For a sister of Christ of a Sister in Christ.
I think it was two weeks ago. The worst panic attack I have ever had. My chest got tight. I gasped for breath and found none. I shut myself in my bathroom, went to my knees and sobbed, or tried to. I began to think my throat was shut for good. I was dying… no. I was fine. I would be fine. I had to hold onto my sanity. I had to calm down. I listened to my pounding heart and freaked out more. The tightness in my chest controlled and drove my thoughts. I kept thinking “I know what this is, I need to STOP IT.” Stop wondering if I was having a heart attack, stop dry heaving (retching) over the toilet and get past this moment. It is just so hard to focus when you are struggling to breath.
I had to stop my thinking. I had a meeting in a new location the next morning. I was terrified. I have become anxious and easily terrified since graduating. Sometimes my fear of… well I don’t know what I am afraid of but it keeps me from going to the store or out by myself. My head was throbbing but knowing what was happening calmed me enough to let me get in some air. Another gasp, more air. I started taking steady shallow gasps. I was going to be okay. People drive to places they have never been before all the time. I wasn’t going to choke on my snot and tears. I was going to get up in the morning and go to a meeting and everything would be just fine!
I had been trying so hard. I wrote the Google directions down twice. I used Google earth to look at the streets. But I felt helpless. No one else seemed to think what I was trying to do was ridiculous and impossible. As I looked at maps I isolated myself from my roommates. I decided for them that they didn’t understand. The place I wanted to go wasn’t clear on the street. I only really knew what the things around it looked like. Worst of all, I had to do t myself. Anything could go wrong. I could get lost and have to pull over and have an embarrassing attack. Worst of all, I might have to confess that I am afraid of a very normal thing. Going to a meeting that is a whole 11 minutes. I think that is the worst part about panics. That they are embarrassing and make you feel trapped. I can’t live my life because I am afraid of doing ordinary, everyday tasks and you feel out of control of your own life. It sucks.
If you have panic attacks then you understand. If not, you can imagine. We have all had anxiety and felt out of control. Lately I have had that in overwhelming amounts whenever something changes my schedule, a new task is asked of me or I have to go somewhere new. I don’t have an answer for how I will get past this. It seems to be getting worse and I don’t know why it started. My plan is to tackle it like I did my depression. Cling to hope and struggle to adapt. Be thankful for all the kindness people show me. I know when I finally calmed and went to go to bed my roommate came and reassured me that I was normal and I could have a full life. She is a saint. I really mean that, God made her His saint. She is my sister in Christ. She can love me sacrificially and she did. I am so glad I received comfort from her. Comfort is hard after an attack.
I think these attacks might be suppressed from my senior year of college. Or at least I joke that they are! I love my job, my middle school and high school groups, my home and the life I am planning with Chris. I may have already bitten off more than I can chew. Who knows, with prayer maybe I will learn what size of plate I can handle. Not what other people handle. I can find a balance. I can decide that a full time job and youth group once a month with planning a wedding is enough. But I haven’t reached the point to start sacrificing yet. I am ready to change how I view my struggle right now.
“Do not be anxious in anything” is a comforting command. At this moment I feel the peace of it. I understand the life that my Father wants for me. One without worry. My Bible addresses anxiety, let me share with you:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV).
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7) (Also seePsalm 55:22-23)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV). (Also see Matthew 6:25-34)
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).
“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
The apostle Paul found his strength in God, He reminds us that, “I …have …been in prison …frequently, been flogged …severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. …I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. …Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. …I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. …[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).
“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)
Like my housemate, my God cares for me. I can give Him my anxiety by quiet times, devotion and thinking about what I know of Him. Other people might need the help of meds or therapist to get here. No shame in that. I needed that for my depression for awhile. When I start panicking I pull on the Truth. Nothing can touch me. There is no fear in me. Perfect love has cast it out. When I am weak, He is strong. He gives me straighten. For the day and for eternity. Even if my understanding doesn’t make ends meet, His will! I will give Him prayers, praises and thanks. When I think on Him I will not panic. The spiral that lead to panicking stop in their tracks IF I cling to Him. If I do not cling tightly enough and I start to panicking I can get out of it by calling on me. He has delivered me every time. He will do the same for you.
That being said please get to the root of your issues. Get good sleep, eat well, know your limits, exercise, talk it out. Do all you need to to live well and leave panic where it belongs. It doesn’t belong in me. It doesn’t belong in someone who has been promised by the God of the universe that he has this handled. Turn your eyes off of your fear and cast them onto Jesus and the hope He has given to us. It’s a fight you can win with Jesus at your side. Honest. A fight, but one worth picking. Most days I can go to the store if I need to. I can live my life if I fight my panic and don’t let it rule over me.
Here is my prayer for you if you are downcast or anxious:
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).