Panic Attacks: One Way to Say “No.”

The other night I woke up with my heart racing.

No bad dreams.  No scary sounds.

Well.

Sometimes the ice maker sounds like footsteps.

But, not really.

I just woke up for no reason, feeling like I had three shots of espresso:  shaky, buzzing, and short of breath.  A classic panic attack.

Until that night, I hadn’t had a panic attack in years.

I used to have panic attacks about every other day.  Back then, I didn’t know what they were.  I thought I had heart problems.

I would get shaky and tense.  I was afraid, but I didn’t understand why.  I was washing dishes, working, walking, just doing daily life, nothing scary about it.

alley-1582731_640

A wise woman I knew asked me what my thoughts were like immediately before the panic attacks.

I had not been aware that I was thinking anything before the attacks,  but I started paying more attention.  I realized, as the panic attacks triggered, that I wasn’t always thinking only about washing dishes, or working, or walking, but that I also had a running storyline playing in my mind as I was doing these other things.

I had developed a bad habit of playing out all my motherly fears in my mind.  For example, if I was afraid of a child getting hit by a car, I would play it out in my mind like a movie to the bloody, bitter end.

And it had become such a bad habit, that I ruminated on negative  and terrifying things constantly without being aware that I was doing it.

foot-538324_640

Yeah.  Awful.

So.  The next time I spoke with my friend, I told her that I was more aware of my thoughts.  And I realized that I was playing out all these horrible scenarios in my mind.

She said, “Yes, that’s what I wondered.  Those are fear fantasies.”

She said that most people don’t think of fantasies as being negative, but that we can still fantasize about fear.  She said we do it for two reasons.  1)  Because we want to see if we could handle a certain scenario.  We want to test ourselves, our inner strength, our coping ability.    And, 2) because we want to practice in our minds how we would handle something if it happened, like a tornado or fire drill in school.

But fear fantasies don’t really work that way.

Tornado drills and fire drills are helpful because they deal with situations that are likely to actually happen, and they finish by giving the participants a practical skill they could use if they did.

Fear fantasies are different because they dwell on extreme terror more than they focus on a resolution.  And they leave the mind in a fearful, hopeless state.

A state that can result in a panic attack.

Ten years ago, my last major panic attack took place in my laundry room.  At the time, a major court case regarding a violent criminal was playing out in the state where we lived.  I watched all the news coverage about that case, every day, for months.

As I stood in the laundry room, some of the details of the case came to me.  I thought of my two babies, in different rooms in the house, and it occurred to me that, if something bad happened in that moment, I could not protect them.

I felt so vulnerable.  And I started to panic.

So much so,  that before I knew it, I was bent over double, clutching the countertop and gasping for air.

washing-machine-902359_640

I felt like I could choke.  My heart was pounding.  I broke out in a sweat.  Sick all over.

I knew that I could say scripture out loud and that was supposed to help.  I thought, “the 23rd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm…”

But, even though I had known that scripture since I was a child, I couldn’t think of the words.

The blankness of my mind scared me even more.  And the panic increased.

My heart cried out, “JESUS.”

If I couldn’t think of scripture, I could just say, “Jesus.”

I said, “Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.”

Over.  And over.  And over.

And the panic left.

I could breathe.  I could think.

bible-1388427_640

I had always known there was power in that name.  There are songs about it.  But I had not seen it in my life until that day.

One way to say “No!” to panic attacks is to just say “Jesus.”

Of course, over time, I learned other ways.

Obviously, I had overloaded myself with scary news stories.  And I had a bad habit of indulging in fear fantasies.

I stopped watching so much news.  Honestly, you don’t need to watch the news every day to know what is happening in the world.  Events have a way of making themselves known.

I stopped allowing my thoughts to run away with me.  And one way I did that, when I realized my thinking was turning into a fear fantasy, I would say “Jesus.”  I would also immediately replace those thoughts, saying scriptures out loud, or saying things like “God’s got this, God’s got this!”  Out loud.

I learned to get my thoughts under control.

I learned to raise my voice in a positive, powerful way.

I did that again the other night.  I just said, “Jesus.”  And I asked Him to take the fear.  And He did.  I really don’t want it anymore.

***

This is an example of one way to deal with panic attacks.  It has worked for me repeatedly.  If you have panic attacks, you may need to seek counseling or a doctor’s help to deal with all the possible roots.  This page is in no way intended to provide diagnosis or prescriptions or take the place of professional care.

