Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angst, Anxiety & Attacks of Panic - My Way Out

Have you ever experienced a panic attack? I think it is the worse feeling in the world. For a brief period of my life, when I was almost 30 years old, I experienced them almost on a regular basis. The attacks would come upon me with no warning, suddenly, and voraciously. It would take over and leave me a victim of its unreasonable, uncontrollable possession. I thought I was going crazy. I thought I was going to die. It was terrifying. I would have anxiety about when the next attack would come upon me.

My Story

I was newly married, and these attacks terrified my husband. He didn't understand what was happening to me. I would be lying in bed for the night, waiting for sleep to come upon me, and that is when the attack often struck. I would have to leave the bed. I couldn't lie there while my heart was racing and my breathing elevated. I needed to walk around, to move, and pace about aimlessly hoping that this attack would end quickly.

My husband found a Christian counselor for me. She was well over an hour's drive away, but we drove the distance to get the help for which I desperately longed. The counseling was mostly digging into my past and trying to find any unresolved relationship difficulties. My parents, siblings, and my spouse were top suspects on the list to investigate. But I really didn't have much dirt to dig up there.  Sure there were some minor issues, but they were issues that I was at peace with and had handled and not hid.

One major life event which had effected me deeply and caused me much distress and emotional trauma was a close friend who had taken her life. She was 26 years old, or so. Her grandfather had abused her as a child, and the horrifying emotions had been boxed up in her mind until recently, when the lid had opened and memories started to return. She couldn't deal with the shame, the pain, the inability to forgive her grandfather who was no longer living. Overcome by emotions, she had jumped off a bluff on the Mississippi River ending her life. I struggled over her salvation, over the horror of child abuse and its soul damage to the victim, and over my guilt as to why I hadn't reached out to help her more than I had. I brought this up to my counselor, but she didn't have any answers for me. Those I had to find myself.

The attacks continued. My counselor recommended some anxiety-cancelling drugs, and though it would bring instant relief, I didn't want to become dependent on them or have to deal with any potential negative side-effects. I wanted to be truly rid of the attacks, not cover them up with medication. (Note: I do believe their are situations when medication is the best route to take for some with mental disorders/sickness. I am not saying that avoiding medication is what is always best.)

I tried different methods to relieve my attacks. I am a very reserved person, emotionally, and keep a pretty even keel externally during episodes of high stress. I reasoned, if the nervousness was the outcrop of an overflowing internal emotional system, I would force myself to vocalize my sadness, disappointments, and anger as much as possible. I allowed myself to cry a lot - many times for no apparent reason at all. Though this exercise did seem to help in part, the panic attacks did not seem to be effected. They were as chronic and persistent as ever.

Help At Last

I cried out to the Lord, "Why is this happening to me? Please, take this away from me!" I feared greatly having to deal with this all my life. Then one day, as I was getting ready for bed and had poured my heart out to the Lord, a quiet message came to me. I'm sure it was from God. It simply was that I had the power to stop it if I chose. I had the power of my will to choose what was happening to my body. I could choose to not allow these attacks to come over me. That simple.

That night as I was lying in bed hoping for sleep to come quickly, my heart started to pick up its pace. The attack was coming on. I rolled over and said, "No!" I don't think it was an audible command. But I did say it very strongly and authoritatively in my mind and I was addressing the attack. Amazingly, the attack subsided. However, not long after, my heart began to race again. Immediately I said very forcefully and resolutely, "Go away! I don't want you!" It stopped. Every time the attack began I met it face on with my mental assault and blockade. And every time I won. I was so amazed. I was so relieved! I was so unbelievable thankful and humbled that God had helped me.


After that, things got increasingly better. The next night I had a smaller struggle with the anxiety nemesis. Then it didn't rear its ugly head for another two or three days. At every battle, I refused entry. It was another week or two when I faced it for the last time. It has been over 20 years now since I have had my last panic attack. Praise the Lord!!!  I know that what He has done for me, He can do for you too.

I believe that if I had not gained the victory over my attacks by personally dealing with them in this way, it would have grown and absorbed me. Medication would have been a necessity for my ability to function normally. By God's grace I had "nipped it in the bud" while the attacks were still relatively new to me. (I dealt with them for less than a year...each month the attacks coming more often and stronger.)

The power of the will is something that God has given each one of us. It is still a mystery to me as to how it works, but I believe it is what gave me the victory over this powerful psychological plaque. It is something I want to do more research into and understand better.

Have you suffered from panic attacks? What has been your experience in battling them?

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