By Caity Loepfe
It felt like a death sentence. After years of listening to the fighting, feeling responsible for protecting my younger sisters, and constantly internalizing my pain, I snapped.
It would hit me out of nowhere. I’d get extremely dizzy, my arms and feet would go numb and I couldn’t get enough air. My thoughts raced. I couldn’t shut them off. The more I panicked, the worse it got. I thought I was dying.
I was suffering from an anxiety disorder called Agoraphobia.
It got so bad I eventually stopped leaving the house. I was a 24-year-old who was terrified of getting in the shower because that meant I was stuck to a confined space. Driving to work or out for errands was out of the question. Taking walks to try to get fresh air ended up with me running back to the front door as fast as possible.
My worst nightmare was coming true; I wasn’t in control of my own body. I was convinced I was going crazy.
I blamed my dad’s anger issues. I blamed my parents’ divorce. I blamed everything I could to try to make sense of what was happening. I was spiraling downward quickly. Life got so intolerable I considered ending it all.
In a desperate attempt to relieve my constant fear, I started taking anti-anxiety medication. Two weeks passed and I still couldn’t keep food down. My thoughts were getting darker and more frequent. Was God even there? Did he see my struggle or care?
I remember, one night in particular, laying awake and crying out to the Lord. I begged Him for help. I begged Him for an ounce of hope. I begged Him to please give me my life back.
And then one morning I woke up and felt fine. It took trying three different medications to find the one that complimented my brain chemistry just right, but it happened. I could eat! I could shower and think about my tasks for the day instead of feeling trapped and isolated. I could drive again!
What I’ve learned through counseling is that being raised in a hostile environment has caused my nervous system to frequently be in a fight-or-flight state. As a result, my brain needs to take a break whenever it becomes overloaded. (Hence the panic attacks.)
I’m not rid of my anxiety disorder. I never will be. Every once in a while it hits me, but it never lasts long. With practice and patience, I’ve learned how to manage the attacks.
When the fog of hopelessness made it hard to see, I miss all of God’s small blessings in my life. I realize now that while I was running from Him, He never gave up on me. He’s the reason I’m still here today.
Each morning that I can wake up, get dressed and head to work is a victory. It’s happening quite a lot lately. My heart is full of hope and love again. I can breathe again.
I’ve finally come alive again.
Caity Loepfe is a full-time graphic designer on staff at Elmbrook Church. She also works part-time helping her future mother-in-law start a non-profit called The Oasis Project, which helps under-resourced children get the tutoring they need to perform well in school free of charge. Caity loves Bible journaling and running in her free time.