my right-now story

I don’t typically spend much time editing my blog posts, but this one is giving me fits. Praying for words that will be received in just the way I intended them.

I’m not looking for pity or attention (prayers? yes, please.). It’s just hard for me to sit and blog about orphan care and 7 read-a-longs (we start tomorrow! have you signed up yet??) and my new e-book and act like my life is hunky-dory when it most certainly is not. At all.

Today at church, my friend and pastor, Rich Johnson, encouraged us to share our “right-now stories” as a way to start talking to others about Christ. And it struck me that I have a right-now story. And it’s not pretty, but if God wants to get some glory by me being transparent and vulnerable, then that’s what I want.

Even though vulnerable is not my most favorite emotion. Not even close.

I shared briefly a few days ago that Gabe had been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. He still is. And we’re taking it one little bit at a time.

To give you some context, I’d say he’s struggled mildly with anxiety his whole life. He and his mom have both shared stories of times in his childhood where his tendency toward worry and fear was pretty evident. Ever since we’ve been married (14+ years), he’s definitely had lots of times when his regular old worry became what I’d call debilitating. But never a full-fledged panic attack. And we always got through it. Reading the Bible, prayer, me yelling at him to get a grip.

And then in October, he had a heart attack that should have killed him (thank you, Jesus, for his life). And then we had a lot of hospital bills. And then we went to Cambodia. And all five of us struggled in our own way as we transitioned back to life in American suburbia. But while the girls seem to be doing better and my depression eventually (mostly) lifted, Gabe’s stress just seemed to keep building, layer after layer.

Several times he complained of chest pains, but we talked through it, and they always went away. One night at the end of January, he convinced me he needed to go to the ER. I was pretty sure it was all in his head and wasn’t super happy about it. We spent 17 hours in the hospital for them to tell us, “his heart looks great and we’re not really sure why he’d be having chest pains.”

Then he had this amazing visit with his cardiologist who happily explained that the echo-cardiogram showed that his heart had healed so completely that there wasn’t even any sign of damage from the attack.

Two weeks later, we were back in the ER, and this time I talked to the doctor in tears. “I think this is anxiety.” She agreed and said that panic attack symptoms will often mirror a heart attack. Tightening in the chest, pains, shortness of breath. And for someone who has already had an actual heart attack? Well, I can’t even imagine. She gave him some meds for anxiety and encouraged him to start seeing a counselor.

Long story short, the weekend before this last one was one of the worst of my life. My strong, logical husband was a perpetual puddle of tears (and he never cries) and when he wasn’t crying, he was convinced he was dying. The panic attacks started coming pretty frequently (with the latest happening just last night). I hate them.

We’ve been to a crisis center, he’s started counseling, he’s in rehab for his heart attack, and he’s taking time off work (with partial pay). He has lots of really good moments and some really, really awful ones. He’s tired and discouraged. And he wants his old self back.

And me? Well. On a handful of occasions, I could’ve been nominated for Wife of the Year (according to Gabe), and the rest of the time? Um. There’s been some despair, some rays of hope, some anger and meanness, some “please forgive me’s,” some more anger, some discouragement and frustration, some bitterness, some deep breaths and “okay I can do this.” And sometimes all of that in the span of about 10 minutes.

I cried at church today. Like four different times. Three friends prayed for me (I love you, girls), and lots of people listened. Gabe’s parents came down for the day. They had planned to go to church with us, but Gabe had a rough night, so they stayed with him while the girls and I went. Part of me didn’t want to go back home. I haven’t left Gabe’s side for over a week now. Lots of canceled plans, lots of… yeah.

Tonight has been good. Except when it wasn’t. I don’t know how to be the wife of a guy who’s working his way through anxiety. I don’t know the balance between gentle nurturer/caregiver and tough love, let’s-get-better-now-okay wife/partner. I don’t know how to do this, and I hate it. All of it. I want my husband back. I want our life back.

Some moments I feel the gentle peace of Jesus washing over me. And other times I feel the hopes and dreams for our family’s future crashing in a pile on top of me. And I get mad and then sad and then I scour the cupboards for chocolate.

So. We need wisdom and discernment. I need mercy and grace (both given to me and to give to Gabe). Gabe needs healing so he can continue to move into all that God has prepared for him to do to advance his kingdom. I need unconditional love and respect for my husband. Our girls need assurance that their worlds aren’t going to be getting rocked forever. And we need to trust that God has this all in his more-than-capable hands.

I know this could be so much worse, but it’s also really, really hard. And I’m just the wife. I know Gabe wishes I could put myself in his shoes for even five minutes.

Here come the tears again. Awesome.

Thanks for listening, friends. See you back here tomorrow where we’ll discuss the Introduction to 7.

