2014. What a weird year. Luke and I have reflected over the year many times, trying to come up with a word for it....and the only thing we can come up with is weird. It was just weird.
We can't say it was bad because good things happened. Our family grew when we added our beautiful baby girl to our lives. We had friendships grow, we were able to minister to others, and our marriage grew as we learned to cling to one another and God. But it was weird.
Oddly enough, and maybe what makes it a little "weird" is that although much of the year seemed wrapped in confusion and frustration we had a sense of peace from the Lord that we were where we needed to be. That He was working and would see us through. He always sees us through.
I've mentioned that I love going into the new year because of the "reset" feeling that you feel at the beginning of a new year. However going into 2014 we never felt that reset or refreshing feeling. We had so much weighing on us. My pregnancy with placenta previa and the uneasiness and questions that came from that was a big thing. Plus, I was going to the hospital twice a week to be monitored while still visiting my regular doctor and specialist. It was a lot of doctor appointments.
However the biggest thing going into 2014 that was affecting us involved my husband. Beginning in the middle of 2013 Luke suddenly began experiencing what we now know were panic attacks. It came out of left field as he is typically a calm, laid back person, but these panic attacks came on fast and strong.
Never having experienced anything of this nature both of us were at a loss as to what to do. Luke began to attack it physically, through diet, exercise, sleep, etc. We thought if he simply changed one thing in his life that they would go away.
If you've ever had experience with true panic attacks or know someone who has you know that this is not the case. Simply changing one thing in your life does not make them go away. We would learn this as the attacks continued to get worse. On the eve of 2014 Luke experienced one of his worst panic attacks to date and it was at that time when we realized that we were dealing with something serious and potentially debilitating.
At that point it was the scariest thing I had ever gone through. You don't realize how much you depend on somebody to be your rock and your strength until you see them at their weakest moment. It was a real and tangible reminder that my strength can ONLY come from the Lord. My husband is my partner and my helper through life but I cannot depend on him for my daily strength, I have to get that from the Lord.
Through all of this Luke and I kept it mostly confidential. We didn't tell our families for fear of worrying them and only told a few close friends who we asked to be praying for us. I remember one friend coming over and praying over me and our house and I cry every time of think of it. We are not called to do this life alone, we are called to share our lives with others, the times of rejoicing and goodness, the times of trouble and panic. It is a humbling experience to feel completely helpless and to know that your brothers and sisters in Christ are standing with you. How thankful I still am for that.
For Luke, through all of this there was shame in the sudden onset of panic attacks. He felt weak as a man and as the leader of our home, and as a pastor and leader in the church. He felt he should be stronger than this. It was during the time of those thoughts that he felt the Lord prompting him to share his struggles with others. It was his pride that had stopped him from sharing and this was now a way in which God was breaking his pride.
In March, Anniston was born and for various other reasons (another story for another day) March became our hardest month of the year. We had so much going on, plus a brand new baby in the house and my husband was not himself. It was hard. I so desperately wanted my husband to act like himself, to feel like himself. It was a helpless feeling to watch him deal with these attacks that slowly started to consume our lives. He hated it so much and I hated it for him. For the entire first part of the year Luke was a completely different person. There were times I would get a glimpse of him but for the majority of the time he was living on edge, a slave to panic attacks.
I did so much research online trying to find a "cure" for him. Reading how a person should behave when dealing with a person experiencing a panic attack. I wanted to help my husband, I wanted him to be himself again. I read a blog (that I now can't find or I would reference) but in it the author explained how he felt that panic attacks were threefold; mental, physical and spiritual and I completely agree. We were fighting a battle in so many ways.
Little by little we began sharing what Luke was going through with others. He told leaders at his work, leaders at our church, his worship team that he leads every Sunday, family, close friends....and all of it was met with nothing but support and love.
We truly believe it to be an act of obedience. God wanted Luke to share and so he did. The attacks continued on for a year, sometimes mild and sometimes very strong, interrupting our entire lives. But through it all we had people praying for us, and we were attacking it with God's word.
Going into the summer Luke confided in a friend who is also a doctor, this was the beginning of the steps to what we now hope and pray was and is the end. After seeking counsel Luke went on an anxiety medication that has helped him tremendously. Something was off and it needed to be fixed. Luke had been holding off taking medicine because he didn't want to seem "weak". But through the counsel he received he felt led to do this. By doing this it was as if he let go of something he was holding onto. Before he had been trying to take care of it all by himself, but little by little he was releasing it to the Lord, first by sharing with others, and so on until the final step of taking the medication. We fully believe that God has used the medicine to help Luke through this battle.
It feels extremely weird and vulnerable to share all of this information. But we have said time and time again that we want to write it all out. Of course there is a lot not written out, not every detail of this journey has to be shared but we wanted to share pieces of it. In going through this we realized it's something that a lot of people don't talk about, especially in the church.
Looking back we realize that it was silly to feel shameful about it, this was a real experience, one that we can hopefully use to help others or counsel others who have dealt with or are dealing with the same scenario.
We are by NO means experts in this, and we still have no clue why it happened. Even still, there are days when Luke continues to battle anxiety, but each day brings a little more healing at a time. It's like water dripping onto the ground, drop by drop, he is slowly taking back his life. But we do know that through it we sought God, we asked Him to use it for whatever purpose. And for whatever reason we felt it was important to share.
Going through this brought us closer to the Lord and to one another. We learned so much through it and we are still learning things. More than anything we are thankful for our health and thankful that we are able to use our experiences through this life to glorify the Lord and use them to help and encourage others however that may be.