#3: My Panic Attack, June 2016 (repost)

[Reposted from June 2016.  Sometimes, just when you think, hope, and pray that things are finally going to start looking up for you, everything gets worse.  So much worse. 

As seen in the last numbered post, I started off 2016 with the word "hope," thinking that maybe it meant the year would be better than the previous ones.  And then ... I had the worst summer of my life.  A real life-changer, heart-changer.  I guess maybe "hope," for me, was the kind in Romans 5:3-5.  It's starts with suffering, which brings perseverance, which creates character, which develops hope.  Hope in what exactly?  I'm not sure.  Maybe just hope that God is always with you, no matter what.  Hope that He will work all the good into bad.  Hope that you'll make it through one more day.  And so here it is - my panic attack.  The terrible summer that came after starting off my year with "hope."  If you've ever had a panic attack, maybe you can relate.  But I hope not, though.  Because panic attacks suck!

And as for an update on my mom, March 8, 2019: I don't have one.  Last I heard, several days ago she got the breathing tube taken out and, according to my step-dad, she looks "100% better."  But I'm afraid she'll get better only to go out and do the same thing again.  

I don't know why God wouldn't just take her when she was unconscious.  I think that would've been more merciful.  She could've passed into eternity with no more pain or heartache.  

Why couldn't God just have taken her while she was in a coma the last time?  It could've all been over.  I care about my mom, I really do.  But it's not easy to watch someone you care about hurt so bad and give up on life, and there's nothing you can do about it but watch and wait and pray.  (Thankfully, I live far away and only get updates from my brothers who live by her.  I get to keep some distance.  They are the ones who have to deal with it, face to face.)  

I guess I just have to trust that God wasn't ready to take her for a reason, and I might never know what it is.  I'm just venting here.  And God already knows all this.  I've talked to Him already about my confusion about what He's doing.  And I guess it's just not for me to judge or evaluate right now.  My job is simply to pray for her and then to focus on my daily jobs of being a wife and mother.  Our God is a big God.  Big enough to handle the things I can't.]

Okay, so onto the repost...

I had a small panic attack three days ago (May 30, 2016).  It’s the first one I’ve ever had and I don’t plan on ever having another one.  [I also once had a minor nervous breakdown during my parents’ very messy divorce.  It was so bad that the only way I could start breathing and stop crying was to flee from everything, to jump in the car with my husband and two kids and run away to the middle of nowhere for a little while.]

This panic attack started after a walk I took around the block in the morning.  My mind was filled with thoughts of all the things that have gone wrong in life and that I don’t have control over: broken family, broken home, broken dreams, broken friendships, and particularly my frustration and heartache over the neighbor’s moldy garage which is still blowing all over my garden.  I have to cover my face when I am out there for more than a minute or two.  It’s breaking my heart. 

[I say “particularly” because the garden was the last “sweet spot” for me, the place where I invested my heart and creativity because I felt so defeated in every other area of life, except with my husband and kids.  And then, two summers ago, we had to stay inside and keep our windows shut because the mold smell was so bad that you could smell it almost up to our house.  So I stopped gardening that year and let it all rot.  And last year, after I decided to give it one more try and not throw in the towel yet, a giant dead tree fell across my garden at the height of summer and ruined so much, especially ruining my desire for a garden and for anything for myself.  And then this year, I thought I’d try one more time, in the hopes that it wouldn’t be that bad (especially since a new person bought the property behind us), that I could learn to love gardening again.  But the mold smell is still there and getting worse, and it just feels so defeating and hopeless, like I really shouldn’t be allowed to have joy.  It’s breaking my freakin’ heart.] 

And so my mind was swirling with all of life’s problems and how trapped I felt by them.  And I could feel the panic rising.  I fought it off for about an hour, doing every relaxing thing I could think of, from slowing down my breathing to praying to distracting my mind with tasks.

And then I started thinking about lung problems we could get from the moldy garage (on top of the mold from the last place we rented).  And so I started to take deep breaths to see if I had the same amount of lung space as before, to see if I could take as deep of breaths.  And, of course, in my panicked state, I didn’t feel like I could breathe as well.  So I kept trying, taking deeper and deeper breaths. 

Well, everyone knows what happens if you take too many deep breaths.  You start to get tingly and dizzy.  So on top of the panic I was already feeling, I started getting tingly and dizzy, feeling like I couldn’t breathe and like I couldn’t get away from the problems.  And before I knew it, I was drowning in panic.  I was freaking out that I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I needed to rush to the emergency room because I was about to throw up and pass out and die of suffocation.  All at the same time.  I was spiraling into an other-worldly state of mind.  It was really weird, so unlike level-headed, stoic me.

I was moments away from telling my husband to drive me to the hospital, but I decided to try one last thing.  I told my husband that I thought I was having a panic attack and that I needed him to pray for me.  And then I started sobbing - just sobbing - about how much I hate life and how hard everything is and how wrong everything is (except my amazing husband and kids) and how I am tired of trying, and tired of hoping, and tired of being tired. 