84 thoughts on “my right-now story

  1. Pingback: My right-now story… V @MarlaTaviano No way near this, but last 9 months have been rough for us. Will be praying for you! – Daniel C Berman

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  5. Ben

    I’m about as good at keeping up with blog posts as a cat is at barking. I found out about Gabe’s heart attack weeks later because of being behind on blog posts, and now this!!

    Over the last year I’ve been challenged by circumstances I humanly would rather not have gone through, but God used them for His glory and to grow those of us involved in CRAZY ways—now, through the blessing of hindsight, I can say with 100% happiness: that experience is something I SOOOOO wouldn’t trade for anything!!

    I’m scared to share music, as it’s such a subjective and touchy thing… but I will anyway, as this song has been extremely stretching… and is SOOO part of my testimony!!

  6. Jessica Y.

    I wish I would’ve read this two weeks ago. But I’m on the list of people who are praying for you. I’m going to read the rest of your blogs now. 🙂

  7. Dana Pratt

    Praying for your entire family. I’m the one who has suffered through the years with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Please do seek professional help. I was 18 years old ,49 now, when it started. Back then no one talked about it, so many people like me suffered in the dark. Thankfully I had very supportive parents. The few christian friends I dared to share with told me I was not “in the Word” enough…needed to pray more. Why this was all said in love, it left me more hopeless because it made me feel that I was bad and God moving away at a time I needed him the most. Xanax has been my security blanket for years. Hardly ever need it. I know it must be difficult for you to be the partner that feels helpless and is trying to understand your husband’s feelings. I’ve been married for 23 years now. My husband has a good feel now for when I just need to talk it out and breathe deep and when I need to take my medicine. Also about the finances. My husband was sued 4 years ago. We lost everything but our house and cars. We have two teenagers; one of whom just began college this past fall…at Baylor living her dream as a cheerleader there. Just want to tell you that God took care of us everyday!!!! Then he put an exclamation point on it by having a way for our daughter to go to Baylor (NOT CHEAP) when there was no way. Our children learned so much from this. God’s provision, faith, character of their father. I could go on and on. I am saying this because I have had to go through the uncertainty of “How are we going to live?” on top of my usual anxiety. God is good! He will provide and He is with all of you. Will pray for you!

  8. Candice Jenee'

    I’ve never seen your blog before today, and I found you via Jeff Goins’ linkey.

    I just wanted to say that I know how your husband feels, and I know how hard it is for those around me when my panic attacks come (though, with the Lord’s grace, I haven’t experienced one in a long while).

    I will be praying for you and your husband. This is not an easy issue to have come into your family, but God truly does have the power to overcome, and He can stir your heart guiding you to the right counselor to help with the healing. Though I don’t know you, you and your family are in my prayers.

    God Bless.

  9. Keri

    My sweet friend….just now catching up on blogs and….well….life in general. Scot and I were just talking about you guys today and missing our Christmas together in Cambodia. This email just broke my heart and made me wish I lived anywhere in your time zone so I could be of some help. Not that you lack for people who love you….I just want to be a part of you guys. *sigh* I love your honesty and how completely unafraid you are of being authentic and of how much that blesses others in your life. I am praying for your family and especially for protection as I know the enemy is having a hayday keeping you discouraged. I love you so much….I really do. I will be praying for you and if there’s anything else I can do, please let me know!!!!

  10. Rich

    I just read through a few of the comments and saw some that were very encouraging to you and Gabe. And I saw others that are also looking and pressing through to articulate their “Right-Now” story. I’m convinced this is the story that needs to be told…one of faith, of hope and of love right in the middle of the story…when it’s darkest.
    We are with you!

