Stand with me.

A series about anxiety.

Poster - Take A Stand (2)

I had the privilege of visiting a Overeaters Anonymous (an offshoot of AA) group years ago. Tears were brought to my eyes as women and men bravely stood and boldly declared “My name is [name] and I am a overeater.” I was struck by the vulnerability and courage it took for someone to stand up and declare that truth. I was overcome by emotions. I personally do not struggle with overeating, but it took all I could from standing up and joining in the chorus. I wanted to be part of something that real, that brave, that vulnerable. There is something incredibly healing about speaking a painful truth to a group of people who will respond with grace and support.

As much as I wanted to stand up that day, I refrained. But today, let me be the first to start.

My name is Lisa and I have anxiety. I have a phobia of throwing up.

It started when I was a kid. I had separation anxiety; I didn’t want to be away from my mother. My anxiety often manifested in having stomach aches. From a young age, for reasons I have never understood, I have had a phobia of throwing up. Luckily, we received great services and I was able to get a handle on it.

When I was 12, we moved to the Twin Cities. My parents were bracing themselves. How was I going to handle the move?

I ended up doing great. Anxiety quickly became something of the past.

I spent years that way. As I have shared some of this in my past blogs, I was incredibly bold and brave. I had a few hiccups in high school, but overall, I loved to travel. I was a radical Christian ready to follow God’s leading. I spent a summer in California before my senior year of high school. I even graduated from high school early to go on a 6-month mission trip. I’m sure I had fleeting thoughts about throwing up, but nothing that stopped me.

I had a transplant, my body rejected my liver, I was in a bus accident, I had typhoid fever. The list goes on and on. Still nothing. No anxiety. There were so many times in my story that anxiety would have made sense. After my transplant people would have understood if I were anxious. I wasn’t.

That all changed when I was 23. Bryan and I had been married for 2 years. We both had jobs that we loved. At that time, I was asked to travel for work for 2 weeks. All of the sudden I felt incredibly unsettled about that idea. Those feelings that I had felt years ago started creeping up on me. I had worked really hard to maintain my independence after I got married, why was I all of a sudden so anxious to leave Bryan? That was January. I went on the trip, I survived. But those feelings didn’t go away. In fact, they got worse.

The summer came and I was gone a lot. At that point I was able to push through and do what I needed to do, but it was getting tougher and tougher.

I was leading a mission trip. We are wrapping up the week. It was the last day and we were all tired. Like I shared, I have a phobia of throwing up. All of a sudden while I was finishing my breakfast, I started to feel a little nauseous. With the backdrop of being emotionally and physically exhausted, I broke. I started having a panic attack in front of hundreds of people. I ran to the bathroom, sure that I was going to throw up. Nothing came out, but I couldn’t stop panicking. And I didn’t stop for 4 hours. The panic attack continued the whole way home, in a van with 8 high school girls that were in my care (I wasn’t driving), and I have never felt so embarrassed.

Things continued to get worse. Life became really hard. Not just for me, but for Bryan too. He was the only one that could calm me down. I came to a place where between meetings I would go home, get into the fetal position and weep. What was happening to me? I would start to reach for the phone to cancel my appointment and right before I finished dialing, I would muster up enough strength to go to my next meeting. I could never focus. I tried so hard to be present, but the whole time I was in conversation I was talking myself out of running out of the room sobbing.

At the same time, my diet became very restricted. I couldn’t eat anything that could possibly make me feel like I was going to throw up. I could not understand what was happening. It was like something took over me, swallowed me up and was living my life for me. A horrible, painful life.

Every time I talk about that time I am brought to tears. It was so hard.

That was 13 years ago.

Unfortunately, my journey with anxiety has not ended. It doesn’t consume me the way it once did, but it is still a close companion. As I was explaining my anxiety to someone once, he said, “At least throwing up is your trigger. Most adults only throw up a couple of times in their lives.” If only it were that simple.

This is what it looks like today..

I used to love to fly and travel. Now the idea of getting on an airplane induces paralyzing anxiety. Getting the stomach flu on the airplane is my worst nightmare.

I get anxious when Bryan leaves even if it’s just for a night. What if I get sick?

When I feel a hint of nausea, I automatically start to feel panicky. I have feared throwing up for so long, I don’t even know what is nausea and what is anxiety.