And then ... he prayed for me.  It was a wonderful prayer.  And as he talked, I felt myself calming down and my body relaxing.  I needed him to pray for me because I couldn’t pray for myself.  I needed to lean on him because I couldn’t hold myself up anymore.  And when he was done praying, things felt a little lighter.  Still sad and disheartening, but lighter.

But it’s amazing what a panic attack does to you.  How much it wears you down.  I was exhausted.  And the rest of the day, I shuffled around like a weak, tired, old lady suffering from severe arthritis and osteoporosis.  And my guts were basically liquefied.  And my stomach was so tight that I couldn’t eat anything.  It took me all day to eat a child-sized Subway sandwich.  And it took me all day to feel even somewhat okay again.  (And I would pee and pee and pee.  I would empty out a full bladder, lay down for ten minutes, and then have to empty out a full bladder again.  I’m guessing that it’s your body’s way of flushing out all the stress hormones.)

Unfortunately, the next day (yesterday), I was still wiped out.  So I laid down a lot.  But one time, I woke up with a neck-pinch that I get sometimes which makes me vomit.  And so on top of being exhausted and having eaten nothing, I started vomiting.  Three or four times I threw up the nothing that I had in my stomach.  I was a miserable wretch.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t move without my neck hurting, couldn’t handle noise.  So I stayed in bed all night until this morning, when I woke up at 3:36 a.m. and ate a cracker.  And amazingly enough, I kept it down okay, along with the banana that took me hours to eat.  Slowly but surely, I am working my way back to normal.  But I am wrecked.  

Today, the third day APA (After Panic Attack):  I am still shuffling around slowly and not eating well.  And this morning, I could feel the panic tickling the edges of my brain, looking for a weak spot to come in.  I think I was misinterpreting tiredness and hunger, thinking they were precursors to panic.  But just the idea of panicking and remembering how it felt made me want to panic.  So I called my friend and told her what was going on, and she offered to pray with me right there on the phone.  I felt so much better after that, to have someone else pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself.  Just having someone listen and care felt really good.

I have been up and down all day today, praying very different prayers. 

First, when I was ready to crawl into a hole, I prayed, “Lord, I’m broken.  Please, I am just falling before You broken.  Pick me up.  Carry me.  I can’t do it anymore.  I am falling apart.  Put me back together again.”

But later on, I once again got frustrated, thinking about how we are once again subjected to mold and how there’s nothing we can do about it and how the city won’t do anything about it and how other people get to enjoy their homes but I’ve never really had the pleasure and how we are in the same emotional place we were in 6 years ago when we were trying desperately to get out of a severely moldy rental and how just 6-ish years before that I was dealing with the incredible stress and heartache of my mom and step-dad’s divorce and how I can’t catch a break and how everything just feels so unfair, even like God Himself is being unfair.  Sometimes it feels like one problem and one health concern after the next.  So discouraging.  Makes me feel so trapped. 

And so I prayed a rather unedited prayer in my frustration, “I don’t f*cking care anymore, Lord.  I don’t f*cking care about anything.  I don’t care what You do.  Do whatever You want.  I give up.  I don’t care about the f*cking garden or the f*cking house.  I can’t f*cking care anymore.  It’s hurts too much!  What have I done?  Am I that bad that we can’t catch a break? I have always tried to do everything right and look where it’s gotten me!?!  No wonder the Bible says to not get tired of doing good.  Because we can get so tired of doing good when it gets us nowhere.  No wonder people turn bad and lose faith.  I won’t turn from You because I know You are real, but I don’t care about anything anymore.  Do whatever You want.  My prayers don’t do any good anyway.  I’m done!” 

[If I didn’t have that nighttime demonic harassment happen to me awhile back (in the “Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God” post), I would have lost faith by now.  I would be totally doubting if there really was a God, if He cared, if we mattered, if faith makes any difference, if I should even bother “being good” anymore because what benefit is it to you anyway.  Thank God for that demonic harassment!  It is what always reminds me that there is an unseen, supernatural world out there.  There is a God!  And I choose to follow Him, even when He seems unfair!]

And then a bit later on, not too long ago, it was this, “Lord, I still believe in You.  I trust You.  And I have a big problem, a neighbor’s moldy garage that is ruining my health and my joy and my heart and my mind.  But You are big enough.  And I have to believe that You care, that You hear me, and that You have a plan.  Please, Lord, I know You have a plan.  Please, do it.  Show me what You can do.  Because I can’t do anything.  And help keep us healthy and safe until then.”   

It’s been a terrible several days.  And I know it’s not over yet, and I don’t know how it will all work out.  But I never want to go through a panic attack again.  I’ll take depression over panic any day. 

