I have had a long battle with anxiety beginning all the way back to my childhood. At age 23, I remember waking up one night and my heart was racing. Doctors said I had “anxiety” and put me on Paxil. I didn’t take it long because I couldn’t tell it helped me one bit. A year later, in 2004, I was told I had Mitral Valve Prolapse which means my Mitral Valve in my heart doesn’t close properly. The symptoms range from palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, low blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and guess what? Anxiety. That’s pretty normal because when my heart gets out of rhythm it makes me anxious. I’ve had this for over a decade and it doesn’t get easier. Stress, caffeine, alcohol, or even my favorite sweets can make my heart get knocked out of normal rhythm. It gets quite frustrating sometimes. I’ve been seeing a cardiologist since 2008 and he is wonderful. He prescribed me beta blockers to take for palpitations.
I started running February 7, 2013 and I went 7 months straight without taking my heart medication. I thought I was cured. I had heard so many times that to help ease symptoms of MVP, I needed to do more cardio. I had three children in 7 years, I worked and even went back to school for cardiac and vascular ultrasound certification in 2009. I didn’t exercise consistently from 2004-2012.
Sure enough when the new year came around in 2014, I was injured from running too many races back to back and my palpitations came back with a vengeance after a New Year’s Day 12k January 1, 2014. I had to start taking my heart meds again. I was devastated. A month later, I was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. I couldn’t run because of my injury and I had a deadly skin cancer. This was a very dark time for me. I met with a surgical oncologist and he removed skin inside the margins of where the cancer was located. Everything came back clear praise the Lord! I got back to running soon after surgery in March.
On June 22, 2014 I had my first severe panic attack. To this day, it’s the worst panic attack I’ve ever had. It happened the day after I ran the Hotter than Hades Half Marathon. We had a stressful trip home the Sunday after the race. We had a flat tire and bad weather coming home and when we got home. I’m not sure what really caused it, but it happened in my own home. It was really scary. It felt like someone was choking me and I couldn’t breathe. I pressed on and didn’t see a doctor for it. I did not have another panic attack until March 15, 2016 and then another one two weeks later at my son’s tee ball game. After that, I did seek help, but the medication prescribed (three different ones) did not help. I experienced terrible side effects so severe in May, I almost “dropped my basket” as they say. I came very close to having a nervous breakdown.
I started writing in a prayer journal last March after the panic attacks. I read books by Joyce Meyer about anxiety, “Be Anxious for Nothing” and “Battlefield of the Mind.” I listened to her podcasts and watched videos when I would run on the treadmill. I looked up Scripture in the Bible about anxiety.
I’ve prayed, worshiped, studied God’s Word, researched,and tried to get help. You name it, I’ve done it and I still struggle some days. Just last night I felt like I came close to having another attack. I let myself get too tired and didn’t eat enough which made me feel anxious. I did start writing down things that have happened over the last few years. It’s a lot. I definitely understand WHY I’m anxious and stressed, I just wish I could be completely free from it. We recently moved to a new town and new home, my 5 year old has asthma and allergy issues and gets sick a lot, we still have to clean out our old home and put it on the market, and I keep backing out of races because I’m not able to train for them and don’t have anyone to go with me. I think having a running group or friendships would help. I have a wonderful husband and children, but it would lift my spirit to have friends. Busy schedules take a toll on friendships doesn’t it? It’s hard to make friends when you’re older and people already have their group. That has always been hard for me. I can’t quite find a place to fit in and that’s okay.
So why does God keep allowing me to struggle and feel bad some days? I don’t know, but I do know He loves me and I believe that my struggle with anxiety is going to help someone some day. I feel like I’m doing all the right things like pray, lead worship at church, take care of my family, exercise, eat right and teach my classes each week, but still struggle some days… more than I would like.
Living with Mitral Valve Prolapse and anxiety that seems to go along with it, isn’t easy, but my hope and prayer is that maybe my story can help other women or men struggling with anxiety too. I just have to trust God day by day and rely on His strength. Take things one day at a time and never give up even when I really want to give up. The love of my family and their prayers keep me going. Feel free to message me if you need someone to pray for you or just need someone to listen. Have a great rest of the week y’all!