Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back To December

Yep I totally stole that from Taylor Swift.

This is something I've been wanting to blog about for some time now.

The actual event happened back in December. Busy with family, I never got down to writing about it. However, its something I've thought about every day since the incident.

It haunts me, emphasizing the fears and weaknesses I have yet to conquer. I'm reminded daily of my anxiety. It lingers like a sticky film. And after all this time; medications, therapists, doctors... I am still paralyzed with panic. The defeat I feel leaves me in this limbo between helplessness and bafflement.

I'm sure you're curious about the incident.

Our local Chick-Fil-A was hosting a special kids night- Mr. and Mrs. Clause would be making an appearance. We were invited by some friends to come; and if you know me at all, it doesn't take much to get me into CFA. Add in some friends and Santa Clause, and I'm there with bells on!

As soon as we got there Ryan and I swapped glances; it was PACKED. The kids seemed oblivious, but I instantly lost my appetite (an anxiety thing). We spotted our friends, and chatted for a minute, realizing there was no way we'd ever get a table.

I (literally) shouted above the noise level to Ryan, "Hey! I'll stand in line for food- you stand in line for Santa! Then we'll just eat at home!"

He nodded and we parted ways.

I was shoulder to shoulder, feeling breath on my neck, my heart was starting to race, but determined to get our dinner. I felt like a herded cow. People were pushing and shoving. Everyone was accidentally bumping into each other; an elbow here, a foot there.

All of this happened in seconds, but looking back on it, I see it all in slow motion: I felt my knees give way, and heard a sickening crash, like plastic cracking. At the same time, I remember the sound of a Styrofoam cup exploding and being sprayed with tea. (at the time I had no idea what it was).

It was pure pandemonium. I looked behind my feet, where something had scraped down my heels and there was an infant, in an infant carrier (the hard plastic crash). He was on his side, and instinctively I picked his carrier up, having no idea this was placing me in the line of fire.

As crowds pushed aside, a circle formed around a young woman. She was on the floor, bleeding and seizing. I gripped the baby, (who I estimated to be about 6 weeks old) and started asking anyone, everyone around me, "Who's baby is this? What's going on?"

After a few minutes of pure chaos, it was confirmed this sweet baby I was holding, was the babe of the seizing mama. Along with her newborn, she also had two older children (probably Maeve and Henry's age) with her. What she did not have, was anyone else. Not a friend, not a husband, a family member, no one.

There happened to be both a doctor and a nurse dining at CFA that evening and they both sprung into action. The nurse tended to her face, the doctor holding her body in the "correct seizing position."

And there I was, in the middle of it, holding a baby, bawling my eyes out like an incompetent 2 year old.

Everything in me told me to stop looking. Put the baby down and run. Grab my kids. Get in the car. Drive home. Take a klonopin.

But I couldn't. It was so bizarre! I was pulled to her kids like they were magnets.

For the next twenty minutes I held and cried with three terrified children. We watched as their mama was being worked on, loaded into the ambulance. In shaking sobs, I was telling them "She's fine sweetie! Your mama's fine! She just doesn't feel very good right now." I'm sure I was so believable.

I had never met this woman. I didn't know her kids. But putting them into the ambulance, with an unconscious mother was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I came home and immediately called the hospital. "She was conscious and stable. Family was on the way." THANK GOD.

And then I lost it.

I called my dad in the darkness of my room, crying that weird, silent, big mouth cry, "But dad, I can't do this! I can't see stuff like this! You know I can't!"

The truth is, since the word "anxiety" was first introduced into my vocabulary (at the age of 20-ish) my number one fear was chaos; loss of control, out of order, a free for all. Obviously the fear wasn't specific to someone having a seizure at chick-fil-a, but I kid you not, most of my therapy appointments went something like this:

Shrink: "So Ashley, what exactly makes you anxious about crowds?"

Me: "Well at Disney World when I was ten or something, this lady fainted I think? I'm not sure what happened exactly. But everyone went nuts. And my dad knew CPR so he told my mom to stay with us and he ran over to help. We had just gotten these Mickey shaped ice cream bars and my sisters ate theirs oblivious to what was happening. And I just got into this trance. I couldn't stop watching. And really, ever since then, I just don't like crowds. Because you know, like, anything could happen, really.

I have come miles and miles from those first appointments. Or so I thought.

Which brings me to this post tonight.

I am thinking most "normal" people (meaning those without debilitating fears or anxieties) would have seen the CFA situation, thought "oh that's a shame," and would continue on with eating their nuggets.

I however, am stuck.

I am stuck in that stupid moment of her tea splashing and the baby falling. It's like I'm on a hamster wheel or something. Over, and over again: Crack! SPLASH! Crying. Panic.

Shortly before Christmas I was able to sneak in an appointment to my therapist down here. Just spilling the story out to her, felt like I was emptying myself of rancid garbage. It felt cathartic to let it out, and I've wanted to blog about this for so long (almost two months now!) but I was praying by the time I came around to blogging about it, I'd be in a different place.

Hamster wheels don't move.

And I am humbly reminded that this battle with anxiety will never be over. It won't be healed or fixed. It's my lot in life. And it stings to hear that.

So there it is.. that's the story.

And this is me.

The difference between me at the age of 20 (starting on my journey into anxiety) and now is that I have accepted it. I have accepted that it will be part of my daily life. I've accepted that it is essentially my demon. And I have accepted the challenge.

I will not give in to my anxiety ever again. It may knock me down for a few rounds, but never, ever will it take from me what it once did.

So while I'm woozy from a good gut punch of anxiety, I'm still here.

And if you don't have (GAD) generalized anxiety disorder you'll probably write this off as a coo-coo post/person. But for all those that do suffer from it (approximately 40 MILLION adults in the United States) this is for you.

Onward and upward, always.



Jen Hoyt said...

It's so obvious to me that you must have come such a long way with your anxiety struggles. You were able to bring stability to the situation when chaos was piled on top of chaos. You were exactly what that family needed. You were able to assess the situation, (dr and nurse taking care of mom, others standing by, etc....) and assumed immediate responsibility for the second most important people in that building on that night. I see a woman/mother who is stronger than she knows. Thank you for sharing your story.

Ashley McKenney said...

Oh Jen. Teary on a Sunday morning. Thank you sweet friend.

Foxy said...

When God speaks, I try to listen...and today he's urging me to share this with you even though I read this post yesterday.

1: Isaiah 41:10 because in my darkest hours of anxiety and depression His promise kept me going.

2: Jesus Calling by Sarah Young because it's all about finding peace in HIs presence.

3: Deeper by JJ Heller because the minute I heard the first song I thought of you...even though I don't really know you : )

God has a plan for you and through life's most crippling moments, works within you to make you stronger and become the person you are meant to be. He shines brightest through our most humbled and vulnerable selves. I think that it is because of your unique self that you were the one who stepped past selfishness, stepped beyond your own vulnerability and chose action in the form of love. It takes a strong individual to chose others over yourself. You are an amazing person. God's light definitely shines in you. Thank you for sharing your life.

Becky said...

What is your coping strategy? Is there something you rehearse or plan to deal with the. general situation?

Tamara Tipton said...

Thank you for sharing. It helps so much to know we aren't alone. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder about 10 years ago.
It sounds to me like you were in the right place at the right time. You overcame your immediate anxiety and helped those children. I am sure they will never forget that. :)