I know one of the big effects of a panic attack is that you get afraid that it will happen again, so you over-analyze every little sensation.  I can already tell that I am afraid to take too big of breaths.  But I am also afraid to not breathe enough.  So I have to think about my breathing more.  And I feel like something broke inside, in my mind.  Like I am more fragile now and could crack at any moment.  I have to be careful what I watch on the news or bad things I hear or thoughts that enter my head.  I feel like everything around me is ominous and closing in on me, from the loud sounds of the cars driving by ... to the fact that I am beginning to hate my own backyard ... to the bright, flashy commercials that are giving me a headache.  I hope this fades soon.  Maybe after I get more sleep and food. 

Plus, I decided that everyone deserves a panic attack and a nervous breakdown at least once in life.  And I have had both of mine.  And since it took me forty years to get this panic attack, I’ll simply schedule the next one for forty years from now.  (I hope it works out like I planned.)

Update – Day 4 APA:  I was out in the garden this morning for a few minutes gathering strawberries when I realized that the wind was blowing the other way and that I couldn’t smell the mold too much.  And I prayed, “Thank You, Lord.  That is a blessing!”  (I do think it’s important to always be thankful for whatever you can be thankful for.  There is so much we overlook.) 

And then as I left the garden . . . I got stung by a bee in the foot, which caused a horrible, throbbing pain that hurt all day.  I texted my husband about it, and he replied something like, “That’s the way life seems to work out, isn’t it?”

And then just a couple hours later, as I was starting to relax and eat again and get the house cleaned for the multi-person birthday party we are hosting tomorrow, I got a call from my brother whom I haven’t talked to in years.  And he tells me that my mom overdosed on pills a couple days ago, went to the hospital to get her stomach pumped, and is now on a psychiatric floor under supervision for three days.  He said she tried to kill herself. 

Yep.  That’s how life goes sometimes.  Serving up one crap sandwich after the next. 

[The cussing thing only recently started, after I got too tired of trying and trying to do the right thing, only to constantly fail or fall on my face.  Or so it seems.  I’ll get a handle on it soon.  But for now, I can’t really care.  It’s my version of venting the pressure.  I know it’s not proper, but it could be so much worse.  You know what, don’t read anything that I write.  Seriously.

And to be clear, when I say “cussing,” I do not mean “using the Lord’s name improperly.”  While I might let a few (or more) four-letter words slip out (to myself, not in front of others ... well, not usually in front of others), I am very careful about never using the name of God, Jesus, or Christ in a disrespectful way, even in something as common and benign-sounding as “Oh my God” or “OMG!”  Unless you are talking about Him or to Him when you use His name, you are most likely using it in an inappropriate, disrespectful, or “bad word” way.  And to me, that’s in a whole different camp than other “cuss” words we might use.  In fact, “don’t use the Lord’s name in vain” is in the top three of the ten commandments.  And it says that anyone who uses His name in vain will be held accountable for it.  Is it worth it?

Also, I do not like to use the word “damn” about anything because you are essentially expressing a desire to “damn” something.  And I have always wondered about the power of our words, such as the curses that people in the Old Testament have uttered against others, and the fact that these curses seem to come true for many of them.  What if our “damning” something has an effect or opens the door to evil?  I think it’s best to not even go there.]

Anyway, that sent me into another sobbing fit, nearly hyperventilating.  I knew that if I kept crying like that, I would go into a panic attack again.  And I CAN’T go there again.  So I gathered myself together and reminded myself that I knew this could happen someday, that I have been prepared for this moment since my parents' really messy divorce, when things got really bad, potentially suicidal or homicidally bad. 

The rest of the day, I alternated between sitting there and staring and trying not to work up my nerves at all, praying, cleaning house, and occasionally crying while thinking of her feeling so discouraged that the only thing she could do was end her life, hurting and broken.  After having gone through the depression that I have gone through, I can totally understand and have compassion for anyone who feels that broken and hopeless.  I’d never do anything to myself, but I can understand those who do.  And it breaks my heart for them.  (I think only broken people can truly understand and have compassion for broken people.  Maybe that's why God often uses broken people.)

Well, later in the day as I contemplated if I needed to cancel our trip to Iowa for my dad’s memorial (he died one year ago from something he wouldn’t go to the doctor for and was buried on his property in a coffin he made himself, no funeral or service or goodbye) so that I could jump on a plane to fly down and see how she is, I decided to call my step-father and ask what’s going on.  (Sadly enough, no one called me to tell me that anything had happened until two days after she went to the ER.  Yep.  That is my family.)

I really should have called him earlier because, according to him, it’s not as dire as my brother made it sound.  I thought she was basically on her deathbed, but it sounds better than that.  Yes, she was completely out of it, acting like she overdosed or was drunk, but they are not sure yet what happened, if she really did try to kill herself or if it was something else, maybe something in the brain.  (She said she went on a drinking binge but they found no alcohol in her system.  Strange!)  

She was admitted to the ER (never had her stomached pumped, though) and she was involuntarily admitted for “suicide watch” for three days on a psych floor.  And that’s all I really know right now.  It might have been a suicide attempt or it might not have been.  I would really hope it’s something other than suicide because it would break my heart to know that hers was so broken.  I am waiting for a call later when they know more.  But at least from what my step-dad says, she is not in as grave of danger as it first seemed.  She is stable now.  We’ll see what really happened when they know more.

