Not too long ago I experienced my first ever panic attack. Totally out of the blue, unexpected and the most awful thing I’ve gone through. I might have to contend it was worse than labor pains. At least for that you can get an epidural. Hey, there’s an idea–an anxiety epidural. I guess the closest thing to that is Xanax.
I was going through tough job loss and I woke in the middle of the night to feel a heavy sense of doom all around me. It seemed like the color around me was darker than the blackest black you could imagine. I really thought Satan was in my bedroom and coming for me. I was going crazy for sure- I knew it. No one would believe this. I was sure if I shared what was going on I might be taken to a “special hospital” without my say-so. I started pacing around my house and saying the Lord’s Prayer over and over again. Immediately my thoughts went to finding my dusty Catechism and I started reciting text I had learned more than thirty years earlier. I sat on the floor in my bathroom and clung tightly to that little blue book for a good thirty minutes. I was on my knees, I was hunched over, I was pacing, I was sitting. I couldn’t be still. I forced myself through it and then it seemed o.k. and I eventually went back to bed to fall asleep once again. I felt horrible the next day and decided to keep as busy as I could all day long. I succeeded but the darkness stuck with me throughout the day. Nightfall came and once again something struck me. I got to the third day somehow. That evening I was attending a play and I thought I was going to jump out of my seat the entire show. Again, in the most quiet hours of the night, the darkness came back.
The next morning was a Monday. I made several calls to people who helped me greatly and I became indoctrinated to the world of anxiety. I got immediate help for the gloom and doom–that’s why I know a little bit about Xanax- and then embarked upon a course of actions to help me understand who, what, where, when, how and all that other fun stuff. I won’t get into the details. Mine are no more unique than anyone else’s. Talking with people and getting medical assistance made a huge difference in my life.
As a Christian I felt a sense of guilt about having anxiety in the first place. If I trusted in God enough why would I have anxiety? Let me encourage anyone who will ever read this to immediately free yourself of that guilt. Cut it loose. There is no doubt we are to trust in the Lord. There is also no doubt we are to do a lot of other things that we simply don’t do or can’t do because of the very fact we are human. It doesn’t mean stop growing in your faith, but be real. I’d love to be “fixed”, but I’m not there yet. Let’s go with that popular phrase, “a work in progress”.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but out of my experience(s) with anxiety some good things have occurred. Now let’s not interpret that as I would pick anxiety over a life of smooth sailing–that would be just plain stupid. However, one of the most meaningful has been to tighten the relationship I have with God. These experiences of panic and ugliness have drawn me to search out ideas of comfort that people thousands of years ago sought. They have lead me to the passages where I’ve found some of the most beautiful writing and poetry ever created in my search for understanding. Anxiety has made me psalmgirl. It’s brought me to an understanding of my failures and short-comings and shown me there is redemption from that. I am not alone. In my moments of courage and giving the guards the night off I’ve opened up to people to find similar stories and great empathy. Generations and generations have walked on this sometimes treacherous path. If I ever get to the point where I can completely cast my cares on the Lord I know I will feel the most amazing sense of peace available on earth. I will do what I can to bring others along with me. Freedom is so…freeing. I’m working on it.
Until then I continue to seek the reassurance and comfort of the words written so long ago that still apply today.
They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest; but the Lord upheld me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. Psalm 18:18-19