Saturday, January 28, 2012

Going beyond the curtain and revealing more than I'm comfortable with

This was not a hard post to write, but it is an extremely hard post to publish... but I felt compelled not only to write it but to publish it as well. *Deep breaths* Be warned... this is brutally honest and not very pretty.

This week the Lord revealed a particularly fierce pattern in my life. 

Hi, my name is Ebe and I have a pattern of reacting to most situations with 'worse case scenario' doom. I am an anxious person.

A few years ago when my doctor told me I was suffering from PTSD, I was almost relieved. I remember thinking, "Oh, so this is why I want to run away or faint when I see a pregnant woman or hear the thump-thump-thump of a doppler. I am not crazy after all." For me, PTSD stemmed from waking up one normal average day and hearing the news that my previously alive and healthy baby was now dead and that no one told me that this could happen.

The day before I was at work, laughing and working like normal. I caught the bus home with my husband, we went out to eat and then to the grocery store. We came home and organized Owen's things, we took our last pictures of the apartment in its expectant state and our last belly pictures together. I went to sleep late and woke up panicked.. then one trip to the doctor's office changed our lives forever. He was gone and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

PTSD can hit you like a ton of bricks. Anytime, anywhere. I have known this part for a few years and I was well versed with my triggers: big baby bellies, baby boys, little boys my Owen's age, boys named Owen, doctor's offices, waiting rooms, exam tables, ultrasounds, cold sun-shiny days in Winter, car rides down the road leading by my old doctor's office, the office building I worked when Owen died... there are more still. For the most part, I have overcome, by God's grace, a lot of my feelings towards these things and they no longer produce in me an extreme reaction.

Until a few days ago, what I didn't attribute to PTSD was the worse case scenario reaction I have developed to most situations. And that my crippling anxiety about medical issues, doctors' diagnoses or fear of a diagnosis stem from Owen's death.

But it makes perfect sense....
My son was healthy one day and dead the next. And no one told me that there was a risk of this happening. In fact, the high risk doctor I saw just 15 weeks before told me that there was nothing high risk about my pregnancy and that he would treat me and my baby as normal patients. I know no one can predict the future, and anyone (doctor or not) can make mistakes, but what I think has affected me greatly is that the doctors all saw an issue but refused to treat it and refused to take ANY steps to make him safer. They lulled me into complacency and then... he died.

I believe God is sovereign and in control. My faith sustains me. My faith calls me to see a bigger picture, and the Holy Spirit reminds me of God's great love for me. But my faith doesn't shield me from the effects of the broken world and that includes PTSD/panic attacks/(at times) unrelenting anxiety. 

For me, the sin of worry uses my past experiences to scream lies at me- your doctor is making a mistake! your doctor is lying to you! you will be the smallest .00001% and will get xyz. your daughter will be the smallest .00001% and will get xyz. it is a sure certainty. you have no future in this life. none of your dreams or desires will come true because of this diagnosis, pain, bump, fall, sickness, etc...etc...etc...

I hear these lies and I want to curl up in a ball. I want to completely zone out of my life and dwell in the worst case scenario. I want to start making funeral plans, and try to plan my family's life without me or my life without my daughter or my husband.

I told you this wasn't a pretty post. It's downright ugly and sinful and tragic. But it's true.

Owen's death has changed my default response to a trip to the doctor's office, to the early morning phone call, to the ache in my knee or the bump on my skin... it has changed me. 

I can no longer shrug off my husband's complaint of a headache without going there in my head. I can no longer ignore a pain in my knee without googling every reason why it hurts (oh, google how I loathe and love thee). I no longer let complacency lull me down the path of 'it could never happen to me.' Because it can. It might.

BUT here's where a calm voice breaks through:
It might not, Ebe. It might not and you are not in control of whether it does or doesn't. You are not in control. You are not responsible. Your vigilance, your obsession with googling, your obsession of knowing what you can not know will NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. Your understanding of Owen's condition would not have changed anything. You could not have prevented his death.
I have lovingly written all the days of your life. Of your husband's life, of your son's life, of daughter's life and it is no surprise to me that you woke up this morning feeling anxious. I am not surprised or confused. I am not lying when I tell you that you can cast all your fears and anxieties on me. I am your Daddy and I love you. I loved you the last day Owen was alive, I loved you as I brought him to Myself, I loved you then. I love you now... with a never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love.

