A Broken Mama, a Broken Baby and a Broken World

The phone rings and we are told that a little five month old baby girl will be coming our way.  There is such excitement that comes rushes in as we prepare for the unknown.  The excitement can be felt, it is all around us, but it cannot cover up the dreaded feeling of knowing, a mama is about to lose her baby.  Hours later an unknown car pulls up and two unfamiliar women emerge; in the arms of one is a precious baby girl.  I am overwhelmed with emotion as I see the face of a stranger, a child I do not know, a child that I can clearly see is very sick, a child who was just taken from her mama.  My heart is heavy and I am eager to take this baby into my arms and embrace her.

Baby angel has sick eyes, crusted with her days.  Her nose is running and her cheeks are windburn.  Out of her tiny little 14 pound body comes a cough that could stop traffic.  She is sick, but yet when she looks at me as I start talking to her, a smile that could light up a room covers the width of her face, stretching from one chubby cheek to the other.  She begins to cry and the woman hands her over to me, a mama she does not know.  I have imagined this moment for a long time.  How would I feel when we received our first placement?  Would I be able to love a child that wasn’t mine, a child that I knew could only be with me temporarily?  Would love come instantly or would it take time?  My fingers had not yet closed on baby angel’s body and yet my heart was exploding with love.  Without hesitation or question I was madly in love and I knew I would do anything for her.  The feeling in my heart felt comfortable and familiar as I mentally recalled the doctor handing me each one of my daughters after birth.  I listened to the woman speak as I noticed the baby had come with only three things, a blanket, a pacifier and a stuffed toy.  Where was the rest of this baby’s life?

That first night was filled with such angst.  I slept a restless sleep as I watched over baby angel and checked her breathing in between her coughing battles.  I held her hand as she slept, but yet sleep for me would not come.  A mama had lost her baby.  I lie in the quiet of my house, but somewhere out there was a mama without her baby.  I did not know who she was, but for her my heart broke into a million pieces.  I did not know what happened in her life to lead her to this very moment, but I knew one thing, she was broken.  I lie there with her broken baby and I could not stop thinking about our broken world.  My heart was so heavy as I experienced the intensity of an overwhelming joy and love for this little child I just met.  My eyes were heavy, but yet there was no rest to be had.  This moment would have been the perfect place for anxiety to come in, but instead I did what I have been doing for years now.  I prayed.

I prayed for this baby, a perfect gift from above.  I prayed for her mama, a broken woman.  I am broken.  We are all broken in different ways, but for some of us our cracks are more able to be seen by others.  The nights that would follow for the next few months involved a lot of praying.  Every time baby angel woke me up I took that as a time that God was wanting me to pray, and pray I did.

If this child could only know the hours spent in a rocking chair while the stars were out and the world slept, that she was held tightly and prayed over.  Songs of Jesus filled her little ears as she sucked on her pacifier wrapped in the arms of love, safe from the broken world we live in.  I wonder if she will ever know how much we love her, how much we still love her, and how we will love her for the rest of our lives.  We will never be the same because of her.  I believe all of this, she will know.

Baby angel melted hearts wherever she went.  She was like a magnet and drew people in to her everywhere.  A common comment my husband and I would get a lot is, “you guys are so amazing, I could never do that.  I could never give her back.”  While I understood the comment I would also cringe a little and in my head I would think, “Do you see this baby?  Do you see that she needs us, that she needs to be loved?  Do you understand how special she is?”  The truth is they did see it, but yet people seemed to think we were different than they were.  I am no stronger than anyone else.  In fact, I am a weak person who happens to serve a very strong God and because of Him I am made strong.  Without Him we would never have been able to care for baby angel and I would have been destroyed when it came time to send her back to her mama.  We would have become too broken, but God, He makes us so strong.  He makes our daughters strong, and us as a family stronger.  I would tell everyone, “There is a lot of leaning on Jesus taking place in our lives.”  The hard truth is that if I didn’t lean on Jesus I would have been knocked off my feet.

Our world is broken.  We see brokenness around us everyday.  I will never judge those who suffer differently than me.  Baby angels mama simply reminds me how desperate we all are for a savior, and thank God we have a savior in Jesus Christ.  No one is too far gone to escape the love of God, no one is truly lost.  Our God is a God who will leave the 99 sheep to go after that one who has gone missing.  I was once that sheep, maybe you are that sheep right now.  He will fight for you, but He cannot have you if you do not let Him.  Maybe today is that day.  I pray for those who do not know Jesus that they will stop and ask themselves, “is my way working?”  His way is the best way and the only way.

I thank God for keeping my anxiety away in a time that it had every opportunity to take over my mind.  Anxiety is fear, and fear is a liar, a liar that robs us of our rest.  Our souls will only find rest, permanent and eternal rest, in Christ alone.

Guys, His peace is amazing!

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”   

                                                        Philippians 4:13

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”   

                                                        John 14:27


Find What Breaks Your Heart and Then….Make a Difference

Fifteen years ago I was a 22 year old girl drowning in the dark sea of anxiety and depression.  I was a girl struggling to find hope in a world that seemed hopeless.  I was lost feeling as if I had no purpose.  Thoughts of death teased at my mind day and night and while I was too afraid to allow those thoughts to grow I knew in my heart something had to die.  After 13 years of suffering with severe anxiety a death did occur.  In the cold winter of 2015 at a church in Sayville I died to myself and rose again in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I was freed from the chains I carried around anchoring me to my sin; my sin of worry and fear, pride and also shame.  I carried those burdens with me for too long and then at the most unsuspecting time, the creator of the heavens and earth removed the scales form my eyes and revealed Himself to me, once and for all setting me free.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19

             17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Throughout my struggle I heard a whisper in my ear telling me that my struggle was going to be used for something good.  My struggle would not be in vain.  At the time I did not know the Lord, but as I look back it is so clear that it was the voice of God softly and gently comforting me, reassuring me that everything would be okay.