[To my sons who wondered why mommy was so tired and sick all week, lying in bed and barely able to smile:  This is the kind of week I had.  And it broke me.  Humans break sometimes and need a little time to get it back together.    And you know what … we’re all broken in some way.  And if we’re not now, we will be someday.  We’re all broken.  And we’re all okay.]

Update – Day 5 APA:  Well, my mom is out of the hospital and home again and doing a bit better.  Apparently it was an overdose but not necessarily intentional.  She had taken her normal pills.  But when she couldn’t fall asleep, she began taking Nyquil.  And she kept taking Nyquil when it wasn’t working.  So it was a bad combination of pills and way too much Nyquil (which would explain the drunk-like state).  The psychiatrist on the psych floor ended up adjusting her pills because one of them has been shown to cause seizures.  So who knows if that was part of it or not?  But there was no foul play or intentional self-harm.  Thank God.  What a messed-up situation. 

But my mom is out of the hospital, she didn’t attempt suicide, the birthday party is over, I am starting to eat nearly normal again (after losing 6-8 pounds this week), and I feel pretty good.  I’m just going to chill today, sit around and do nothing but relax, pray for no new excitement, and gather my strength for the Iowa trip coming up in several days.  All in all, it’s been a good day.

Update – Day 7 APA:  I’m not liking getting up in the morning much anymore.  I am tired and dizzy and that makes me feel like I could get panicky.  It’s still a bit of work to keep myself calm.  And I want calm to come more naturally.  I want to not have to think about it, to not work at it so much.  That counteracts the whole idea of “calm.” 

Anyway, I was gathering strawberries again this morning, holding my jacket up to my nose to block the mold smell, and I was thinking about how hard it is to hang in there sometimes, to hold on.  And I started to feel trapped again by all the problems and broken dreams and heartache and hopeless world problems.  And I could feel panic starting again. 

“Lord, I don’t know what I did to deserve this.  But I know there are people who have it way worse.  They would kill for a house to live in, even with mold and construction problems.  I have it good.  I really do.   But I need help getting back to normal.  I’m barely holding on here, Lord.”

And that’s when it dawned on me.  What am I trying to hold onto anyway?  I can’t even really identify what I am struggling to hold onto.  I guess I am holding onto broken dreams and unfulfilled desires.  But that means that I’m really holding onto nothing because they are not even there.  So I am struggling all this time to get a better grasp on nothing.  No wonder I’m so exhausted and defeated.  You can’t get a better grasp on something that’s not there.

“Lord, I don’t even know what I’m trying to hold onto anymore.  But the struggle to hold onto it is killing me.  I’m done.  I’m letting go.  I’m going to stop trying to hold onto vague ideas and dreams that I can’t attain.  I know that the only thing I really need to hold onto is You.  But I don’t even know how to do that anymore.  I have prayed so much, pouring myself out for years to the point of tears and exhaustion.  And it doesn’t do anything.  And You still seem silent.  Yet I will trust You.  Why do I still trust You?  Why haven’t I lost faith?  Because I know You are real.  It is not just a wish or dream.  You are real, and You are the only option I have.  So if this is how You have allowed things to be, I have to accept that.  Because there is no other God but You.  So I will let You be God.  Like Job, I say, ‘Will we accept good from God and not the bad?’  And ‘Though You slay me, yet I will trust in You.’  There is no other.  I need to hold onto You.  Not some dream or hope or desire.  I am letting go of my efforts to hold onto anything else because it’s just crushing me anyway.  And I am falling into Your hands.  Help me know how to hold onto You again because I don’t know how to do it anymore.”

After that prayer, after letting go of my efforts to hold onto things that aren’t even there, after telling God that I will still hold onto Him but that I need Him to help me figure out how to do that, I felt immensely better. 

You know, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past depressing years, it’s that faith is messy sometimes.  Faith hurts sometimes.  And we might get upset with "faith" because it's not doing what we want it to do. 

But the thing is ... we don’t have faith in God because it's fun or because it gives us an emotional high or because it makes our life the way we want it to be.  We have faith in God because He is real.  Because He is good and faithful, even when life is messy and it hurts and when our prayers don’t work. 

And I think our faith becomes more real and strong as we face the hard times and trials.  It’s easy to “have faith” when life is going like we want it to.  But that’s not really faith, is it?  It’s gratitude that life is good.  It’s happiness because we are getting what we want.  (And many times, it’s idolatry in disguise.) 

But when the trials come, we have to struggle with our views of God and ourselves and life and faith.  Heartbreaking trials gradually, painfully move us from a naïve, untested, “gimme” faith in a version of God that we created in our minds ... to a genuine, hard-won faith in God as He is - a God who is mysterious, who can’t be manipulated by us, who is far above us, who has His own plans and timing, and who is sovereign over all, knowing when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.”  Through the trials, we learn who we really are and we learn to have faith in Him for the God that He really is.  And that is a faith that helps us cling through the hard times.

