Hi Friends, Mika here.
I’m so glad to be a part of this Goby community where we are helping each other swim upstream through life’s battles. As the wife of a man who has fought for his mental health most of our marriage, I feel like I have a unique perspective that I would love to share with you today.
Here is a little bit of my story…
Initially learning that Toby was battling with anxiety was scary, but I had no clue what it actually meant. Some of the fear was of the unknown and some was just wondering how it was going to change his, mine and our kids’ lives. I had no way of truly understanding what he was feeling or going through. We have totally different personalities and handle things very differently. I did know that I wanted to do whatever I could that would help him. He was not sleeping or eating and I could see the pain on his face. He tried to explain to me how his mind was racing and the things that would turn over and over in his mind and I had a hard time understanding it. My mind did not work that way. I felt a little helpless and am sure that I did some things that helped and some things that didn’t. I just tried to be there every day and every night when he was struggling.
One of the areas that was the most difficult was in our parenting. As a mom of elementary school aged kids, I had to just kind of took over. I knew that he couldn’t fully engage, so I just did what needed to be done. It wasn’t easy. I got frustrated at times and didn’t understand why he couldn’t come outside and play in the pool, or be his normal happy, fun self. I really don’t think that they remember any of that. He did the best he could and was present when he needed to be, but it took a lot out of him.
At that time, not very many people talked about anxiety or panic attacks. As a pastor and leader of our church, he did not want to seem weak or struggling. Not many people shared personal struggles, but wanted to appear to be fine to everyone around them. We had a couple that we were close friends with and they were also going through a difficult time. The husband and Toby were seeing counselors and were also talking and helping each other with what they were going through. The wife and I were also able to talk and help each other. I could call her and just vent or ask her to pray for me or whatever. This was so important to have. We really didn’t talk about it to anyone else. We didn’t feel like our family could truly understand. All of our friends went to our church and we definitely didn’t feel like we should talk about it with them. I can remember when Toby would get up to preach a sermon, I would be on the edge of my seat wondering if he would just collapse from being so tired and shaky. It shouldn’t have been that way, but it just was. No one seemed to understand it, talk about it or know how severe it could be.
Through all of this, I have learned so much. I have learned that a lot of people struggle, but not a lot of people want to admit it. So many feel shame or embarrassment about it. Some don’t even realize what it is or that other people struggle with it. I know that just me being present is sometimes enough. I need to encourage, love and support him. I need to let him tell me his thoughts and fears and not react or try to fix anything. I need to understand that some of the irrational thoughts that he has when he is having a panic attack are just that—irrational. He can’t control that. He doesn’t want to think like that, but sometimes his mind is just racing. I need to keep reassuring him that he will be ok, that those things are not true and that I am there no matter what.
For those who have a family member that is struggling, I would say to encourage them to get help. Let them know that you do not think they are weak or that it is hopeless. Continue to tell them how much you love them and are there for them. Be a constant presence and try to provide stability and a safe place to be. Don’t forget that you need someone to talk to also. Your struggle while you help them is also a real thing. Give yourself some grace when it is hard and just take it one day at a time.
If you are struggling today I want encourage you with one thing: share your struggle with someone. Fight against the lie that you are alone. Being isolated is the hardest place to be. Opening up to a friend won’t solve your problem but it could be the step that ultimately changes your life. Take it from me, you can do this!
Gobies can do hard things!!!