I made a feeble excuse to my husband, assured him I would be fine and bolted out before the trailers were through.
I desperately sought out the quietest place I could find and sat there with my hands cupping my face to hide everything around me and focused on breathing. I wondered if I was going to have to call an ambulance. My breathing was shallow and quick. After several minutes of trying to regain control, my heart finally began to slow down and my breathing less shallow. When I felt calm enough to begin peeking past my hands, I looked around sheepishly. I was so embarrassed.
At that point, I wasn’t even sure what had just happened, but, clearly, I wasn’t handling it well.
I never did go back in and watch the rest of the movie. I snuck into a different theater and watched something animated. To this day I haven’t watched the movie we originally went to see.
One day I will.
That was probably the worst panic attack I suffered. I had several more in the weeks to come, mostly smaller ones that I could control by escaping my situation. I learned to avoid certain places because I had experienced an attack there and I was afraid the same environment would trigger another one. This was new to me because I am a person who likes to be out and about, I love people and suddenly I found myself avoiding crowds or places that felt confining. I began to notice that my life was being controlled more and more by fear and now panic attacks. What was happening to me? I stayed terrified in the hidden places of my heart.
It’s amazing how much you can hide if you want too.
You may be able to hide it from others and some of it from yourself,
but God sees it all.
It’s really hard to admit to yourself there are things going on you have no control over. I’m sure it’s debatable whether or not you actually have control, but when you’re experiencing something like this, it feels like it is all beyond you. And if you admit it or talk about it to too many people it starts to feel like there is no escaping it, it all becomes real and not just like a bad dream. And I didn’t want to be defined by my emotional outbursts, so I kept it in the dark.
I stuffed it down in hopes to “overcome” by denial. I know, that makes no sense. Nothing about my life made much sense. I hadn’t thought any of this through, mind you. I was just living day by day on the rations of what was left of my soul. There was nothing in me that wanted to face any more pain or uncertainty. I didn’t think I could take much more.
I was after one thing…survival.
During this time I was reading a lot about being the light of Jesus. (I John is where I was planted for a while.) For such a long time I thought we were called to be His light. And, in many ways that’s true. But, what I’ve learned while experiencing such darkness is HE IS THE LIGHT. It isn’t really about allowing Christ to shine THROUGH me, it’s about Christ shining INTO me. So subtle, but the difference between THROUGH and INTO has become critical in my growth. It takes the pressure off of me to live up to a standard of my own making and frees me to open my arms wide for my Savior, my LIGHT, to shine into my soul, my heart, and my mind to illuminate the dark places. His energy flowing into me will inevitably show through the cracks and crevices of all my imperfections. And, that will cause me…us to glow like nothing else.
I don’t ever need to hide.
Well, I’ve learned it doesn’t take long when you’re in an emotional state like this for the doctor’s office to become a familiar place. This day I had gone for an issue I figured would have another reasonable explanation, but after telling the physician my ailment she began to show genuine concern. She immediately ordered some tests and I froze in fear.
It just so happened that the week these tests were run was the week before Christmas. Although the doctor mentioned it, it didn’t sink into my foggy brain that their office would be closed the next week and not open until after the holiday passed. I was too stunned with her urgency to perform the tests to think about anything else but, you guessed it, a difficult diagnosis.
Over the next two days some important tests were completed and I began the painful wait for the results. I remember waking up each morning only to have my mind bombarded with so many thoughts of sickness, hospitals, diagnoses, and ultimately dying. I had honestly already rehearsed in my mind how I would ask my family to take care of my kids. My kids are in the budding years of adulthood and I knew they would need advice and mentoring through the struggles of the realities of life. I thought about writing letters for important dates, like weddings, college graduations, grandchildren etc.
It all felt so sad, and so real.
I did not expect what happened next.
Over the next two, that’s right I said TWO weeks, while I waited for my results some amazing things took place that I feel compelled to share with you, these happenings are the reason I feel so drawn to tell you my story.
Someone needs to hear it, I’m sure of it.
I journaled during the time I waited and I just read back over it, it reminded me how faithful the Lord was and IS. And it also brought me to tears remembering how HARD it was to wait; so much hanging in the balance.
Here is a little of what I wrote…
“I feel so weak like I have so little to give and yet I keep trying to lead a normal life. I bottle all these fears and stuff them way down deep in my heart. I’ve been praying so hard lately asking God to ‘penetrate the fear’ that wants to take me down into a deep dark hole. I find myself trying to bargain with the Lord. Needing so badly for Him to say everything is going to be okay. But, it seems all I get are reassurances that He will be with me. And, He really has. I’ve been listening a lot to Psalms, in one particular verse David says, ‘Lord, you have more years than you know what to do with, please let me have some.’ And that is my standing prayer, I want to get good results and live a while longer. But, no matter what, Lord, help me to be free of this horrible fear. I am so tired of being afraid, but I am afraid of not being afraid too. I really want to be free and to feel like myself again. Lord, I love you.”
During the first week of waiting the Lord sent so many passages of scripture and devotionals that directly spoke to fear and overcoming. The devotional I remember especially was about remembering all that God has done. Basically, God’s faithfulness. The passage of scripture that went along with it has been my mantra since I read it. I have quoted it and meditated on it, claimed it and declared it one of my verses for this year.
Psalm 91:14-16 MSG
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”
I remember so clearly reading this and immediately having tears flood my eyes. It was the life ring I had been praying for. Oh how fragile my heart felt and these verses washed over me like healing waters. I sat and cried while reading and rereading the beautiful words.
“Hold on to me for dear life” it said, and I planned on doing just that.
To be continued…