As I sit here and write, my hands are shaking. I’m actually writing because the best thing to do in these situations is to try and take my mind off of it. The image above came across my Facebook feed, and I thought it time to be transparent about this one part of me that doesn’t seem to heal. You see, I woke up this morning having a panic attack. I don’t get them quite as often these days, but even as few as 4 years ago, they were a part of my every day life. As I write, my eyes fill with tears because of how this disorder/disease has affected some of the most precious times in my life.
They started my senior year of college. It was my last semester. I was studying sometimes over 8-9 hours per day. (Nursing school is no joke…at least not at Clemson). My brain is a little odd in that I have a photographic memory. So when I would lay my head down to sleep, my mind just wouldn’t shut off. It just kept reading my notes over and over all night long. This went on for days. No sleep. Something inside my mind just broke. I went to a doctor who prescribed sleeping pills. She then scared me half to death about taking them, because they were habit forming. So every time I took one, anxiety crept in again. It became this endless circle of fear that I couldn’t break out of.
I prayed. I spoke God’s words over myself. I had others pray over me. Some people told me that I obviously didn’t trust God enough, that being anxious is sinful. Does anyone really trust God enough? We try, but we all have our doubts. God is gracious to us.
It went on for months like this until one evening as my husband and I were at a friend’s house, it felt like a mountain had collapsed over my entire body. As I tried to carry the weight of it, I crumbled. My eyes became fixed, but they could not see. My face turned beet red, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I spent all night in the emergency room that night, and when I finally was able to see a doctor, he gave me a tiny little pill that, if my magic, relieved all of my symptoms and made me feel like me again.
I followed up with a much better doctor who helped me find a long term solution. It involved taking a medication every day, but I got better and better. I was able to enjoy my graduation day, take my boards, pass with flying colors, get a job, sleep again, and just live my life.
For six months, I took my medications faithfully each day. Then my doctor said we should try to come off of them and see if I have any more episodes. I spent the next 6 months in the deepest, darkest depression I’ve ever experienced. I think, however, that there was an amazing amount of grace extended to me during those months. I had always been incredibly angry at my biological father for committing suicide when I was about 5. I thought I wasn’t worth him living for. It broke me in so many ways. I couldn’t understand anyone being so desperate that they would want to harm themselves. But God showed me. Now I understand being so low that you just cannot pull yourself out of the pit. Rather than being angry with my father, I am now empathetic to his plight.
Over the last 10 years, life with panic attacks/anxiety disorder has been a series of ups and downs. I suffered greatly after the births of my two daughters. I fought like hell to be the mom they needed me to be despite the hurricane swirling around inside. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve yelled at God. And yet, I’ve felt his tender mercies during each explosion. That’s something I just can’t wrap my mind around.
Today is a particularly rough day, but God has carried me through them all, so I trust Him with this one as well knowing that this too shall pass.
1 Peter 5:6-11:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (emphasis added)