A quick glance at this photo and all you might see is a bossy baby trying to tell his mama where to take him, and a mama wearing too many layers and with way too much hair to call Florida home in the summer. Then you would probably scroll on past. Nothing spectacular to see here. But hold on a second! I would want to scream at you. Don’t you see it? Don’t you see underneath all of that ordinary there something overwhelmingly spectacular? No? Look closer. I promise it’s there.
See, this photo was taken at Disney Springs, outside the House of Blues concert venue. My husband, and myself, and the cutest third wheel in the world were about to see Johnnyswim in concert! Hashtag dream come true. In case you’re not familiar with all things Disney, there were approximately one billion people walking around, the concert venue was overflowing, and I was there.
Let me say it again.
I was there.
And I had the time of my life.
When you’re a regular person I know that doesn’t seem like anything to think twice about, let alone post on social media about. But if you’ve known me for a while you know that it’s actually an enormous deal.
I have battled an anxiety disorder for my entire life but during my first pregnancy it became a horrible panic disorder.
I had constant panic attacks all day long.
I didn’t leave my house except for doctor’s appointments.
I didn’t drive (for three years!)
I couldn’t go into stores without having a panic attack.
I couldn’t sit in a movie theatre without having a panic attack.
I couldn’t watch anything stressful on tv or talk about anything remotely intense without having a panic attack.
I couldn’t be alone without having a panic attack.
I couldn’t be away from my husband without having a panic attack (He played a lot of video games that year. And never once complained that I was basically holding him prisoner in his own home. Now that’s the man of my dreams.)
I spent every single second of every single day thinking I was dying.
I spent my days researching anxiety treatments and seriously considered inpatient treatment.
I was convinced that this was my new forever.
I was not living. I was barely surviving. I was broken and lost and embarrassed and ashamed and too scared to do a single thing about it.
The story is long, the healing came, because Jesus.
One day we can sit over tea and I’ll tell you all about it.
But my words today don’t need the details. They are here to address the heart of the matter.
Whoever you are.
Wherever you are.
Whatever your battle.
I see you.
And I beg of you.
Do not give up.
I will forever battle anxiety as it is part of my story, but there has been so much healing and there is so much hope. My life today is one I never could have imagined hiding under my blankets and sobbing the deepest sobs while begging Jesus to let me be free from fear for just one moment.
I had forgotten what that freedom felt like.
We all have our battles, and I’m not here to tell you exactly how healing will happen, or when. I wish I knew and if I did I would shout it from the rooftops for you. Because when you’re in the thick of a battle for your life, one of the most difficult realities is having no way to know when it will end. When the storm will cease. When the clouds will part. When the light will come back.
But my friend.
It will come back.
So do not give up.
When you can’t believe it will ever change, hear my words. It will.
When you can’t believe that hope is worth it, hear my words. It is.
When you can’t see past the curtain of your own pain, hear my words. Healing is coming.
When you wonder if life could ever overflow with joy again, hear my words. It can. And it will.
You are stronger than you think, braver than you know and whatever your fight you were created to overcome it and tell your story so that others may find comfort and hope and joy through you.
Climbing my mountain started out with counting the tiniest daily victories.
I got dressed today!
I walked to the end of the driveway and back!
I went to the grocery store with my husband today! It may have only been for ten minutes and I may have hated every second of it, but I was there.
I went an hour without feeling a panic attack coming on.
I went a whole afternoon without a panic attack.
I cleaned the house today.
I laughed today. And I really meant it.
I told myself I can climb this mountain, and I’m starting to believe it might just possibly be true.
And on and on. Friends, it can feel humiliating to look at those things as victories. I had to radically change my mindset and ask Jesus to pour his grace upon grace upon grace on me. I had to believe that I was worth the work, I was capable of the healing, and that struggling with mental illness did not mean I was less than.
Did you read that last bit and cringe just a little?
Read it again.
Struggling with mental illness does NOT mean you are LESS than.
Say it out loud.
Every single person on this planet struggles with one thing or another. We all have our stories. And yours is so vitally important. Don’t be afraid to share it, you never know who might need to hear they’re not alone.
And if you need to hear that today, please know it’s true.
My life today may look joy filled to you, but that did not come without years of prayer and healing and one thousand doctors visits and diet changes and on and on. This life is possible because I chose to not give up even when it felt there was no hope. So if you need a touch of hope today, look at this photo, know I went to that concert and didn’t feel a single bit of anxiety that night, and know that you will have your own version of this photo in time.
If you’re struggling to believe that, then I’m believing it for you today. If you want to share your story with me, I would be honored to hear it and I would be committed to praying for your healing journey and your hope story.
Go climb that mountain friend, the path is difficult but the view from the top will be worth every step.