I have to say, my struggle with anxiety is not one of my favorite topics to discuss, or to even think about. In the last two and a half years, I have struggled like I never imagined. This post is not entirely about my food allergies, but I am posting this for two reasons.
- To share with the hope of helping others.
- As a cathartic experience.
My struggle with anxiety began in elementary school. Two events transformed a bright, confident, outgoing, talkative little girl into a child who struggled with fear and anxiety. In first grade, a peer ran up to me in the middle of recess while I was playing with my friends and told me “No one likes you, and you will never have any friends. I will be your friend as long as you don’t tell anyone.” Foolishly, I believed her, retreated from my true friends, and was bullied by this girl until my sophomore year of high school. She told me I would never be good enough, that I would never make any friends, and that I should never to try to do anything – because I would fail. And I believed every word. Why else would someone tell me this? It had to be true. Fear crept in.
In third grade, a new student joined the class and found out about my deadly peanut allergy. She began shoving her PB&J’s in my face, threatening to kill me. My allergies were something I was born with, and did not have a negative view of until that year. More fear crept in.
Fast forward to my final year of college. I am engaged to the most wonderful man in the world, and we are joyfully planning our wedding. We have grown up in church together since we were 12, and in college, became a part of a church plant with our former youth pastor. We were surrounded by our families, church family, and friends. Life was great – until it wasn’t. Some unfortunate events, coupled with major disfunction started to rift between the church plant. In the end, rumors were spread by our pastor and his wife about myself specifically, along with my husband and my family. I viewed my pastor and his wife with adoration. They taught me about Jesus. They were like a second set of parents. How could they do this to me? Their rumors went so far that I was threatened by a member of the congregation (and very close friend) multiple times. We received constant emails, texts, calls. This continued weeks after our wedding (over a year total) until we threatened a restraining order. Fear like I had never known came barging in. So I stopped eating. And I stopped sleeping.
Shortly after our wedding, we became the victims of more lies, accusations, and chaos from family members. I had just lost my church family, and now I lost acceptance and love from actual family. Family that we had sat together with in church – that we had shared with in good times and bad times. And that is when I broke. I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid to eat. One way that anxiety manifested was in believing that I was going into anaphylaxis every time I ate. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and crying at vivid nightmares of my family, or my church family. The stress and anxiety was manifesting into so many physical symptoms, I was going from doctor to doctor for help.
So what chased out the fear and brought healing?
God. Therapy. Medication. An amazing husband. True friends and family. Prayer. Laughter. Running.
Although every person that brought in this fear is a Christian, I had to learn who my God was for myself. Yes, there were times where I doubted Him. How could His people hurt me so deeply? I now know that I do not look to people (Christian or not) to learn about who Jesus is, but through prayer, scripture, and worship, I know who He is.
Although I was resistant, my husband and mom encouraged me to seek therapy, and I have to say, the healing I experienced was incredible. Going into therapy, I felt like a failure. I should be able to handle life on my own. I learned, however, that it took strength to fight against fear, against falling into the traps of church and family. I was able to grieve, vent, and process. I found my voice, and I learned techniques to fight against anxiety.
Shortly after beginning therapy, I was still in the midst of the chaos of family, and needed more help. My mom took me to the doctor to get medication for anxiety. I had never felt so low, but I absolutely needed to hit that point in order to get help. I was prescribed 50mg of Zoloft, and it has done wonders. I still have moments of stress or anxiety, but they are fleeting. With the medication and therapy, I began sleeping, and eating, and laughing again. I finally felt like I was starting to get my life back.
This was seven months ago. Since then, I completed therapy (my therapist worked with me until she felt I was at a healthy point), and am continuing medication. I hope to start to work my way off of the medication in the next year, but am in no rush. My husband and I have been on many adventures (we are going on a road trip next week through Northern California, Oregon, and Washington). We got involved at a new church, and are now surrounded with a family of brothers and sisters in Christ that have loved us, accepted us, and prayed for us. I started this blog and have been able to express myself and share with others who are living with food allergies. I am still healing, and I know that trials will continue to come up, but I also know that my God is bigger than any trial I encounter. He is bigger than my fear. He is bigger than my anxiety.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.