You all know who Leisl is....we got back in touch after years of not seeing each other and her friendship has been a blessing to me, as she is another mother raising boys she adopted.� Leisl also runs with me� and is a fantastic writer.� Though I have never suffered the disorder she is writing about, my mother has in the past and occasionally still does to this day.� There is help.
I plead, feverishly, �Dear God, what is happening to me?� Oh God, help me!� Why is this happening to me God?� Help Me!�
����������� Only minutes before, a balmy breeze faintly whisks my hair against my sun dappled face. I catch a fleeting glimpse of the golden glory of the forsythia bushes as I drive the country road. �The moist earth aroma is ancient, yet fresh.� Accelerating the car increases the airflow through the slightly rolled down window.� The whooshing commotion causes my hair to whip more intensely against my dew dusted skin.� The robin�s egg blue sky is feathered with gossamer clouds. I am breathing in measured moments.� The familiarity of the season rushes my senses.�� A swarm of mixed impressions, startlingly, confuses me.� All at once, I feel out of place.� It�s analogous to having bitten into something bitter, expecting a sweet savory taste.� The instantaneous puzzlement crowds my mind and body with shivering sounds, caustic colors, seething scents, tangy tastes and flustered feelings!
�My suddenly saturated hands choke the steering wheel.� An undulating wave of tingling sensations wields its way down from the crown of my head to the bottom of my feet and upward again, increasing the prickling feeling as it reaches my head and face.� I am deaf, except to my hammering heartbeat.�� My thumping heart echoes itself in my head.� The rapidity of my heart rate alarms me and ushers in a careening feeling of doom.� I cannot catch my breath! �I cannot breathe!� I am choking!� I am blistering hot and soaking wet! I struggle to roll the window all the way down!� I need air!� Jarringly the sturdy sound of the impeding air frightens me.� The rush of wind tightens my chest.� A bulky hungry pain remains within my chest cavity.
Hurriedly my left hand tussles with the door handle.� Chaotically I roll the window closed.� I reach my right hand towards the air conditioning unit.� The lengthy shift is punctuated with nausea and amplified by the immediate belief that I AM DYING!� Fortunately, I have a fleeting moment of clarity.� I pull the car over to the shoulder of the road.� The air conditioning pummels my mouth and nostrils.� I have the sensation that I am rocking to and fro between increasing and decreasing in size.� Objects begin to come closer to sight and then rush away into oblivion.� I look out the glaring windshield of my car and see the cobalt blue sky shattering into tiny silvery shards.� I cover my head and wait for the world to crash down around me!� I know I am going to die right here, right now!�� The realization that death is here fuels my fear!
�Dear God, what is happening to me?� Oh God, help me!� Why is this happening to me God?� Help Me!�
My mind challenges my replicating fears, �Why aren�t you answering me God?�
�I repeatedly suggest to myself, �I�m okay�.� I try to speak, but cannot get my breath around the syllables.�� However, this cyclical wish directs my breathing to a more even flow.� My heart rate slows.� I cannot move for an extent of time.� This elongated phase shepherds in a fusion of composure and peace.� Now I am sure, that I MUST BE DEAD!� In diminutive degrees I wrench my hands free from my head, then my face.� My hazy gaze pivots between my trembling hands.� I shout, �Am I dead?� Dear God, am I dead?��
A murmur of a moment slides by, and I sense that I am alive!� Curiously, I feel familiar with myself again.� My inner nature steadily becomes congruent with reality. �Instantly I wonder, �What happened to me?�
Within months I am prone to ongoing episodes of intense physical and mental uneasiness that may last minutes or hours.� Sometimes I experience a series of �attacks� within a one day time frame. Daily the cycle of anxiety grows deeper.� I am exhausted, depressed and embarrassed.� I doubt myself, �Am I going crazy?� I retreat into my home.� I alter my routines.� Another incident may materialize from �out of the blue� trapping me emotionally.� I dread the added dependency on my family.� In response, my husband encourages me to get a health exam.� �After one particularly terrible attack, I agree, �I can no longer live like this!�
On the way to the medical office I pray to God.� Tears spring from my eyes, as I beg, �Please let me be okay.�� My physician suspects that I am suffering from an anxiety disorder.� �Normal� anxiety can be helpful in preparing or motivating us in everyday life, such as preparing for a test or exercising to lose weight.� When physical tension and mental apprehension become excessive, anxiety may begin to interfere with ordinary functioning.� My physician refers me to a psychotherapist for further evaluation.� I am diagnosed with a type of anxiety disorder known as Panic Disorder, which involves experiencing unexpected panic attacks and anticipating additional panic attacks.� According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Panic Disorder �affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.�� Furthermore, I have Agoraphobia, which is prevalent �three times as often in women as in men� as stated in the American Psychiatric Association�s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.� Since I am preoccupied with having a panic attack in an inescapable public area, I avoid any place I can think of!� I confine myself to my home unless I can figure out a way to feel �safe� in another environment.
