My panic attacks started with a job promotion. When I became the new managing editor of a health and food magazine, Suzy, whom I replaced, advanced to the role of executive editor. This was a happy day for both of us, right? Wrong! On promotion day, Suzy gave me unsettling, steely stares all day.
Did I do something wrong? Why is she acting so weird? Does she hate me? Will I lose my dream job already?
Confused, hurt, and fearing Suzy’s disapproval, I practically sprinted from the office at 5 p.m. Once behind the wheel of my blue hatchback, I cranked up the tunes and zoomed toward the six-lane freeway that would take me to my “safe place”: a cozy Cape Cod house that I shared with my husband, Steve, and our fluffy feline. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I repeated, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
As I drove, I tried to forget Suzy’s disapproving stares, but they stuck in my head like superglue. Then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, my heart beat triple-time. Sweat beaded on my forehead. I swallowed a lump in my throat. My knees became wobbly, like Jell-O. A horrific sense of impending doom settled on me. Then my mind went wacko as I came to a tight curve: Drive into the ditch, Lucy. Drive into the ditch. Drive into the ditch. In panicky desperation, I spoke back to the crazy thoughts filling my mind: What’s wrong with me? Dear God, am I suicidal? Stay on the highway, Lucy. Just stay on the highway. Your exit is a mile ahead. You can make it. You can make it. What’s wrong with me? God, help me!
Panic attacks are terrifying. But you already know this, since you picked up this mini-book. If you don’t experience them yourself, you’re surely aware of how they affect someone you know. As I share my story and the extreme fear experiences of a few others, I want to help you understand three truths that have helped me. First, you are not the only one who struggles with panic attacks.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
This Bible verse teaches that we all struggle, including those of us who are “fearful”—that is, who have a propensity for anxiety. The intensity and frequency of our fears may differ, but everyone at some point has freaked out.
Second, panic attacks often proceed from faulty thinking. But by God’s grace you can change fearful thinking patterns into God-transformed, faithful thinking. This will require a willingness to trust and obey God, as well as perseverance. Your faulty thinking didn’t develop overnight, so it most likely won’t go away overnight. Mine didn’t.
Third, God promises to help you overcome the fear that precipitates your panic attacks, assuming they don’t have an organic, physical cause (more on this later). When you learn to realign your thoughts with God’s thoughts, your panic attacks can become a thing of the past. This is hopeful, isn’t it?
God can also use your panic attacks for good. Like me, you might begin encouraging others who have panic attacks by listening to them and by sharing your story. This verse in 2 Corinthians is dear to my heart because it gives meaning to my struggle, and I hope it will help you too:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
Perhaps this is difficult for you to believe, but God knows your fears and is able to deliver you from all of them. As you read this mini-book, you will learn practical ways to turn fear into faith. Will it be easy? No. It will require diligent effort. Will it be worth it? Yes. Your fears are one means God can use to help you learn to trust him and depend on him. Addressed biblically, they can become a doorway to experiencing the peace of God which comes through the Prince of Peace who conquers fear.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. (Psalm 94:19, NASB)
[Today’s post is written by Lucy Ann Moll, author of HELP! I Get Panic Attacks. If you struggle with experiencing extreme anxiety, you will be helped by this little book. And if you are involved in one-another discipleship/counseling ministry, you probably want to order the discounted 5-pack.]