If we can’t say “Blessed be Your name” during the hardest trials then we don’t really mean it during the easier times either.  If we won’t follow Him when the road gets rough - if we turn our backs on Him when we get hurt or when things don't go our way - then we were never really following Him to begin with.  

And finally, we have faith in God because this life isn’t all there is.  There is a spiritual world out there.  There is an eternity out there.  And there are only two options: Life with God or life without God.  And I’d take a painful life with God before I’d take an easy life without God. 

I trust that someday He will work all this mess into something beautiful.  But until then, I can’t expect life to be easy and fun.  I can’t expect God to do everything my way, fulfilling my dreams and wants and desires.  But I can expect Him to carry me through, to guide me on the right path (even if it hurts), and to make it all right in the end.  I don’t have to know what to do.  I don’t have to make things happen.  I don’t have to have the answers or know what the future holds.  I just need to hold onto Him and let Him hold onto me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  God is good.  And because God is good, life is good.  Even when it’s not.  I’m gonna be okay.         

[Side Note: I wanted to explain something, why I left the cuss words in this section instead of editing them out like a “proper” Christian would do.  I thought about editing them out so that I could present that good, proper front, but I left them in on purpose, for a few reasons.

For one, it’s the truth of what was going on in my head, even in that prayer I prayed.  That might have been the first time I used cuss words in prayer.  Now, I don’t condone it, nor do I walk around using that language flippantly or out loud (usually).  But I have been using it in my head and under my breath recently.  Because it seems to be the only way to really express the depth of what I am really feeling.  (And because I am in an “I don’t care and I am tired of holding it all together” state.) 

And I didn’t edit it out because I want non-Christians to understand that Christians are human, too.  I think sometimes we Christians try to polish ourselves up so much and “do the right thing” that we seem un-human to non-Christians, like we are not real or something.   And we are always setting ourselves up on a higher level and shaking our fingers at everyone, saying “No, no, no, don’t do that.”  But in reality, we are really on the same, level ground that they are.  We just fail to show them that.  And if we always present the “good, clean, polished side” but never the “human, raw, real side” then we might end up presenting to them something they feel they can never be.  They might feel that if they could never be that “good, clean, and polished” then they could never be a Christian. 

But deep down, we Christians know how human and real and sinful and improper we can be.  We just never let it show.  But I wanted to let it show, to humanize Christians, to show non-Christians that we are not robots and we are not perfect.  We are broken, sinful people, too.  We hurt and we struggle and we doubt and we get angry and we do things wrong.  But God’s grace covers all that.  God can forgive all that. 

It doesn’t mean we should flaunt sin or willingly, regularly engage in it, for our lifestyle and choices will demonstrate if our faith is real or not.  But it does mean that we are not as “good, clean, and polished” as we might look on the outside.  We are human, too.  And God understands that and loves us anyway and covers our sins.  There is grace for all of us, for the messed-up sinner who wants out of their lifestyle of sin and for the messed-up Christian who has hit a rough spot and is struggling on the journey.

I also left the cuss words in because I wanted to “test” fellow Christians, in a way.  I think we Christians can judge others harshly for the “improper” things they do while totally overlooking their hurts and needs and humanity.  I wonder how many Christians that read this thought, Oh my goodness, what kind of Christian is she!?!  How could she use those words and call herself a Christian!?!  Shame on her!  And yet they completely overlooked the deep hurt and ache and struggle.

Sometimes, we fail to see people’s hearts because we are too focused on “improper” externals, on if someone measures up to our idea of “godly enough.”  We make mountains out of molehills, judge the quality of someone’s faith by the things that we don’t like about them or the things that they do wrong.  We focus on their speck while ignoring our plank.

Of course, a genuine Christian will be working towards godliness and will feel convicted about sin.  So if someone continues to flagrantly sin without any remorse or repentance then you would have to wonder about their faith.

But my point is, even genuine Christians struggle and hurt and need help.  But sometimes their attempts to reach out and be heard and get help are ignored because others are too focused on their flaws or sins, instead of seeing the person in need.  So I left the cuss words in, to test the Christians who are reading this.  To challenge them with this question:  "Which did you notice more?  The heartache or the cussing?  Did you feel compassion for my pain or did you scoff because of the F-word and 'crap'?"  Just wondering. 

And I wonder, which would God notice?  What does He see when He looks at us?

I think He sees our pain, out heart, our inside.  He sees past the polished surface and sees the rough, ugly, broken inside.  He sees the words we say in our heads even though we polish up our speech for others.  And He loves us anyway.  We don’t need to polish ourselves up before He will accept us.  He knows we are broken, hurting sinners.  And He loves us as we are.  And He died for us as we are. 