When my kids get sick, I get paralyzed. I am no longer able to parent.

And those things happen more than a couple of times in my adult life. Sometimes they happen a couple times a day.

It’s one thing to talk about things of the past. We can read our audience. We can emphasize or omit details. We have insight. Hindsight is 20/20. When we talk about the past it’s almost if we are talking about someone else.

It’s different to talk about things that are current. It feels vulnerable. When I talk about things that I am currently struggling with and I don’t feel validated, I crumble. I doubt my experiences and emotions. I am full of self-doubt. I feel judged, even when I’m not.

What I found through my struggle with anxiety is that I don’t find as much healing when I wait to talk about it until it is over. I find myself not as truthful about the experience. I downplay what really happened.
I have found much more healing when I’m vulnerable in the midst of feeling anxious. I feel a weight lifted off me when I reach out to my people and I ask for prayer. When I tell people I am struggling, it re-focuses my attention and allows me to be fully present. I feel lighter knowing I’m not walking alone.

As I have analyzed that AA meeting over the years, I have wondered why it was such a powerful experience for me. I have concluded it is because that is what I want my life to look like. I want to be in a space where people can be brave and scared at the same time. Where people can share their in-the-moment struggle and get responses that are full of grace and truth. And what I’ve realized is that in order to create a space like that, it starts with one person. It starts with a person that is so committed to healing, that they stand up fully brave and fully scared. They own their reality, the good and the bad. In my experience, vulnerability encourages vulnerability. And before you know it people join in. I know I’m not alone. I know there are people out there that have been crippled by anxiety. I know that there are people who want to stand up, but don’t have a safe space to do so. I want to create that space for you. So let me begin….

My name is Lisa and I have anxiety. I have a phobia of throwing up.

Stand up with me and let the healing begin.

personhelpingperson

I will be spending the next several months talking about anxiety. I will continue to share my story and weave lessons that I have learned along the way. I will talk about therapy. I will talk about medicine. I’m going to talk about spiritual things and practical things. I’ll talk about Jesus and stupid things people will say. If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to stay tuned. Take the first step, when you feel anxious this week – tell someone. Don’t wait until it passes, speak of it in the moment. I think you will be surprised by the freedom you feel. If you don’t have a place to do that, tell me – I would love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at lisdschmidt@gmail.com. You are not alone my friend.
Lisa

Acceptance

acceptance

When I look back at my journey, the driving force behind my grief  is control. So much happened to me in a fairly short time. Over the last 18 years I have grasped to control anything I  possibly could. Jobs. My health. My reputation. My emotions. My friendships.

I was pretty good at it. I am very persistent and can be very convincing.

Then I met my match.

Her name is Piper. She is my daughter.

We had a rocky start. After my transplant, we had decided to adopt instead of having kids biologically. I was scared. There was so much unknown around my health and so many babies out there that needed homes. Then I had a dream. The dream that changed it all. I don’t remember much about the dream, but I knew that when I woke up we needed to try and have a baby. I couldn’t make a decision out of fear. I gave God a month. If I didn’t get pregnant in a month, we were moving forward with adoption.

I got pregnant.

As I have shared, my relationship with God at the time was transactional. If I was obedient, God should give me what I want. That line of thinking led me to believe that if I was obedient and got pregnant, being a parent was going to be easy.

Just in case you don’t know, parenting is super hard. And when two strong willed, feisty people create a human, it tends to even be harder.

A couple years ago we were deep in the trenches with Piper. I was working through deep resentment towards God and Piper. She was so hard. Piper was mirroring the anxiety I had spent my whole life battling and had tried so hard to hide. I blamed myself, God and her. When she wasn’t weeping, her anxiety manifested in anger and rage. We were walking on eggshells. We didn’t want to upset the beast. We sought peace at all cost. We tried all the tricks. We did all the things. Nothing seemed to be helping. Our marriage was suffering as we sought to survive the storm.

We were defeated. We didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t do it anymore. Nothing was working. It was a fight we couldn’t win.