Sometimes the voice comes in the form of my faithful husband who tells me I can trust Jesus- I can rest in His love. Sometimes a friend points me to the true and beautiful things of the Gospel. Sometimes it is  a quietness in my soul spurred by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, who is always there.

This morning I woke up remembering the worry of the night before and I dreaded getting out of my warm bed to face the day. But I did, Praise the Lord. I got up, reached for my Bible and read the words of LIFE. And I remembered how often He has delivered me from the thorny arms of anxiety.
I remembered how many times I laid in bed with a pit in my stomach, physically ill with worry, but I did not remain there. I was delivered. I sometimes forget how bad the bad days can be when I am no longer struggling quite as fiercely. But this morning I was reminded and in the remembering, God revealed my pattern of worry to worse case scenario doom.

You know, as crazy as it sounds, I'm thankful to see this pattern. I'm thankful that my eyes have been opened to how broken I am, as much as I sometimes like to pretend otherwise. My brokenness points to an unbroken, faithful, and merciful Savior. I'm thankful to the God of hope and life who delivers me. He delivers. 

I am not naive enough to say that because I see this pattern and understand its origin I will never struggle in this way again. But because we have a God who delivers us, we can trust that when the struggle comes He will be faithful. He will be

If you are struggling with crippling anxiety and feel that this struggle keeps you from God, please listen: NOTHING can separate us from His love. By His Spirit, because of His might, we can fight our anxiety with TRUTH. We are not alone in this fight- we have a great helper, the Holy Spirit, who is always helping, always interceding and always pointing us to the Father (Romans 8).

I will pray for you, as I hope you pray for me. : )
Please if you're willing, will you share your favorite verses of comfort and hope? Thank you, friends.


Beth said...

Thank you for this. I am crying as I read and, now, write. It is beautiful, honest, broken, and glorifying of the One who is always, always more than enough. I have been feeling trapped in anxiety and pessimism. You said, "'You have no future in this life.'" I am living in this place now, and although I have since learned that it is a normal symptom of PTSD, it does not make it any less crippling. I needed to read this this morning, because I was again questioning if our God is really the loving, caring Daddy I thought He was before I learned the hard way that babies can die, quietly and without warning or even cause.

Pslam 139 is encouraging to me, because it reassures me that this horrible thing that happened to me, that was so out of my control, was not out of God's control. Verse 16: "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." I also really like the entire book of Ecclesiastes (in The Message version) because it is a picture of how I feel now -- that life is hard and unfair and meaningless.

Rebecca said...

You have just changed my life.

Or more precisely, God did. Through you.

If others weren't around right now, I would be openly weeping.

I could have written these exact words, replacing Owen's name for Olivia's.

There are many verses that bring me hope/comfort, but the first one to come to mind is Lamentations 3:32.

Thank you for allowing yourself to be a broken vessel....

Sara said...

Ebe, so much of what you said spoke volumes to me and my heart and all that I/we have gone through... I will have to share my own experience of PTSD with you sometime... maybe I will post about it, I have thought about it! Of course, I am praying for you! Thank you for putting your heart out there, I love you for it!

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have HOPE, because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed...For His compassions NEVER fail, they are new every morning! Great is His faithfulness! I say to myself, the Lord is my portion, therefore, I will wait for Him...
Lamentations 3:21-24

Love you EBE!

Stephanie said...

Even before it was a song, I loved these verses (I gave them to J when we were dating):
"But now, this is what the Lord says-he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'" (Isaiah 43:2-1)

The part I cling to is that "you are mine." There is so much peace and strength and freedom and forgiveness in that phrase.

Thank you again for sharing your heart, Ebe.

Oh, I also love these verses for comfort: "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:23-26)

Love you, my friend.

Keisha Valentina said...

You, my friend are beautiful.

God is most certainly getting His glory through your life.

I love you.

Emily said...

I don't have a verse to share, but I do find encouragement from meeting and learning from other "survivors." You are a blessing Ebe, regardless of how broken you feel. You encourage many.