‘One of my students pulled me aside and asked me if I was okay. ‘You’re not yourself.’ I felt like I was floating.’: Mom shares journey with mental health, sensory overload

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I broke my neck in a car accident on June 26, 2010. My sister and I were visiting friends in Colorado and were driving home from a Keith Urban (my fav) concert. I vividly remember leaving the venue and thinking, ‘I should put my seatbelt on.’ Not 15 minutes later, we were stopped at a red light when a woman texting and driving rear-ended us at 65 mph. Then everything went dark. All my memories after I woke up are pretty fuzzy, pieced together by other people’s recollections.

woman with broken neck after accident
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

By the grace of God, everyone else was okay, and I only spent a night in the hospital (no surgery needed) and walked out of the hospital the next day. I was 23 years old and had my entire life ahead of me. In fact, the night before the crash, I had accepted my first big girl job as a middle school choir teacher in a little city called Rifle on the Western Slope of Colorado. Less than a month later, I packed all of my belongings in two cars and drove all the way from Grand Rapids, MI, to Rifle with my mom, dad, aunt, and cat to begin my new, adventurous life.

The excitement of such a large change wore off little by little. Looking back, I think I had always struggled with depression and anxiety but never really knew what that meant. I never understood how it affected me. It wasn’t until after the accident that the anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks.

I could barely be in a car without having a panic attack. I cried a lot. My new friends knew about my recent accident and broken neck, but it didn’t seem like many cared about how unsafe I felt with them behind the wheel. I ended up drinking quite a bit, numbed myself with food, and tried to stuff down the dread I had waking up every morning. A couple of years later, I found myself lashing out because of anger, sleeping a lot because of depression, and still in a lot of pain physically.

I ended up telling my doctor at my annual checkup that I wanted to be on medication for anxiety and depression. Not that she didn’t care, but it wasn’t hard to get a prescription. There weren’t many questions asked—it was just…’Okay, here you go.’ I remember feeling relieved and hopeful that I would finally feel better.

woman with flowers smiling
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

But I didn’t. I felt foggy. NUMB. I wasn’t happy about anything but wasn’t really sad about anything either. It just felt like I was floating. My doctor didn’t check on me to see how I was feeling, and I didn’t have a therapist at the time to help me navigate it all. My eyes couldn’t focus on anything and my job as a music teacher became almost unbearable. What once was so fulfilling felt like hell. My wake-up call was when one of my students pulled me aside and asked me if I was okay. He said I wasn’t myself. I sure wasn’t. Right then and there, I knew I needed to get off and try something else.

The best part of this time was that I met and started dating the love of my life—Jourdan. He was different than anyone I had ever dated. He was a good man, one of the nice ones. I didn’t feel worthy to be loved by him, and I did a lot of ugly things to try and push him away. He never wavered.

In May of 2013, I resigned from my teaching career. I loved the kids so much, but I couldn’t picture myself in education for the rest of my life. It was one of the hardest yet best decisions I’ve ever made!

woman working out
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

Right around the same time, my friend who was a massage therapist was working on my neck. We got to talking about my anxiety. By this point, it was debilitating, and it wasn’t just in vehicles. It had oozed into pretty much every other area of my life. Jourdan and I had been dating for about 7 months and things were progressing, but my anger still had a strong grip on me.

As my friend was working on my neck, we got to talking about how my anxiety was consuming me. She brought up these essential oils and told me that they could help not only my neck but my mental health, too. I laughed at her and said I wasn’t going to try her witchcraft. But because she loved me and I trusted her, I left that day with a couple of sample drams of these oils.

They worked. I started to find myself again. I got a job working at a gym teaching Zumba and group fitness classes. Helping and teaching others through exercise still fulfilled that part of me that missed teaching choir. In September of 2013, Jourdan and I got engaged! Everything was falling into place. I was happy, I was fulfilled, but I was exhausted. Three times a week, I was teaching 5 a.m. fitness classes and other days I was teaching 5 p.m. classes. My schedule was all over the place, and I felt myself crumbling under the pressure.

woman doing handstand
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

I started becoming really interested in holistic health. Taking an integrative approach made so much more sense to me so in the spring of 2014, I became a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and planned to become a certified Holistic Health Coach. I learned all about bio-individuality when it comes to nutrition and health—one size does NOT fit all. I was able to bring this knowledge to my clients at the gym, and it was making a huge difference in my personal life, too. I was eating better, I was working out regularly, I had learned the importance of journaling, meditation, and prayer life. My faith as a Christian even strengthened during this time.

October 4, 2014, was our wedding day. We got married at the most beautiful venue in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Friends and family joined us from all over the U.S., and life as I knew it was perfect. Until three weeks later when I was fired from the gym. Talk about deflating.

By this time, I wasn’t quite ready to take on health coaching clients, but I had made a ton of lifestyle changes, including using more essential oils in my life. I met with the same friend that introduced me to oils in the first place after getting fired and she simply said, ‘Why don’t you do the oils?’ And a lightbulb went off. They were working for me and I loved them, so why not give it a shot? I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I had the knowledge to figure it out and I knew there was an income opportunity. So, I went for it.

The rest is history. Sorta.

mom sitting in a sculpture
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

In August of 2016, we welcomed our first child, a daughter. It was a magical time but my unhealed anxiety came back with a vengeance and took over as postpartum anxiety and rage. When you’re pregnant, you hear a lot about postpartum depression or the baby blues, but this was different. I had nightmares. I even had visions during the day of terrible things happening to my baby. I wouldn’t let anyone hold her because I was terrified they’d drop her on her head. I secluded myself and her. I would go from zero to raging in no time flat. My poor husband endured so much during this time. I was miserable.

mom holding her daughter
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

I didn’t admit I had a problem until she was 10 months old. I finally called my midwife sobbing, and we scheduled an appointment for the next day. Because of my previous history with medication, I asked her if it was possible to manage it naturally. She said yes, but she wanted to monitor it closely. We talked about omegas, oils, self-care, supplements, exercise, and SLEEP. All things holistic. I was hopeful again, but not like the first time when I was prescribed medication. I was hopeful that I could come back to myself and treat the root of the problem not just the symptoms this time.