What I have found is that God has given each one of us gifts, all different and unique to who we are and through the burden of anxiety and deep suffering God would show me my gifts.  It is up to us if we follow His lead and use those gifts.  I once heard that we should find what breaks our heart, and then make a difference.  One night as I pushed back and forth in a rocking chair and cradled my new born daughter, tears streamed down my face. As I sat and took in the smell of my new baby, my heart swelled with an overwhelming amount of love where I thought it might actually burst. I tried to comprehend the emotion I felt towards my baby girl and then I thought of all the babies who did not have a mommy to do the same thing and right then and there I knew for sure what broke my heart.

Nine years later my husband and I would become certified foster parents and take in our very first placement, a precious 5 month old baby girl. Five months later we would hand her back to her mother. My anxiety has made me strong, Jesus has made me stronger, but this, could I possibly bare the pain of handing this child back over to where she belonged?  This, I can tell, is only the beginning of our journey.  I have learned that life may bend me, but it will never break me, yet right now I feel broken.

An entire life packed into suitcases and bags.  Will she know how much I loved her and how much I still love her and that I will love her for the rest of my life?  Will she ever know how much we prayed for her?  The late nights woken up by tears or hunger and the many prayers that went up to the Lord as I rocked with her in the same chair that I rocked with my oldest daughter in nine years earlier, where my heart broke; will she ever know all of that?  Will she remember us and know that we will always be praying for her and cheering her through life?

My heart feels broken, but what comfort to know that my God will bring healing and peace.  I thank Him for breaking my heart and for the five precious months we were given to breathe life, love and truth into this precious baby.


When your story changes

It has been a while since I have written.  My story has changed, it changed dramatically.  It has changed in the best way possible, but yet I have hesitated to write.  Sometimes it is easier to hide in the shadows, to keep quiet and be unseen.  It feels safe there, comfortable, and I like comfortable.

When I began this blog I was writing to share my story and how I overcame anxiety and found peace.  I found writing so therapeutic, but yet peace seemed to always elude me.  It would come, but it would never stay.  I continued writing, chasing after a peace that would stay always, a peace that would satisfy deep down in my soul and without warning my world was turned upside down.

In the beginning of 2015 I found myself sitting at a Bible study, which was completely out of character for me.  I had been trying to read the Bible, not having any luck in understanding it.  I was questioning my faith and my purpose for so many years and in the cold of the winter, my mother in law invited me to do a study at her church.  For most of my life I had believed that God was real, but I didn’t believe that one religion was right.  As I journeyed through my anxiety I felt this strong desire to know the truth and what I realized about religion was that we can all be wrong, BUT we all can’t be right.  I hungered for the truth.

Sitting at a round table, in a brightly lit room surrounded by my youngest sister and a bunch of women I barely knew, for the very first time my eyes were opend to who God was.  We were studying the story of Jesus and the purpose of His life here on earth.  In what felt like just seconds I understand that Jesus was/is God and what He had done for my life.  In a moment a flood gate of tears flowed from my eyes as I realized the magnitude of His love for me, for His creation.  My heart poured out that night and when I left I would never be the same.

When I had first started reading the Bible I did so with every intention of staying who I was, which I actually laugh as I write that for the absurdity of the thought.  The person who I was, was the person I was running from for years.  This was the person I hated, was ashamed of, the person that in the darkest moments of my life I wished dead.  This was the person who claimed to have it all together, but on the inside was screaming, suffering and deeply pained by the brokenness of life; yet this was a person I clinged too so tightly afraid to let go, afraid of what she would become.  I clung to the lies whispered in my ears daily, you’re not good enough, strong enough.  You are not worthy.

While the air was cool that night, as I walked out of the church doors I felt a warmth that that radiated throughout my body and a peace that I couldn’t explain.  I drove home overjoyed and eager to share what had happened with my husband, but as I drove I wondered if this feeling would last.  Nothing lasts as heartache is always lurking around the corner.  Our world is so broken.  I was sure the pain of reality would resurface in morning.  I would remember Nicole and her death and my guilt and with that the peace would be gone.

Four years later…………..and the peace is still there.  It is a peace I can never describe.  It is a peace that I can only pray others will find, not just for their earthly walk, but for their eternity.  It is a peace I cannot keep quiet about.  While I thought I was sharing my story about anxiety with others, what I didn’t realize was that God was giving me a story that would show others His love, His mercy and His grace!

We live in a world searching for peace, searching for something to fill this void inside us.  There is a void that lies within us, but it can only be filled by God.  For too many years I tried to do life my way and in some way I became my own god.  Since that night at the round table, at a church in Sayville, I have seen firsthand how the ways of the Lord are better than I could have ever imagined.

I spent a decade searching for peace, ten years suffering in the silence of my own anxiety.  A decade spent searching for God, wondering if I was worthy of Him.  While I was searching what I didn’t realize was that He was never lost.  During those ten agonizing years He was taking precious time to prepare my heart for what He would finally reveal.  He is patient and so merciful and I am not ashamed to call Him my God.

