You may know that dreadful feeling, and if not, you are quite lucky! Many of us have, though, known it all too well… a pounding and skipping heart, a numbness in the arms or other limbs, a nervous stomach (putting it mildly, in case you are eating your lunch while reading this), an overwhelming feeling of dread, or like you are dying or going crazy. Yes, it is anxiety resulting in a PANIC ATTACK!!! You may think “which is this, a flight or fight response?” In those moments, maybe neither seem to fit. I contend there should be a third category…freeze. That’s what anxiety and panic attacks do. They freeze you in that dreadful moment unable to focus on anything outside of those trigger thoughts and feelings.
During my current 10 year journey with anxiety and panic attacks, I have run the gamut of treatments…from hypnosis to a pill pushing psychiatrist. Notice I said current journey, as I still struggle with anxiety (the full blown panic attacks have lessened though). But, I find consolation in knowing anxiety is a battle we all fight together. Every person on this earth has anxiety, some call it stress or having a bad day, but what it evokes in our body is anxiety. No two people are exactly the same in their anxiety though, it manifests differently in all of us and we all have different levels we can cope with. Here are some statistics to help put it into perspective:
• According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.” (Source: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety) Notice the key word in there…estimated! Could be more, could be less, but I tend to doubt the latter!
• If there are 318.9 million people in the US, then 40 million with an anxiety disorder represents about 13% of the population.
• According to the CDC, “more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html). That’s only 0.3% of a population of 318.9 million!
• Also according to the CDC, the number “of adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer: 20.3 million.” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/cancer.htm) Now I read that as who have EVER been diagnosis with cancer, and we all know someone who has had cancer, right? This only represents 6% of a US population of 318.9 million. So you are twice as likely to know someone who has an anxiety disorder than someone with cancer!!!
The statistic list can go on and on, but my basic point here is You Are Not Alone!!!
Now, I am not a professional, but I have learned there is no one cure all for the masses. This is because we are all beautifully unique in our self-perceived weaknesses. For me, the best coping strategy has been a combination of faith based growth along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Attempting to re-label and re-frame my anxiety as what is truly is has helped tremendously. But I’ll tell you more on that in later posts.
Drawing closer to God has also significantly helped in “unfreezing” me from the grips of daily anxiety and panic attacks. There was a period of about 8 months after my son was born that I was plagued by anxiety and panic attacks. I was jumpy all day long, afraid of everything! My world was collapsing around me, I was literally afraid to leave the house because something bad might happen to me. The panic was freezing me from living life, from seeing my blessings and God’s love for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating and gasping for air. I was under attack even in my sleep!
So, in the middle of the night I would crack open my bible and look for comfort. Up until fairly recently, I really didn’t know how to read the bible. Not that there is a right and wrong way, I just didn’t have enough of a relationship with God to take away the personal message He had for me. I tried starting at the beginning, but found it to be confusing with all the so and so begot so and so who begot so and so…can I get an uuughhhhh! So, I got a study bible, which helped immensely. I also started reading at the point of the New Testament…yep, that’s me…let’s get right to the good stuff. I mean come on, if there were ever anyone who should have been completely entitled to anxiety, it would be Jesus! He knew what was headed his way, but faced it with courage, knowing that His purpose for coming to earth and His death was for a far greater purpose than any temporal pains He would suffer here.
So, back to those middle of the night explorations into the Word of God…I came across several verses that have stuck with me and that I have to remind myself of, even today, that I would like to pass along…
• Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
• Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
• Matthew 6:34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
• Proverbs 3: 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Above verses are from the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible)
This is where I want to give all glory to God…there has been truth and transformation in my life through His Word and the people he has placed in my life. I pray that as you read this you will find comfort in knowing you are not alone and remembering life is a journey, one that I still struggle with some days, but it is possible to live productive happy lives with anxiety and panic attacks! Go in peace my Brothers and Sisters in Christ!