Fear II

I haven’t overcome Fear.

But I have befriended her.

Not right away.

Not for a long, long time.

First, I tried to hush her

Hide her

Hustle her out of the room

Ignore her

Weep over her

Pretend she didn’t exist.

But then

She stayed anyway

            Winding her cool fingers through my hair

            Crushing me in her arms so tight, too tight…

            Whispering into my breath, “listen to me, listen to me, listen to me…”

                        She was everywhere. All the time.

            Reading over my shoulder at the altar

            Squeezing into the pulpit right next to me

                        I couldn’t even see the congregation anymore

                        She covered me, claimed me, marked me as her own.

                        While I smiled my smile and worked so hard to wish and pray her away.

 

            Then, one day

            I wondered what might happen if

I looked her in the eye.

My companion for so long.

What might happen

If?

            So I put my arm around her shoulder

            And said, “honey, It’s okay.

I said,

            “I see you.”

I said,

“Let’s do this together, then.”

She didn’t look so scary.

In fact, she looked just like me….

and Fear smiled a small smile and seems okay with that now

                        To quietly stick beside me.

                        To accompany me here and there.

            She doesn’t pull so hard at my shoulders and neck

            When I pay attention to her.

            Notice her.

            Admit she is

            Part of me…

            But not the boss of me.

 

Gran2

Panic

The panic attacks began one sunny autumn Sunday morning shortly after I arrived at that church. Nothing unusual was happening – it was a Sunday like every other Sunday. It was during the final morning service when one moment I was reading the text, the next I felt my throat constricting and my breath slipping away. Heat rose into my chest and face and the words on the page began to swirl. I wondered if I would pass out, I could feel my heart rate accelerating, thumping in my chest. I stumbled over the words as I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs to speak them. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Senior Pastor. Was he looking at me? Could he tell I was freaking out? Could the congregation see how red my face was? I felt confused, frightened, and extremely ashamed that I was out of breath and faltering over my words. When the readings were over, I went back to my seat with my head held low. What was wrong with me? I went home and cried to Chad in our kitchen as I told him about the terrifying experience. He listened and gave me a hug. I hoped to God that Sunday morning had been just a strange, isolated experience.

It was only the beginning, unfortunately. Panic and anxiety began to accompany me regularly each week to worship. I researched extensively on stage fright and panic attacks and as I did, I tried every tactic I could think of to get “over it.” I quit smoking – which I knew was a good idea no matter what. I began running five miles before church each week and eventually began marathon training. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more. I would write down distracting things on my church bulletin (like the punchline of a joke, or even initial in something dirty and scandalous Chad had said to make me laugh) in hopes that if my mind got distracted with other thoughts while I was reading, I wouldn’t think about the swirling, scary thoughts that made me descend into panic: everyone looking at me, everyone listening to me, screwing up, etc. I took a Benadryl before worship – thinking that maybe if I felt drowsy that would help my heart to not race so much. I did breathing exercises, meditation and visualizations. Everything helped and nothing helped. Sometimes I could go a Sunday or two without a full-blown panic attack, but the threat of them was always there. Nothing could make the threat of them disappear and the worry wore me down. I felt like I lived constantly under the heavy shadow of what my anxiety might do to me. I was not in control of it, I could only avoid it sometimes. Even if it left me at peace for a time, I knew it would be back. It lingered like a ghost in the corner of that big brick box sanctuary – I knew eventually it would always find me again.

Have you experienced panic attacks? If so, what tools have you found to deal with them?

first lutheran audubon

 

Transformation is Real

A friend asked me to write a blog post for his blog (http://transformation-is-real.com/). I was happy to be asked because I love to write, but I found this assignment taking me on an emotional journey.  I’m glad to share it with you and even more glad to be telling this story from where I am at now than where I was at a few months ago.

You can read it here:

http://www.transformation-is-real.com/transformation-is-real/2015/9/2/ruths-change-finding-gratitude-in-brokenness