There is always Hope
I’m Brittany. I am from North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. I’m a special education teacher in northern Saskatchewan. I think for most of my life, anxiety ran as a background program. My family moved around a lot. My father is a minister, I attended kindergarten at Christ for the Nations Institute campus in Dallas. I started high school in Calgary, Alberta, graduated high school in Truro Nova Scotia, and went to school everywhere in between. So chances are very likely that anxiety was well founded and I didn’t actually fit in as a pastor’s kid in a small town. I didn’t have a lot of the same interests that a lot of girls have. I liked science fiction and I had read most of the books I would read as a English literature major by the time I was 16. So that made me a little different and I also had problems with my feet.
When I was 11 years old, my arches collapsed and my ankles turned out. I wore orthotics and braces and they would force my feet to redevelop naturally, as I grew. Little did we know, I would never grow again after the age of 14, and my feet were done growing by the time I was 11. So, that idea didn’t work. Eventually, the pain I had daily in my feet grew so bad that it started to affect my knees. I could barely handle a day of walking just through my little high school, to class and back. I had excruciating pain by the end of the day. And you know, being a teenager that caused, added to the anxiety I was already experiencing with fitting in. We went to a surgeon at the Alberta Children’s Hospital who was supposed to be one of the best pediatric orthopedic surgeons in the province, who told me that there was no hope. That she couldn’t do surgery that the pain I was experiencing my knees would spread to my hips and my back, as my entire skeletal system was put out of line. And that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30.
But God healed me! Less than a year later, I had perfectly formed feet. He led us to a physiotherapist who – God gave wisdom to, to know the right exercises I needed. Between that and prayer, nine months later, I had perfectly formed feet! No pain. The pain in my knees was gone. And I want to start with that because having lived through that experience, I know that God heals, and there’s always hope. I needed that later in life.
After that experience, the anxiety I felt sort of drifted away as I graduated high school. I went to university and it wasn’t strange anymore to be reading 1,500 page novels and you know, you find people who are interested in the same things as you. I still felt it every once in a while but not, not to the extent I had as a teenager. Then my husband and I decided to try for a family. Things weren’t working. And you wait the year, and then you get your referral to the fertility clinic and you start treatments. First you do the medicated cycles. So then you do the IUI intrauterine insemination. So then you do four of those. And then they tell you, “There’s no hope. You need to save for IVF.”
I had this miraculous experience of having been told, ‘There’s no hope. You’re going to live your adult life in a wheelchair’ and being rescued from that. But I had lost sight of that hope. And it’s so important that when you experience a miracle that you keep it in front of you. We see that over and over again in Scripture, the Israelites who are eating manna in the wilderness and then complaining. I had – 15 years later – taken it for granted that I am not having pain in my feet. I’m not in a wheelchair. I became very discouraged and that anxiety started to creep in again, it got a foothold.
Two months after we were told IVF would be our only option, I became pregnant naturally. We were so excited. But at the same time, we were told, it didn’t look good. On March 28 2017, how we found out it was an ectopic pregnancy and it was bad. I had probably been bleeding internally for about 24 hours before the surgery. By the time they did the surgery, my fallopian tube was completely ruptured. They had to remove it, and part of the ovary. I had two blood transfusions then I developed water on my lungs, and it was just emotionally and physically, a terribly traumatic experience. We were very much in an environment at that time where, you know, “If it’s God’s will, it’ll work out.” Being told by many people, “Well, it just wasn’t God’s will.” And you know, “If it’s God’s will, you’ll have children.” But you know, God gives life. He is a giver, He’s not a taker. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Oh, that experience was in no way from God. And that was not His will or His design.
After that, I began to experience panic attacks. Well, it wasn’t just anxiety, or worry, but I also experienced quite a bit of embarrassment and shame that came along with it. Part of my role is working as a traditional special education teacher, resource teacher. But I also do a lot of work with teachers and staff on trauma informed care and anxiety. If our wellness coordinator or counselors are away from school, I’m the one who gets called to coach children through panic attacks and here I was having my own. I started taking some medication for anxiety, and started seeing a counseling psychologist. And I believe there is a place for that. That just as God had used a physiotherapist in the healing process for my feet, that He gives wisdom to mental health professionals, to help guide people through these experiences. But the panic attacks never completely went away. I’d understand the triggers – if a place was really crowded, if it was really loud. It started to become definitely linked to social anxiety. I didn’t like to go out very much at all. Because I wouldn’t have a panic attack at home; I’d only have a panic attack when I went out. This went on for two years.
Then in 2019, my husband and I began to go to a different clinic, to seek help and treatments for fertility. We weren’t given a very good prognosis at all. At the same time, I was getting really plugged into an organization called Moms in the Making. They’re a faith based fertility support network, based out of Dallas, that really is so Bible based and that with God, there is always hope. You know, it reminded me that I had already experienced one miracle. I had already experienced being told by the medical community that there was zero hope for me and getting my healing. So why couldn’t God do it again, you know, with a baby? But then living in this tension where well, I was experiencing this hope and this encouragement from the community I was getting from Moms in the Making, and then, “Well,” from the doctor, “I don’t know what to tell you. You know, chances aren’t looking good for natural conception. Never say never because you see every 1 in 1,000 possibly.” Through that tension the panic attacks were just getting worse and worse, to the point where, by the time September came around and we were back at school, I would have at least one panic attack a day.