  11. Jessica

    Marla, I had every intention of writing yesterday regarding the read along. I printed out several stories people were sharing to take home and read to my husband as we do not have a computer at home. We only got through a few when I came to this your right-now story. We went no further. As I read outline to Mike I choked up at the part where you say: “I don’t know how to be the wife of a guy who’s working his way through anxiety. I don’t know the balance between gentle nurturer/caregiver and tough love, let’s-get-better-now-okay wife/partner. I don’t know how to do this, and I hate it. All of it. I want my husband back. I want our life back.” When I finished reading you entry, my husband asked, why did you choked up at the part? I said because I could relate. Not to you but to your husband. And my husband could relate to you. As I dealt with deep situational anxiety in the past that can feel like it is over taking you. I was the wife that couldn’t believe the nerve of her husband to be soundly sleeping. Or frustrated at his desire to go back to sleep after I patted him on the back for the 2nd, or 3rd or 4th time, just wanting him awake with me in my misery. (yeah, two people without sleep, great… but that doesn’t enter your mind at the time sometimes.) I say this to tell you I am praying for Gabe and praying for you. My husband as well. The exciting thing is I KNOW GABE (and thus you) are going to have VICTORY over this!!!!!! PERIOD. VICTORY. This victory for me was not something overnight. Several things helped us through this seasons that popped up for many years. But as you weather them, you will be walking in Victory. You won’t go around them, over them, under them, but GOD WILL SEE YOU THROUGH THEM. They they will become shorter, less frequent, and disappear more and more. To God be the Glory. And trust me, the ministry Gabe is going to have because of it, is going to be something. God will use both of you over and over and over again to minister to people that are struggling in many areas of there life. There is so much I want to say to Gabe and to you or any others struggling on either side of this, I trust if you need any helpful or not so helpful suggestion you will ask. My point in writing this is to let you know we have been there but more importantly YOUR MARRIAGE IS PROBABLY AWESOME BUT GOING TO BE MORE AWESOME BECAUSE YOU HAVE WEATHERED THIS STORMS AND COME OUT VICTORIOUSLY OVER THEM. Twenty years of marriage for Mike and I, and we couldn’t have conceived or imagine how God would use our brokenness for HIS GLORY.

  12. Stephanie

    I am so sorry to hear of what your family is going through. My husband’s long time anxiety has recently developed into panic attacks. I am so thankful that you posted this so that I could learn about what others are doing for themselves and their loved ones. I pray our husbands get better quickly.

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  14. Kelly

    I have anxiety and panic attacks (although haven’t had a panic attack for awhile now). A doctor will tell you to take medication, it’s a brain malfunction. A chiropractor will tell you to alter your diet, it’s a digestive problem. A pastor will tell you to read scripture, it’s a spiritual problem. A counselor might tell you to cut out stress in your life, it’s a lifestyle problem.

    May I just share what has helped me? Maybe something in here will be of benefit to you. I have Xanax and Ativan both on hand for emergencies (just knowing I have them helps, though I can’t even remember the last time I took one), as well as homeopathic remedies Aconitum Napellus (for general panic and fear of dying) and Arsenicum Albicans (for anxiety associated with food sensitivities). I first cut out gluten, now I’m doing a candida cleanse diet, and I must be honest, doing this has helped more than I can express. I upped my daily dose of vitamin D to almost 6000 IU (and C, 3000 IU at each meal). I take Valerian Root (herbal capsules) at night if I feel restless and can’t get to sleep. I sip catnip tea blend with a scoop of magnesium powder in it right before bed or early in the evening if I feel the angst coming on. I adhere to a pretty strict bedtime routine, and it starts early in the evening – lots of sleep is important for me. I certainly do pray and read scripture, anxiety or not. But for anxiety, keeping Truth in the forefront of the mind is vital – as well as positive self talk and deep breathing to help retrain my brain to deal with stress in a positive way, rather than fight-or-flight. Regular exercise, of course. Strictly no caffeine, not even decaf coffee, at least until my digestive system is further healed. Hormones can also play a role, I’m seeing an endocrinologist in a few days to evaluate my thyroid, etc. Lots of water between meals and making sure not to over-eat at meals, interestingly enough, helps. No sugar also helps me, but that’s part of a candida cleanse diet.

    So sorry Gabe is dealing with this. You both are not alone in it. I hope you can find what’s right for him and you and your family. Much love.

    1. Kelly

      Oh, and – IF you have interest, no biggie if not, I understand and respect those who decide an antidepressant is right for them (I personally am choosing not to use one right now) – I’ve heard another supplement to try might be 5-HTP. Something Gabe might consider trying before going on an SSRI. Google it. 🙂

    2. Kelly

      Okay, I’m sorry, one more thing (cuz I know you were hoping I would comment AGAIN):

      Another thing that has helped me significantly is enjoying the arts. Reading good fiction, watching a funny show, listening to uplifting music. Laughing a lot helps, it gets the right hormones and happy chemicals in brain going.

      Of course, during more intense anxiety, or an actual panic attack, there’s nothing to do except give the person his space, have him take something to calm his mind (like valerian root or aconitum), and help him find something to do to give him a sense of control – like buy a blood pressure and heart rate gadget that he can use repeatedly during an attack to actually see that he’s not dying (I often felt my heart racing even though it wasn’t), help him practice deep breathing, make a detailed list of the things that indicate anything other than anxiety is the problem that he can sit and read over and over, etc – these kinds of things always calmed me down and got me through.

      So, forgive my going on, I just keeping hoping that sharing my own experience might truly be of help.

