Do you remember TLC’s hit show “What Not To Wear”? Hidden cameras would document the fashion faux pas of a woman, and at an unsuspecting moment, stylists Stacey and Clinton would reveal themselves, offering her a chance to take home an upgraded $5,000 wardrobe if she agreed to ditch her old digs in exchange for their thoughtfully selected pieces. To begin the purging process, and to showcase why she was in need of this drastic intervention, she picked out her favorite outfit and stepped into a 360° mirrored cube. With each defense of why she thought she looked great, the pro stylists would bring their vogue offense, pointing out each flaw the outfit highlighted.
This is what life began to feel like for me as a mom with two young kids. Every angle seemed to spotlight my failures and flaws. But instead of a professional intervention, I had a breakdown.
As my one-year old son began the natural process of weaning from breastmilk to solid foods, my body began a very unnatural spiral out of control:
- Mentally: I felt like I was stuck on a death-defying roller coaster that wouldn’t end. Fear crippled my ability to grasp the difference between reality and the perception of perpetual impending doom.
- Physically: Sound, smell, stress put me in constant Sensory Overload. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I began binge eating to numb the pain.
- Emotionally: I was full of shame, unable to escape the attacks of self-sabotage.
- Spiritually: I was desperately confused. How could I know the hope of Christ yet feel so hopeless?
- I reached the point where I truly believed my family would be better off without me. The thoughts racing through my mind were:
“MY HUSBAND WOULD BE HAPPIER WITH A DIFFERENT WIFE AND MY KIDS WOULD BE HEALTHIER WITH A DIFFERENT MOM.”
What’s Happening to Me?
One Friday afternoon, after putting my kids down for their nap, a numbing tingle rushed through my limbs. My heart pounded so hard, it felt like a prisoner trying to break through the bars that held him captive. Convinced I was having a heart attack, I used all my strength to get from my couch to the front door and scream for help.
After being rushed to the ER and having every test imaginable done, the results were: “Ma’am, you’re fine. Perhaps you’re just stressed?“
Are you kidding me? Of course, I’m stressed. I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old at home. But that doesn’t explain why I literally thought I was about to die!
WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?
In desperation, I posted on my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Facebook page, asking if anyone else had experienced anything like this before. A slew of solidarity revealed I was not alone. My inbox overflowed with words of encouragement and resources: one being the name of a trusted Christian Therapist.
It turns out, I wasn’t just stressed, I had suffered a panic attack. And through the process of working with my therapist and general practitioner, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
The process of getting diagnosed was a long one, filled with many moments of defeat. But the good news is there is hope.
A pivotal conversation
In the midst of all this chaos, I had a pivotal and personal experience with God. I was sitting on the couch in my living room and it’s like He just came and sat down beside me. He saw how heartbroken I was, so He knelt down in front of me, cupped His holy hands around my tear-stained face and talked to me: Daddy to daughter. He said:
ANDREA, I’M HERE. I’M RIGHT HERE WITH YOU. I’VE GOT YOU.
I know you’re afraid. It’s like standing on the shore of the ocean and watching a storm head right towards you. The rain is pouring and the wind is ripping around you. I know that feels scary. I know you’re looking at that storm wondering if you’ll make it out alive. So HOLD ONTO ME. I’VE GOT YOU.
This is going to be hard. This is doing to be painful. But we are going to get through this together.
In that moment, two Bible verses to mind and I have clung to them ever since.
Do not fear, for I am with you;ISAIAH 41:10 NASB
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will also help you,
I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.ISAIAH 43:1-3 NLT
The healing process has been anything but linear for me.
Stigmas around faith and mental health kept me from getting professional help for far too long. I couldn’t pray it away. I couldn’t “faith” it away. Thankfully, I learned this was a disease that required medical attention. And I had a community of people who loved me and leaned in as I figured out how to move forward.
Overcoming the fear of medication was my first hurdle and continues to be a point of contention in my mind and body. Finding the right brand and the correct dose has been filled with unwanted side effects and frustration. But the medication has removed the racing, intrusive thoughts that haunted so many of my days. And for that I am thankful. And it’s still hard.
Medication is not right for everyone, but removing the stigma around it is something I will spend my life doing.
I don’t know what you’re holding today, but I hope you know you’re not alone. If you relate to the pain in my story, I pray you feel seen in yours. God is with us in this storm. And He will bring us through it, even if it’s not how we expect Him to.
God didn’t promise to make all our problems disappear when we put our trust in Jesus. But He did promise to be with us as we face the joys and uncertainties each day brings. I’m thankful you’re here and encourage you to stick around for more hope and solidarity.
Here is a list of resources I have gathered to help you take your next step: WWW.ANDREAMNYBERG.COM/RESOURCES
YOU ARE NOT ALONE, DEAR ONE. GOD IS WAITING TO TAKE YOUR HAND AND WALK WITH YOU THROUGH THE STORM.