5 months earlier, my husband and I closed on a house in rural Colorado. We joked with friends about moving to our little house on the prairie. It seemed like a dream come true.
Nearly 35 acres of open land. We could build a homestead and create a home for our growing family. I had my son 3 weeks after we moved in. We had a manufactured home made to order for us. We even had fiber optic internet. Everything seemed perfect, accounted for.
But we were alone. I mean desperately and completely alone.
If you haven’t heard of prairie madness, it’s an illness that swept through the great plains and consumed many early pioneers.
Women were especially susceptible to it since they had to take care of things at home. There were fewer chances for them to leave the homestead.
The isolation and harsh environment literally drove them mad.
While I had more access to society than the early pioneer women, it was a dramatic change from my apartment 5 minutes from the grocery and 10 minutes from downtown.
At first, the isolation was part of its charm. It wasn’t until after months of long hours in the car, thousands hundreds of miles that our nerves started to fray. It took an entire day to get groceries with my son. If I forgot something that meant 2 more hours in the car, 80 miles roundtrip.
There were whole weeks when I didn’t venture beyond my backdoor. The thought of rattlesnakes in the tall grass kept me on our patch of mud.
My husband worked over 50 hours a week, not including his commute or the extra travel involved in his job. He was gone for around 12 hours a day 6 days a week. By the time he came home, it was time for me to grab 4 hours of sleep while he watched our newborn son.
I was well and truly alone.
The reason he had to work so much was because of the other layer to our horror on the prairie.
We Were Drowning in Debt
Our little dream wasn’t cheap. We were over $250,000 in debt and sinking more every month as we maxed out credit cards to cover our bills. Everything in our checking account went to that mortgage.
The spring before our move, I stopped working to be a stay-at-home mom. It was my dream. And it almost destroyed us financially.
By November, I pulled my head out of the ground and saw how deep in the red we were. I got a job. After paying for childcare, I only took home around $200 a week. It was embarrassing.
I had no idea how we were going to pay the mortgage next month and I was terrified.
Black Friday Was Blacker Than Usual This Year
Then Black Friday happened.
My grandfather was in hospice after being diagnosed with cancer. We knew it was only a matter of time, even though he talked about what he would do “when he got out.”
He knew about our dire finances and wanted to help when he got out. I wanted him not to worry.
That afternoon, I found out he was gone. He wasn’t the first person I lost. But being on the other side of the country from him and not saying goodbye was new. My sibling was in a frenzy arranging the funeral while I sat on my muddy prairie in the silence.
I knew I had to go back. He’d appointed me his executor years before. We talked about it on our weekly phone calls. He always wanted to make sure I would still fly back to Ohio when the time came.
Then I Heard The Screeching
In the midst of grief, I heard a horrifying screech. I knew what it was immediately. But I still looked outside.
The shed my husband and I had poured nearly $1,000 into constructing was flying around the yard in pieces. That brutal prairie wind had torn it to shreds like it was made of paper.
I was home alone with my son and started to panic. Our property was right off the highway, nothing stood between us and the road. The sheets of stainless steel were flying right at it.
After depositing my son into his crib, I ran outside. In the wind, I wrestled with the metal sheets. I desperately pushed forward, trying to get to the dumpster. The wind kept catching on the flat sheets and dragging me further away. A few times, I started to lift off the ground.
Someone could die. That was the only thought in my mind. After half an hour and many scrapes and bruises later, I went inside. Defeated. I called my husband. When we talked, I realized I could have died that day. The amount of debris flying around the yard and high winds would have been fatal to anyone in their path., including me.
Three weeks later I was on a plane back home to Ohio, my son in my arms. I never looked back.
There’s No Place Like Home
We moved into my childhood home. We’ve been here nearly a year now. Whenever we talk about Colorado or that house on the prairie, it’s in a state of disbelief. “Did that really happen?”
It took death and destruction for me to reach my breaking point. I ignored my health, the prairie madness, and the empty bank accounts. Things might be different if we’d come home sooner. My son could’ve met my grandfather if I’d come home sooner.
When those thoughts come up, I always remember. I’m home now. And I never have to live on the prairie again. That’s what matters.
The Healing Touch of Home
Anxiety and depression were my bunkmates out on that desolate landscape. Panic attacks plagued me on a daily basis. Moving back home to Ohio didn’t make all those problems disappear overnight.
I’m still recovering from the experience and some things can still trigger panic attacks. For example, credit cards.
There are countless ways to combat anxiety and depression. Panic attacks can be a little trickier. Here’s what’s worked for me.
- Not using credit cards
- Meditating for at least 5 minutes in the morning
- Writing three pages first thing in the morning
- Practicing mindfulness whenever possible
- Mindful breathing exercises
- Minimalism with a focus on family
These are just a few of the ways I cope with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. There is no cure-all for any of those diagnoses, unfortunately. But if you take your head out of the ground and realize what’s going on. That’s the first step towards keeping them in check. Don’t let panic take control like I did.
Have you met your breaking point?