And He wants us to come to Him as we are, in all our ugly, un-polished honesty.  It’s okay with Him that we are broken because He is the one who can put us back together.  He will help us grow and strive towards godliness as we walk with Him.  But never let your ugly brokenness stop you from turning to Him.  That's exactly what Jesus died for!  Even if other Christians reject you because of your imperfections, God never will.  Come to Him as you are.  It’s what He’s been waiting for and it’s what you need.]

Update - Day 14 APA:  I had a wonderful trip to Iowa and haven't felt any sense of panic or dread since last week, when I let go of the "nothing" I kept trying to hang onto and asked God to help me grab onto Him instead.  I don't necessarily feel any great shining ray of hope or anything.  But I haven't felt any darkness or panic this past week.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You.]

Update - Almost two months APA:  The last half of July has been terrible.  Remarkably terrible!!!  Everything got SO! MUCH! WORSE!  There have been some minor issues and some very major ones.  (It would make a great made-for-TV movie.)  And though I can't share them all yet, I will share these ...

            July 19th:  I got word that my mother was bleeding out both ends and that she was in the hospital and that they didn't know what was wrong, but they knew it was very serious.  My aunt wasn't sure if my mom would come out of this alive.  And if she did, my aunt didn't think she'd ever mentally be the same.  (My mom ended up being in the hospital, pretty much on her deathbed, for five weeks.)

            July 20th:  I woke up to find that one of my sons had a temperature of 103.  And he had it the next morning too.  I am a wreck when one of my kids has a fever, anxiously checking on them every couple minutes.

            July 21st, I woke up and thanked God that I had a good night of sleep.  And then I found blood in the poop of my 7-year-old.  (I felt like maybe I had caused it to happen because I had just been researching “blood in poop” because of what my mother was going through.)  And I had to rush around in a panic and find a doctor because we didn’t have a family doctor yet (the one we used to have and that we really trusted had retired).  Thankfully, for my son, it ended up being a reaction to bananas which made his rectum swell up, and then he had tried to push out a hard poop which “cut” him inside a little, which led to the blood.  But it took me a few couple stressed days to make sure that’s what it was.

            July 23rd, I . . . well . . . let’s just say that something else happened that I can’t talk about yet.  And that’s all I can say about it right now.  But it was the last straw.  And I broke.  I broke really bad! 
            Thankfully, we were on summer break with the kids because I couldn’t get out of bed for days.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t move without throwing up.  And I threw up a lot.  My husband would come home and the kids would be playing video games and I’d be lying in bed in the dark, barely able to acknowledge his presence.  And I lost eight more pounds, on top of the six that I lost from the panic attack.  It took me weeks to be able to eat normal-ish again.  (Update 2019: It's been over 2 years from that summer, and I still can’t eat like I used to.)

            July 24th, I discovered something else that was really stressful.  And I can’t talk about that one, either, other than to say that someone had gotten us involved in something without our knowledge that could have gotten us in trouble, and we had to run around in a panic and undo it.

            July 27th, I went to a pastor in tears, nearly falling over from the stress and hunger and from my nerves being shot.  I could barely stand.  I had been crying so hard and throwing up and not eating and unable to get out of bed.  I felt like my mind had broken into thousands of tiny pieces, literally.  I felt like I was in a really bad dream and couldn’t get out and “How could this be happening?  It’s not real, is it!?!”
            And I told him about what I was struggling with and I asked him for his professional advice (like me, he’s a mental health professional) about what I can do – should do – in the things I was struggling with.  And he gave me the right advice – the advice that helped me pause for a moment, clear my head, and put the burdens down.  Things didn’t feel so urgent anymore and I had time to rest and wait and see how things played out.  And I could finally breathe a little.

            July 30th and 31st, a skunk let loose right outside the house two nights in a row and we had to shut ourselves in.  And then July 31st, right after the skunk, a bat got into the house (maybe trying to get away from the skunk smell).  And we had to run around at 10:30 at night, trying to catch it and get it out.  Which my husband finally did by cornering it in the bathroom.  But then I told my kids to wash their hands in case of “bat germs” ... and they went right into the “bat bathroom” and washed up and dried their hands on a towel that the bat had been flying over.  And then my youngest picked his nose and made it bleed.  And I suddenly was overcome with a horrible fear of rabies.  I did some research and found out that rabies is in the brain matter and in the saliva of the bat.  And it gets into our bodies through wounds.
            What if the bat spit on the towel and then my son dried his hands with rabies spit, and then he shoved it right in his nose and put it right in his bloodstream?  I was a panicked mess for the next couple days, not only from everything else that had happened the past week, but now from the fear of rabies. 
            And I was the one who told them to wash their hands!!!  It would be my fault that he died from rabies.  I was a bad, bad mom!
            (Thankfully, we were still awake when the bat got in the house.  So I know that it didn’t bite any of us.  If we had gone to bed earlier – like I had tried to do – then we probably would have had to get rabies shots.  They recommend that if you wake up with a bat in the room then you get the shots because you can’t know for sure that you weren’t bitten while you slept.  Thankfully, we had decided to stay up late that night.  So thankful!)