I did all the things. I became active again and lost weight. I got strong and ran my first 9-minute mile. I was teaching people how to use oils and how to live a healthy, active lifestyle. A little over a year later, we decided it was time to try for baby #2. We found out I was pregnant with our second in October 2018—the day after I competed in a CrossFit competition. I always say I cheated because I had an extra teammate that day!

Towards the end of my pregnancy, my husband accepted a teaching job in St. Cloud, Minnesota. After living in Colorado for 9 years, we were ready to be back in the Midwest closer to family. God had His hand in it all—we accepted a full offer on our current home and our offer for our new home was all accepted within 36 hours. Everything was lining up.

woman cradling her pregnant belly
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

Our son was born on June 26, 2019—nine years to the day of my car accident. I gave birth to him on the floor of the lobby 10 minutes after we arrived! It was amazing and thrilling. He healed me in many ways that day. It was no longer a day when I remembered I was almost killed, it was now the day that I can celebrate life—my own and my son’s.

Because of my past with postpartum anxiety and rage, it was decided between myself, Jourdan, and my midwife that I would start an antidepressant to support me through the transition of moving. At 4 weeks postpartum, we said goodbye to our little house on East 5th St. and drove away from the life we had built, the friends we had made, and all the things we loved about Colorado. Looking back, the medication really did help me. I was sad but excited. I was nervous but at peace. It felt like we were exactly where God wanted us to be.

We have now lived in Central Minnesota for 2.5 years, two of those years being Covid years. We barely knew where our favorite restaurants were before everything shut down. Thankfully, we had already established our church and were starting to serve there—me on the worship team and Jourdan in the kids’ Sunday School program. I had weaned off of my meds gradually after moving and felt mostly pretty good until the end of 2020.

family taking a picture in front of door
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

I was sad, lonely, sick of the pandemic, sick of masks, sick of singing to an empty church. I couldn’t see my family for Christmas, we had just found out Jourdan has a heart condition, and it felt like that set off a series of very unfortunate events for our family. 2021 felt like h*ll and it has continued into 2022. We’ve been struggling a lot—parenting, finances, our marriage almost ended, health concerns, our only family close by moving away, cancer diagnoses, and sadly, death.

My very favorite time of the year is Fall. It’s crisp, cool, and smells like happiness. This last year though, I felt like the world was spinning around me. It’s hard to explain, but my mind felt suffocated, claustrophobic even. I was talking about it with a friend, and she looked at me a little sideways. She had shared openly with me that she has a sensory disorder called misophonia and she simply asked, ‘Do you think you might have it too?’

It was obvious I did. I was easily angered by people eating chips and chewing gum. I would get so overstimulated in public that I wanted the floor to fall out from under me. I attended a concert in September 2021, and my body physically ached for weeks from being so tense. Getting angry at the sound of someone chewing is something that’s kind of joked about these days, but it is VERY real for those of us with misophonia.

woman feeling anxious
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

The Mayo Clinic explains it as ‘a strong reaction to specific sounds.’ But what some people don’t realize is that you can also be triggered by other senses, too. For me, some of my triggers include sounds like ice chewing, watching others chew gum, the smell of any artificial fragrance including perfume/cologne and even touching chalk. My anger that I’ve had issues with my whole life became very clear. My earliest memory of a misophonic trigger was in high school taking the state test. The girl sitting at my table with me was chewing gum, and I remember being SO angry with her that I wanted to launch myself across the table at her.

Such simple sounds send people with misophonia over the edge. When I finally listed all of my triggers, I realized my friend was right: I not only had it but had a pretty severe case. So many things of my past made so much more sense—my anger toward (seemingly) nothing, getting overwhelmed with 50 students in my classroom, the newborn crying incessantly…I was in sensory overload!

Since my realization, I’ve found ways to cope like using white noise, wearing earplugs when necessary, and practicing grounding techniques like meditation, prayer, and using oils. I also decided that it was finally time to find a therapist. I had always been nervous that I wouldn’t find someone I liked and I would have to tell my life story over and over and over until I found a good one.

woman crying because of anxiety
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

I lucked out on the first try, though. Therapy has been a game-changer for me. It feels so good to have someone who is on my side but also unbiased in their perspective of my life. While I still struggle with depression, anxiety, and misophonia, every therapy session I am adding tools to my mental health toolbox. Every session I am choosing myself and my healing.

One of the hills I will die on is this: I want to be a part of ending the mental health stigma. I share vulnerably and honestly on social media to show others they’re not alone. I am not afraid of crying on the internet and sharing my story if that means it has helped just ONE person. If you’re reading this, please know I’m in your corner. I’m not perfect, but I care a whole lot. If you feel alone, you are far from it. If you feel unlovable and ashamed, you are worthy and adored. If you feel nervous about getting help, take a deep breath and ask for it anyway.

The dark can be all-consuming. But when you find tools that bring a little light – meditation, prayer, the right supplements, going for a walk, taking a nap—all those add up to a big light that consumes the darkness. Darkness cannot overcome the light.

I believe in my healing. I believe that God has given me everything up to this point to help others with their shadows, too. My suffering will not be in vain.

I believe in you. It’s time for you to believe in you, too.”

woman taking selfie with her kids
Courtesy of Laura LaBeau

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laura LaBeau from St.Cloud, Minnesota. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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