Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Panic Attacks!

Continuing on with some thoughts as I look back on my life, and how it's been a grace life...

During my late teen years I began having panic attacks. I remember my first one very vividly. I was standing in my living room and I began to have an overwhelming sensation that I didn't understand. I don't even know how to describe it. I was yelling to my mom, "Help!", and she asked me what was the matter and I said, "I don't know." But I kept asking for help. It was a very scary place to be. I really had no clue what was happening to me. After a few minutes it was over.

A while later I had a much more intense panic attack. Legally, I wasn't allowed to drive anyone else's car, due to previously having my driver's license suspended (a whole 'nother story!) and now being on special insurance. But yet I had borrowed a friend's car to go 20 miles out of town. I was on my way back to town, driving down a highway and I began to notice that my breaths were very shallow and I was feeling nervous. I'm sure some of the nerves were due to fear of getting caught. I was about 1 or 2 miles from the town next to my town. I began to feel tingling in my arms and hands, and I think in my face too.

I pulled over and there were two men working on a utility pole. I asked them if they could help me.

"Sure, what ya need?"

"I don't know. Help!"

Again, I didn't know what was happening. My hands began to curl up and stiffen, locking themselves into place and I couldn't open my fingers. I was very, very scared. One of the men jumped into the car and I somehow got into the passenger seat. The man drove me into the town and called an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived, I was much better, much calmer. I felt like such a fool and I hesitated getting into the ambulance because by now I was OK. But it was at the hospital that I found out what was going on, so I'm glad I went. They told me that I had been hyperventilating, and the oxygen was affecting my body, with the tingling at first, and then the hands clamping up.

Eventually, I went to a counselor and a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist put me on an antidepressant, as well as a nerve-calmer called Xanax. I didn't really need the antidepressant, and I stopped using it right away, but the Xanax became my savior. I had come to a place where I couldn't go five miles from home without having a panic attack. But I could pop a Xanax and everything would be allllright. I couldn't leave home without my Xanax. This dependence on the drug went on for 2 or 3 years.

Then in 1992, when I was 22 years old, I came into a close relationship with the Lord. This is a testimony that I will share sometime too. I started out on a very legalistic foot, but there were Bible verses and passages that stuck out to me that I'm sure played a huge part in me eventually coming to depend upon grace. One of the verses was directly related to how I overcame panic attacks and my dependence upon Xanax.

Somewhere along the line, I had received a Lutheran prayer book. I think it was either a confirmation or graduation gift, but it had basically remained on the shelf all those years. But now that I was eager to learn more about Jesus, I began to look at the resources I had. Somewhere in that book - and I can't seem to find it when I look these days - there was a prayer based on 1 Peter 5:7, which says, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (or "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you").

Now, this is all within just a few days of beginning this new walk. One day I was heading out of town and my usual anxiety began to creep up on me. I had decided to leave my Xanax at home, trusting that the Lord would take my anxiety. So I pictured myself laying my anxiety at His feet, handing it over to Him. I had no real clue what I was doing, except that it was in faith. For the first time in at least 2 or 3 years, I left town and remained out of town without my Xanax!

I had a new Savior. I was learning that I could trust Him.

Two weeks later, I was in my bedroom and I saw my bottle of Xanax pills. It occurred to me that I hadn't even thought of Xanax for the entire two weeks! After all that time of constantly checking to make sure I had my Xanax by my side, I hadn't even thought of it. I took the pills and flushed them down the toilet. Life has never been the same. I've not had a panic attack in 15 years.

I'm most certainly not against medication for depression, anxiety and other legitimate conditions that truly exist. I'm thankful for counselors, psychiatrists and medicine. I simply found out that in my particular case, my problem was not a physical issue. It was all about my Father bringing me into a deeper, trusting relationship with Him.


  1. Amazing Story!

    You don't look like that you went through all those :)

    The verse comes to my mind when I read your story is nothing but this:

    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

    This world can offer us only temporary patches for human problems. Christ cures the root cause (spiritual death) and makes us brand NEW!

  2. Indeed it's not a patch or "filler." It's life. I look back on various weaknesses and problems that I've had in my life and I'm completely amazed to see what the power of new life - Christ's life - can do!

  3. Hi Joel--

    Thanks for sharing this. My own experience with panic attacks, and what I have observed in others close to me, is that there is a God-given need in us for security-- a need to know not just who we are, but Whose we are. A deepening understanding of my identity in Christ was key to my overcoming my panic attacks, and depression and fear in general.

    Your blog is a favorite place for me to go and be reminded and refreshed in the grace of God.

    Kathy J