Just over three years ago, I started suffering anxiety symptoms. I had had anxiety when I was a child and sometimes when I was a teen. in 2007 my grandmother had cancer and had passed away that summer. In the following year I was writing a lot of poetry. I was writing fully developed poems every 2-4 days. I was working out as well and working 40 hours a week and sleeping little. I was worked up about everything. I wasn't eating very well either and was drinking caffeine and muching on chocolate around the clock. In addition, I was taking Advil every day. It's easy enough to say I was started suffering anxiety symptom, in truth, I had a full scale physical anxiety attack. I'd been at work less than 15 minutes. At first I thought it was an isolated incident. I wrote it off and kept up the racing lifestyle every day. Then it hit again days later. Then it wouldn't pass. I tried more exercise. I blew my shoulder out. I couldn't lift much more than 2lbs for two weeks. The doctor told me to take more Advil. Didn't help with pain in my shoulder and side. I tried Tylenol. Worse, I was waking in the night with a start, physically freaking out and mentally terrified. I couldn't deal with people at work. Every encounter I felt like I was going to melt down. Finally, I quit the Advil, the caffeine, the chocolate, the poetry, the blogging, took a week off and started sleeping all the time. I wasn't even near normal yet. To make a long story short, I lived nearly three months that were a hell on earth. But in them, I found a deeper faith. I prayer more than I ever have in my life. I learned how to live again. I read the Imitation of Christ. I even discerned the religious life for a time. Yup, the priesthood and finally after years of thoughts and hints in the back of my mind I was sure. I am not called.
I don't have what Marissa has. Medically I don't even know where I am. I can't pretend to know what she goes through, but I know what it is like to go through something. I remember days -hoping to get through 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours. Each person I had to deal with was a personal challenge. How good was today, how good will tomorrow be? I can control the circumstances which trigger feelings of anxiety. As a friend of mine who also has anxiety issues (worse than mine) noted, the worse thing is not that people think they know what you're going through when they don't (which can be annoying). The worse thing is feeling alone. We all experience what we experience alone to a degree. I was never alone with God but I learned even to appreciate people. I am a solitary person in many ways still, but I now have a greater appreciating for the suffering of any kind. When John Paul II said that in the face of the suffering person is the suffering Christ, I think now more than ever I understand what that means. Not every person who suffers looks like they are suffering. Not all wounds are apparent. Crosses in the spiritual sense take all sorts of shapes and weights. We all have crosses. Some of them are immense. For all I went through, I was grateful for the size and weight of mine. I learned how to live again. I learned how to appreciate again. I became a baseball fan again. I write less poetry now. I now realize my importance in the world is not how much I create. I write better poetry. I think I have more friends. I listen more. Everything is a blessing from God, even and especially suffering. Marissa, I don't think you'll do just okay despite your illness. I think you will do better maybe even because of it. You know who you are and all that God has given you and expects of you. Jesus says to us, perhaps more than any other thing in scripture, "Do not be afraid". Do not be afraid.