My anxiety was the best thing that every happened to me, because it lead me right into the arms of Christ.

See the source image

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find ME, when you search for Me with all your heart.                    Jeremiah 29:11-13


A World Desperate for Hope

Turn on the news, scroll through social media, what do you see?  Sometimes it seems that all we see is the bad going on in the world, and a world seeming void of hope.  The truth is, we do live in a broken world.  We live in a world filled with tragedy and heartache.  No matter how advanced our society becomes in the areas of technology and medicine, there is still one thing that no one has been able to successfully master.  No one has been able to master peace throughout the world.  There are wars, conflicts, lies being told, betrayals taking place and there is death.

See the source imageIn a world that may seem so divided at times we hold one thing in common; we will all experience death.  We will lose someone we love and we ourselves will die.  Author Ann Voskamp speaks about this in her book, “The Broken Way.”  She mentions the inevitability of tragedy.  No one is immune to it.  If you haven’t experienced tragedy yet, it’s because you haven’t lived long enough.

How is it possible for us to survive and to thrive in a world so broken?  Our world gives our anxieties plenty of things to feed off of, yet deep within our broken nature is placed a trait so special and unique from other species.  Placed so preciously, deep in our souls is a feeling of hope, and we all hope.  We hope for our days to get easier.  We hope for a better job.  We hope for a loving marriage.  We hope for our children to grow up to be happy and successful.  We hope to be healthy.  We hope to make a difference in the world.  We hope, we hope and we hope.  Hope is such a beautiful thing.  It is a four letter word, so small and common, yet packed with so much power.  Hope is what keeps us going and sometimes hope is all that we have.


I sit on the cold ground, the dirt and grass feeling so familiar beneath my worn out body.  I stare at the temporary tombstone.  I’m angry that there isn’t a tombstone yet.  Nicole deserves a tombstone.  My anger turns to sorrow and my eyes are streaked with tears as I think about all that has changed in my life.  Earlier this morning I got in trouble at home.  I had fallen asleep at John’s house, which I had never done before and  awoke to my mom calling me at 8 o’clock in the morning to see where I was.  I never want to leave John.  He makes me feel so safe.  When I am with him, I know that I will be okay.  My mom was furious when she woke up to see that I never came home.  I am sure she was frightened at first, but when she found out where I was she was mad and even worse, disappointed.  I have been a series of disappointments lately.  My life seems to be crumbling in the wake of Nicole’s death.  Why can’t I pull myself together?  Why do I continue to make bad decisions?  Why can’t I be better?  

I cry until I run out of tears and I find myself lying on the ground, the ground that covers my beautiful friend, feeling broken beyond repair.  I stare at the birds in the nearby tree.  They are singing and chirping, busy finding food in the birdhouses.  They are so beautiful.  The tree is so beautiful.  My life seems to be crumbling, but this world continues.  I want to continue.  I want to be a part of the beauty in the world.  I need to get out of my head and get a grip on my anxiety before it devours me.  I can not let myself die with Nicole.  There must be a purpose in all of this.  Laying on the sun soaked earth I once again admire the birds and suddenly I am filled with a feeling of hope.  Here in the cemetery the birds are surrounded by death, but yet they sing.  I can not let death steal the song from my own heart.  I get up from the ground and place a kiss on Nicole’s makeshift tombstone.  As I get into my car I am feeling hopeful.  I am hopeful that one day the song in my own heart will be heard again.


I am preparing to go to bed.  Nighttime is my least favorite time of day.  The darkness of the world reminds me of the darkness in my heart.  The quiet of the night magnifies the noises in my head.  When all is calm and quiet around me my anxiety runs rampant.  John is watching TV, unwinding from his busy day and I am in a full blown panic over the stillness of the night.  The knot in my chest tightens and seems to pulsate with each labored breath I take.  My mind is racing and I can’t catch my breath.  Images rush through my head, Nicole’s smile, the parties at college, my family and their disappointment if they knew who I really was, John leaving me because I am too much to handle.  I wish I had died that night instead…………

John comes in and I lie down hoping to fall asleep easily.  What happens instead of sleep, is crying, panic, a call to my parents at 2am because I can’t breathe, a boyfriend so loving and concerned for me and a trip to the emergency room.  I am hooked up to oxygen and a series of doctors and nurses come and go all assuring me that I am good and healthy.  I lie in the hospital bed feeling my breathing relax ever so slightly.  John looks at me with those loving eyes and I am filled with hope that everything will be okay.  There is hope, I hope……….  


We are all hoping for something.  Anxiety comes in when we fear that what we hope for may not happen.  Nothing we hope for is certain.  Things that we hope for come to be and only fill our hearts temporarily, leaving us hoping again, maybe this time for something different.

What if there is a hope that we can be sure of; a kind of hope that stays alive in us always?  If there was that kind of hope, would you want it?  Would you want to know where it came from?  Would you want to know how to get it?  Would you feel like you were deserving of such a hope?  We all hope.  The good news is that there is a hope that we can be sure of, one that stays with us always………………

Image result for light in a field with a tree


Ann Voskamp 

The Broken Way





An Old Story Made New

I am beyond excited to be back and writing on this blog!  It has been almost three years since I wrote.  I had stopped writing because my story took a very unexpected turn.  I had been sharing about my recovering from severe anxiety, but what I didn’t realize was the story I was sharing was not my own.  I have been going back and forth about sharing this part of my recovery, but this is not something you keep quiet.

