*You’re Invited! Join us next week Tuesday 7-9 p.m. for an evening of prayer at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m honored to be joining author Sharon Brown and Louis McBride from Baker Publishing as we explore historical and personal perspectives and practices on prayer. It will be the perfect time to slow down and focus on prayer as we enter the Lent season and turn our thoughts to Christ’s death and resurrection. I hope to see you there! Learn more about the event here.
As we continue our series of Pray A to Z Stories (catch up on all the stories here) focusing on topics in the newly released Pray A to Z book, my friend Ingrid Lochamire shares about walking with her adult son through anxiety. As one who has struggled with anxiety and panic through my adulthood, I found her story full of hope and encouragement. She also provides helpful insight in how to love and pray for someone you may know who battles anxiety.
I will never forget the first time I sat with my son while he was experiencing a panic attack. Everything in me wanted to hold him and make it stop. All I could do was pray and wait for it to pass.
When he was in his early 20s, our adventurous, confident, athletic and creative son had his first collision with anxiety and panic. It came out of nowhere. He had moved from Indiana to Nashville, TN, and was enjoying the city with all its new experiences and friendships. Though he’d had periods of mild depression in the past, anxiety and panic were something new. The first time he experienced anxiety was confusing and frightening, but it passed and he lived mostly anxiety-free for the next five years.
About two years ago, the feelings returned and this time, they settled in. By the time he began talking openly about it, anxiety had almost become a way of life and he lived in fear of the next panic attack. He began using alcohol to cope.
In one life-changing year he ended a long-term relationship and made a big career move. He gave up a secure job for a promising opportunity with a major Nashville record label. The work was demanding. His anxiety escalated. Depersonalization became his new normal. At the end of the summer, he lost his new job because of the limitations of his condition, and he crashed. That’s when he made the most difficult decision of his life – he moved home, to the farm, knowing that he needed help.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
I clung to that verse while casting frantically about for medical doctors, homeopaths, psychiatrists, counselors, anyone who could offer our son more than a prescription. While I trusted God had a plan in allowing this to come into our son’s world and into our lives, I wanted to know why.
“Show me, Lord, what purpose this serves in his life. Where are you taking him with this?”
This was my constant plea.
Had our son come home with a broken arm, even a broken heart, I would have known what to do. But a broken spirit? I had no answers.
Together, my husband and I talked about options and we committed to walk alongside him in this, just as we would if he had cancer or a serious injury. We made space in the house that had been an empty nest for the past three years and welcomed our son home.We committed to walk alongside him in this, just as we would if he had cancer or a serious injury.
Daily, we watched our son struggle to pull himself away from the depression that threatened to engulf him. He was both comforted by being in the home where he grew up, and disappointed that he was one of “those guys” who lived in their parents’ spare bedroom. We kept reminding him that this was just a reset and that he would get on the other side of it. He’d get his life back.
There’s an adage that says “A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.” Though I can’t fully understand what he’s living with, I have carried his pain like a heavy cloak around my shoulders. I would give anything if I could take it from him and bear it myself.
Many nights during his first weeks at home, I fell asleep pleading with God to release our son from this prison. My answers came in the mornings, and they weren’t the ones I expected. Day after day, I could sense the Lord drawing me to acceptance, to peace, to calm, to unconditional servant love for our son. My anxious spirit was not helping our son, and it wasn’t showing him what I believed in my heart — that God was with him in his illness and He was already there, waiting for him in his healing.I could sense the Lord drawing me to acceptance, to peace, to calm, to unconditional servant love for our son.
My nightly prayers turned from lament to praise. I began visualizing my son whole and healthy and thanking God for that outcome, claiming it in the name of Jesus. In my morning time with the Lord, I wrote notes to myself in my prayer journal:
“Healing will not come in my timing.”
“Prayer stretches faith.”“In the depression and anxiety, my son will find the God who loves him.”
“God is faithful. He will answer our prayers.”
And God showed me things I could do to assist my son in his healing:
- Stop looking at him as if he’s broken.
- Stop always asking him if he’s okay.
- Make myself aware of the clues that he is struggling and respect that.
- Extend grace when his condition limits his productivity or interaction.
- Gently guide him to habits that can help him break through or at least help him endure depression.
- Talk about things that are positive.
- Ask his opinion and solicit his help around home where practical.
- Speak of my own hope and confidence in a positive outcome.
- Encourage and facilitate “active waiting.”
- Listen without judgement and share my thoughts without always offering solutions.
While receiving treatment, our son has started a small business and set up a woodshop in the garage where he builds skateboards, small pieces of furniture and gifts (while I let my snow-covered car sit in the driveway). He’s also begun working a couple of hours every afternoon in our family business. And he’s making plans to move to Detroit, a city on the rise, as soon as he’s on his feet.
Our son is on a journey toward health and wholeness. He no longer uses alcohol to self-medicate, he has improved his diet and, while still taking anti-anxiety medication, he has agreed to long-term unconventional therapy that is slowly bringing change. But most importantly, he is clinging to God. He’s opened his heart to the faith that he had shoved to the background. He’s looking for God’s purpose in this and planning for the day when he’s fully functioning and living again on his own.
Every day, I claim these promises for him and for me:
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ “ Jeremiah 29:11
Ingrid Lochamire left a career in journalism to homeschool her four sons. When that 20-year journey ended, she returned to her first love – writing. Ingrid’s favorite writing spaces are her local coffee shop (where she has trained as a barista) and a sun-filled corner in the family’s 140-year-old farmhouse. Her essays have appeared online in Topology, the online journal at www.cultureisnotoptional.com. She also writes occasionally for her local news outlet and is currently working on her first novel. You can connect with Ingrid online through her blog www.ingridsjourney.com, as well as on twitter @ingridlochamire and on Facebook.