There are moments in our lives that we find out later were a turning point, a change of what we value and what we find out we desperately need.
I have had such a turning point in my life as I have faced something I have never before faced…..
Horrible anxiety and sheer panic, with full-blown panic attacks.
Anxiety and panic are two words that get tossed around a lot in our society, and I unfortunately was probably pretty quick to dismiss them because I didn’t have an understanding of them to be able to really comfort the person who was using those words. I didn’t know what a difficult journey it is, or understand the sheer terror that can attempt accompany panic and anxiety.
I began feeling panic and anxiety for the first time when I did my last steroid treatment in April. I figured it would all let up when I was finished with my IV and oral treatments that I had been doing to treat an MS episode, so I just continued to try to ride it out and attempt to manage it.
But then things began to increase over the last 6 weeks, and in moments when I would least expect it, sheer terror would try to come wrap itself around my heart and mind.
One time was sitting in a church service, another would be when I walked into a room filled with people, and then sometimes sitting in traffic when I would begin to feel trapped and like I couldn’t get out. There were becoming countless moments like this.
I have never even felt any of these things in my whole life until this! I have been a carefree, fun-loving, excited, people-person to the core. I love social situations, crowds, all of it. But all of this agony had really began to threaten to steal my joy, to cause me to be afraid to go places, to be in my car where I had my first full-blown panic attack.
Even with all of my scary phsycial health issues I have faced, having issues of the mind has been far more challenging.
Having the ability to pray and talk myself out of fear, anxiety and dread of things to come as I face the challenges of dealing with MS has been key to my success in dealing with this disease, but now with this new issue of having moments of feeling completely out of control in my mind has been a game changer and left me feeling very fragile for a time.
From what I’m learning, I believe we can get to these points in our live for many reasons-whether it be ongoing stress that becomes too much of a load for our physical minds and bodies to bear, hormonal imbalances or chemical changes from medicinal drugs, not being able to deal with issues in our lives and they begin to take over us mentally and emotionally, etc. It can be different for each person.
But for me, I believe the steroids impacted me and along with causing adrenal fagitue, caused a chemical imbalance that I am now working to correct. The hard thing though is, now that I’ve felt this kind of anxiety and panic and I know how bad it can get, I have been dealing with fear of having it creep in again.
My first (and last, I am praying) panic attack I had was when I was sitting in the carpool lane at my child’s school.
I was reading an encouraging christian blog post on my phone while I waited for school to let out, and it came out of nowhere, full blast. Waves of terror swept over me, as my heart started racing and I began shaking badly. I felt this desperation to get out of the carpool line to go grab some food which I had seen in the past helped me when I was able to balance my blood sugar. Unfortunately I was stuck and felt so alone sitting in that line, with nowhere I could go, no one I knew around me and no coping methods within my reach. I had my car door open and in my panicked state, I was ready to run to someone else’s car and beg them to help me, or the other alternative I had seen was off to my right, an open field, where I had pictured myself jumping out of my car and running through that field, just to get away. I know it may sound crazy now, but if any of you have dealt with panic attacks, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Our brains are amazing and want to protect us at any cost, and mine desperately wanted to do just that in that moment, even at the risk of causing me to look like a totally lunatic. It my moment of that sheer terror, I knew all I could do was pray. I knew I must.
I remember praying out loud, “In the name of Jesus, I command this to stop.” And I said that same powerful prayer out loud three times in a row, and then the most amazing thing happened–as quickly as it had started, it stopped. I remember the exact second the panic stopped, and I felt this calm and peace wash over me. As I tried to orient myself again, I wondered if I had imagined all of this happening. But as I felt my heart racing and my hands tingling almost to the point of no feeling at all from the adrenaline pumping through my system, I knew I had not imagined any of it. I knew that I had not imagined seeing the power of prayer in my life, in that moment. That I had been encountered by a God that does not leave us alone in our darkest moments, but who is so faithful to come and rescue us.
I reached out to my holistic doctor in my desperation the day after that panic attack and cried my eyes out in his office. I was too scared to even be home alone, and so afraid to ever feel again what I had experienced the day before. He prescribed some supplements for me; things like magnesium and gaba, among others, but I also had to make some changes in my life.
Sometimes, what can feel like the hardest thing we’ve walked through can also be an invitation to something divine if we’re willing to look for it.
I have now made some new choices in life and I have found my priorities changing as a result of my desperation.
I now value peace and tranquility in my life like I never have before.
It took walking through this experience for me to see and understand how important peace really is, and that God truly desires each of us to have it. I believe it’s one of the marks of the christian life, to be able to walk in peace and to have a calm about us that is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. I used to love the rush and feel of excitement, and while I still enjoy it, I am valuing stillness in my life, more than ever.
It has caused me to slow down in life and not try to rush ahead of what God has for me, but to learn to be still and know that He is God.
I have also began to memorize more scripture as of late that I pray over myself and repeat over and over if I feel the fear of terror try to creep back in to my heart.
I have now began cutting back tremendously on my caffeine, and I barely drink one cup of coffee or tea at all.
And I am also learning to manage my schedule better and not get too busy, but make sure I have times of stillness and margin in my life.
In addition, I am also making sure that I sleep enough and maintain a good diet that can help my body and mind heal.
I am looking back now and seeing through all of this that God is at work.
He is teaching me his ways in the most undesirable of situations, showing me that he truly is powerful over anything we face in our lives, and he is so faithful to give us keys to fight back in the most effective ways possible. He is teaching me to depend fully and completely on him and not on anything I know and understand in my life.
As I have shared my story with friends recently, I have been shocked that so many have walked this same road. It breaks my heart to think of anyone else facing the same things I have, and so I share my story in hope that it will encourage someone and give you hope that you can also make it past this point of despair.
I believe that brighter days are ahead, and this is not the end of our stories.
God has created us for so much more than to live in a place of panic and fear, and I pray that you will find the same peace that I have found. I’m still journeying through it, but I am grateful to now have some tools to know how to overcome–day by day, even moment by moment, if necessary.
As always, please contact me if you would like me to pray with you; and know that you are not alone in whatever you are facing!
In closing, here are some scriptures that have helped me to overcome my recent fears:
Isaiah 26:3- You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Psalm 112:7- They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Psalm 18:28-29- You, Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light. With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
Psalm 27:13-14- I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 46:10- He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Proverbs 3:5-6- Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Philipians 4:8- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.