I am so overwhelmed with joy to share what has been happening in my life for the past three years, but before I do that I would love to go back and share something else.  If you have been here before I want to remind you of my struggles with anxiety.  If you are new here, this story will give you a glimpse into my past, and then you can feel free to read through some old posts to get a bigger picture.  The story I want to share with you today is one I shared with a group of women in September of 2017.

This story takes place in the fall of 2002

                     It is a Friday evening and the sun is beginning to set.  I have spent most of the day puttering around my house trying to keep myself busy.  I don’t really have anything to do right now, which stresses me out.  I need to keep busy.  I was off from work and I don’t have classes on Friday’s, so today was spent in a desperate attempt to fill my time.  I use to love having the day off to do the things that I wanted and enjoyed, but having all this time to myself frightens me.  I’m scared and yet I don’t know what I’m scared of.  I have a terrible feeling that something awful is going to happen, but what?  Could this feeling be a warning of something that is really about to happen?  I have heard about people who have feared something bad happening right before it really did.  That could be what’s going on right now. 

                     I am startled by my mom who has quietly walked into the room and my heart immediately starts racing.  She is completely unaware of the battle waging inside of my head at the moment.  My mind drifts off to an image of Nicole and my heart begins to hurt.  I imagine her smile.  Everyone always said she had a smile that could light up a room.  That is just how I remember her.  Fatigue takes over my mind as I force the beautiful image of Nicole away.  I miss her so much. 

                    My attention comes back to my mom.  I start to feel angry at her and that makes me want to cry.  I shouldn’t be angry at her.  This is ridiculous.  My mind begins to spiral out of control, and quickly my thoughts are interrupted as my mom asks me if I want to go to Applebee’s for dinner with the rest of my family.  My heart quickens its rate again.  Dinner, how could I possibly go out to a restaurant right now and have a good time?  Is she serious right now?  Can’t she just leave me alone, or better yet, can’t she save me?  I catch a glimpse of my mom and I beg my mind to shut up for two seconds.  My mom is looking at me with her kind eyes waiting for an answer.  She is so sweet.  I stare into her sweet eyes, the ones that have watched over me since I was a little baby, the ones that have looked at me with pure love, the ones that have laughed with me a thousand times.  They are the eyes that have stared intently into mine so many times as I cried and needed her.  Right now I need her.  I need her to save me, save me from myself.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I don’t understand myself right now so I couldn’t dare ask for someone else to understand me, but I need her.  I’m going crazy and I guess when you’re crazy, no one can save you. 

                As if nothing is wrong I smile back at my mom and tell her no thank you.  I use the excuse that I don’t feel good and start to walk away. 

                Of course she won’t let me off that easy because we are a close family who loves being together.  She will want me to be at dinner.  She tells me that I have to eat and to come in my own car so I can just leave when I am done.  I know she means well, but my anxiety is starting to build because the thought of going into a restaurant is so overwhelming.  The lights, the noise, the people sitting around talking and laughing, as if everything is okay, I want no part of that right now.  I again tell her no and that I really want to lie down.  She looks at me sympathetically and tells me that she will bring me home something to eat. 

                I lie down on the brightly colored floral couch in the living room and turn the TV on.  I jump from channel to channel hoping that something will quiet my thoughts.  As I surf through the channels my skin begins to crawl and that bad feeling reminds me that it has not left me.  I turn the volume up.  I have to keep my mind distracted, distracted from itself. 

                The rest of the house is noisy as always.  I have three sisters, so for a family of six there is always something going on in our house.   People are always coming and going.  On a daily basis there is homework being done, boyfriends being talked about, a bathroom being fought over, clothes disappearing and most often a lot of laughter circulating throughout our home.  Just out our back door we have horses that beautifully roam their paddocks and keep my mom and two sisters, Nicole and Christine, happily occupied.  We are a busy house and that never bothered me until my mind became so loud.  I don’t want everyone to go away; I just want the house to be quiet and calm, just long enough for me to think.

                Christine walks into the room and sits on top of my legs.  She is the youngest of our family; younger than me by 3 ½ years and no matter what she will always be my baby sister, even if she is 16.  Her personality most closely resembles mine, and for this reason she and I have always gotten along perfectly.  We get each other’s sense of humor; at least she got mine when I was funny.  I am far from funny these days.  I love being around her, even when I feel the worst, because she reminds me of who I use to be.  I use to be fun and carefree.  I use to be happy. 

                I lie there wishing I could be more like Christine when she tells me that she’s upset I’m not coming to dinner.  Here we go again.  Can I just be left alone?  I don’t want to go out to eat.  What doesn’t everyone understand?  I just want to lay here, alone, in the quiet and try and regain control of my brain.  I say something ridiculous in an effort to be funny and it seems to work because Christine laughs and walks away. 

                I close my eyes and imagine myself at the restaurant.  I picture myself sitting at the table with my family and I’m calm.  It will be fun to spend time out with everyone.  I’ll order that apple walnut salad that I love so much and I’ll have a good time.  I can do it.  I can be calm. 

              No, I can’t do it.  My mind takes flight and my breathing becomes shallow.  I’m scared again and I don’t know why.  Something bad is going to happen.  Maybe something bad is going to happen at the restaurant and I should be home.  I should tell my family to stay home, but then I would sound crazy.  They would look at me like I was some crazy person, and not the happy and carefree daughter and sister they know me as.   A knot tightens in my chest and it hurts.  It hurts to breathe.  I have to calm myself down otherwise my breathing will get really bad.