I had never known such stress in my life.  And all in one summer, too. 

All in all, my mom spent over a month in the hospital.  She had been trying to drink herself to death (which she would deny).  And it caused her gall-bladder to burst, spilling out oodles of gall-stones into her abdomen.  And the ruptured gall-bladder led to sepsis.  But since the blood poisoning made her look and act drunk, no one knew she was dying of sepsis.  They thought she had just been drinking too much, which she had already been doing for quite awhile (and which would lead to more bleeding later that summer, toilet-bowls full of blood).  And yet, she still pulled through.

She also had a double lung infection (which she apparently had for years), both kidneys were shutting down (did shut down?), pancreatitis, and now a scarred heart from the blood infection.  (She shouldn’t have lived.  God must have some plans for her that He kept her alive through it all.)  She was so close to death that she said she literally saw images from her life playing out on the walls of the hospital room.  And apparently that is a real phenomenon that happens when a brain is gasping its last breaths. 

All that summer, I was left wondering if she would recover, if her mind would be the same.  Several times, I fully expected to get a call that she had died in the night from her drinking or by her own hand.

            On September 10th, my husband, sons, and I cleaned out the basement of the house that she was losing to the bank.  It was surreal to be tossing out – into the dumpster or onto the bonfire – all of the stuff she had accumulated over the years, the stuff of her dreams, her previous life, the stuff she had worked for and saved for years.  It was sad to see that this is what life amounts to - rotten, musty old things, covered in mouse droppings, sitting in a basement for years before ending up unceremoniously tossed onto a bonfire or into a dumpster.  Oh how temporary, meaningless, unfulfilling, and perishable our earthly possessions are!  The things that we thought would bring us so much joy! 

            And while sorting old papers, I found the report card of one of youngest brothers.  It was from the time of the messy divorce of his father and our mother.  And it broke my heart to see 1 B, 2Ds, and 3 Fs.  My brother was only 13 or 14 at the time.  And I could see in his grades how crushing the divorce was for him, for all the brothers.  How much they hurt and struggled.  How much they needed something stable to lean on.  I should have been there for them!  It broke my heart!  I should have been there for them ... but I retreated.  I put up a strong boundary between my life and my mom's life, which meant also cutting myself off from my young brothers who lived with her.  If I opened my life up to them, it meant opening my life up to my mom too.  So I had to pull back.  Because I had my own children to take care of, and I couldn't function well when my mom's problems swamped my life.  

            It's always been one of my biggest regrets.  I’m a bad, bad sister!

            September 11th, my mom called and told me that she been vomiting up blood all night the night before, toilet-bowls full of blood.  (Apparently, in her despair over everything that was going wrong in her life, she had been drinking enormous amounts of alcohol and not eating anything.  Yet she still wouldn't admit that she was drinking.  I had to find out from other family members.)

            A few days later, some of my fish died.

It was only by the grace of God that I could walk in a straight line, that I could get out of bed in the morning and make my kids food.  I’m sure that if someone had jumped out from behind a door during this time and yelled, “Boo,” my nerves would’ve blown, my heart would’ve stopped, and I’d have fallen over dead on the spot.  (Which didn’t sound like such a bad thing at the time.) 

So where do you go from here?  How do you recover from this?  (And I know many other people have stories way worse than this.  I know they would happily trade their sorrows for mine.  So I want to be sensitive to that.  And for an update, while it was touch-and-go for awhile, my mother ended up doing well for the next almost 3 years, until now, early 2019.  And now she's back at it, worse than before.  But for some reason, God won't let her die yet, despite 4 trips in the ambulance in a week or so, once with an alcohol level of 400 and a couple days later with 375.  How is she still living!?!  I don't get it.) 

I am not sure where to go with all this or what to do about it.  I don’t know what life has in store for me next.  I’m not sure how to recover after being knocked down so many times.  I don’t even know if “recover” is the main objective here.  Maybe it’s just “Learn to live the life I have, through the grace of God, instead of trying to make life into what I think it should be.”  (And yet for some people, it may be “Don’t settle for life as it is.  Fight it with all you’ve got, with God’s help.  Make it right.”  And only you and the Lord can know when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to stop fighting.)    

All I know is that I wake up every day and say “I need You, Lord.  Please, help me” with a sense of desperate neediness and weakness that I’ve never felt before (and frankly, with some hopelessness and joylessness, a sense of existing, not living, and the goal of “Let’s just get through this day.”).  And then I get up and put one foot in front of the other and do the jobs that God has placed in my path today, nothing more than being a wife and a mother.  And that’s okay. 

And you know what?  It’s also okay to be desperately needy and weak before the Lord.  It’s okay to admit your brokenness. 

In fact, as a Christian, it’s the only way to be. 

Humility requires brokenness.  Letting go of the control.  Honesty.  Crying out when we are in need. 