      I think I’m done now. 😉

      1. Marla Taviano

        Thanks so much, Kelly. You can comment all you want!! We’ve got a lot to pray about, talk through, process. We’re so thankful for everyone’s helpful advice. We just have to decide what’s best for Gabe. I love hearing people’s personal stories!

  15. Jennifer

    I’m struggling to write my right now story. The pain is too fresh and the tears are falling freely. My husband has been struggling with depression and anxiety for a long time now. It has been hard and I can honestly say I understand your emotions. Satan has a hold of him and it’s a tug of war with spiritual warfare going on, not only affecting him and me, but also attacking our kids and that makes me so angry. He has been suicidal. It’s been ugly. I think we may be on the upswing again, but it scares me to really think that. I have learned that it’s all part of the journey God has me walking right now. I am growing, stretching, and needing Him more. Many times a day I find myself crying out to Jesus that I just can’t do this anymore, and He always picks me up and carries me through the tough spot. I pray that He will do the same for you, that you will feel His presence and be able to love and extend grace just like He does for us. I am praying for Gabe too. Hugs!

  16. valerie (in TX)

    Sweet Marla, Brooke said it perfectly for me: “I don’t know what to say and won’t pretend I have any words that would help,” but I’m praying for you and your precious family, asking God to fill Gabe with His peace that passes all understanding.
    Sending much love,

  17. Becca

    I’ve been praying for y’all about this since you told me about it . . . I can relate a little bit with anxiety surrounding my Caden . . . I am praying for you sweet friend!

  18. ann

    oh, bless your heart sweet girl. you’ve all been through a lot the past several months, i’m sure some really good cries are long overdue.

  19. brooke

    i don’t know what to say and won’t pretend that i have any that would help. you are loved. and not “just” by God (although isn’t that a wonderful place to start?). praying for your family now…

  20. Adventures In Babywearing

    Oh, I just want to weep here for you. I have been suffering from anxiety myself (I went to the dr because I thought I WAS having a heart attack) and I will be praying. For me, diet change (including eating for my blood type which might sound weird but it does help) is softening it a bit but not totally. And that frightens me, because I really thought someone could take this feeling away. And I know I’m not supposed to feel this way.

    (I found you thru Jeff Goins link- were you in the session, too?)


  21. Kelly S

    Thanks so much for your honesty and sharing… have been thinking about you and your family and praying for you guys today. I don’t really have any brilliant words of comfort or wisdom, so I’ll just leave it at that. 🙂

  22. Denise

    I don’t know anything about heart attacks, but I do know this…and I have learned this first hand, in our darkest, hardest, scariest times, God is there, well I mean he’s always here for us…but I have a point.

    It’s out of my darkest, hardest, scariest times that I have grown the most and learned the most. I find it hard some days to just utterly depend on God, especially through my tears, anger, bitterness, depression…but I can look back now and be thankful for these dhs times…

    I know you and I know Gabe and together you will make it and God will be there EVERY SINGLE step of the way, which I am sure you know. Don’t let satan use those dhs times to beat you down.

    I miss and love you! Thanks for being so open and honest.

    One day, one step at a time!

  23. Tarah

    Two things that helped me with my debilitating anxiety attacks: 1. Accepting my worst case scenario (and meaning it) and 2. Speaking truth to myself about who God is, and therefore who I am. The fear of the worst case scenario is what fueled my attacks. As soon as I could say “Do your worst…..I am going to be fine and here’s why…..” I could feel the power of the attack ebbing away. Psalm 139 was huge for me. I memorized it, and quoted it to myself all the time. In it is a reminder of God’s sovereignty over the minute details of our life, and that none of us is leaving this earth until the moment He designates it……and that’s when we WANT to go. Also Neil Anderson has a list in his book “Victory over the Darkness” that really helped me when I was fighting an attack. It was a list of scriptures and statements about our identity and position in Christ. Reasons that we WILL be fine, regardless of what this world (or our bodies) throw at us. I also used to mentally visualize putting myself in God’s hands. Even though I can relate a little, having dealt with attacks myself and with my oldest son, I know….well, I’ve heard that anxiety attacks after heart trouble are inevitable and very difficult to deal with. I will definitely be praying for you guys. This song came on this morning while I was thinking of you and remembering my own struggles with fear… made me so thankful that God takes us just as we are, broken, wounded, desperate, anxious and messed up!

    “I come broken to be mended,
    I come wounded to be healed,
    I come desperate to be rescued,
    I come empty to be filled,
    I come guilty to be pardoned,
    by the blood of Christ the Lamb,
    And, I’m welcomed with open arms,
    Praise God!
    Just as I am!”

    ~Travis Cottrell “Just As I Am” from the album “When the Stars Burn Down”.

  24. Cindy Terry

    My heart goes out to you Marla. I am praying and I understand. My 32 yr old son has suffered terribly with panic/anxiety for several years now and we have been with him to ERs and urgent visits to his apt. etc. etc. and last fall he moved back home. (which has really been an answer to prayer) He sat on our porch and cryed like a baby when he had to move home. He does not know the Lord (well, he did- but has now walked away) The panic is very scary and the enemy loves to use this against everyone involved (of course he does!!) Hopefully Gabe can trust the Drs reports about his heart and relax and just try to trust God with the very physical and scary things that go alone with all this. I too have a stent in my LAD, and for months was so sensitive to any pain I felt. It is normal. I wish I could tell you of our success with the panic and victorious ending…but I will tell you that you MUST stay focused on Jesus and let Him help you be calm. I let the stress of my son and also some things my hubby is going through with surgeries that went bad (long story) and my own near heart attack-I let this all get me so stressed that I have come down with a rare auto-immune disease triggered by stress they say. Stress is a big enemy and I will pray hard that you do not let it get the best of you during this time. I know I don’t know you, but try to start saying no to a few commitments, and find ways for you and Gabe to relax and talk and pray together. Concentrate on each other. Be strong in the Lord. This will also be good for the girls as they know and will worry too. Tell Gabe, that all my research says that panic usually affects the strongest among us-crazy huh? My son was a very strong-willed guy and he is very smart. Gabe should try to direct that strength to committing his thoughts to the Lord!! I can not share this advice with my own son. We only get into arguments over “religion”. I too have to give it all over to God. Easier said than done, I know. It sounds like you have wonderful friends and support lean on them too!!!!! The other day I read about how the eagle will soar up and out of storm clouds to fly above them where it is calm…thought that was so cool. Think of all the references in the Bible about soaring like eagles. I never really understood..till now. We too are in a storm right now and I am trying to soar above it all-near my Lord!! My prayer is that you both can too. I go to your parents church by the way and we met briefly at Kings Is. Thanks for may have been hard, but I think it was good.

  25. Lori Mercer

    Oh Marla. I’m not sure I can add anything more to all these beautiful words…except my personal expert experience in this subject. Terrible anxiety through my 20’s (while I was in a career that had me jet-setting around the country speaking on stages and presenting to boards! ugh!) And at that point in my life I had a guilt-ridden catholic upbringing, the 23rd Psalm and Phil 4:13 to cling to – that’s it!!! My salvation was far from my heart and lost in a dense fog in that decade.
    Then this past year, debilitating anxiety with my 11,now 12, year old. My heart broke all over again watching my “mini-me” struggle with this.
    You are of course on the right track wtih prayer and scripture.

    Just a couple mechanical tips that do help….massages, essential oils for nice smells and relaxation meditations do help calm the body physically. Learning pressure points in wrists, neck, temples, etc. Consistent running / exercise keeps the metabolism and hormones wrangled. As witnessed with myself and my son, changing diet does help. Gluten is a huge inflammatory and since I went gluten free in December (to support my son’s needs) I have felt this renewed sense of energy, mental clarity and peace….without taking away drive, motivation, etc.

    And we did take my son to healing prayer before we knew there were some biological links to his anxiety. And the scripture those wise men came through with for him were breakthrough in fighting the mental demons.

    The ultimate help for me (and I’m still fighting this daily due to my perfectionistic personality type)….just basking in God’s love for me. I know Gabe has such high standards and does such quality work, it’s easy to beat ourselves up too much and just stop, be still and feel that “I am” loved.

    Anxiety is unfortunately no quick fix, but to God be the glory, praise and thanksgiving. For whatever he is building you guys up for through this battle, LOOK OUT! I could see you guys operating at a whole new level I can’t even imagine (cause you’re already a rock star family in my book 🙂
    Gigantic virtual hugs to you all!

  26. Donna

    Marla, I cannot even imagine fully what you’re experiencing, though you did a pretty thorough job here of explaining it. I am praying for you and hugging you across the miles. I’m praying for Dave and your children. I’m praying for his parents and your peace. Your story is powerful. Your pastor was right. I cannot thank you enough for being brave enough to share this hard journey. If I was there, I’d make you hot tea, crumpets, and entertain your kiddos while you had some quiet time. Hugs!

  27. Nancy

    I will be praying. I can relate somewhat to what he’s going through…certainly not to the same degree. I went through a period of time where my heart would start racing and I’d feel tightness in my chest. Thoughts of my mom’s heart disease would make it worse. I knew I was fine and would try to tell myself that, but it didn’t help. I used to think you could just talk to someone and tell them to snap out of it, but it’s not something you have control over. It just creeps up on you out of nowhere and wraps you up like a dark shadow. And then all kinds of crazy thoughts start going through your head which only makes things that much worse. I can’t even tell you how I got through it or why it went away, but I did a lot of praying. I quit caffeine thinking that was part of the problem, but now I’m back to drinking coffee and it has no effect on my heartbeat at all. Spiritual warfare for sure!! Praying for both of you. Hang in there!

  28. Todd Gabrielson

    Hi, I too was at that fall retreat. I understand the struggles you guys are going through because I have been there. 4 years ago my wife and I lost our 10 year old daughter maria who died the first night home from the hospital where she had successful surgery. I struggled with flashbacks, shock, depression as well as my wife and son. I have worked these past 4 1/2 years on grief recovery. I have reached a recovery point from my painful grief. I would like to offer to mentor Gabe ( my nick name in highsschool was also Gabe) weekly if need be to give him support, encoruagement. My wife would love to get together with you to offer support. We are both member at New Hope Church. God will bring your through these times stronger than before.

    1. Todd Gabrielson

      I just now remembered who you guys are. You both did a n awesome job teaching us at the retreat. My offer still stands, but I would like to share my experiences with “Gabe and be there to listen to his story by phone, or skype. God will see your guys through this situation.

    2. Todd Gabrielson

      One more thing you might like to know. My wife struggled with anxiety attacks in the last few years she worked at her tecahing job. I can relate to what it is like to comfort and love your spouse even in the worst of situations.You have a good man and I remembered being impressed with him at the retreat even though I really didn’t know him. The family picture showing Gabe and your daughters tells me that he is someone who loves his family.
      I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on my book. I have my wife, LInda, editing it since this is an area she wants to get into ( she has already edited a ministry book that is featured at Lifeway Christian bookstores). I was blessed hearing you speak at the conference and I noticed that my wife read the materials I purchased for her. My wife and I love each other more today than we ever did when we were first married. I guess hard times does that to couples. Tell Gabe ‘hi’ from a guy whose nickname was Gabe in highschool.
      Todd Gabrielson

  29. Shannon Wheeler

    I’m so sorry to hear you guys are having a really hard season right now. When we got back from Ukraine last year, we went through some hard stuff, and I think the enemy really aims at you when he sees you’re getting out onto that battle field God has called you into. You guys are engaging in battle, and I know you’ll get through this by God’s grace. Also, I can relate not as a wife but as a daughter, because my father had a real fight with panic attacks after his stroke a couple years ago, and I think it is very understandable that some of that could be a very normal thing to experience after something as terrifying as a heart attack. It’s a very scary thing and a very powerless feeling to have that panic. I had some chronic pain after having my last baby, and it created a lot of anxiety and even panic at times related to sleeping (because I couldn’t!), and so my heart really goes out to all of you. I’m praying for you and Gabe and your kids, believing the Lord will guide the doctors, will heal your husband, will cover you all with His grace and perfect peace and will continue to grow your ministry in ways you have not ever imagined, in Jesus’ name.

  30. Jack Olson


    I know exactly what you are going through. I went through the same thing after my pacemaker surgery. One thing my doctor told me that made sense is that the brain creates new pathways all the time and that the more we allow ourselves to be anxious the deeper and wider that pathway gets. (the way is wide that leads to destruction) I went on a moderate anti-anxiety med that really helped to prevent my brain from building a super highway to anxiety. I always remember Nehemiah when he was faced with threats of violence he first went to prayer, but he also posted guards day and night. Don’t hesitate to get the best medication that will allow you to get to a place where you won’t need it any longer. It just takes time. If you’d like to talk, send me an e-mail.


    1. Lori Mercer

      Great comment Jack. The counselor told me the same thing when working through this with my son….it’s like ruts in the mud. We do need to and can retrain the brain out of these.

  31. Valerie Henry

    I know a tiny fraction of what you and Gabe are going through, and it is terrible! I am praying God’s peace over you and your family. It always helped me to know that people were praying. There’s no reason to be brave and buck up in God’s family, we are all broken in so many ways. Love you!

  32. Addie

    thinking of you and wishing there was more I could do… I cant even imagine having to deal with all of this – must feel like the ceiling is crashing in on you and right now its easier to just surrender to it than try to protect your heart?

    Take comfor though that “it came to pass”…. this whole part of your life – it was directed – it came so it could pass… very cryptic, I know, but I think you will get what Im saying. Sometimes, we just have to go through stuff and come out on the other end – it doesnt necessarily make us better for it – usually, we come out on the other side with some pretty rough scars, but we come out… on the other side… changed – not always for the better, but it forces us to grow. Let it change you, let it move you, let it grow you… and hang on…. keep pushing. Gabe is worth it.

  33. holly smith

    Praying for your family, Marla. Sounds like the enemy’s onslaught is trying to keep you both down. Praying for a Habakkuk 3:19 amplified strength. Love you dearly….all of you! Call or text anytime friend. Holly

  34. Mindi

    I’m so sorry this is your reality right now. One day at a time, and when that seems overwhelming, one hour at a time, and when that seems impossible, one minute at a time. Praying for y’all.

  35. Cheryl Pickett

    We have not gone through anything like this, so I cannot offer you first hand help. What I can think of though is our church has a social worker who is in charge of life care ministries. Let me know if you’d like me to ask her for any resources she may know about.

    Praying wisdom and strength for His humble servants.

  36. Rebecca

    Hey there! I’m so sorry that you guys are going through this. I don’t know what Gabe is experiencing by any stretch, but I would like to share my experience. I’ve never had a heart attack, but I did have panic attacks that came in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. God revealed to my hubs that it was what I was reading and watching, i.e., CSI, any horror movie or book, etc. I was allowing things into my mind through my eyes and ears and it was literally trying to kill me. I would wake up screaming and running from something (literally jump out of bed and start running). My heart would be pounding and felt like it was flipping in my chest. I was miserable–and scared to sleep. Once God revealed the issue, I gave up those things and the devil didn’t like it. He tried to attack me multiple times a night. Each time, my husband diligently prayed the armor of God over me and it was gone within a relatively short amount of time. I don’t know if Gabe has anything similar going on, but I wanted to share my story just in case.

    Prayers and blessings!

  37. Danielle

    Sweet friend, my heart has been there many times. I’ve left my husband at home because I NEEDED fellowship. I have done the “be better already” yelling and felt so heartbroken at my own callousness later. I have begged people in my life to pray for this man whom I call my husband but doesn’t remind me of the man I married. I have cried out with David “How long O Lord?!” I totally get it.

    Praying for your sweet heart today, that God would give you strength enough for the laying down of your life that he has called you to today. Find scripture that is balm to your soul, and memorize it; get it in your heart and mind so that God’s peace rules everything else. Love you sister!

  38. sharon

    I get it. So, so sorry you are dealing with all of this. Morgan suffered severe panic attacks for a couple of years, anxiety forever. We had a “process” when she had her attacks, crying, thought she was dying and that I was going to put her in one of those “places”. Ali knows. It was bad. We would work through them together. The worse was when she was in LA for school and called with one. I felt helpless.
    She is off meds and doing great, time and the good Lord does wonders! Hang in there, it IS tough. Miss you guys!

  39. Molly

    Oh Marla, I’ve been wondering what’s going on (from some of your previous FB posts). Thanks for sharing. May the Lord himself show up in this place of darkness for Gabe…for you…for your family. My heart is with you today.

  40. Sarah Hubbell aka MainlineMom

    I’m so glad you shared because I’d have never guessed. Bloggers, especially Christian bloggers, so often seem to have it all together all the time. What I do know is that the Lord gives us these seasons of suffering and struggle to grow us and it’s painful and hard. He’s there with you and I’m glad you seem to have some good support from friends, church and family. I admit that someone else’s anxiety is something I would have a hard time dealing with since I have an….ahem…pride issue in that area of strength for me. My mom has some anxiety and I have a tough time with it. She’s in denial though. Anyway I’ll be praying for you for sure. You should know that the prayers you have offered me in the past regarding bringing my husband along side my dream to adopt? Have worked. 🙂

  41. Dee

    Praying for you, Gabe and your girls, that God will heal and be glorified through all this….we all have those deep dark times, and God is truly the only answer!

  42. Amber

    God will bless you for sharing your story. He will use you. There is someone who just read this that just breathed easier because now she knows she’s not alone. Anxiety and pain and horror are isolating and damn us to seclusion. You’re busting out, sweet friend. And I know Abba couldn’t be prouder of His Precious Marla-Girl.
    I hope it goes without saying that your in my prayers, as is Gabe and the girlies. But, I’ll say it anyway, because I know we just need to hear it. God’s got this. He’s got your comfort and peace. And He’s got Gabe, too. I know because we’re asking Him to.
    What I wouldn’t give to plop down on a couch with you, cups of coffee made from never-cleaned coffee makers in hand, and just cry all the mascara off our faces.
    I adore you.

  43. Mandy

    Praying for you, Gabe, and the girls, Marla. As someone who struggles with a debilitating phobia, I have found Christian counseling and the book Running Scared by Edward Welch extremely helpful. I agree with others that this fear sounds like a spiritual attack and will be praying specifically against the forces of evil that are messing with your family. Also, your whole family has been through a trauma recently with Gabe’s heart attack and it takes time to recover from something like that emotionally (in addition to all you’ve gone through as a result of your trip to Cambodia). Praying that God provides all the support you need from your family and church family, that you are able to find time to take care of yourself in the midst of all this, give yourself regular breaks, and that you will not try to bear the burden of this alone. And I will specifically pray that God reveals to Gabe the roots of his struggles and fear and helps him to focus on what is true and real and noble and good and worthy of praise. And that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus who is Lord of all forever and ever. Amen.

  44. Missy June

    Dear Marla ~

    I’m praying for you and for Gabe, today. I’ve had my own bouts with anxiety and anxiety attacks. Counseling truly helped to identify ways to handle and cope with the real concerns of this world and to identify when false worries were controlling me. I use the skills I learned during that season on a weekly basis.

    I’m sorry for the frustrations. It must be very challenging and I know you will, also, be stretched during this time.


  45. Beth

    Yep, anxiety stinks. I’ve been walking the journey with our 12 y/o daughter since…October, I think. Talk about not knowing what I’m doing! We are through the crises but still have a lot to do. I *think* we found the root. Unfortunately I’m coasting – I still need to find a good therapist but all the appointments wore me OUT. So now that we have relative security I’m resting. I found one of the books I needed to purchase at the thrift store Saturday night – I was so excited to see it there! I just hadn’t gotten around to buying it. It’s a book on ADD – one of the monsters we are fighting. Love you Marla. May God sustain you as he as sustained me.

  46. Amy

    I have been reminded over and over lately of our desperate need for God grace, mercy and wisdom. Hurting with you that you are dealing with his hard thing, but praising God in advance that these are the kinds of things that God uses to show Himself.

  47. Carla

    Isn’t it wonderful how when you share your story there are so many that come along side you with experience in the same trials? I love HIS community.

    I, too, have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and PTSD resulting from a horrible head-on collision that should have killed me and my unborn daughter (THANK YOU LORD FOR OUR LIVES). I echo what others have said that it does get better with therapy and the right medication. Those are the first two steps. Once the physical symptoms calm down it will be easier to lean into HIM to calm the fears.

    Praying for your family, sweet lady. “See” you hear tomorrow.

  48. Betsy E

    Praying for you today and for Gabe. As a former sufferer of depression mixed with anxiety, I read Elizabeth George’s “Loving God With All Your Mind” which has helped tremendously. Some of us have to take medication all the rest of our lives as our brains lack certain chemicals. Please seek out a Christian doctor who specializes in anxiety, as well as Christian counsellors who will guide Gabe in God’s truth about his anxiety.

  49. ellen

    Can’t imagine all that and having to ‘hold’ it together for the family. Has he had the Pastor etc actually lay hands and annoit with oil for healing. This its a spiritual attack – fear is definately dipilitating. Gabe does not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. I will be confessing that over him and the family. Thanks for your openess — Peace and blessings to you all

  50. John McCollum

    Praying for you guys this morning, Marla.

    I’ve been to the ER twice in the last 10 years for some interplay of anxiety, GERD and overall stress. The first time, I was sure I was having a heart attack. The second time — about a year ago — I thought I was having an appendicitis.

    So frustrating.

    I am glad you guys are in a place — and in a church — where you can be open about this. It sounds like a really healthy community. It’s one of the things I appreciate so much about my church. Pretty much everyone in leadership walks with some sort of limp.

    Life is hard. God continues to be good. Don’t be ashamed of your scars or your limp. It proves you’ve been in the game. Faking health is the most damaging thing any of us can ever do.

    Maybe we can have you guys over for dinner some time — I’m sure Xiu Dan would love to have some big girls over to play. I’d love to talk with you and Gabe about Cambodia and life and anything else.

    Feeling now that I should have emailed this. But hey, whatever.

  51. Holly B.

    Praying for all of you, friend. Asking God to meet every need, and to astound and amaze each of you at how He does! Much love!

  52. chrissy

    Marla, I have never commented on your blog before, but i’ve been reading for a while. I just wanted you to know that I have been (somewhat) where you are now- my husband has extreme anxiety as well, and we have done the ER heart-attack visits and the late-night panic attacks and a lot of what you have described. I have sat awake many nights just reading Psalm after Psalm to him just because it was the only thing we could think of to help. I just wanted you to know that it gets better. With therapy and meds and time, it gets better. I know it is hard to watch and to understand what he is going through- I have felt so much of the emotions you have described. I pray that you will find renewed strength and wisdom to say an do just what he needs when he needs it. It will get better.

  53. Ruth

    I love you, Marla! God is good and he will use your “right-now story” for sure. Still praying for you & am so glad God has put you and your family into our lives. To God be the glory!

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