Two weeks ago Paul Siemer, Pathway’s worship director, shared deeply his struggle with panic attacks. Some of you may have wondered what Ashley, Paul’s wife, was thinking and feeling as she walked beside him during those dark days. Here’s her version.
Thank you Paul and Ashley for your vulnerability. God is good, and you are brave!
“Paul shared this week about his struggle with panic attacks and anxiety and I was asked for follow up and to share some more on it.
So five years ago, Liam was born! He was our third child, making it three kids ages 4 and under. It was the first time in parenting I really began to feel like I was out of control! And in a very typical Siemer-style way of doing life, we decided to move. Our house sold when Liam was one month old and we were in a new house when he was less than 4 months old. Just a few weeks later, in the midst of a very chaotic season of life for us, Paul experienced his first panic attack. (Cannot imagine why, right?-Just kidding!) Well, I thought life was hard having three young children, but I had no clue that some of the darkest years were ahead for Paul and I. When I think of those years, all I can say is THANK YOU JESUS for the healing, restoration, and hope that only YOU give.
Paul mentioned during the years of panic attacks that we had a miscarriage. I was in my second trimester and we lost a baby girl. The week of my miscarriage was one of the darkest weeks for us. We were consumed with grief and Paul was battling constant panic attacks so it was very hard for us to heal. I would get the kids in the car, put on gospel hymnal music and just drive and cry--nearly every day. I didn’t want to open my Bible, and I had no words to say to God, but my heart was broken and I needed to hear His promises. So I listened to songs that were filled with scriptural encouragement.
Paul is my other half and I could not help him. I missed him deeply. He missed himself. I wish I could say I was never angry, but that would not be true. Anger, frustration, disappointment, loneliness were feelings that lingered for years. While Paul struggled with anxiety, I lost my best friend. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.
But I share all of this today because God allowed anxiety to break Paul, and then the Lord reshaped him more in Christ’s image. Paul has a different faith now than he did five years ago. In Paul’s words, “the ground under his feet was put back stronger than ever in his relationship with the Lord and even in our marriage.” And the best part of this pain that we both lived through is that the Lord can take our pain and use it to bless someone else who suffers like Paul did. We can tell someone we have been there! We have such grace and love for people hurting in a way that we could never have had until we lived it ourselves. I pray the Lord uses us to minister into others’ lives who are hurting. We are not an answer to anyone’s problems, but we can tell them—“You are not alone.” I think that is an amazing part of the gift we have in Jesus Christ. He understands our sufferings. He is a Savior who suffered. There is nothing we can experience that He cannot meet us in. And when He allows us to suffer, He is refining us to go out and share His love and grace to others. My life theme seems to be about restoration. When we had our miscarriage and lost our sweet baby girl, who we named Aria, the words from Scripture that I clung to and still cling to are: “He will restore my soul.” I love how the Lord makes beauty from ashes. May He continue to restore me, AMEN!” ~Ashley Siemer