An Attack of Panic

A panic attack affects one out of 75 people, and can be quite disconcerting.  My panic attacks occur roughly once a month and last for about 1/2 hour.  When the acute symptoms first appear my first reaction is to resist giving in to it.  I get the “shakes.” For a long time, I didn’t know what caused them or more importantly what could stop it.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of an overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being ‘stressed out’ that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • racing heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
  • a terror, that is almost paralyzing, a seeming irrational fear
  • dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • trembling, sweating, shaking
  • choking, chest pains
  • hot flashes, or sudden chills
  • tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles’)
  • fear that you’re going to go crazy, or are about to die

You probably recognize this as the classic ‘flight or fight’ response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations–they can even happen while you are asleep.

In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:

  1. it occurs suddenly, without any warning and without any way to stop it.
  2. the level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation; often, in fact, it’s completely unrelated.
  3. it passes in a few minutes; the body cannot sustain the ‘fight or flight’ response for longer than that. However, repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.

A panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be terrifying.

Largely because it feels ‘crazy’ and ‘out of control.’ Panic disorder is frightening because of the symptoms associated with it, and also because it often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide. Its effects can range from mild social impairment or just pretty a total inability to face the outside world.

Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? 

Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that people think they’re having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the ER in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem.

While it’s important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing, it’s often panic that is overlooked as a potential cause – not the other way around.

If there is any doubt at all, call 911 immediately. 

“But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

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Further reading and help on panic attacks check out these sites:

Love is On the Loose

“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.

Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality

I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits.  That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach.  It nags on me and betrays me.  The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness  of God’s fantastic grace.

This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being.  I feel worthless and so alone.  Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room.  Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head.  They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.

Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news.  We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life.  And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance.  We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”

As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love.  Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues.  We are sick, we admit it.  We are different than other people (“the norms”).  But the Father delights in us. 

He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.

 

The Master of My Panic

source–rtor.org

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” 

Psalm 46:1-2, NLT

“Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking…But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.” 

Psalm 55:5, 16

Apparently, David understood what we now call a “panic attack.” (He sure wasn’t the first, and he sure won’t be the last.) David understands the shaking and fear that wanted to eat him up. David’s entire life seems to go from crisis-to-crisis-to-crisis. This pattern surely contributes to a deep anxiety.

What is a panic attack like?

My own experience with a panic attack is similar to what he must’ve felt. I start shaking and feel a pressing anxiety. The trembling gets very intense, I feel like death is imminent and my heart races. A feeling of doom often accompanies this. I feel like I’m drowning (not in water, but in pure fear.)

When I first started having them they were absolutely overwhelming; I had no idea what they were. They are pretty scary. For me they seem to happen once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less.

They improve my prayer life, and perhaps, that is their sole purpose. IDK.

Mayo Clinic put out a list of symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

Mine typically last for 20-30 minutes. When I finally asked my doctor, she knew exactly what they were. There is no drug; the attack can only be treated by an awareness of what is happening. There is no cure for them and really no way to eliminate them completely. I was stuck with them. She told me to use small paper bag to ease the symptoms.

As a believer the panic attack needed to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

When an attack occurs it is time for me to “hunker down” and prepare for the coming storm. Since I know he is in charge, I become less anxious. (And that is a good thing.)

Educating myself has helped a lot. Just to know many others experience them is a real encouragement. The panic attack is quite common and much is known about it, the attack can be understood and even managed by understanding its true nature. Reading the Psalms really helps. I can so relate to King David.

I know that all that touches me is the Lord’s concern–I have no doubt about that.

_________________________________________


Source: Mayo Clinic

Poetry of the Broken

Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find at Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon’s own homegrown new and used bookstore) – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition. It is a collection of poems by various poets, some well known and some not so well known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).

Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).

I want to share one of Cowper’s poems with the readers at Broken Believers. I do so because it is a great reminder that even when we think we are too lost and broken to be of any use to God, even then God can do the impossible. He can take a broken vessel and cause great light and wonder pour from its cracks. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for astonishing things.

William Cowper, English poet and hymnodist
(1731-1800)

You see, Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. At times he was convinced that he was damned for all eternity, and that he was a lost soul. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God. This particular poem will cause the “Comfortless, broken, afflicted to delight in the joy of a life to come where all pain and sorrow will cease, and the glory of Jesus will be all we need.”

If you are struggling, feeling like you can never be of any use to God, take heart. God is in the business of using His power and wisdom in tandem with the broken believer to accomplish great things.

The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper

Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heart-felt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs for ever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.

Hymn No. 10 of The Olney Hymns

flourish-bird

Peace, Linda K.

You can find Linda’s own blog at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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