PANIC!!! I paced the house trying to think of the best place to lay down, in case I died. My heart was pounding out of my chest, I was lightheaded, weak, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I had 5 kids plus 2 extra, my husband was at work, and everyone in the house was asleep. I felt helpless, so I called 911. The paramedics rushed to my side, ran their standard tests, and to my embarrassment, I was totally fine. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?” they asked. That was an understatement; I had been walking through one of the most stressful years to date.
It was a panic attack. I spent the day in bed, thinking that this panic would pass and I would feel better in the morning. What I wasn’t expecting was for this to spiral into one of the darkest seasons of my life.
That one-day of panic began a cycle into months of severe daily panic attacks, sometimes 4 times a day. I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t drive my kids to school, and I couldn’t eat. My body trembled; my throat was closed in, my chest tight, and my heart raced uncontrollably, even as I slept. Fear dominated my thoughts. There were no specific triggers, (unless you call a wind gust a trigger, or a door bell). My body and mind had lost complete connection and I was drained of all stability.
I began Christian counseling; I was ready for God to take me through whatever healing I needed. But even with months of counseling, I was still battling daily. I began to grow weary of the day-to-day anxiety battle and it began to manifest into despair. Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression – Proverbs 12:25 This wasn’t supposed to happen to a strong woman like me. I was the ministry leader who discipled young women. I was the mom of 5 kids who lived happily on a diet of stress and chaos; I was the writer who encouraged people to stay strong in their faith.
My doctor, who was a Christian, held my hand as I filled his office with tears. “Even Jesus got weary.” He comforted. He prescribed me the mildest form of anti-anxiety/depression medication there was. I needed serious help. Agoraphobia was crouching in, I had lost 15 pounds, and I was living under a very dark cloud.
Having personally faced this side of mental illness, I am definitely in support of medication when needed. It can be the difference between life and death for a person. But for some reason, God had another healing plan for me and medication was not the journey I was supposed to take.
I started noticing myself hiding my medications. I put the bottle of bleach out of my reach. I started avoiding using knives, plastic bags and ropes. Anything I could use to harm myself or someone else, I avoided. I double; triple checked that these items were safely stored away.
I was having a paradoxical affect to the drug, and I was developing Harm OCD. Harm OCD is the most common form of OCD. A person is bombarded with such irrational fear that they may lose control and hurt himself/ herself or someone else. The repetitive habits, we so commonly associate with OCD, actually develop to ease the thoughts, and dissipate the anxiety. We all get bizarre, imaginative thoughts, like driving off a bridge wondering if anyone would miss us. We dismiss them as bizarre and go on with our day. A thought like that to a person suffering with OCD would have them in the fetal position, avoiding bridges, or creating a ritual to ease the fear when they crossed over one.
I knew I was in for the battle of my life, so I sought God with all that I had.
I began taking every thought captive, literally. I would capture each harm thought or depressing thought and I wrote it out, then I held it up against the word of God, by seeking the truth. It couldn’t stand.
I could not get through a day without waking up and saying to myself– “I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:13 I didn’t believe it at first, but the more I spoke it, the more it sunk in as truth.
Sleep was not an escape for me; I was tormented by nightmares, anxious thoughts and despair. I slept sitting up for 4 months until I began trusting in God’s word. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
I spent hours in prayer, begging him to take my torment away. Each time, God was faithful and I was able to confront each mental assault with assurance that once I prayed I would feel better.
I began taking God at his word that Perfect love drives out all fear 1 John 4:18 and I began to seek Him for his love, and I found it. My goal in prayer was always to connect with his love for me. Instead of praying, “I love you Lord,” I began praying, “I love you too, Lord” (we love him, because he first loved us – 1 John 4:19)
I started to praise God that when there was sickness – there was healing, when there was bondage – there was breakthrough, when there was death – there was life (yes, eternal!)
Eventually, I started having good hours. Hours then turned into days, then I started having good weeks and then I had a good month.
I can testify that I am now living free from crippling anxiety, panic and OCD. A single day has not gone by where I haven’t thought about what God has brought me out of. It was by far the most traumatic year of my life, but I praise the Lord, that He was the one who brought me from panic to Praise!