            My other sister Nicole walks into the room and tells me I should come to dinner.  My breathing becomes even more shallow as I get more worked up by this dinner invitation.  I can’t even breathe, let alone go out to eat.  Nicole is just a year and a half younger than me and she has a super strong personality.  She knows what she likes and doesn’t and stands strong in any decision she makes.  She is a mix of pure beauty and attitude.  I envy her in many ways and in between all of our head butting we have a great relationship.  She doesn’t even give me time to answer and runs out of the room to grab her coat.  Finally, my family is leaving.  Everyone says goodbye to me only after asking me five more times if I’m sure I don’t want to come with them. 

           The door closes and silence immediately fills the large house, a silence that I have been waiting for, but now that it’s here I am panicked.  I feel nervous as I  try to convince myself that time alone will be good for me when without warning, an image of the knives in the kitchen flashes into my mind.  They are the ones that come in that block you keep on your counter.  There are all different size knives in that block and I am suddenly scared of them.  I don’t know where this fear is coming from, but what if I do something with them?  What if I hurt myself?  What if I do something worse?  Was this the bad thing that I was thinking would happen?  The knot grows larger in my chest and I feel like I am going to throw up.  I don’t know why I am thinking like this.  Would I really hurt myself?  I don’t know the answer to that question and because I can’t answer this panic pours through my body.

            I change the channel and try to really concentrate on what I’m watching, but I can’t.  My body is shaking and I have broken out into a sweat.  I can’t get my mind off the knives.  What if my family came home and found me, bleeding, dead?  That last thought is terrifying and without even realizing it I have the phone in my hand and I’m dialing my boyfriend’s number.  John answers the phone and I ask him to come over and take me to Applebee’s so I can have dinner with my family.  All I tell John is that I am having a bad panic attack and within moments he is at my door and we are driving over down the block to the restaurant.

           The car ride with John is a quiet one and I don’t dare speak of the thoughts that just ran through my mind.  I think I am just tired and if I get a good night’s sleep I will feel better in the morning.  This will all just be a memory and I can start fresh then.  I am beginning to feel hopeful as I look at John.  He is such a great guy.  I am so lucky to have him.  He has no idea that he’s dating a crazy person.  If he knew what I was just thinking he would know that I am losing my mind and he would definitely leave me.  I press my lips together tightly and hold my breath as if to keep my secrets inside.  He looks over and smiles at me and my body calms down just ever so slightly.  My mouth relaxes and I slowly exhale.  I wiggle around in the passenger seat trying to get comfortable.  My mind has slowed down, but this knot seems to have made a home in my chest.

            When my family catches sight of me everyone smiles and yells in delight that I finally decided to join them.  I smile back and quietly sit down.  I order my apple walnut salad and try my best to enjoy it, but I can’t stop thinking about the knives back at my house and those awful thoughts that were racing through my head only moments before.  I am still scared, but I am safe because I am with my family.

The rest of the night is uneventful and I promise over and over in my head that tomorrow will be better.  Tomorrow I will feel back to my old self. 

Taking me out of the picture……

I am pretty sure that I have said this before, but anxiety can be a very selfish disorder.  Okay, it is a selfish disorder.  Now I am sure there is someone out there reading this who just tensed up a little bit and felt their blood boil a tad over that remark, but it is true, and I can say that because I was in that selfish state for so long.

As an anxiety sufferer your thoughts constantly revolve around your state of being throughout the day.  How am I feeling?  What are people going to think of me?  What if something is wrong with me?  I don’t want to do this because it will make me feel uncomfortable.  I will show up when I am ready.  I won’t go to that because I will feel uncomfortable.   I, I, I, me, me, me.

If you are reading this and feeling like I am attacking you personally I do apologize, I was just giving you specific examples from my old brain.  This does mean though that you can relate to me and that’s a great thing, because then you are in the right place.  Those were thoughts that moved around my head like they were at a dance off.  You couldn’t stop them.  All day, it was me, me, me.

My poor husband.  Everything we did revolved around how I was feeling or my favorite, the ever anticipated, how I was going to feel.  I would rob myself of all the joy before I was even in the moment I dreaded so much, one in which I must say I always came out alive from.

I was constantly making excuses for myself and my behavior or for the way I felt.

I am exhausted just writing this, thinking back to how I would obsess over myself.  It was like my brain was on this hamster wheel of negative thoughts about no one else but me.

I do want to stop here for a minute and point out that I find it extremely important to take care of yourself; to love yourself unconditionally and nurture your mind and soul, but obsession is where I draw the line.  There will be times in life where you should take a back seat and that is just fine.

On my road to recovery one of the things that I was determined to do was to stop my constant obsession with my health.  Was I having a heart attack?  Was I going to have a heart attack?  When would that be?  Would I die young?  Would I die in front of people I loved?  Would I die while I was driving and possibly harm other people?  Would I simply pass out in front of people and wet my pants (Okay now this fear was legitimate because it did actually happen to me.  Not fun.)?  Would I become just another statistic and sad story?

In case you didn’t realize my biggest fear was having a heart attack.  There are reasons for that fear, but I will get into that another day.  This fear consumed my life.  I couldn’t enjoy a meal out with my husband without panicking the entire time that I was going to die right across the table from him.  How traumatic would that be for him?

I couldn’t imagine living my life without this fear of dying.  It seemed so unrealistic, but when I finally made the commitment to my recovery I knew there had to be no other options.