Once Upon a Time. The Most True Thing of All.

I don’t remember being afraid when I was very young.  Fear didn’t come until later.

I was not afraid of being alone.  I reveled in it.  Alone, I could be anything.  Act out any story.

Alone, I was Goldilocks in the forest, Hansel and Gretel beating the witch, Nancy Drew solving all the mysteries.

I was not afraid of climbing the tallest trees.  I held books in one hand and a pencil in my teeth and scrambled up to the highest branches, an elementary school lady pirate.

I nestled in and read for hours and wondered what it would be like to sleep there.  I would close my eyes and wedge my body into safety and drop anchor.

I rested there and soaked up all a tree could give.

tree-984750_640

I was not afraid of riding my bike as far as I could go.  I pretended to be a Swiss Family Robinson boxcar child, and imagined where I would find my next meal, and how I could convince my teachers I had a home if I didn’t.

I told myself I would run away, even though I didn’t really want to leave.  I just wanted to know what it would feel like to fall down a rabbit hole or ride off into the sunset, to wake up in new worlds, to wake up and find new places in my heart.

I was not afraid of any animals.  I was Snow White, for heaven’s sake.  They would stop at my word.  I knew it.  I had bottle fed baby skunks. I had curled up like Mowgli with a giant Rottweiler as my sleeping mat.  I had ridden the biggest stallions in the barn.

They knew me.  And I knew them.

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/aRXPJnXQ9lU

I was not afraid of the dark, or zombies, or ghosts.  If they approached me, I would say a prayer, and they would disappear in a vapor.  I was Persephone, even the dead would bow their knee to me.  I was born to be a queen.  I knew it.

And then.

Life happened.

It was not even the bad news of terrible things.  Kidnappers could kiss my cowgirl boots.  I would kick their teeth in.  My uncle showed me how.  I was ten.

No, not the news.  Not the big bad things in the world.  I was Red Riding Hood.  I knew all about wolves.

vintage-1652550_640

But seeing real pain close to home, that did it.

Feeling the crush of poverty.  Watching my mother suffer.  Wondering if that was what life would really be for me instead of getting to live as Mrs.-Queen-Nancy-Velvet-Persephone-Hook.  I thought that I knew what was coming my way, I was part gypsy, I could feel it.

But then, I saw the hand of heartbreak, and it made me doubt.  It made me afraid of getting hurt, afraid of failing, afraid of falling, afraid of being poor, afraid of brilliance, afraid of love.

And the fear changed me.  It stole all the stories of what I thought I could be, what I thought I could have.

girl-worried-1215261_640

I shrunk.

I got smaller inside.  My shoulders collapsed downward onto themselves.  My lungs held less air somehow, and my breaths were always shallow.  My heart had no room for its big pounding beats, it skipped fast to try to make up for all the lost things.  My hands got clammy, and I could no longer grip the high branches.  My hair got limp.

Fear did its best to squish the life out of me.  To squish the dreams and the stories and the promise out of me.

I panicked and panted over questions posed by adults, “what’s the right answer, what’s the right answer?”  And even if I knew that I knew it, I doubted and kept silent.

I walked for years in confusion. What was I doing?  Why had it all changed?

“There is more, there is more,”  I thought, and yet I was always falling short.

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDo

It’s a self-defeating vicious cycle.  Fear of success means failing, fear of failing means no more trying.  No more effort means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator every day.

And that denominator leaves no room for fairy tales.

Identity.  Fear steals identity.  Fear steals the assumption, the confidence, that I am loved and made for majesty and adventure.

Fear snuffs out all the light in us.  It makes us certain that anything good we ever get will only be given to us out of pity.  That there is no way to get delight for ourselves, that there is not enough strength and power at our disposal to gain any ground.  Fear covers over passion, fear suffocates the security it takes to sample anything new, to look different, ever.

And in a world where we all look different, that can be excruciatingly painful.  Looking different is inescapable.

Knowing we are loved as we are by the King of All Things, it  changes everything.  It changed everything for me.   It turned back the pages of my story, of our story, to the fresh and sweet beginning.

book-ribbons-bible

He is the God of Second Chances.  To infinity.  And beyond.

Knowing that we are more than enough for the Maker’s heart.  That He is not disgusted.  He is not disappointed.

He is not calculating any numbers when He looks at you, your I.Q., the cost of your house, your earning potential.  None of it.  He doesn’t look at you like that.