Right around the same time, I was struggling professionally. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, but I sure knew what I wanted to do. So I pushed. I tried to control my circumstances and convince the people involved that my plan was right. On a conscience level I didn’t realize I was doing that, but I knew something didn’t feel right. I felt like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Those around me saw beyond my arguments and confirmed what I already knew, the job was not the right fit. I was the square peg that didn’t fit in the round hole. Although in my heart, I knew it was the right thing, I was angry. I was lost.

On top of that, my friendships were changing. I had had hip surgery and recovery was much harder than we had anticipated.

Everything around me felt so out of control.

I could no longer steer my ship.

I had lost.

I was broken.

I couldn’t control my friends.

I couldn’t control my body.

I couldn’t convince anyone that I was the best one for the job.

I couldn’t change Piper as much as I tried and tried.

I couldn’t fight it anymore.

I slowly began to surrender.

I waved my white flag.

I finally accepted. I began to accept the fact that 18 years ago, my life changed forever – even though I never did anything wrong. I began to accept the fact that my body does not have the same capacities it used to have. I began to accept the fact that God never promised that we would be shielded from pain, only that he would be there. I began to accept the fact that I am going to have a lot more things happen in my life that are super hard. I began to accept the fact that I have an anxious, defiant daughter, whom I deeply love. I began to accept the fact that I am not going to always get what I want when I want it.

I began to accept reality.

I have never been so relieved. Feeling the need to control everything is a heavy burden to bear. One I was never designed to carry.

I literally felt my heart begin to melt. I felt all these layers of grief and confusion begin to shed. And with each layer, I felt lighter and lighter. The Lisa that God created began to resurface again.

I have wondered over the last couple years why these circumstances in particular brought me to a place of surrender and acceptance. I’m not really sure. After everything I have gone through, why my anxious daughter and a failed dream were what brought me to my knees remains a mystery. But I’ll tell you this-I am eternally grateful. As I continue to cease to try to control my life and everyone involved, I am in constant awe of God’s presence and provision. Breakthroughs in my faith have been accelerated. I have grown more in the last two years then I did in the previous 15. My relationships have gotten so much sweeter. I can make decisions faster and with more confidence. I can hear God’s voice more clearly and discern his path more quickly. I’m becoming more grateful and less discontent. I am becoming more graceful and less judgmental. I am much quicker to see my pride and confess my desire to control.

Acceptance is so peaceful. Fighting is exhausting.

I have said so many times that grief is designed to be a pathway to healing, not a way of life. If you allow the current of emotion that I have learned to call grief carry you, you will end in the ocean. A place of freedom, adventure and awe. But if you try to stop the current, it will bubble up and you will drown..

Do you feel like you are drowning? Look up and breathe deeply. Acknowledge that life was not what you expected. Invite God to join you. Get angry. Just make sure it isn’t pointed sideways. Bargain. Just don’t let it be your foundation in which you build your faith. If you feel depressed or anxious, don’t be afraid of it, it’s normal. But try to keep perspective on the driver behind the emotion. Seek outside help. Never feel ashamed. Then surrender. Surrender daily, Surrender hourly. Because please, learn from my mistakes…

In Matthew 16 Jesus says to his disciples “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Let me take the liberty to paraphrase…

If you try to control your life, you will lose it. But if you surrender your life to him, he will save it.

This is the end of my series on my grief journey. Stay tuned for what is next!

Lisa

Anxiety

Woman Praying In A Dark Place

Usually if I was at home, watching a movie, with Bryan-I would be okay. Not this time. None of my tricks were working. I was curled up in the fetal position. Sobbing. I had never felt so desperate. At the time, there was a popular worship song that had repeating lyrics that said “I, I, I’m desperate for you.” In that moment I thought, “This is what it feels like to truly be desperate. All those times I had repeated those words were just lip service.”

It was the end of a 5-day mission trip. I had taken 8 girls to an Indian Reservation and all of sudden I felt sick. I was exhausted and I was sure that I was going to throw up. I ran to bathroom and nothing came out. I began to panic. I had a full out panic attack in front of hundreds of people, and I didn’t stop panicking until we arrived home. Four hours later. I have never been so embarrassed.

I would find myself rushing home to curl into a ball and cry in between meetings. And just as I would reach to my phone to call and cancel my next meeting, I would somehow muster enough strength to get up and make it through the next hour.

Anxiety.

