This is the second part of the hardest story I have ever told. It is my story of struggling with anxiety, panic attacks anxiety and depression. To read Part I.
Soon after my ectopic pregnancy, I became pregnant with my second child. I followed all the medical advice to keep postpartum at bay. I gave birth to a premature baby on September 29, the Feast of St Michael, and he was completely healthy. And I did not fall back into the pit. I started praying more, but my prayer consisted of pleading with God. God was listening and He provided me with help to alleviate some of that fear.
More Panic and Anxiety
One of the biggest anxieties I had was I would get into an accident while driving with my children. Before driving, I would close my eyes, pleading with God, and before I knew it, in my head would pop the picture of four angels on the four corners of my car, touching it, flying next to my car as I drove. This enabled me to drive. I loved thinking they were actually there, that sometimes in our hours of greatest need God provides extra supernatural help for us. I do think our God is this good.
I lived this way for many years. Praying through petition and living the life the counselor’s had told me to. I would wean off of medication, and go back on if I felt I needed to. I sometimes felt as though I was waiting for the hammer to drop. I did not live in joy, but I wasn’t feeling sad either. The medication actually made it hard to feel. I didn’t have the passion I had once had. I always looked at the medication as a tool, but not an end in itself, and my goal personally was always to find a way to get off of it, but that goal was sometimes elusive. In 2010 my friend Veronica was murdered. For the first time in my life, I began having real conversations with God. This changed everything.
The Gift of Confession
So Lord, “what can I do?” He told me that the only person I could control was myself. I can choose to love and spread that love outward. For me, this meant examining my own conscience and trying to become a better person. Did I love my enemy or even my neighbor, for that matter? The answer was a resounding, no. “Oh my”, I thought, “I have not always spread love and left people better off for knowing me”. In the Catholic Church, we have Confession, where we go to a Priest and confess our sins. I had always disliked this Sacrament and dreaded going. But here, in this place, crying on the ground, I found it to be a gift. A gift I was grateful for. In telling my sins, I was able to encounter Christ. I had a confession like I had never had before. In this Sacrament, I received the grace Jesus offers to us when we choose to ask for it.
I took a good hard look at myself and my selfishness started to burn away because of the love I encountered in confessing. Her murder was not my fault, but I would not let her murder be in vain; I would not let her life be snuffed out without letting others know the impact it had on me, and that good could come out of the ashes of such awful circumstances. Thus my journey toward healing and trust began. It transformed everything, especially how I prayed. I stopped begging God and I started talking to Him. I started to really listen to the words of the Mass. I began to pray the Rosary daily.
I was having a conversation with God. He became my friend. The thing which overcame me the most, over and over, was the message, “Do you trust me or not?” My answer used to be “no, not really.” I mean, I had faith, I believed in God, but I didn’t trust that I would be taken care of. I didn’t trust because of the suffering I had endured. God persisted, “Do you trust me, or not?” I began to see, even with all my sufferings, my life was so blessed. I looked back at times in my life and I realized, although I was suffering, there was a sequence of events which clearly showed He was walking with me.
I remember asking the Lord at the time to be with me at the time of my suffering, and in reflection, I see that He was. In my postpartum depression and anxiety, He had provided me with a mother and two sisters who, though they did not live in the state, relentlessly called to make sure I was okay. They would tag-team me. One would give practical advice, “put the baby in the stroller and go for a walk,” while the other would talk to me about how God was holding me in the palm of His hand. My mother and father came down, and my mom drove me to the doctor, and I know she and my dad prayed without ceasing for me. God was in my midst. I know my brother was praying for me. God had placed me in this family–He was there in my midst acting through them.
A Breakthrough Came Through Adoration
A breakthrough came for me when I went to some classes I had signed up for from the Dominican Sisters at Aquinas College. It was in 2011 and I remember I was still in the throws of grieving the loss of my friend. I arrived at the church for the classes, which just happened to be St. Philip, and I was not a member here at the time. I sat all day and soaked it all in. As we were wrapping up, the Sister told the class we were going to take a few moments to go to the adoration chapel. Adoration was not something I could ever remember doing. I walked into the 1871 chapel and looked at all the old stained glass windows for the first time ever.
