I remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday.
I was under a ridiculous amount of stress and pressure both professionally and personally, but I had never experienced anything I would call anxiety at other points in my life, so I simply assumed that I would somehow muscle my way through this situation as well.
I sat on the corner of my bed, with my mind spinning about all of the “What if’s” swirling around me, and within a few moments, I felt nauseated. I knew I had to get to the toilet quickly and by the time I had taken just the few steps to get there, my legs gave out. When I tried to put my hands on the ground to push myself up, they were locked into distorted claws and it felt as if my entire body was vibrating. I could barely breathe, and nothing on me was working correctly. I laid on the floor, my tongue didn’t work so I couldn’t call out, and processed the fact that I sincerely thought I was dying. Unable to really breathe, with a heart that was about to burst out of my chest and a body that was convulsing violently, I had the rare moment of understanding that today is the day you die.
After a trip to the ER and stabilization, I set out to understand more about anxiety and panic attacks. I think that previously in my life I would have just made fun of someone: “Oh, c’mon. Just relax. It’s fine.” I had no idea that while it was certainly a mental issue, it definitely affected you physically as well.
It was embarrassing. It was scary. It was difficult to navigate some situations for fear that the panic attack might return, because, if you’ve never had a full blown panic attack…you don’t want one.
What I ultimately have learned has made my panic attacks (have had 3 so far in 4 years) a form of a blessing because they forced me to learn a most valuable lesson. In the depths of my fear and my frustration at this crippling illness, God met me in my pain.
I didn’t want to meet Him there, as I’d much rather meet him in my celebrations, or in my victories, or peacefully sitting by a mountain stream, but I definitely encountered God at the depths of this struggle. It’s kind of funny to consider, but God essentially showed up as I moaned about my afflictions and simply said, “How is YOUR way working out?”
And really, that was all that I needed to hear as I knew exactly what He was saying. I’m a control freak, and like all control freaks, that means that I am ALWAYS in control. Of my life. Of my job. Of my relationships. I will wrestle the steering wheel of life in the direction that I intended until my arms give out.
Or until my body starts to fail me.
And honestly, that’s what was happening. I had attempted to control my life to such a degree, I had to learn and understand that I actually control very little. And that’s a good thing. When given the opportunity, I had to learn that I could no longer cling to that steering wheel any longer, but rather, I had to stop and turn my eyes upward and allow God to take what I could no longer carry. He’s proven Himself to be just a wee bit stronger than I.
God speaks to us in our pain. And our fear. And our frustration. But we have to look for Him. One of my favorites is Psalm 34:1-10): “I will bless You at all times, Your praise will continually be in my mouth. I sought You, Lord, and You heard me, You delivered me from all my fears. When we look to You we are radiant. Your angels encamp all around those who fear You and You deliver us. Help me to taste and see that You are good, oh Lord. You say I will be blessed when I trust You. Those who seek You lack no good thing.”
As is true with any tribulation, you’ll find that God wants nothing more than to meet at your lowest and take you to your highest.
Peace be with you.