I was four years old when I had my first panic attack. My sister came home from kindergarten talking about the firefighters who came to school. The firefighters talked about the importance of knowing what to do if your house caught fire in the middle of the night. We talked about it as a family at dinner and then practiced. However, for months after that dinner conversation, I did not sleep through the night. I would wake my mom and hysterically cry about “what if” the house caught fire. We sat on the stairs more than once trying to calm my fears. I ended up sleeping with my parents or on their bedroom floor until I was a tween because of my anxieties. To this day, I have anxiety about fire…and robberies… and being alone in the dark.
When I was in elementary school, I experienced my first narrow escape with a tornado. I remember my mom, my sister, and our neighbor-friend crying in a closet because my dad was out on the farm. We did not know where he was. The “what if” consumed me in that moment. Only bad could come of this situation. Once the storms cleared, Daddy came walking from the chicken houses. It was a feeling of overwhelming relief. To this day, I binge watch James Spann and do not sleep well when it storms.
When I was in middle school, I experienced death. My maternal grandmother, my great-grandparents, and an eight-month old cousin passed away. As a musician and the daughter of a music minister, we did not grieve but performed; I found that easier than facing reality. I sang at my first funeral in middle school.
The overwhelming fear of Death and Its unexpected appearances kept me awake at night, listening to my heartbeat. I had to know I was still alive.
My other grandparents also unexpectedly divorced during this time. The rug was ripped from under me. To this day, I wait for the next person to be taken too soon or the next marriage to implode without warning.
When I was in high school, I desperately wanted to fit in. I had anxiety about social things- not my grades. In 10th grade, I finally made a friend but he went to a different school. My parents were determined to help me overcome my social struggles and they let me move schools. I handled the transition well, but it was very hard for me when my friend graduated. I did not fit in; I was different but didn’t want to be. “What if” I never make a friend? I spent my time moving from one boyfriend to the next. Sadly, I spent senior year without a best friend. To this day, friendship and trust are not easy for me.
At eighteen, I moved away to college. Anxiety crippled me. I became extremely depressed and briefly considered an irreversible decision my junior year. After crying under my desk in my room for one solid day about all the “what ifs” in life and reaching out to my momma for advice, the mental health department at my college stepped in and changed the trajectory of my college years. Later, I married my college sweetheart. That marriage ended after three years. To this day, I have guilt about it all.
In my twenties, I had an anxiety attack at a park when my dad climbed down a cliff for fun. He was completely safe. However, the thoughts of “what if” crippled me. What if he fell? What if he got hurt? What if he died? I found myself in a ball, huddled against a building, sobbing. To this day, I feel shivers of “what if.”
In my thirties, I am overwhelmed by anxiety with my job. As an educator, I carry the weight of all the stories that come through my school. “What if” I cannot help? What if I cannot give comfort? What if a kid has a bad day at school? What if I make a mistake? What if I am not enough? Even today, I have anxiety about being perfect.
Many times in my life, I could have given up. I could have stopped. I could have succumbed to all the “what ifs” and lived a life of fear and hopelessness.
Nahum 1:7 reminds us that the LORD is GOOD!
In all things, He is good. In my anxiety, He is good. In my depression, He is good. In my happiness, He is good. His goodness is not defined by my circumstances. Daily, I work hard to overcome my guilt, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. I try and choose daily to lay those things at His feet. It isn’t always easy. I often pick them back up again and try to handle all things on my own. I often forget His faithfulness to forgive and heal.
He is good even when we cannot see. He is good even when we are far away from Him. He is good in all things.
I regularly see a faith-based counselor who is helping me overcome my anxiety of “what if.” I read faith-based books about trusting God in all things. I am married to the most spectacular man. My parents and sister are my best friends. I attend a life-giving church that loves me BECAUSE of my imperfections. I am also pursuing my Doctorate in Rural Education with an emphasis on teacher mental health. It is my little way to fight for and serve those like me.
May my life and all of my trials be for His Glory and my good. May my story be a testimony of God’s goodness, faithfulness, healing, and His complete forgiveness.
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,” – Nahum 1:7
Submitted by: Mary Grace
This is such an awesome example of how sharing your story can connect you with someone you'd otherwise probably never know you had anything in common with.
When I received this story, I remember reading it and thinking how many things we had in common. Anxiety, feeling that I'm never enough, struggling to make friends growing up, death... These were all things I was all too familiar with. But then as I finished reading and looked to see who this person was, I realized it was the vice-principal at my oldest sons school. Someone I see so often and have had meetings with never knowing we share so many of the same sorrows and struggles.
I am so thankful and honored you shared your story Mary Grace. Thank you for being brave and vulnerable and I have no doubt that no matter what life gives you...But God.
Love and lemons,