We need to stop fighting against brokenness, stop trying so hard to polish ourselves up nice and shiny so that we are “acceptable” to the Lord and impressive to others, stop trying to handle everything in our own strength, stop trying to earn His love and attention and grace (those things which are already freely available to us, things that can never be earned but only accepted by a needy, humble heart).  We need to take off the “happy Christian” mask and the “I can do everything, and do it all with a smile” costume, and we need to fall down before the Lord in humble brokenness, telling Him that we can’t do it without Him, that we need Him to carry us, that we even need Him to help us stand if life has badly kicked us down. 

We need to let our brokenness humble us, mature us, to grow and purify our faith.  Because brokenness does what self-sufficiency and self-confidence never could – it drops us at the feet of God so that He can scoop us up into Him arms.  His strength shines best when we have none of our own.     

It’s okay to fall apart in front of the One who can put you back together.

It’s okay to bring your chains to the One with the key to free you.

It’s okay to be weak when you are leaning on the One who is strong.

And it’s okay to not have all the answers when you know the One who does.

It’s okay to be broken, to hurt, to not have it all together, to admit that you desperately need God’s presence and care and grace.   

In fact, it’s not just okay.  It’s a great thing! 

If there’s one thing that being broken has done for me, it’s that it has caused me to truly cherish and cling to God’s grace.  I knew all about it in my head before.  But now, it pulsates through my veins because it has gotten deep into my heart.  When you realize that you cannot do it all and that you are weak and desperately need the Lord . . . when you realize that you are as needy and broken as the next person, that we are all on the same level ground at the foot of the cross . . . it makes you so much more aware of your need for God’s daily sustaining grace.  It makes you humble.  Deep down - all the way to your toes - humble. 

And humility – learning that you are just as human as the next person - makes you more aware of others who hurt, too.  It makes you compassionate instead of critical.  It makes you want to comfort instead of condemn.  It makes you come alongside them, put an arm around their shoulder and help them on their journey, instead of just preaching at them about how a “good Christian” should live.  It makes you more comfortable with the messes – messy situations, messy people, messy relationships - because you’ve learned that that’s what life is, instead of always demanding perfection and smooth sailing and that everyone pleases you.  It makes your heart hurt for those who hurt and your arms desire to reach out for them, touching them with the same grace and love and forgiveness that the Lord has given you.  And these are wonderful by-products of pain.  The good that comes from the ugly.

Before I close this post, I want to mention something else.  For the past however-many months, I have been unable to pray.  I mean really pray.  (Update: I still have a hard time knowing how to pray, what to pray, even now in 2019.)  

I do pray, like those quick "help me, guide me, provide for this or that, thank You for this and that, I need You, I'm freaking out here" prayers.  But I haven't been able to really be on my knees in those deep times of prayer, pouring out my heart to God like I used to, sharing all the vulnerable stuff inside and the hopes and dreams I have.  

I will find myself needing to pray, feeling desperate about something, and I will open my mouth to pray ... and then I'll remember how many times I have been here before.  How many times I prayed for something and then bad things happened.  How many times I prayed for something and yet nothing happened.  How many times the thing I prayed about is the very thing that Satan then attacks.  How many times I got my hopes up, only to crash-and-burn badly, to die a little more inside.

I'm tired of crashing and burning.  There's not much left inside me anymore to die.  I don't know what I need anymore, what to pray for, how things "should be."  Who am I to expect that God would listen to me?  Sometimes, I wish I just never really cared about things or desired things, because then I wouldn’t pray about them and I wouldn’t get my hopes up about them and I wouldn’t be expecting an answer.  I would just numbly exist in the life I have and that would be okay because I wouldn’t get my heart broken over and over again by reaching for more and failing.  When you fly too high, it’s a long way to fall.  And it hurts. 

Anyway, my point in sharing this is that I have found something that’s incredibly helpful.  In these times that I have been too heartbroken and confused and afraid to pray too much, it has been wonderful to listen to my favorite band, The City Harmonic, and to let their honest, heartfelt words be my prayer.  I listen to them every day and let them sing the words that my heart needs to hear and wants to pray.  And it has been encouraging.  So if you ever find yourself at a loss for words and unable to pray, find a good, godly, inspiring, Christian album and let your heart sing along with them.  It can help keep you afloat when you are ready to let go of the life-preserver and sink to the bottom of despair.

[But honestly, I am really looking forward to winter, to putting this summer behind me.  What a sucky summer it's been.  The kind that would make you give up your faith, to decide it's not worth it.  And I know that I would have been tempted to do that, if it wasn't for the fact that I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists.  And so even if things don't go the way I want them to go, I still have to believe that God is sovereign, that He is watching, that He cares, and that He is working behind the scenes to turn bad things into good.

I don’t understand everything He does or allows, but I do know He is real and He is good and He is love.  And so I have to be willing to wait on Him and trust Him and give Him the control.  As I have said in another post, it’s like John 6:68 for me:  “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.’”  There are no other options for me.  I will cling to my God and my faith because I believe He exists and He is good and He is love.  It’s just that simple!  Even when life is not!]   

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