Chris and I rented my parent's home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the first two years of our marriage. We were so blessed that we had the opportunity to start our lives in a comfy house, in a quiet community, even with my parent’s visiting from time to time. Mostly we were by ourselves, and far from family. It is only a 3-hour drive, but it was far enough to make me miss my family, from which I had never been separated. I work from home, which I know is a dream for many people, as it was for me, although I didn’t realize how the struggle of feeling so isolated would affect me.
Chris's work schedule was the complete opposite. His job required him to drive 4-6 hours a day, round trip, not including the hours of work at the job site. He would come home ready for bed, finding me ready (and needing) to get of the house. We fought and struggled to find a balance in our life together. But I noticed after our first year of marriage, his battle with anxiety was beginning to seep through the cracks, and he could no longer hide it from me.
As time went on I noticed Chris started to stay home more and more when a group of us were going out, family or friends. Panic attacks started becoming more frequent and he was going days without any sleep. It didn’t matter how tired he was, the anxiety episodes happened every night – which obviously caused me to not sleep as well.
There were some nights that I woke up and found him deep in thought – some nights I found him in tears. He was having a panic attack. Thinking his heart was beating out of his chest – as if he was going to have a heart attack. I watched as his ability to cope with these immobilizing emotions was diminishing day after day after day.
It felt like we were being sucked into a whirlwind of chaos and didn’t know where our feet were going to land.
As time went on Chris was becoming less involved, in everything. I began to question what the source of the issue was. Questions flooded my mind thinking it was something I was doing wrong…
I was bottling up these emotions and it was eating at me inside. In front of my family and friends, I put on a smile to show that everything was okay. When people asked where Chris was, I would just let them know he was not feeling well (which was not a lie) … but it was more than that. Eventually this repetitive question began to irritate me on so many levels.
This started to cause conflict in me and I began to develop anxieties of my own. When I would leave Chris home alone my head was in another place. Going out became more of a burden then a pleasure.
Instead of appreciating my time with everyone (and enjoying getting out of the house- which was rare), my thoughts started taking over…..
What was Chris doing? He’s not responding to my texts… He’s not answering my calls… What will I come home to find?! Will I find him curled up and crying in our room? Will he be irritated, frustrated and angry? And yes, sometimes I even feared… if he would take his own life.
At this point our lives were so messy and chaotic, I didn’t even notice that I was trying to face this burden by myself. Eventually, my patience grew thin as I was not sure how to handle this situation anymore. So when Chris would have an episode or panic attack, my sympathy and empathy started to disappear.
I was suffocating… NO ONE UNDERSTOOD.
My mother started to express some of her concerns and I could no longer with hold the truth. I finally cracked – and it felt good. My mother’s advice to me every day since I got married was to pray for my husband. I must admit, this was an area where I was slacking.
She prayed with me and advised that I stop trying to fix things and give it totally over to God and prayer. Thank God for people in our lives like this! It was just the reminder I needed. I didn’t even notice through the MESS of our situation, I was not completely trusting God to handle the situation and it was OVERWHELMING me.
I felt so alone… though I am very rarely actually alone. But no one understood. I needed a friend… someone that shared my feelings. If there was someone out there who understood, maybe it would have given me the stamina to keep pushing. Instead I thought there were times I couldn’t keep going and that was scary.
THIS is why I feel the need to share our story. Maybe someone, like me, is scared, alone and completely unsure how to support your loved one.
My blog post is not just for the Anxiety “supporters”. Anxiety disorders can tear families apart… Don’t hide it anymore.
To those battling:
Your supporters are battling with you... they need you to try – you may not reach astronomical growth, but pray.
To the supporters:
Do not give up. Pray for your loved one. Prayer changes things – and people!