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How ABC’s Linsey Davis Overcame Anxiety

She was a TV journalist with a new baby and a happy marriage, but she struggled with anxiety after being diagnosed with preeclampsia

Linsey Davis and her son, Ayden

I sat in the rocker in our bedroom staring at the blood pressure monitor, dreading what the numbers would say. I could hear my mom cooing in the other room, cradling my newborn son, Ayden. It should have been the happiest time of our lives. A baby boy in perfect health. My husband, Paul, and I were blessed, richly blessed. But I couldn’t see it that way.

I was so afraid I wouldn’t live long enough to see Ayden’s first birthday. Any day now, I could die, I thought. I couldn’t turn off the negative tape playing in my thoughts. My head throbbed; my heart raced. Here I was home, finally home, and I felt as if I were millions of miles away, trapped in fear. “I want my wife back,” Paul had said. I wanted my old self back too, the relentless, intrepid woman I used to be, the news reporter, the broadcaster who never hesitated to ask a subject a difficult question on live TV. Now I trembled at greeting each day.

If only I could just find a way to retrain my thoughts. To keep them from veering off into this pervasive negativity.

I gazed at the bookshelf across the room. There was an old paperback Bible, a read-in-one-year version that had been my constant companion in the early days of my career, when I worked at local stations in Michigan and Indiana. Before I got my job as a national news correspondent for ABC, I went through that Bible three times, marking and underlining favorite passages. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Troubles? My return from the hospital had been delayed by six days. Preeclampsia, the doctors said, a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure. I thought it happened to women during their pregnancy, not after they delivered a healthy child. All seemed to have gone well, and I was thrilled to have my son in my arms. “You should be able to go home in 24 hours,” the doctor had said at first.

She came back 10 minutes later. “Your blood pressure is too high,” she said. “You need to stay here until it goes down. How does your head feel?”

As if someone were hammering inside. The hospital staff gave me medication and kept checking my blood pressure. The numbers were dangerously high. Paul stayed at my bedside as Ayden slept in an Isolette nearby; my mom kept vigil. I was sure she was praying. I’d grown up in a church-every- Sunday-morning, prayers-at-bedtime family. How well I remembered seeing my grandparents kneel by their beds at night, holding hands, saying their prayers.

I wished I could go home. But day after day, the numbers didn’t budge. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

On Day Four, I read an article about white-coat hypertension—how your blood pressure can go up in a hospital or a doctor’s office, when a “white coat” is checking it. The reporter in me latched on to the new info. This had to be the explanation for my situation. “I’m sure my blood pressure will go down once I go home,” I told the doctor. She looked at me skeptically. “It’s the stress of being in the hospital,” I said.

“If you need to come back,” she warned, “you won’t be able to bring Ayden with you.”

“I’ll be fine.”

On Day Six, the number on the monitor in the hospital was only one digit above the okay zone. The hospital let me go. With the promise that I would monitor myself at home three times a day and alert my doctor if there was any rise in my blood pressure.

I wanted to be happy in our car on the way home, Ayden strapped in a carrier next to me, Paul driving and my mom in the passenger seat. All I felt was fear. I grew certain I’d collapse from a stroke. I couldn’t reason with myself. Even Scripture wasn’t helping. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Paul and I had met at a charity benefit at New York’s Plaza Hotel, where I was speaking. My cousin had been trying to set us up for months. “There’s this great guy I know from church,” she said. “He’d be perfect for you.” I was already dating someone. I didn’t need to meet this friend of hers. But she put together a table at this event. Who should be sitting next to me? That nice guy from her church. Paul. We chatted some. Okay, he was nice.

It might have gone no further than that but, at the end of the evening, we stood outside, trying to catch a cab. I should explain something. You can always get a cab at the Plaza. But for some reason, not one appeared. So Paul and I talked. And talked some more. More than 20 minutes went by before a single yellow cab pulled up.

“You take it,” he said gallantly.

“No, you take it,” I said.

“Shall we share it?” he asked.

The rest is history. I ended things with the guy I was seeing. Paul and I started dating and fell madly in love. He proposed and we walked down the aisle together as though God had orchestrated it all. Through my cousin. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

If only the Lord could engineer something like that now.

I got up from the rocker and pulled that tattered, dog-eared Bible off the shelf. I sat down again, opening to a page at random, my eyes fixing on a verse. I can’t even tell you which verse it was, but it was one I loved, one of those passages I had underlined, starred or circled. I took in the words, letting them wash over me, repeating them to myself. They silenced all the negativity in my head. At least for the time being.

For days this became my habit. Whenever the fears assaulted me, I’d pick up my Bible, look for a verse and meditate on it. My blood pressure didn’t go down immediately, my anxiety didn’t disappear at once, but the routine became my medicine, as crucial for me as the pills the doctor had prescribed. Paul and I would kneel beside our bed—as my grandparents had done—hold hands and pray. Pray that I would return.

One day, I was in the rocker, the Bible in my lap. I lingered over Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.…” I looked up from the pages and saw the room with new eyes. It’s me. I’m okay. I was myself again. As if to prove it, my blood pressure finally went down and stayed down.

“Your mom’s here,” I told Ayden. “Your wife’s back,” I said to Paul.

I took the full three-and-a-half month maternity leave from work and returned, full of joy at being back on the beat, so many words of Scripture still with me. Ayden is now a rambunctious four-year-old. Not long ago he asked, “Mommy, does God open flowers?” I started telling him a story about the world God created. I ended up writing a children’s book, The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings, with a boy that looks just like him (and a little girl he gives different names to every time we read it).

The first sentence? This is the day the Lord has made. It is. Every day

For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Guideposts magazine.

Linsey Davis’s children’s book, The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings is available wherever books are sold.

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