In the beginning.

A word spoken, flesh raised from the ground.  The one true and original magic.

All creation singing.  The rocks swelling and bellowing  like whales.

And you.  The crown of creation.

He chose you.  To be His crown.

king-1304612_1280-2

The seed of courage, the greatest story of all time, planted in you from the first day of the world, because you were formed in love, made in His image.

Whatever came close and tried to suffocate you and steal your story, whatever it was, whatever it is.  It is no match for love.  It is no match for knowing who you were made to be.

A fairy tale, sometimes, is the most true thing of all.

***

Once upon a time.

There was a kingdom.  

There was a prince.  

He saved you.  

For himself.  For adventure.

For life.

He stood over you, and he said,

“Live.”

The Day I Set the Lamb on Fire, or, How to Not Blow Up Your Propane Grill.

My little sisters are twins.

One year on their birthday, I had them over for dinner.

It was quite the affair.  I planned for weeks.  I made place cards and a centerpiece.  I scoured the internet and cookbooks for recipes and decided on a menu.

Pear and walnut salad.  Herbed mashed potatoes.  Challah bread.  Honey glazed green beans.  Fennel and leeks.  Baked brie.  Figs.  And for dessert,  raspberry brownie bites topped with white chocolate mousse, and served in tiny, homemade, chocolate cups.

And the main dish.  Lamb.  Beautiful tenderloins.  About thirty-five dollars’ worth.

I do not normally spend that much money on meat.  So, I am not used to cooking that kind of meat.  But it was my sisters’ birthday, and I wanted to go all out.

I found a recipe for grilled lamb, and my husband had just gotten a new propane grill.  I thought the smoky flavor would taste great with the lamb, so I decided to try it.

When the day came, I got up early.

clock

I said a short prayer.  I prayed that I would not be stressed or lash out at my kids.  That I would be peaceful and calm, no matter what happened.

I’m not sure I would pray that prayer ever again.  In hindsight, I think I should have just prayed that nothing stressful would happen.  But that was not what I asked for that day.  I’m learning.

Anyway.

First, I started ironing the linen table cloth and napkins.

However.  My ironing space was cramped.  I had squeezed the board between the table and a wall, and the iron cord caught on a chair.  The hot iron jerked out of my hand and hit the wood floor, hard, and bounced two or three times.

I didn’t want to look, but I had to grab the iron up quick.  It did not even leave a scratch on the floor.

And.  It had missed landing on my bare foot by about an inch.  I grabbed the iron.  I repeated my prayer.  Not getting stressed.

I kept going.

Next, I set the table.  I laid out the pad and the linens and my white wedding china.  I got out the crystal glasses.

plate-76362_1280

My son wanted to help and picked up two of them.  As I stood at the table arranging glasses and silverware, he walked across the kitchen to bring them to me.  And he dropped one.  I jumped.

Crystal shatters.  Like ice.

Tiny pieces of glass.

Everywhere.

I took one look, stepped out of the kitchen, breathed deep, and went back in.

glass-1355707_640

I cleaned it up.  I told the kids to put on their shoes, just in case.  I prayed again.  I kept going.

The raspberry sauce.  The white chocolate mousse.  The salad, chopped and tossed.

Finally, the meat, potatoes, green beans, and brownies had to be done at the end.  The last hour of cooking a meal is busy.

I put the lamb on the grill and came back inside to peel potatoes.  Two of my kids stationed themselves in chairs near the glass door to watch the grill.

A few minutes later, my youngest stood up and opened the door and stuck her head out.  I was peeling potatoes at the sink.

Paige looked at me and said, “Mommy, you might want to come look at this, there’s a fire.”

I said, “I know, I just started it, I’m cooking the lamb.”

She said, “No, Mommy, it’s a big fire.”

My son said, “Um.  Yeah.  It’s a really big fire, Mom.  You might want to come look.”

I was like good grief.  These kids always exaggerate.

Set my potatoes down and walked to the door.

potato-544073_640

Smoke poured out of the grill to the ceiling, and flames were shooting out, maybe three feet on each side.

And I decided right there.  I was not going to let that day beat me.

I closed the door, walked back to the sink, and went back to peeling potatoes.

I needed to think.  I needed to stay calm.

Think think think.  What puts out a fire.

Kitchen fire.

Baking soda.

Yes.

Open cabinets.  Three boxes of baking soda.