For the next couple of years, the diagnosis is the outline of my life.� The internal details of my life are the skeleton.� A renovation of my spirit is required.� I aspire to be hopeful. I dedicate myself to the process of becoming better.� But it is not easy.�
I visit my psychotherapist once a week, and on occasion, twice a week.� I commit to exploring painful past experiences, current relationship difficulties, creative identity issues and religious and spiritual belief systems.� As I integrate the work I am doing in therapy with my everyday life, I find that I am praying on a regular basis. �Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.�� (Psalm 54: 2)� Praying helps me to be able to calmly focus, to be thankful, and it improves my ability to ask for what I need, not only from God, but from the people in my life.� In my fourth month of psychotherapy I begin attending a local Seventh Day Adventist Church, Willow Brook. Over the next year, my newly found faith, church members support and my personal growth are elemental to my safety and self-assurance.� In line with my experience, the Johns Hopkins Health Alerts newsletter reports on a study that was published in the journal, Depression and Anxiety (Volume 23, page 266) stating that those individuals that considered religion as �very important had fewer anxiety, panic, and phobia symptoms and less perceived stress than other participants.��� Furthermore, the significance of religion on the participant was �more important in predicting improvement in panic symptoms than age (or) gender.�
According to the licensed psychologist, Ruth Ann Seidman, Ph. D., there are multiple therapeutic techniques with varying emphasis that are recommended in a treatment plan for individuals with Panic Disorder.� Relaxation training is significant to learning to manage anxiety and panic.� Relaxation techniques include abdominal breathing and visualization techniques.� Additionally, it is important to explore underlying issues that may contribute to the anxiety and identify thoughts that may trigger or intensify panic.� Once triggers are identified, solutions for breaking or interrupting the connection between catastrophic thoughts and physical symptoms can be learned as a coping skill.��� Medication may also be recommended by a qualified doctor.� Another important approach to managing Panic Disorder is to make lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and assertiveness, and making a plan to manage time and stress more effectively. Other discovery tools, such a journaling and flash cards with coping statements can be fundamental to managing the anxiety associated with Panic Disorder.� Making these changes may aid in facilitating a healthy association between the mind and body.�
�In regards to this relatively common disorder, Dr. Seidman reminds those who suffer with Panic Disorder, �You are not alone.� Help is available and you can feel better.�� She recommends obtaining a referral from a physician or contact the professional organization, the American Psychological Association.� You can seek advice from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker, or your local mental health clinic.�
Thankfully I have been able to improve my life with the help of God, prayer, family, therapy, friends and my own dedication to my own wellness.� The key component to my unexpected journey through Panic Disorder is skillfully managing my anxiety.� �For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.� (2 Timothy 1:7)
copyrighted by Leisl Weaver Miller.�Material is an�unpublished article for the magazine Women of Spirit