It all started when I was asked to travel for work. When I first heard that I would be gone for two weeks for training in Colorado, I was excited. But the closer that I got to the date of departure, I found myself feeling really hesitant to go. My “what ifs” spoke louder and louder and I became very anxious about the trip.

I went on the trip. I survived. I did it, but it was hard. And I came back different. Something shifted in me. Life all of a sudden felt less certain. I felt a lot less safe. I found myself a lot more cautious. Up until that point I had prided myself in how independent I was. That was no longer the case. All of a sudden, I really liked being with Bryan. A lot. Okay, all the time. He was my rock. He was my safe place.

I had dealt with separation anxiety as a kid. We moved to the Twin Cities when I was 12. Everyone was worried that I would react poorly. I did great and it was almost as if I was miraculously healed. For years I lived with no fear. I traveled all over and made bold, risky decisions. I didn’t even experience anxiety for several years after my transplant. After the suddenness of my transplant, no one would have blamed me at the time if I put myself in a glass container and stayed home for at least a year.

But it wasn’t until 5 years after my transplant that it hit me. It really caught me off guard. It took the wind out my sails. It cost me a job that I loved. It cost me relationships. It cost me credibility. It was an incredibly painful time in my life. It wasn’t just painful for me, it was very painful for Bryan and those around me.

Before I move on, I want to clarify something. I am over simplifying my anxiety for the sake of making my grief journey relatable and understandable. My anxiety is much more complex than I am making it sound. Although I do believe that where I was at in my grief journey was the catalyst to re-introduce my anxiety, I also strongly believe I am predisposed to anxiety and have a chemical imbalance that is also at play.

In the midst of all the pain, I kept wondering, “Why now? Why not five years ago when everyone would understand?”

I wish I could tell you with great confidence why I didn’t struggle with anxiety 5 years earlier when it would have felt acceptable. I don’t know exactly why taking a trip, when I generally loved to travel, was the tipping point for me. I don’t know for sure, but I think I understand at least a part of it…

Life had become a bit more normal. It became more predictable. I didn’t feel like I was at death’s door anymore. Bryan and I were married. I was doing what I felt like God had created me to do. I was growing up. I was still angry at times and I continued to bargain with God, but I actually kind of felt like a normal person, doing normal things.

It was no longer just about what happened in the past or what I wanted God to do in the future. I was here. I was alive. And for the first time in a long time, I thought that it was going to stay that way.

I was here…

I was alive….

It seemed like it might stay that way….

That felt very unsettling.

For years I had spent my energy outside of my currently reality. Denial had allowed me to believe that things were not different, I could stay in a world that had not changed. Anger had pushed my emotions out on to the people I loved. It wasn’t about me. Bargaining with God gave me an illusion of control. It kept me in the future.

Anxiety anchored me to today.

anchor

An anchor is designed to secure your position. It’s designed to keep you in place no matter what is going on around you.

Before I knew it, I found myself anchored to anxiety.

I felt it. I experienced it. It had an all-consuming grip on my reality.

And while I could write a whole blog, even a whole book, about anchors, I will spare you a sermon, and maybe years of heartache. Anxiety hooks are deep and ruthless. I can guarantee your position will be secured. I’m still digging myself out.

I know I don’t belong in denial, which made me long for the past. I don’t belong to anger because it allowed me to ignore my today. I don’t belong in bargaining because it kept me trying to control my future. But I also don’t belong anchored by anxiety today.

Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”

That is where I belong. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not today.

Anchored in hope. Anchored in forever.

This has been a long journey for me, one I am still on. But these days in those moments where all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, God has given me a new song to sing. It has taken me awhile, but I’m finally starting to whisper……

I have this hope                                                                                                                                   As an anchor for my soul                                                                                                                    Through every storm                                                                                                                             I will hold to You

Anxiety is not for the faint of heart my friends. May God give you a new song….

Lisa

 

Ps. Traditionally people recognize depression as the 4th stage of grief. The woman that coined the 5 stages was referring to people that were on their deathbed. The more I have researched I think that there is something to be said about that it would make sense for people to feel depression with a hopeless diagnosis. People who have experienced loss and have to create a new reality may experience higher levels of anxiety as they try to make sense of their new world. I identify anxiety as my 4th stage of grief. Just a thought…