Awesome.

I got this.

I took the baking soda to the porch.  I squared off at that grill.  My husband was not home.  I was the adult in charge.  I had to open the grill to put out the fire.

I knew that I could call 911, but I did not have time for this.  Dinner was in one hour.

I looked at the flames and thought, “I don’t think it’s going to do a wall-of-fire if I open it.  I really don’t think it’s going to explode.  It could, but I just think it’s not.”  I had an oven mitt.  I took the top handle of the grill and threw it open and jumped back.

The flames shot straight up, almost to the top of the vaulted ceiling over the porch, six and eight and twelve feet in the air.

flames-1528654_640

I threw baking soda on the base of the flames, all over the thirty-five dollars worth of lamb sitting on the grill rack.

The flames had gone down, but not completely, when I ran out of soda.

I turned off the grill heat, went back inside, closed the door, and went back to peeling potatoes.  Kids were screaming by now.

“Mom!  What are you doing??  Potatoes??  No!!  FIRE FIRE!!”

I’m like.

I know.  I have to think.

Think think.

No time for panic.  No time for fear.  Got to keep the kids safe.  I prayed over this day.  No fear.

Think.

What’s the next closest thing to baking soda?

Salt.

I am a homeschool mom.  I make play dough for a living.  I had buckets of salt.

I grabbed two brand new containers of salt and walked back out on the porch.  The flames were healthy and growing.

grill-fire-download

I shook out all the salt.  The flames went out on one now completely black piece of lamb, and a few small flames still burned on the other piece.  I picked both pieces  up with the grill tongs and set them on a cookie sheet.  I turned the last burning piece over and over until the flames went totally out.  Stop, drop,  and roll.

I carried that cookie sheet full of charred lamb back into the house.  Company coming in 45 minutes.   What to do.  Think think.

No time to get more meat.  No going back.

I peeled back enough of the char that it looked like meat again and put it under the faucet, rinsing off as much of the soda and salt as I could.  And then I put them back on the cookie sheet and stuck them in the oven at 325 degrees.  If it was awful, I would have a funny story and order pizza.  Moving on.

Finished desserts, potatoes, salad.  Finished centerpiece and table settings and dishes.

Took out the lamb and cut it in slices to arrange on plate.  Held breath.  Tasted.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Seriously??

It was amazing.

Ok. Don’t call it grilled lamb.  Call it blackened lamb.

Moving on.

Both of my sisters enjoy quality.  And one of them, Jane, has what I would call “very exacting taste.”  She worked in fine dining for a while in college.  She knows all the gourmet words for everything, and she has eaten some good lamb.  Like, really good.

When they came in, they commented on the delicious smell.  “You grilled for us?!?” They were so excited.

I’m like.  Oh.  You have no idea.

We sat down to eat, and I had to look away when they tried the lamb.  Felt like laughing.  Maybe time for pizza.

Then I heard Jane say, “Oh my word.  This is the best lamb I have ever tasted in my life.  It has this salty crust on it.  So good.”

Ah.

Sweet victory.

photo-1464349153735-7db50ed83c84

***

Takeaways?  

One.  Lamb is a fatty cut of meat.  Lol.  Learned that the hard way.  Never walk away from lamb on the grill.  Two.  I am not a firefighter.  Most days.  But, some days I am.  And.  Three.  Saying no to fear makes all the difference.  The difference between being able to do something and not.  

I could have cowered down and called 911.  But, if I had, that fire would have grown and grown in the fifteen minutes it took for the fire department to arrive.  I’m not saying we should always “fight our own fires,” but in this case, I kept the grill from exploding and my house from burning down.  I would have been the same person either way.  But I would have lost the chance to learn something important about myself if I had let others come in and fight my battle for me because of fear.  

I’m really glad I have this day in my memory.  God used it to show me that He is with me and that He has put strength in me.  It’s something I draw on when I ask myself, “Can I handle this?”  Hashtag #lambonfire.  Oh.  Yes.  I can.  I pray He reminds you of these moments for yourself.  Hashtag #reminders. Yes.  You can.

And.  Four.  Next time, just pray for a good day.  No reason to complicate these things.  

I’m learning.

What memories do you draw strength from?  Even inspiration from other people you know or movies or books?  Story drives us in powerful ways.  Would love to hear your stories in the comments!!

Three More Things You Can Do to Fight Fear

Last week I shared three things you could do right away to fight fear.

