my car really quick to run into a grocery store.  I’ve gotten as far as getting out of the vehicle and walking toward the store, however as soon as I see a flash from a lightning bolt, I immediately run back to my car.  I cannot erase visions that flash in my mind of me being struck by lightning. I know, well at least I hope, I am not the only one with astraphobia.  As much as I am terrified of storms, I’m thankful for thunder.  Distant thunder takes on the voice of warning, and it reminds me to seek cover immediately.  Before. The. Storm. Arrives.

In the last month, I have realized that as much as I try to hold on to faith and hope, and as much as I try to fix my eyes on what is positive, there are some things in this life that will completely derail you.  It doesn’t matter how much trust you have that things will continue to be better and go well. It does not matter how great, and powerful the God that you serve and trust with your life is, even the thought of the slightest chance of me going backwards or having to go back into the fire again has brought me completely to my knees. 

It started way over a month ago, actually, more like two months ago, I began to experience some really extreme anxiety.  I say extreme because I’m very used to anxiety.  I’ve struggled with anxious thoughts and worry since I can remember, however this time was different.  I’ve only really remembered going through this kind of anxiety about a year before my diagnosis, which was in 2017.  I was in the process of getting over some really sad news over the course of the previous months and I just didn’t feel right.  It was an anxiety that would wake me up at sometimes 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.  My stomach would feel as if it was twisting up into a knot.  The pain in my stomach would not allow me to fall back to sleep.  What bothered me the most was, in the moment, I had no cause or reason to feel such a heavy presence of doom lingering over me. It’s a kind of anxiety that has no cause or reason.  It was that same anxiety that made its grand entrance just a couple months ago. 

If I had to think of a reason why this anxiety returned, it could have been that I had some medical tests coming up, but still it was not enough to cause such severe heaviness and worry.  I’ve had routine tests every 2-3 months for the past two years.  I’m used to being poked for blood, and stripping down to lay in an MRI machine for over an hour.  I’m used to the delay in results and knowing that at any minute I will get the notification that I have new tests results.  Still, this worry was affecting me, not just emotionally, and mentally but physically as well.

Mornings have always been my most favorite part of the day.  I love waking up early, opening up the windows to let the sunshine in and preparing my morning cup of delicious warm coffee.  Once I began waking up with stomach pains caused by this horrible feeling of doom, morning time was no longer my favorite.  I even stopped drinking coffee, and anyone who knows me, knows that if I do not drink my morning cup of coffee, my day will be completely off. I will not be a happy camper.  After realizing that this was not some temporary 2 or 3 days of struggling with anxiety, and that this was quite serious and not going away anytime soon, I had to really dig deep to really grab hold of my healing.

I began to pray and search for the Lord.  The need to know what was going on inside my mind, my body, and my spirit was a strong desire that drove me to start making some serious decisions.  Mostly, the decisions I made had to do with how I was going to get myself out of this hole that I had no idea how I got here in the first place.  Like the saying goes, I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but I certainly was not created to live there.  

One important decision I made was making the choice to begin a new exercise regime. In all my 37 years, I have always struggled with anxiety and being active was my outlet.  If I wasn’t doing CrossFit, I was at the gym, running, or riding the trails on my mountain bike.  I’ve never consulted with a medical doctor or specialist about my anxiety, but knowing the medical history of my family, I’ve always known I have a bad gene somewhere when it comes to mental health.  Staying active was my medicine, until I ended up with a blood clot, and then cancer was the final blow. 

Since the anxiety began again, I didn’t just decide on a new exercise regime, but I started eating healthier, doing yoga, meditating, and even started doing some breathing exercises.  I knew my mind was not well, and I needed to dive into the healing waters of worship, the Word, health, fitness, mindfulness, and any and every other strategy out there to get control of my mental health.  

I spent a solid 30 days taking my body and mind through a journey of healing and trusting in God, that everything is “okay.”  Every morning, I felt like I had to give myself a pep talk like, “Jessy, calm down, why are you so worried, everything is going to be okay, you are fine. God is with you, there is nothing to be afraid of.”  Some days were better than others, but I just felt so heavy burdened.all. the. time.  I even scheduled visits with a primary doctor to check my levels, and my blood and urine tests came out all in normal ranges.  This anxiety took away my morning appetite, which is completely opposite of the type of morning person I am.  I am a wake-up early in the morning and make that delicious cup of joe type of girl.  Normally, as I sip on my coffee, I would have already decided what I’m eating for breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. So, to not have an appetite in the morning was even more worrisome to me.  I decided to dive back into one of my other loves that I thought was a lost hobby, which was CrossFit.  

Fine!  You take away one of my favorite things, which is my morning cup of coffee and breakfast. No problem, I’ll just replace it with some other things I love. I certainly was not just going to sit here and wallow in this misery.  That is when I began my morning meditations with an amazing app called, SoulTime.  I got hooked up with this amazing community called, Street Parking, which is not just CrossFit at home, but CrossFit for all levels, including me and my big leg (If you know me/see me, you know about my “big” leg).  I figured, anxiety was trying to have the last laugh, so I would just force my appetite to come back one way or another.  That is exactly what I did, and what I continue to do.  I had to put on my big girl pants and fight back. I continue to fight every day until this battle is won. Whether I experience that complete triumph here on Earth or in heaven, I will continue to do my part even if it’s for a few hours or days of mini triumphs.  

I will tell you this, after 30 glorious days, of whipping my body back into shape, feeding it some good solid protein and not eating so much crappy food, meditating on the Lord, stretching, yoga and breathing exercises, I felt so much spiritual, mental, and physical growth. It felt good to conquer these areas of my life that seemed to be out of control.  My anxiety wasn’t 100% at bay, but at least I was starting to get it under control. In moments of high anxiety or when I feel my stomach uneasy and in pain, I have tools I use to keep me grounded. If I could visualize where I was after a good solid month of this overall wellness journey, I would say I was just about reaching the peak of that mountain.  I was just about ready to put up my little American flag, like “Yes, I’m reaching the summit, finally.”  

I’m just about looking over the peak of the mountain enjoying the view.  It’s beautiful up here.  I can feel the cool breeze on my face, a breath of fresh air, and one of the biggest smiles slides across my face because I’m just so darn proud of all of it.  I’m proud of all the work I’ve been willing to put in to get myself back on track and mentally well again.  I didn’t just let myself cave, I cared and loved myself enough to know that I needed to climb out of this hole I was in and reach the top of this mountain that’s standing in my way.  New season, new beginnings, and feeling back to myself, until I wasn’t.  

Suddenly, I’m no longer standing on the peak of that mountain.  That beautiful view from top completely disappeared in a matter of seconds.  It felt like a mirage, because one minute it was within my grasp, and the next, I was falling straight, spiraling straight to the bottom, right back in the valley, and there was nothing to grasp on to that would stop me from falling, and save me from this unexpected news.

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

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