on anxiety and it’s cause…

This is a letter I wrote to a friend who’s struggling with panic attacks and felt compelled to share here.  It’s sort of  ‘my story’ I guess and what’s led me to where I am.

I just want to tell you that I really feel for you here!  As a very young child I suffered from panic attacks (mostly dealing with death and hell etc) but somewhere along the line they stopped and it just morphed into a milder edition of social anxiety (not being able to speak in front of people in school, as an adult not being able to go places alone, feeling very nervous and incapable of going to new places, things like that)  I’m 31 now.  Just over a year ago, I was stricken in the middle of the night with my first panic attack… after 25 or so years of not having them.  It was completely out of the blue, but once they started, I had no control at all.  It would start slowly in the morning and by evening I was barely able to breath.  My husband was terrified I was going crazy.  I was terrified I would get stuck in a panic attack and be forced to live out the rest of my life in sheer terror.  It was by far the worse thing I’ve ever been through.  I worried desperately over all kinds of things but mostly dying and my children’s salvation.  What’s odd is that it really was the physical symptoms that would bring on the mental anxiety.  The rapid heart beating and stuff like that.  Something was causing the physical symptoms to kick in.  Finally one morning we awoke and it had never eased from the night before.  My husband took me to the ER and they gave me Xanax.  I spent the next week in a sleep stupor.  I couldn’t even keep awake enough hours to eat enough food.  I was so ill.  At the ER, by the grace of God they found some medical problems I didn’t know I had.  I saw a primary care doctor and I began taking an antidepressant called Lexapro.  It began helping and took a couple weeks to make big progress but it helped.  Even though it helped, I still felt that medication wasn’t the long term answer.  I was completely torn.  I took my medicine cause I did NOT want to go back to that.
Well to make a long story short, I got my medical problems dealt with.  I took the meds for about 7 months and felt wonderful the whole time.  Finally I just really felt like I needed to get off it.  I didn’t want to get addicted to living on a medication that altered my mood.  It was hard.  The symptoms were milder than before and I could recognize them quickly.  I was prepared.  I knew what to expect and I could control my reaction so much better. 
I’m not saying this is how it is or will or should go for you, I just want to offer you what I’ve experienced.  Now, a year later, I do believe the Holy Spirit was convicting me and I was just at a point where I couldn’t run any longer.  This is crazy to say!!  I grew up knowing who Jesus was!  Even in my marriage, we’ve spent our entire married years in church, serving, worshipping the Lord and yet here I sit, convicted by the Holy Spirit.  It’s just crazy!  But I know that’s what my anxiety was about.  I was struggling with secret sin and God was not gonna let me be overtaken by it.  Plus, He had plans.  Plans that involved getting all the distraction of what life in America has become out of my brain, and show me what my true "Christ-centered Dream" is supposed to be.  Not just for me, but for my family.  During those times of anxiety, I desperately craved Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  For a moment, I really was (finally) willing to *listen* and give deep attention to His Word and search for the peace that passes all understanding.  These cliché phrases had a meaning for me in a more real sense than they ever had in any of my worldly circumstances.  The course of events over the past year or little more have set my family on a trajectory that is leading us straight to Christ and slowly dropping away are all the things we’re trying to carry with us to Him.  It’s been hard at times as things have fallen away and we watch them go til we can’t see them anymore.  But every time something goes, the weight of what we’re carrying to Christ is so much lighter and we can run all the faster. 
I’m glad I took meds for the months that I did.  It really did help me to  get control of my thoughts so that I could recognize what it was all about.  But I’m glad I quit taking them too.  Because it required me to let go of things I was clinging to (and I don’t just mean stuff – but people, circumstances, beliefs too) and cling only on the hope that Christ would cling to me even when I let go. 

I still struggle with sin.  At times I still fight anxiety.  But when I do fight it, I know that it’s a warning sign.  I need to look at myself – what’s going on in my life?   What am I doing that’s useless?  I remind myself that all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.  What isn’t beneficial in my life that I spend more than 10% of my day doing? 

Consider this, what IF anxiety is a warning sign from the Holy Spirit that we’ve got some things out of order?  What IF we ignore it and decide to suppress it with medication, calling it a ‘disorder’ so we can find comfort in having it.  I’m not saying this is every case of anxiety and there’s never a reason for long term treatment, but hang in here with me for a minute.  Imagine the millions of people in America walking through life with the conviction of the Holy Spirit heavy upon their lives and daily medicating themselves just so they can get through another day.  If Satan wanted a perfect situation, he just got it – call conviction a disorder and come up with a bandage for it so we don’t have to see it or feel it.  This is where I truly believe we sit in America.  We have enough people willing to tell us that anxiety is just ‘part of life’ and ‘a normal medical condition’ and enough fear ourselves to trust and believe it. 

But I ask you, as a Christian, do you think God cannot or will not cause physical changes to a person in order to draw their attention to their sin and/or Himself?  Can He or would He not use physical changes we’ve named anxiety to shake us from our sin-filled lives?



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