So here’s one of my favorite steps that I began, “fake it until you make it.”  What I mean is to do what you want and ignore the rest.  If I wanted to go out to a restaurant I would just go.  I had to tell myself that whatever happens was out of my control and meant to be.  This is a terrifying thought for an anxiety sufferer, but even though I didn’t like it, I knew it was one of the important keys to my recovery.  If I went out to eat and passed out, fine.  If I had a panic attack, fine.  If I died, well I would be dead so fine.  Okay, not really but you get where I am going here.  I had to push my thoughts aside and simply go through the motions of living even though I didn’t like it at first.

I didn’t want to ruin another date because of my anxiety.  I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to catch up with an old friend because of my anxiety.  I didn’t want to say no to my daughters one more time because they wanted to go to the park and I was afraid of having a panic attack.  I wanted to start living and enjoying the people in my life that I loved so dearly.

My anxiety didn’t just affect me; it affected everyone around me, even if they didn’t realize it.  I couldn’t ignore this fact any longer.

I had to fake it.

When I started doing this I was miserable a lot, but that was because I was doing more.  If I wanted to get something at the mall I didn’t analyze my decision to go, I just went and dealt with it.  I didn’t argue back and forth with myself for hours about taking my kids out for a walk, I just put my shoes on and walked out the door.  I didn’t give myself the time to think, I just went.

With each little accomplishment I let myself be proud.  WHAT???  Be proud of myself?  How is that possible?  When you have anxiety you tend to be very self conscious and you are constantly putting yourself down.  I had done this for years.  I was use to feeling worthless so this idea of praising myself was so foreign to me, but I was faking it and trying to make it.

In order to do this I had decided to talk to myself the way I would talk to my sister’s or a friend of mine.  If they were suffering and were experiencing little accomplishments on their journey to peace I would praise them for each step they took.  I would constantly reinforce their efforts.  When they fell down I would tell them it was okay, that everyone falls down and they just need to get up one more time.  I would remind them that every step is one step closer to their goal.

And that is exactly what I did, for myself.  I praised myself and I let myself be proud.  Even when I came out of an experience exhausted and spent I would say, “You did it, great job.”  The best part is that I started to believe what I was doing.  I started to truly feel proud of myself.  I eventually became a great cheerleader for myself.  It wasn’t forced, it just happened organically over time.

I will tell you that it felt amazing.

What are you obsessing about?  What holds you back?  What robs you of your joy?

Don’t allow that to happen anymore.  Take back control.  Stop thinking and start doing.

By removing yourself from the picture you will actually find yourself more clearly and you will love that person even more.


Eight years ago I was a health education teacher.  That was not my original plan, to be a teacher.  My original plan was to own a successful gymnastics gym where I trained top notch athletes.  After Nicole died my path in life changed and I went on to graduate from college with a degree in Health Education.  I chose this subject because it was one that talked about life and the decisions that you made and how they affected your health and your well being.  I swore that Nicole’s life would not be lost in vain and that I would go on to make a difference in this world.  I thought that if I could become a teacher and make a difference in one child’s life than I would be honoring Nicole.

I taught for two shorts years before I voluntarily left teaching to work for my father.  My dad was going through some health issues at the time, along with dealing with a rough patch in his business and I wanted to help him.  I have been working for my dad for the past eight years and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  My dad is healthy and the business is doing great.  It has been a wild roller coaster ride working for him and I have loved “almost” every second of it, but tonight as I was going through boxes of my old teaching stuff, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

I loved teaching.  I taught with passion, sometimes too much.  I wanted to change the world.  As I sifted through my old binders of lesson plans and projects from old students I felt sad for how much pain I was in at that time in my life.  The amazing thing is though, that looking back on my past I not only felt sad, but I also felt victorious as I looked through old pictures of my colleagues and myself, along with many of my students.

Looking back at pictures of myself from eight years ago, I can remember vividly the emotional distress I was feeling.  I can remember how my body hurt, how painful it was to breathe.  I can remember the despair that I felt, how I couldn’t imagine ever feeling real joy again.  I can remember as if it were just yesterday, but what I also see in those old pictures was a fighter.  Even at my lowest I would never accept defeat.  Each time I was knocked down I got back up.  Sometimes it took me longer than others to get up, but I still got up.  I don’t mean to sound boastful because at that time in my life, when I was trying so hard to inspire the lives of others, I felt worthless.  I felt weak and insecure.  I felt alone.  When you are circling in the cloud of anxiety all you see is grey and it leaves you feeling dizzy.  You can only see clearly the reality of the situation when the cloud has lifted.  I was a flower in the wind, bendable, but never breakable.  I couldn’t see that then, but now it is oh so clear.

I had gone into the basement to look for a lesson I taught almost a decade ago.  It wasn’t really a lesson, but more of a personal moment where I shared with my students the story of Nicole.  I came across one of the newspaper articles from the accident, “Alleged DWI death shocks Marist College students.”  Sitting down on the cold concrete floor I read the article with tears instantly streaming down my face.

Nicole Avery, 19, of Suffolk County, died in a one-car accident.

She was pronounced dead about 7:30 a.m.

The driver of the car……….

It is like a knife going through my heart, even though this article is over 13 years old.  I could remember the 19 year old me holding this article and reading it over and over, praying to wake up from my nightmare.  I would stare at this article for hours, wishing that it said my name instead of Nicole’s.  It was a dark time in my life.

A lot has changed since then.  When you lose someone you love the pain never goes away, you just learn to deal with it in a way that it doesn’t hurt you so badly.  The 19 year old me would’ve never imagined that I would be where I am today.  I will never understand why Nicole’s life was cut so short, but I will always understand why I was put into her life.  She has changed me forever and even in revisiting my past I couldn’t be more grateful.


