After graduating from Clemson in 2007, I moved down to Gainesville, Florida to begin working with a two-year old church plant, River Cross Church. I fully believe the Lord led me to Gainesville Florida, where I would spend the next four years as a vocational pastor, but I didn't think that obeying the Lord would come with so many "speed bumps" along the way. This was my first time in the real world, working in my first "big boy" job, and I was living in an apartment by myself.
(True Story-I slept in the living room with a lamp turned on the for the first three months because I had never lived alone at any point in my life before then…don't hate.)
Within the first year of living in Gainesville, I had a traumatic wisdom tooth extraction experience, my appendix had to be removed before it exploded, and I had a severe allergic reaction to latex while at the dentist office, which put me in the emergency room. ALL of this, along with the pressures of being in ministry and just trying to figure out life as a 24 year old helped lead me to a complete mental breakdown.
Those panic attacks that I mentioned in the Part 1 post had now come back full force, but this time around, they didn't leave. I had become really good at avoiding/coping with the panic whenever it would come on me. So when a sudden rush of adrenaline would flow up my body to my head, I'd go get alone, chew ice, or I'd get in a cold shower, but this time the panic wouldn't leave. I was having panic attacks around the clock. I was terrified. I was so terrified, I called my girlfriend, (now wife), Ashley, to come home from her school, where she was teaching third graders. I have never asked my mom to come take care of me when I've been sick and away from home, but not this time. I called her and asked her to drive from South Carolina to Florida immediately because I thought I was losing my mind.
Following all of this, I didn't leave my apartment in Florida for an entire month. I didn't work for three months. I lost 25 pounds and looked frail and miserable. I detached myself from all my friends and those I was ministering to, not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I had to detach 'for a time.' With some godly wisdom, over those three months, I only allowed myself to be around six people for an extended amount of time: Ashley, my mom, my general doctor, my psychologist, and my local pastor. Also, I allowed myself to be around my my pastor and his wife, who I'll count as one and were/are like another father/mother to me.
I had hit rock bottom. I now understood a little bit of the psalmist anguish. I understood what David's pit in Psalm 40 might've felt like. I was humbled. My faith in Jesus was being tested...
Part 3 coming tomorrow