I remember looking at Jesus in the Monstrance. I remember closing my eyes, and telling God my heart hurts so much. I just want to know that you are there. In that moment, I opened my eyes and looked up. I was staring at the stained glass window, and there in the design was the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In that moment time seemed to stop. The Sacred Heart beats with the fire of love for me, I thought. The crown of thorns wrapped around the heart shows that Jesus bore my pain in His heart. His blood dripping from the heart, secured the forgiveness of my sins. This heart would transform me and purify me. God does love me. It was no longer just a picture. It was a message for me personally. I had to stay in the chapel a few extra minutes as the tears flowed from my eyes. I went home and wrote a letter to the Sister thanking her for the classes. The message of the Sacred Heart is actually for all of us personally.
This was the beginning of my ardent love for the Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and going to adoration regularly. The Mass, because of the Eucharist, is the Source and Summit of all Christian life.
In 2011 I also found out my friend from college, the man who had held me hostage, had died. He had had a congenital heart defect and had a heart attack while running. But here’s the thing- he was in the seminary to become a Priest when he died. He had found a great love for the Eucharist too, and his father told me all he had ever wanted for his children was for them to die in a state of grace. Imagine that. Though he was sorrowful, he also was grateful, grateful because his son knew Christ. He had peace, even in living through the death of a child. It is the kind of peace only Christ, especially in the Eucharist can bring; even in death, you can know your child is well.
I now thirst daily for the Eucharist and try to at least one if not more daily Mass a week, or I try to sit in adoration. I have not needed medication in years. And I have felt a joy beyond reason. I have consecrated myself to the Merciful Love of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If I find myself getting away from my daily prayer routine, missing daily Mass or missing adoration, I can feel my anxiety increase. In communion with God, I know His joy and His peace. He is a person we can encounter, who can transform your life if you build your relationship with Him.
“This Is My Body Given Up For You”
I have now realized I can live the Mass in my everyday life, it isn’t just something I leave at Mass on Sunday. When I hear the words, “This is my body given up for you,” I know the love Christ has for me, and I can bring that into the world. For every mother who bears a child or cares for a child, she says, “this is my body given up for you.” For every husband and wife who freely give to one another in the marital act, “this is my body given up for you.” For every parent who works with “the work of human hands” to provide for their family, “this is my body given up for you.” For every child who cares for an elderly parent, “this is my body given up for you.” For every Priest who lives the vow of celibacy, “this is my body given up for you.”
I could go on, and how much better would the world be if we all lived this Eucharistic way of life. It is a life of thanksgiving that is willing to sacrifice. We should be living the Mass in all we do every day of our lives. It is the kind of living Maximillian Kolbe lived when he offered his life in Auschwitz, Felicity and Perpetua lived when they sang their way into the Arena and the Martyrs of Compiègne lived when they sang their way to the guillotine. It is true freedom even in death because we have confidence in what awaits; we no longer fear. This is the peace God offers. The world offers peace through by trying to remove the conflict. God offers peace by freeing us from fear and desire of anything but him. It is Him we receive at Mass.
Adoration is something I do to have still and quiet in support of living a life of Eucharistic thanksgiving. I have had experiences sitting in adoration. It is hard to explain, except I have felt the presence of the Living God. I felt His Sacred Heart. As the outside world swirls around us, with personal storms, and with the global crisis, I totally and completely felt God tell me, “I’ve got this.” I told the Lord, “I’m so glad you do because I don’t.” It is an experience and exercise in total trust. I feel safe. This is a peace only God can give.
I experienced that the God who created the universe, who created each unique human being, is definitely intimately involved in our lives. I have no doubt. If we only knew how much He loves us, we would all be living very differently. I no longer fear to suffer because I can look at the cross and see the love it brings. I have a bold confidence that God loves me, even in my failures, and it enables me to look outward at others instead of focusing always on myself. The tiny host we have the privilege of receiving every week holds the Son who saved us, who is in union with the Maker of the Universe, and rains the Spirit down upon us.
We can receive the DNA of God every day. This can help us to bring light into a world of darkness. My prayer now before receiving and before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration is, “make my will one with your’s Lord.” When we ask this, we can receive this. Living in God’s will is what makes Saints, and the world sure could use more Saints.