Anxiety can be good?

frustrated baby

Over the past few weeks I have spent my time writing for my book, working on a new project I would like to set in motion relatively soon and I have been spending a lot of time with my three precious babies, just watching them grow and trying to soak up every second with them.  My youngest daughter will be one next week and that just blows my mind.  Everyone says that once you have kids time’s pace starts to pick up, but what they don’t say is that with each kid you have the second hand on the clock only spins faster.  I feel as if I was holding my youngest daughter only yesterday in her newborn diapers, breathing in her baby smell as she slept peacefully in my arms.  Time flies when you are having fun, but it also flies when your hands are constantly moving, working endlessly to nurture and raise your family.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As my first daughter’s birthday approaches and I watch her tirelessly attempt to move around our house I can’t help but think about the blessings that anxiety has given me.  My little peanut is following in her oldest sisters footsteps.  She didn’t crawl until one week before her first birthday and was walking by fifteen months.  She was very content to sit and play with the toys around her and her baby sister has been no different.

Have you ever watched a baby attempt to crawl?  For some babies crawling and moving comes naturally, while for others it seems like the impossible.  Watching my daughter in her attempts have been humbling to say the least.  She is so determined, yet so frustrated by her futile attempts thus far, but imagine that her frustration was enough to stop her from trying?  Imagine that in her simple, while very complex little mind, she decided to give up and throw in the towel?  What if she said, “You know what, this crawling thing is just too hard, I’m not strong enough and my head feels like it weighs a ton and not to mention my poor little arms and hands can not possibly support the weight of this heavy body.” ?  You can laugh at that imaginary scenario because you know that it will never happen.  My little peanut will not give up.  No matter how hard it is she will eventually crawl.  She will use her frustration to get that toy mommy pushed far away from her and she will keep trying.  Because she is frustrated and because it’s preventing her from getting where she wants, she will keep on trying.  She will never give up and before long she will be cruising around the house and months from now her frustrations from crawling will all just be a memory as she runs around with her bigger sisters.

Anxiety and frustration is good because it pushes us to want something different, something better for ourselves.  When we were little babies and even young children, we used those negative feelings to push forward in life and then somewhere along the road our obstacles got bigger and those negative feelings that once helped motivate us, suddenly became an obstacle in itself.

Has your anxiety become your biggest obstacle?  Don’t fight the anxiety, use it.  That little baby trying to crawl never once fought the feelings of frustration, they used it to get where they wanted to go.

When I was struggling with my own anxiety I had this “warrior” mentality.  I thought that I could fight my anxiety and one day I would win and stand victorious over this horrible disorder.  If you choose to fight anxiety, you will always lose.  Anxiety is a normal feeling and if you allow yourself to feel it, you will eventually learn to use it the right way and when you do this, it no longer is an obstacle, it is suddenly just another feeling you have that helps to push you into achieving your goals.

In 2012 the United States girls gymnastics team won the Olympic team gold medal.  It was a truly amazing moment in woman’s gymnastics as this was only the second time that the women’s team had won the gold.  One of the members of the team was Aly Raisman.  She was a vital part of this American team and she even went on to win the individual gold medal on floor at the Olympics.  During an interview she had been asked if she got nervous when she competed and she said no.  NO, are you kidding?  How could she not be nervous to stand alone in the middle of an arena, where thousands are watching her live, along with millions watching her at home, while she stands atop a beam, 4 1/2 inches wide and four feet from the ground?  I can shake just thinking about walking onto the floor alone, let alone performing at a high level of gymnastics.

Aly went on to explain how she used her nerves to excite her.  Wow, just think about that for a second.  She has the same nervous feelings that her fellow teammates have, but she uses them differently.  Instead of fighting her feelings, she uses them to get where she wants.  She uses them to fuel her efforts.  She allows her head to remain clear and focused.  I have seen many gymnasts who cannot do this and it is always most obvious on the balance beam.  They shake like crazy.  They let their nerves and their anxiety get the best of them and most often they end up blowing their routine and dismounting feeling defeated and upset.  They have lost their own battle against their anxious feelings.

This was one of the hardest concepts for me to understand.  I didn’t want anxiety to be in my life, end of story.  I wanted it gone and to never come back.  I would cry and explain to my therapist, Carol, how much better I would be as a person if my anxiety would just go away, but that is completely unrealistic.  That same feeling I wanted so badly to disappear had helped me learn how to crawl and walk.  It taught me to never settle in life.  It helped me to learn new ways in overcoming obstacles in my life.  It got me through college and it even helped me to focus when I was in labor delivering my daughter naturally.  It helped me breathe and remain calm as I underwent two cesarean sections.  It has helped me to always want whats best for my husband and my children.  It has helped me to become who I am today.  As soon as I stopped fighting my anxiety, I started to heal.  It was not an easy process and it didn’t go away over night, but the first step is to stop fighting.  You have to learn to crawl before you can walk and that process takes time and patience.

Today is the day to stop fighting and start accepting.  You can do it!

The People Under the Stairs

Wes Craven’s, The People Under the Stairs, was a thriller/mystery movie that was released in 1991.  This movie could very well be the reason that I have forever been afraid to go up any stairs leading from a basement.  Better yet, I could blame my sister Nicole for this fear of mine.  She was the one that insisted we watch every scary movie she could find at the video store (remember those) growing up.  We must have watched The People Under the Stairs one hundred times.  I am sure if we watched it today it would seem really cheesy, but 24 years ago (ouch) it was terrifying.

