"Mom, something's not right..."
These were the words I uttered on the night just one week after my 16th birthday. We were driving home late at night from a friends' house when I began to feel short of breath and my throat felt funny. Then my lips started to tingle, and I began to feel panic rise in my chest. From things I had heard, I was pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction, to what I couldn't say, but something was definitely wrong!
Breathing became much more difficult as the panic continued to rise and I felt like my throat was constricting. By now I had alerted Mom to the problem and we were racing back to the town where our friends lived in order to get the ER before my throat closed up and I stopped breathing altogether.
God be praised, I was not having an allergic reaction, it was actually a very intense panic attack. I honestly don't think anyone who hasn't experienced a panic attack can fully comprehend the terror, and massive reaction it invokes. Nor the long enduring after-affects of anxiety, fear, tension, raw emotions, and sleepless nights.
I have never felt more helpless, empty, or out as control as I did in that dark car at midnight when I was fighting for air. When you are wondering how much longer you are going to be able to keep breathing on your own, you have got nothing left and you just want to cry out, "somebody help me!"
The weeks following that large attack were very difficult. I was humbled to know that I was not as invincible as I thought. I was scared and didn't know how to handle it if I had more massive attacks. I remember several nights of jerking awake almost gasping for breath. I can remember days when my muscles just trembled because I had been tensing them all day. Certain thoughts could set me off all over again. Thoughts that before I had been able to just push out of my mind, but now they would stay there and torment me. I had dealt with scary things before, but now I was experiencing FEAR on a whole new level. I just wanted to stay home and never go anywhere again for fear of having a panic attack in public.
I almost see the couple of months after that panic attack as the time when I was just felt completely raw and vulnerable. My emotions were all out there for everyone to see. I cried a ton. For those who don't know me, I have never been a crier. I by nature am a stuffer, I don't like to have all of my emotions out there for the world to see. If something bothered me I would stuff it, tell myself to get over it, move on. Unfortunately studies have shown that "stuffers" are more prone to panic attacks. Go figure!
In some ways I almost felt embarrassed. Like people were going to look at me and say, "Oh, she's that girl with the major anxiety problems. I guess she doesn't understand that whole thing of "casting your cares". She's got some major problems."
Let me just say from some experience, I think that a great bit of Christians assume that just because we have Jesus inside of us we should be able to solve any problem, fear, issue, or situation just like that! I know that until I turned 16 that had been my immature belief. Pray a quick prayer, speak a verse out loud, or actually believe in the Word of God for Heaven's sake! If it says, "perfect love casts out fear" then believe it!
Yes, we do have Jesus inside of us and He has given us all that we need to cope and combat all of life's trials. But will it happen overnight? More than likely not. Much of life is just spent being broken and allowing God to work on you. But that takes time, effort, prayer, and many tears.
Me, myself, and I had come crashing to the ground. Much of my remaining pride was in shambles, and I felt like a scared three year old who wanted to hide in the closet and never come out. I was so scared, so upset, and so humiliated
Now, more than ever, I felt at the end of myself. I felt powerless to stop the cascade of things that was coming down on top of me. And so finally, I gave a very sincere and earnest cry to Him. "Help me! Because I can't do this on my own. I am not enough, right now I feel like I am drowning, I feel totally raw and exposed, and I am so scared. Please come near to me, hold my hand, pick me up, carry me, I need You!"
Sometimes in order to have a clean fresh start to be who you were created to be, you have have a lot of the old crud stripped away, you have to become completely raw.