This is my story. Or more like a new chapter in my story.

It’s natural for me to write about moments, events, special occasions. It feels normal for me to construct tributes that evoke emotions and depict everyday life in a storytelling manner. Words give my heart flight. They allow me to paint pictures and trigger emotions. Words have the power to breathe life into someone else’s soul while also having the power to destroy. They create community, give acceptance, and have been one of my outlets over the past five years.

But, recently, the road I’ve been walking hasn’t been something I thought I could bring myself to share. What would people think of me? What if they knew I didn’t have it all together? What if this? What if that? It wasn’t until a few people around me started urging me to take pen to paper and let others see inside. Encouraging me to show what hides beneath my skin. Because the road I’ve been walking isn’t one I walk alone and others may resonate with my experience.

It’s not easy to crack open your heart and show it to others.

Anxiety.

Panic attacks.

I never thought these words would be part of my story. To me, anxiety was always something somebody else dealt with. In my mind, I was too strong for anything like that to take hold of me. I’m strong, is what I would tell myself when I heard someone else’s story. But I’m not. Not even a little bit.

Because the enemy walked right into my life. He tried the front door, saw it was ajar, walked right in, and made himself at home. For three months he tried to destroy and conquer. And after many trips to the emergency room certain I was having a heart attack, I finally received my wake up call. God was interrupting my life, the man upstairs was trying to get my attention. I learned the hard way I couldn’t fight the enemy alone, but with Him at the reins, I could.

Because you are capable of doing something, because you can do anything, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything.

Read that again. That was me. I thought I had to do everything. Be everything. Perfect mom. Perfect wife. Perfect daughter. Perfect friend. Perfect homemaker. Perfect persona. Perfect perception. But, who was asking this of me? My kids? My husband? Strangers? Loved ones? God? No one. No one was asking this of myself but me.

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My girls don’t care if I’m put together and poised—they love me messy, they love me however they can get me. My husband doesn’t care if I’m Martha Stewart—he likes that I can cook, but he never expects more than what I set on the table. If I was too tired and served hot dogs and Mac and Cheese every night he would still tell me dinner was great.

So while I was running around trying to be everything I missed the signs of anxiousness settling into my life.

I wasn’t paying attention and fear crept into my subconscious. I became sidetracked and worry took over my thought process. As a mom, worry is natural. The Bible says we’re not supposed to worry, but we do. Even so—what if something happens to me? What if my kids are fine but I’m not? Who prepares you for that seed of doubt, for when it’s planted it takes off like meadow tea in the summertime. In what book do they talk about that kind of worry?

I remember, now, the exact moment the wheels came off this bus. I was monitoring myself at home for high blood pressure. They noticed it on the higher side at some various appointments after having our third baby. I was getting close to suffering a week-long headache. I’ve never been one to suffer headaches. I was on day seven, and it definitely did not feel normal. I called the family doctor, who I rarely ever see, to schedule an appointment. Before leaving, I decided to check my blood pressure. I saw it was in the 160s over 90s, so naturally, I took it again and it rose to 180s over 100s.

The next thing I knew my throat was closing, my body shaking, my heart rate racing higher and higher. I felt like I was going to pass out.

I later came to find out this was my very first panic attack. Over the next few weeks, I was in and out of doctors’ offices. I was in the emergency room more times than I can count. With time, I had all the tests. A full cardiac workup after an irregular EKG because of PVCs. An MRI of my brain because of the headaches, countless tubes of blood, and an overnight stay.

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Everything kept coming back normal. I became obsessed with finding answers to my questions. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t sleeping. I was to the point of thinking that if I closed my eyes and went to sleep, my heart was going to stop and my husband was going to wake up next to me cold in our bed. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I shook that man awake in the middle of the night begging him to take me to the hospital because I thought something wasn’t right. I would wake up, unable to breathe, my heart wouldn’t stop racing, and everything was numb and tingling including my lips and face. He is a good man. He didn’t brush me off. He sat there, his eyes heavy with sleep holding me, rubbing my back and telling me I was fine.