This week I’m giving you three things that might take a little more time to accomplish, but they will go after the root of fear.

Three More Things You Can Do to Fight Fear

1)  Keep a Word Journal.

When my kids were little, I found myself angry all the time.  I knew it wasn’t the kids’ fault, but I also didn’t understand the anger.  I loved my kids.  I really wanted to be a good mom.  But I kept running into anger over little things.

woman-975339_640

So, I found a good counselor to talk to about it, and he gave me one of the most helpful strategies I have ever used for fighting any destructive emotion or trait within myself.

He said, “Get a journal, and choose three scriptures that deal with anger, write them down, and read them out loud every day.

So I did that, and I did improve in the area of anger, but something else happened.

As I read the scriptures out loud every day, I could feel anxiety leaving my body.  I could feel my shoulders relax, my breathing change.  I noticed my mind stop racing.

I didn’t even know I was anxious.  I was so used to anxiety, it just felt normal to me, until I read the scripture, and it left.

It showed me that anger wasn’t the main problem, but that there was anxiety underneath the anger.

Anxiety is a low-lying, constant fear.

When I became aware of anxiety, I chose three verses that dealt with fear, and I added those to my daily reading.  I refused to even get out of bed until I read those verses and peace came in.  I would read them ten times if I had to, until I felt the anxiety leave and peace take its place.

You can do this in whatever way works for you.  In my journal, I wrote “anger” or “anxiety” or whatever the issue was on the left side of the page.  Then out to the right side of the word, I wrote three verses.  Then I left a blank page so I could add more verses or notes as time passed.

diary

My “Word Journal” looked something like this:

Anger:                 “In your anger do not sin.”  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  Ephesians 4:26-27

Simple, but so powerful.

I have had people ask me if this is focusing on negative things.  I think that it is more about being honest about the negative things that we are dealing with.  It is about facing them.  It is taking thoughts captive.  Most of the time, if you look up verses about an issue, there will be something positive there.  And you can absolutely do the same thing by reading scriptures about “joy” or “love.”

heart-1213481_640

Each one of us is a little different.  Read the verses that bring peace.  Pick three verses that deal with fear, and read them out loud every day for at least a week.  Give the verses you choose enough time to bring change.

The word journal naturally leads into number two.

2)  Know God.

Keep getting to know Him.  He’s real.  He loves you.  He is with you all the time.  You are never alone.  Fear is not from God.

michelangelo-71282_640

I know these things because I have studied scripture.  I’ve written it down, and read it out loud, and it has changed what I thought about who I am.

But it changed me because I learned about who He is.

No matter where you are on a faith journey, beginner or long time believer, this is something that never stops or gets stale or gets old.  It is too easy to forget who He is when we are confronted with the world every day.

If we keep running after who He is, we keep growing in who He made us to be.

purple-grapes-553463_640

There is no deeper identity than the identity of God.  Sometimes it feels like finding out our own identity is more important or pressing, but that is a lie.

Our identity flows out of knowing who He is.

God did not send fear.  God sends love.  Therefore, our true identity is not that of a fearful coward, but that of a treasured son.  See how it works?  Who He is, tells me who I am.  And He is strong and good.

You can do the word journal on this too.  Look up scriptures on who God is.  Write them down.  Say them out loud.  Every day.

Joyce Meyer has another strategy of remembering this one.  Another super simple, super powerful strategy.

Say, “God loves me, and He is working in my life,” fifty times a day.

Perfect love beats fear.

3)  And the last strategy for today.  Order my friend’s book on Amazon for 99c.  Emotional Healing in Three Easy Steps, by Praying Medic.

Because of triggers, you may need to find a trusted friend to be with you as you read it.  This book will help you walk through the phases and roots of fear.  It will help you identify all kinds of emotional issues and get free.  Click link below to purchase for 99 cents.

https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Healing-3-Easy-Steps-ebook/dp/B015AMHQM2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472832371&sr=8-1&keywords=emotional+healing+in+3+easy+steps

God wants to heal you of fear and anything else that is holding you back.

These things may seem simple on the surface.  Most deeply effective spiritual practices do.  But they are powerful agents for change.  The challenge comes in actually doing them as a daily practice over time.  Praying for all of us as we practice.

***

Emotions are a product of our thought life.  Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.  John14:27

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Josh1:9

I sought the Lord, and He answered me.  He delivered me from all my fears.  Ps34:4