I had felt very strongly I needed to go to the Moms in the Making conference in Dallas. I felt quite a bit of anxiety about that process, but felt very strongly in my spirit, I needed to go there. 2018 had been a pretty expensive year for us, it didn’t look like I should be able to fly to Dallas for the conference. But, I applied and I was awarded a complimentary ticket to the conference. So I didn’t have to worry about the exchange rate with buying a ticket. I ended up with enough airline points that I didn’t even have to pay even the taxes on my plane ticket to get there. Through Moms in the Making, I was matched up with roommates for a hotel room, so I could split the cost on that. It was all just coming together that I would be able to go to this conference. So I knew God wanted me there.
But in the days and weeks leading up to the conference, the panic attacks just got worse and worse. Instead of having one a day, I might have two a day, or three a day. And then the depersonalization started, where I would like, pull into the parking lot at work, and stop my car, and feel like I was still moving. Or I could be teaching a lesson to my students and I would feel like it was just a dream. My background is a master’s degree in neuroscience and inclusive education. So I knew that that was a very bad sign and that I was likely on the verge of having a major depressive episode or a nervous breakdown. I had gone back to my counselor who confirmed that if something didn’t change, I would likely either be hospitalized and would not be able to return to work. And that was the week before I was supposed to fly to Dallas for the conference. I didn’t tell my counselor I was flying to Dallas for this conference. Because I was pretty sure he would not allow me in his professional capacity as psychologists to get on a plane in that state, let alone three of them.
The day I was traveling to get there – it is a three and a half hour drive from my house to the airport in Edmonton – it was October and it started snowing. I had a panic attack driving myself there because it was snowing. It wasn’t a blizzard. I’m from Canada, that was no need to have a panic attack. I was not able to access my boarding pass and fly paperless. So I had a panic attack about that. Turned out, I had been flagged for extra security and so I wasn’t able to access a digital boarding pass because of that, which resulted in another panic attack getting the extra security screen in Edmonton. The flight I was on, it shared the same gate as a flight going to Iqaluit, Nunavut. I was flying through 28A and the flight to the Arctic Circle was on 28B and had a panic attack that perhaps I was going to get on a plane and end up in the wrong direction. I had a panic attack on my layover at Calgary International Airport, which is an airport I’ve flown through many times. I had another panic attack during my layover in Los Angeles. I had a panic attack on the flight from LA to Dallas. Fortunately, at the time, my parents were pastoring in Beaumont, in Southeast Texas. So they had driven up to meet me in Dallas and had rented a hotel room for us for the night, which was amazing. I needed that because in that state, I don’t think I could have spent the night with my three roommates that I hadn’t met before.
Then the day of the conference, after my parents dropped me off at the church, I had a panic attack walking into the church and a few in the lobby. I don’t have a personality type that’s really good at making small talk, you know. But I’m meeting these women from all over the United States, and some I had met on virtual groups, or were familiar from Facebook, and seeing them in person and making conversation, there’s a lot of pressure I put on myself, which increased the anxiety. When the sanctuary opened, I went in and sat down, I had another panic attack and got up. I just had to go to the washroom. I had to get out of there. God is so good, the way He puts everything together, because I needed to get out of my head. And I go into the washroom and in comes my dear friend Brooke. We had met through a virtual group online, but it was our first time meeting in person – and Brooke has very distinctive short, curly hair – so I instantly knew it was her. And then that just pulled me out of the state I was in and let me calm down. Yeah, the way God put us together was just amazing and it was totally what I needed in that moment.
So we go back to the sanctuary, after having lost count of how many panic attacks I’ve had in the last 24 hours, having experienced this depersonalization and being told, you’re either going to wind up in the hospital, or on stress leave, if nothing changes. And in the first verse of the second song we sang, God healed me. He just completely delivered me from all the weight of the anxiety I had been experiencing and the weight of those panic attacks. The song was Wild and Crazy by Upper Room. And that verse goes,
‘You stepped into my darkest night
With freedom’s spark in Your eyes
My shadow fled the dancing light
All that was dead came back to life
And Now I can see, I see you clearly
You’re drowning the grey of fear in brilliant colour’
I have a neurological condition called Synesthesia. Basically, all that means is my sensory pathways are criss-crossed and one of the ways that manifests itself is I see color for everything. Days of the week, months of the year, nouns, verbs, everything has its own color. But when I was experiencing anxiety, especially the panic attacks, there was no color. Everything was just gray and black and I realized I had never told God about that. I had never talked to Him about how all the colors had gone away and my world was just gray to me, but He knew. My Father knew without me having to tell Him and He cared about that.
I felt so overwhelmed by His love for me, that He would care about that. With that line, “you’re drowning the gray of fear in brilliant color,” I physically felt like a huge weight, like someone was taking… I live in the subArctic; so we have big, heavy parkas and at the end of the day, when you take that off, it feels good. I felt like, I felt this weight was lifted off my shoulders and it was just so light, just weightless, and that was 10 minutes into this conference. I was completely delivered from anxiety.
That was in October 2019. I went from multiple panic attacks a day and I have not had a panic attack since. And just coming ever closer to understanding the revelation of how much God loves me. And because He loves me, I, you know, it’s like what is written in Philippians 4, “be anxious for nothing.” I don’t have to worry or be anxious for anything because He loves me. Even those little things conventional wisdom would tell you, you have to be anxious for, or anxious about, like, getting home. The Uber I was splitting to get back to the airport was 50 minutes late and it got us all to the airport 45 minutes before my flight. I was not anxious about that one bit. I knew God was getting me on that flight. I didn’t care how crowded LAX was because my Father was with me and He is so good and just knowing that He loves me and I don’t have to live worried and afraid.
I experienced a miracle once and forgot about it. But now knowing that if I keep this miracle in front of me, if I write it on the tablet of my heart, and I keep it in front of me and remember how good my God is and how great is His love for me, how faithful He is, then there’s nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter what any doctor tells me. All that matters is that He is good and He keeps His promises.