I didn’t leave the house. I didn’t drive. I didn’t pick my daughter up from kindergarten.

I spent my minutes, my seconds scared. I over-analyzed every single feeling. I was Googling symptoms, thinking I had a blood clot, preparing myself to have a heart attack or stroke.

What pulled me out?

God.
My husband.
My kids.
My family.
My friends.
My community.
Prayers.
Medication.
My faith.

There was a moment when I realized I needed to start taking control of my situation. I needed to give it up and give it to God. I needed to rest in His comfort and believe He had a plan for me. His will would be done, and I had no choice but to cast away the feelings of anxiety and fear. It didn’t own me. Fear isn’t who I am. Worry had no place in my heart and home.

And then, after weeks of me tormenting myself, my husband asked me to consider trying a medicine the doctors had suggested.

I said no. I told him I was strong enough to do it on my own and I didn’t need pills to do it for me. If I said yes, then I would feel like a failure. But one night I saw how exhausted he was. For a man who works so much, it was the first time I’d seen him have dark circles under his eyes. Eyes filled with worry. My kids would get nervous when I would get dressed or put on my shoes. They had gotten used to me leaving the house for the hospital.

One morning I took a good long look in the mirror and told myself I need to help me so I could help them. They didn’t need me perfect, they needed me healthy. So I agreed to a low dose of Zoloft. It took everything I had to stand at the counter and fill that prescriptionI had to strip away all pride but I did it.

I did it for me, and I did it for them.

And it gave me my life back. It took off that edge of anxiousness. It helped me wrestle with the enemy. It gave me the strength to join up with God and march into battle. And let me tell you, every morning I put on my suit of amour—most days I conquer and others are harder. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that even writing this wasn’t giving me some anxious feelings. But that’s the thing, I can recognize it now. I can see the signs. I can pull myself back and say hold on, don’t go down that rabbit hole. I can pray and find peace in scripture. I’m starting to pay attention to my newfound triggers.

I’m healing.

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Even still, a few weeks into starting medication and working on my fears, I still felt ashamed that I needed something to help me. It wasn’t until I shared a short but compassionate conversation with a family member, who happens to be a doctor, that I started to change my mind. As we were talking about my journey and my healing—I leaned in and said in a low voice so no one could overhear me, “I did start taking a low dose of Zoloft.”

I’m certain they could feel the words laced with embarrassment, dripping with disappointment in myself. Because they replied, “There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re diabetic, you take insulin. If you can’t see, you get glasses. If you have asthma, you use an inhaler. There is no difference. So right now, your brain just needs a bit more serotonin than it’s making on its own right now. If it’s allowing you to sleep at night. Function during the day and have healthy interactions with your family then there is no shame in it.”

I had never thought about it. I’m almost certain God put this person in front of me at the right moment. It gave me peace.

It stopped me from feeling like a failure.

While there were some truly scary moments, there have also been so many blessings from the darkest moments. Connections with people I’ve never had connections with before. A level of spirituality I hadn’t quite tapped into at that point. A kinship with other sufferers. More focus on prayer and the sheer power of it.

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My kids have seen me weak, on my knees and strong, fighting back. My husband helped lead me through the fire and never released his grip on my hand. A community of people prayed for me. A few friends in the medical field answered all my questions with love, grace, and practicality. Text messages chiming on my phone at just the right moment. Songs playing on the radio at just the right time.

He brought me to it and helped me walk through it.

If you’ve ever experienced this you’re not alone. If you’ve ever had to take medicine to get better you’re not alone. Anxiety can happen to anyone at any time. Panic attacks can come out of nowhere. You’re not weak. Do not feel ashamed.

This was my rescue story. My redemption chapter is in the making. God is our author, He holds the pen of life, He’s written the pages, and He’s prepared to reveal them in his time. I’m learning to trust, learning to rest in His comfort and love.

Previously published on the author’s blog

Tiffany Hess

Tiffany has an associate of applied science degree in fashion marketing but currently is a stay-at-home mom to her three young daughters. She's married to Aaron who is a third-generation dairy farmer. They are determined to live a full and simple life with their family of five.