My house I live in now has a basement and my husband has been making fun of me for the past 8 1/2 years because each time I come up from the basement I do exactly the same thing.  I start up the steps slowly and then after I am about halfway up our wooden staircase I begin to sprint until I finally come barreling through the doorway like a bull about to slam it’s target, panting like I just finished a 15k.  I just always imagine that hands will come out from the darkness of the basement and grab my ankles.  Ooooo I get the chills just thinking of it.  Damn horror movies.  Then again, I also could blame my mom for telling me she saw a family of ghosts in the basement of our home when I was in the ninth grade.  “They seemed nice though,” she said. Yeah sure, thanks mom for the nightmares I’ll have for the next seven years that I will be living here.  So there are my three reasons for my fear.  I will defend myself that my fear has drastically decreased since having kids, largely because I am constantly exhausted so most of the time I am actually sleeping with my eyes open, wandering the house doing the never ending list of chores.  My brain doesn’t have as much time to worry about imaginary hands in the basement.

I want to put this kind of fear into better perspective.  When I am wide awake and my brain has time to think about this ridiculous fear of mine, to my mind and body, this fear becomes very real.  My heart will race, my mind will spin and a feeling of dread will pour through my body.  I have even reached the top of my stairs at times noticing that I am actually shaking.  Ah hem, LOSER!  I am able to laugh at myself for this 🙂 Just to be clear, I have been able to calmly walk up my stairs on multiple occasions, but before doing so I have had to mentally prep myself.  In my head a similar dialogue will take place, “It’s okay, the lights were just on and you saw that no one was down here, breathe and walk, breathe and walk, you are fine.  No one will reach out and grab you.  It’s all in your head.  Walk and breath.  And look at that you are at the top of your stairs calmly turning the lights off.  What a big girl, you did it.  Yay.”  I talk fast in my head, my stairs aren’t that long.

I am only sharing this silly story with you to show you that your mind is very easily influenced.  It will think whatever you tell it to think.  It does not ever need concrete evidence to believe something.  It goes exactly where you tell it to.  My people under the stairs fear is exactly what anxiety is.  It is a combination of small moments where you allow your mind to think something completely irrational and instead of self talking your way out of the irrational thinking, you feed it.  You convince yourself that these fears are real and your negative thoughts are justified and the feeding continues, and in doing this you allow anxiety to enter into your mind and if you are not prepared it will make a home there.  Anxiety is a very stubborn tenant and it will not leave unless you truly understand how to kick it out.

I know alot of people in my life who can not relate to anxiety, and God Bless them.  I would never wish the feelings I had felt for so many years on anyone.  My mom was someone who had a hard time relating to what I was going through, although she tried her best.  She was there for me all throughout my struggle, but the feelings I had were so foreign to her.  In an attempt to understand me and what anxiety was she thought she would try to bring these anxious feelings on herself.  Don’t try this at home.

One day my mom was walking her dog around her neighborhood.  My parents live on a beautiful street, right on the bay.  You can see planes descending towards MacArthur Airport as they cross over the water and their home.  The planes are just high enough as to not create too much noise and just low enough for you to really appreciate their size.  On this day my mom watched the plane and she imagined that the plane was going to crash.  She imagined that it was going to come crashing down on her.  She watched the plane moving closer thinking about how scary it would be.  She made a fictional moment seem very real in her mind and as she relayed the story to me she shared how surprised she was by the fear she had felt.  The plane continued over her and kept on going toward the airport, but in that quick moment my mom had just a small glimpse of what anxiety was.  Her mind did exactly what she told it to do.  That is anxiety.

Following my epiphany, one of the things I decided to do was to only focus on positive things.  I no longer wanted to think about imaginary hands grabbing my ankles.  I wanted to enjoy shopping in a mall or dining at a restaurant.  I wanted to enjoy a beautiful summer day.  This task of positive thinking may seem so simple, but to me it was as difficult as climbing Mt. Everest.  Negativity roamed the fear filled channels of my brain.  In my commitment to recovery, I decided that no matter what I would think positively.  Even if I didn’t believe what I was thinking, or feel what I was thinking, if it was positive, dammit I was going to think it.  This was a conscious effort I made every second of everyday until the positive thoughts were coming naturally.  It was a tough process that went like this, one positive thought forward, five negative thoughts backwards, two positive thoughts forward, two negative thoughts backwards, and so on until my thoughts were mainly positive.  In the end you can’t get rid of all negative thoughts, you can just control them.  I needed to put my mind where I wanted it once and for all.

One of the things I did that helped was to wear a bracelet to remind myself of my decision to finally be free from this disorder.  Every time I would think negatively I would switch the bracelet from one wrist to the other.  At first the bracelet was in a constant dance from my left to right wrist.  It was really wild to physically see how much negativity filled my thoughts, but it was great.  It started to annoy me how many times I was having to take the bracelet off and put it back on, but this annoyance only fueled my commitment, making it stronger.  Sometimes ridiculous things can be great motivators.

The bracelet was a small piece in helping me to regain control of my mind.  In the end though you have to want to change.  You have to need to change.  Where are your thoughts?  Are they with the people under the stairs?  Take notice and make an effort to change them.

I would just like to point out too that I actually wrote this post during the day, with two of the girls awake!  Go me!  That’s like putting out a forest fire with an 8 ounce bottle of water, impossible. I just had to share 🙂  Have a positive day!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: