My First Panic Attack and the Day My Husband Left
Everything was getting blurry.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
My chest was so heavy. it felt like someone was crushing my chest. It was as if the hand of the enemy was pushing me down.
I remembered once I had read that if you put your arms up over your head it will help you breath better. I put my arms up as high as I could and went down on my knees. No, it wasn’t helping. I stood up, arms reaching high, maybe I was supposed to be standing? No, that didn’t work either. I sat down, maybe I was supposed to be sitting? It seemed to be getting worse.
Sorrow was consuming me in waves. Washing over me as I began to drown in my own fear. I couldn’t breathe. Not figuratively but literally. I couldn’t catch my breath. I staggered up the stairs.
“Be calm. Be calm, Be calm,” I thought to myself as I walked into the bathroom.
Like many women, the bathroom was my safe place; Where I cried all my tears. Where I allowed myself to be sad. Where I told my reflection to be strong. Where I examined my iniquities and wondered how to make my skin look as nice as the girl’s in that magazine sitting beside the toilet.
I tried leaning on the bathroom counter, arms still propelled over my head, maybe- but no. I couldn’t breathe. I fell to my knees on the floor- sobbing, gasping, sobbing, gasping. Suddenly the squeezing in my chest got tighter.
“That’s it, this is what a heart attack feels like. I’m dying!” I thought, “But, I don’t have a will. God wouldn’t do that to my babies. No father, no mother. He wouldn’t. Not like this. Maybe I’m not dying. Maybe I’m almost dying. Saved by Jesus- in the nick of time.”
I needed help.
I ran as fast as I could in a dizzy daze to the phone and hastily fumbled to dial 911. I had no idea where my toddler was but being watched by Jesus, I hoped. No idea where my husband was but it was obvious in that moment that he didn’t love me anyway [Leah here-> It wasn't true but I made that assumption and believed it for a long time]. I needed help, there would be no dying today, not for this mom!
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“I… I… i…. i… …… I! CAN’T! BREATHE!”
I fell to the floor, phone in hand. The woman on the other line was asking me where I lived. They knew, didn’t they? Does she not realize I don’t have air left for talking?! They could track my number. I needed to focus on breathing.
Suddenly, there he was… My knight in shining armour. I don’t know what my husband said to the woman on the phone only that his hand was touching my shoulder. The hand I held so many times. The hand I loved, with it’s tanned and wrinkled knuckles. My son had those hands. My son! That’s right, I didn’t know where my baby was. And that hand couldn’t help me, that hand was leaving me.
“Call…. ca… ca…. call…. call-my-Mom!”
She would find the baby.
My husband kept touching me and disappearing. Touching me. Talking on the phone. He brought in a fan and told me the baby was watching cartoons. Good. Someone knows where he is. Only, my husband is leaving so he can't actually watch him- not ever. Never again. I'm all alone.
Don’t die. Don’t die.
Had it been hours? It felt like hours. I was in a strange state of consciousness where I was awake but couldn’t focus on anything except pieces of pictures. It was a warm, sunny day and there was a soft, morning light beaming into my parent’s home office that I was currently laying on the floor of. My older son had gone to Vacation Bible School only an hour earlier. The tree outside the window swayed in a gentle breeze. My arm that had been holding the phone was still strewn about, hanging there like an extended limb I had lost all control of.
“Move, arm!” I thought. The last thing I wanted was to look unattractive while being walked out on.
“Nope,” It smugly replied, (okay, not really) it was stuck there as an unwilling participant of my body.
Stupid arm. Stupid freckles. Stupid me for being so stupid. This was my fault. All of it. Had I married a nice, safe, boring church boy I would have had a nice, safe and boring life. Sounds a lot better than laying on the floor with a ridiculous arm.
“Where's the baby?” I wondered, "Is he still watching the baby?".
I had agonised for hours, a few evenings before, carefully writing and re-writing my personal boundaries for my marriage. Things I could live with and things I could not. I tried to put as much care as I could into them as I could. They would be the most loving boundaries the wife of someone who struggled with addiction had ever written. I imagined how my husband and I would sit down and have a loving talk about them like the mature adults we were. I prayed about it for a whole day and just knew it was the right thing to do.
You see, my husband had been backsliding. Not a lot, just a bit. Small things that wouldn’t be unordinary for the average person but were (in my mind) unacceptable for him. He stopped reading his Bible and started talking to his old friends. He was getting progressively attached to his phone. His behaviour seemed sullen and dare I say, sneaky. His attitude had turned rebellious and angry. Only three months after dropping out of treatment, it was a sure sign he was reverting back to old ways.
I made an appointment with our marriage counsellor and he suggested I write out new boundaries for our new situation and my husband and I have a good chat about it.
So I planned, wrote, re-wrote, prayed and finally approached my husband to have our productive, adult-like discussion but before I could say anything he told me he was moving back to New York City- in a month.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. NO!
God had warned me about this. It’s why I prayed so fervently for my husband to have a receptive heart. This was bad. Really bad.
Instead of being calm (I should have ended the conversation right there and walked away), we had a huge argument (I have a protective-based temper, God is working on me!). So, I told my husband he wasn’t going to drag out my anxiety for the next month. If he was leaving me he needed to do it immediately.
Much too easily, he easily packed his bags.
Fast forward and there I was, hyperventilating in my parent’s basement.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. I loved him. I hoped for him. I prayed for him. I waited for him. I was patient with him. I protected him. I loved him. Oh, how I loved him.
How could he leave me?
[Leah here again-> I feel like I should honour my husband's side of the story as he claims he didn't intend to "leave me". He went back to New York to go back to work early and thought he could manipulate the situation so we moved back there. Okay, that's not what he said but that's what I think actually happened!]
And so it is, with the nature of addiction. You must understand, addiction isn’t about abusing something but rather, it is a search for happiness. It’s filling an empty place in the soul with something that will never satisfy; Money, adrenaline, drugs, work, alcohol, pornography, sex, shopping… it all temporarily soothes a pain seeping from a void in the heart. A pain so deep, only God can heal it. We stuff our void full of artificial happiness and get addicted to the feeling of “happiness”. Addiction is a tool of the enemy to bring confusion and division, so much so that we don't even know what "happy" truly is.
My husband had the attitude and mindset of an addict. Though, he would never say so.
The paramedics came and told me I was having a panic attack. My mom came. Mom gave me a Xanax and told me the baby was fine (what a good mom!).
The paramedics wanted me to go to the hospital but all I could think was, “What about the baby?”.
As if reading my mind, my mom said she would stay with the baby but who wants to sit in a hospital bed all alone for hours while their husband leaves them? My other son was still at Vacation Bible School. I didn’t want him to come home to his mom being in the hospital and his dad- gone. No, I couldn’t go to the hospital. Self-care-who-cares. My kids needed me. I signed a paper saying I knew what I was doing (I didn’t) and the ambulance left.
My husband stayed outside.
My dad came home. He was going to watch the baby so my mom could take me to the doctor.
And then, my husband was gone. Just like that. Vanished. Poof. Bags and all.
I wondered who picked him up, "Where did he go? Where was he staying? Why didn’t he say goodbye to the baby? Or, to me? Why hadn’t he asked if I was okay?".
I didn’t have time to dwell on such painful questions. I went to the doctor. Went to my pastor. Cried like I had never cried, fixed my makeup and picked up my son.
I don’t remember how long I cried in the quiet that night but it was a long time.
There was no word from my husband.
The next day, my mom sent resources. A woman whose husband had also left her came over to have a tea and talk with me. Never underestimate the power of another woman who knows your pain. While she was there, my grandma called.
“Hi, dear. Has he come home?”
“No, Granny. He hasn’t”
“Are you sure? Because it looks like he’s in Toronto. I saw some pictures. Maybe he didn’t go?!”
Hope sprung up inside my heart. I had prayed he wouldn’t get on the plane! "Thank you, Jesus! You sure do work miracles you amazing, awesome, God-you. I will have my happy ending, yet!"
The woman my mom had sent who was still visiting was happy for me. I mean, I was still so sad for her but also relieved we weren't going to share the same story after all. I quickly found the photos on social media that my Grandma had seen.
God bless my Granny... they were from the night before.
Turns out, after my husband left, he went to a baseball game and met the whole team. He took selfies of himself with all the players.
Heartless… cold-hearted… pig-headed… arrogant… disgusting… selfie-schmelfie-you-big-fat-selfish…………
Nope. Don’t go there, Leah. Don’t go there.
In only one day, my grief had turned into full-fledged, blood-boiling, seething fury.
I took a screenshot of the photos and sent them to him, saying something about him being a jerk (probably).
He replied (via text) that he had gone to make himself feel better because he was so upset.
By the way, he didn’t, and hadn't, asked how I was- not once.
Master manipulators believe their own lies. I had no idea until I started to pay attention but it’s quite the art. The art of the con- say the lie enough times and eventually, you’ll believe it too. They should teach young girls how to spot and resist manipulation. Forget sex-ed, it’ll be a much more effective teaching tool for sex prevention.
Speaking of the "art of the con", have you seen this movie? It's one of my MOST FAVOURITES. Honestly, look it up if you haven't seen it! *Warning* I like weird movies.
Do you know what the signs of emotional manipulation are?
Here’s a non-all-encompassing but pretty good list (sourced from all over the world-wide web)!
Signs of Emotional Manipulation:
1. They turn your words to benefit them.
A manipulator has trouble accepting responsibility for their behaviour, and often if you call them on it, they'll find a way to turn it around to make you feel bad or guilty. For example, you might make a legitimate complaint like, “It really bothers me you didn't help me clean the house when you promised you would.” Instead of apologizing, acknowledging his or her actions, and correcting the situation, a manipulator will say something like, “You would never have asked me to help you if you knew how overwhelmed I am. Why don't you think about me for once?”.
Or they might offer a quasi-apology like, “Well I'm really sorry but I was working until midnight last night. I know I should have told you about all the stress I'm under and how tired I've been. I may be coming down with something.” This kind of manipulation is almost worse than no apology at all because it makes YOU feel bad for even asking and expecting them to follow through on something they promised.
Your response: If an apology feels false or if the other person replies with defensiveness or guilt-trips, don't allow them to get away with it. If you do, it will just empower them to do it again. Make it clear that a real apology is unconditional and followed by a behaviour change. [Source]
2. Lets you speak first to establish your baseline and look for weaknesses
Many sales people do this when they prospect you. By asking you general and probing questions, they establish a baseline about your thinking and behavior, from which they can then evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. This type of questioning with hidden agenda can also occur at the workplace or in personal relationships. [Source]
3. They undermine your faith in your grasp of reality.
Emotional manipulators are incredibly skilled liars. They insist an incident didn’t happen when it did, and they insist they did or said something when they didn’t. The trouble is they’re so good at it that you end up questioning your own sanity. To insist that whatever caused the problem is a figment of your imagination is an extremely powerful way of getting out of trouble. [Source]
4. [They] make you responsible for [their] own emotions.
Manipulators are ironic in the sense that they spend quite a bit of time making you feel as if you can’t think for yourself but then turn around and make you responsible for all of their emotions. If they feel sad, it’s probably because you made them feel that way. If they're angry, well, you had better check yourself because you obviously did something wrong.
For as much as they take away from you and for as much as they make you believe that you're totally incapable of controlling your own life, they expect you to be responsible for how they feel. INSANE. [Source]
5. They don't help resolve problems
Unresolved arguments are common in unhealthy relationships, mostly because they are pretty convenient for whoever is getting their way (i.e., the manipulator). As Suzannah Weiss said on EverydayFeminism.com, "If conflicts from days, weeks, or months ago still bother you even though you’ve discussed them with your partner, it’s possible they manipulated you into believing the discussion was over before it was." Try not to fall for this. [Source]
6. They make you feel insecure- or try to
Someone that is insecure is often a target for manipulators, as insecurity is perceived as a severe weakness by these liars and deceivers. Manipulators will try different ways of creating a sense of insecurity or inferiority, such as negative humor and sarcasm. They’ll often poke fun at your appearance, work habits, and even your personal life.
If you can manage to resist punching their smug face, that’s step one. Step two is to (confidently) make it clear that this type of talk is unacceptable and unwanted. Or, of course, just get out of there ASAP. [Source]
7. You can’t say no.
You just can’t say no to them. Just the thought of turning them down or saying no seems like a crazy idea, and you feel helpless and weak each time you even try to say it. You know the right thing to do is say ‘no’ but you can’t bring yourself to say it. [And then,] you justify your actions. You try to reason with yourself and justify that you aren’t being manipulated. Instead, you try to convince yourself that it is you who wants to do the favor for your partner. [Because] you feel like a bad partner for turning your partner down, no matter what they ask of you. [Source]
8. Belittling your say
Your opinion doesn’t matter. You are too emotional… (Only 5 more character attacks and you can be that pill popping loony no one listens to!). In a lousy attempt to berate your opinion, a narcissist [manipulator] is more likely to label you something bad to help himself from thinking too hard and putting up a fight. With the popularity of social media, we now see online bullies coming out of the wood works and making tall general statements at their targets. Most of these statements have no rational basis and present no alternate perspective. They are simply used to minimize and belittle the point of their target. The tendency is to stay away from logic and keep everything covered up in haze. [Source]
9. They suck the energy in a room.
Manipulators have a way of walking into a room and dragging a dark cloud along with them. They want the attention and focus to be on them, and they want to make sure everyone in the room notices if they are angry, unhappy, or discontented in some way.
People tend to scramble to accommodate the manipulator or to try to help them “feel better.” They might ask, “Are you OK? Is something wrong?” This is just the opening the manipulator needs to feed off the sympathy and energies of others. Being in the room with a manipulator, a sensitive person will feel drained and off-balance.
Your response: If possible, leave the room. Why give away your energy and good mood to a manipulator? If you're stuck in the room, envision yourself surrounded by an impenetrable barrier that protects you from the negative vibes of the manipulator. [Source]
10. The controlling person is used to always having their way.
Usually in a healthy marriage or friendship, there is give and take; sometimes the husband has his way and sometimes the wife has her way. But in a controlling relationship, the controller is always jockeying to have their way. Or they will allow you to have your way in many minor things so that in all major things, they will always have the final say. [Source]
11. They play dumb
Sometimes people play dumb in order to get out of things. They may act as if they don't understand your request, thus letting themselves off the hook. Other times, they may pretend to not understand as a way of shaking your confidence. "Some children use this tactic in order to delay, stall, and manipulate adults into doing for them what they don’t want to do. Some grown-ups use this tactic as well when they have something to hide, or obligation they wish to avoid," Ni said. And, unfortunately, it often works. [Source]
12. They place undue pressure
Manipulators will apply an excessive amount of pressure on someone in an attempt to get them to make a decision before they’re ready. They’ll often create a false sense of urgency in trying to raise the level of tension. Of course, this is all a sham – a theatrical display with an underlying motive, which is to suppress the victim’s decision-making ability and seize control.
Walk away, run away, or jog slowly in the opposite direction. Refuse to play this type of game. [Source]
13. The person presents his or herself as a willing helper.
A person that acts as an emotional manipulator plays the part of someone who is willing to help out with any given task. If you ask for their help with something, he or she will be more than willing to agree. If you did not ask for their help, he or she will volunteer to help with any given task. Seeing an offer for help looks like a wonderful thing, but in the mind of an emotional manipulator, this is merely a tactical move in order to fulfill a selfish desire he or she has.
If you accept their offer to help, he or she will express their unwillingness to help by letting out several sighs that are loud enough for you to notice, or some other non-verbal signs that let you know they actually do not want to help you with whatever it was they offered to help with.
You will notice this and tell them that it does not seem as if they actually want to help, and this is when he or she begin their main manipulation efforts. He or she will show their great will to help you and that you are being unreasonable. In order to bypass this manipulation, ignore the fake sighs and subtle cues that he or she is unwilling to help. You can also confront the individual directly and deliver an ultimatum (albeit in a civil manner). [Source]
14. [They use] humiliation tactics and use your weaknesses against you.
Once your partner sees a weak chink in your armor, [they] use it over and over to gain the advantage, wounding your ego or taking opportunities to effectively embarrass you with what hurts most. On the same note, a manipulator conveniently embarrasses you in front of others and then does one of two things: Acts as though [they] didn't realize [they] would hurt your feelings or acts as though [they] do not care that [they] did. This tool works your self-esteem down and makes your partner feel better about [themselves] — though, perhaps, [they] don’t realize that's why [they’re] doing it. [Source]
15. The controlling person walks away from their responsibilities as a way to manipulate others.
Another way controllers have their way is to actually walk away from their responsibilities at the worst possible time if they don't get their way, thus almost blackmailing a spouse, business partner or fellow minister into letting them have their way. For example, when walking away or threatening to walk away right before or in the midst of an important meeting, the victim will agree to almost any demands so as to complete the task at hand to avoid humiliation. This is a very common form of control. [Source]
16. [They] change their ways only when you've had enough
Emotional manipulators have a knack for knowing when you are ready to give up and leave them. At this point, when you are close to walking away, they will charm you and offer things that vaguely sounds like apologies, but chances are, once you get back into the groove of your relationship, they will start going back to their old ways.
Beatty said that it is possible for an emotional manipulator to change, however - if they actively seek help for their controlling ways. But she also warned that while it is important for them to acknowledge that they have underlying issues, addressing is very different than taking action and resolving the problem.
"Unless you are with someone who is willing to acknowledge, address and resolve their issues, you need to run to the nearest exit," Beatty added. [Source]
"WOAH, that's totally my life," you say?
If this all sounds like your relationship and you’re starting to freak out, it’s okay! There are resources to help you through this. Not to mention addiction and manipulation go hand-in-hand. There is so much learned behaviour that comes from addiction (especially long-term) it can be hard to distinguish between abuse and the addiction, however- there is a difference.
An abusive relationship doesn't get better- it gets worse.
Addiction-related behaviour gets better throughout the recovery process.
Be aware. Knowing what’s happening while it’s happening will give you back some of your power. You’ll now able to make the choice to disengage from the situation.
Seek counsel, this is so important. Find a professional who can help you take back the control of your emotions.
Establish rock-solid boundaries. Need help with this? Try my eCourse, UnBound Me. It’s a video course with 20 videos and worksheets (it’s also full of free goodies!) laid out into four simple steps to make loving, Godly boundaries (that actually work!).
Join a community. In the Colour Me Happy Community you’ll find a place where women understand. You can find sound advice for tough questions, have a safe place to privately vent and seek prayer support. And you never know, maybe you’ll even make a new friend!
Deepen your relationship with Jesus. Fill your heart with the identity of who you are to Him. Jesus will tell you what He thinks about you (that you’re amazing!) and build your confidence to face this head-on. Need help with this? I have a Bible Study called, The Be Still Series that will help! Subscribers get over 15% off the price, sign up below :)
I hope this massive post has helped you in some way!