Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ordained Encounter

I'm not one who easily sees God's hand in every situation.  In fact, it typically takes years before I can look back and understand how it all came together.  This story, however, is completely different.  This time I saw it as it happened.

I've always had moderate anxiety.  It's never kept me from doing things I enjoy, but it has a prime spot in my brain and rears its ugly head often.  As a child, I was never scared of monsters.  Always people, specifically kidnappers.  Maybe I watched too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, I'm not sure.  I was anxious about my grades in school.  Worried throughout my pregnancy.  I have scriptures on my phone for when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, I'm also a talker.  I've never kept my anxious feelings to myself, so while you can feel sorry for Michael (and you should), he knew what he was marrying.  Me.  Lovable, anxious me.

This past year has been a great one for our family.  New job for Michael and official diagnosis for Jude both top the list.  Unfortunately, it hasn't been wonderful for dear friends.  I've attended two funerals in the last six months that were especially heartbreaking.  A sweet boy whose family I have grown to love was recently diagnosed with yet another tumor.  One of my best friend's husband's went through several months of chemo.  The list goes on and on.

On March 16, I was looking through Instagram one last time when I read about Brooks's second tumor.  I teared up and then out of nowhere, I had a pretty severe anxiety attack.  It was terrifying, mostly because I didn't know what was happening.  Michael was next to me and asked if I needed to go to the hospital, but I was too focused on trying to breathe to really answer.  After about 20 minutes it subsided and I was completely wiped out.

A good friend of mine put it perfectly.  "Our ability to cope with anxiety is like a scale with a certain tipping point and as we age we hit that point, sometimes for no reason."  I'd hit that point.  My brain was on overload from worrying for my friends on top of my already amazing ability to be anxious over everything.

I wish I could say that was it, but for the next two weeks, I'd think about the anxiety attack and it would lead to another (far less severe) attack.  In the middle of breakfast.  Playing outside with my kids.  At night while everyone was asleep.  My brain was consumed with fear.  Was this my new normal?  When I was "lucid" I was fine.  But those moments when my brain took over were the darkest moments I've ever experienced.  I felt alone and very scared.

I had my annual OB appointment last Wednesday and decided I'd ask to be put on anxiety medication in hopes it would help.  I talked to several friends who are either on medication or were in the past.  I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into.  One friend said something I will never forget: "Anxiety is the devil."  I'm not sure if she meant it literally or she was just using the worst word she could think of, but it stopped me in my tracks.  She was absolutely right.  This was the devil.

So that leads up to one of the most ordinary, incredible moments of my 33 years.  The day before the doctor's appointment, I was at Sloane's ballet class chatting with fellow moms.  We were talking about nothing in particular when one brought up a medication she'd taken that had caused her to lose a lot of weight.  I'm typically not one to pry but for some reason I asked her what medicine she was on.  And for some reason she was completely open and honest.  It was a medicine for depression.  I told her I was going to the doctor the very next day to get on anxiety meds.

Another mom looked up from her phone and said, "I dealt with anxiety for years and then my doctor told me it was due to a gene mutation I have.  I found out about it after I suffered two miscarriages."  She had my full attention.  I asked her if it was MTHFR, the same gene mutation I have that caused two miscarriages and led to taking blood thinners my entire pregnancy.  Same one.  Once the kids were born and all was well, I basically forgot I had it.  She explained that while miscarriages are the prominent issue associated with MTHFR, anxiety is also prevalent due to a lack of folate and B12.  She simply takes folate supplements and hasn't dealt with anxiety in years.

I was stunned.  For over two decades I've dealt with something that could simply be related to a lack of FOLATE.  As soon as I got to my car I researched it and found numerous articles linking MTHFR to anxiety and headaches (which I deal with regularly).  I also read it can alter one's response to anxiety medication.  And then I thought back to the conversation that had just taken place... the day before I asked my doctor to put me on anxiety medication.  How had it come up?  What made my friend so open?  What made my other friend share her rare MTHFR story that happened to mirror my very own?  All in a little ballet studio on a Tuesday afternoon.  I have never felt God's presence more.

I called Michael and told him to pick up some Folate on his way home from work.  The next day I shared this story with my doctor and told her I wanted to give it a try.  She was completely open to it.

From the moment I left that ballet class, the small anxiety attacks disappeared.  It made me realize those attacks were brought on by anxiety over my anxiety (who knew).  My brain was on overdrive and very, very tired.  Once I had a clear plan in place, they went away.  And, thankfully, have stayed away.

I'm a firm believer medication is helpful, useful, and can be absolutely necessary.  I'm not opposed to it, though I'm glad I have more information as I learned it might not be right for me.  I also learned the brain is capable of taking something small and making it into something very big and incredibly ugly.

So there's my heart on paper (err... computer screen).  I figured if I can share my son's diagnosis on my blog, I can (and should) share this as well.  Maybe someone will benefit from it, or maybe it's simply to share that God doesn't always show himself in dramatic ways.  Sometimes it's a tiny ripple that leads to something so much bigger.


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