By Monica C. Voskamp
Anxiety. Fear. Panic Attacks. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These effect one’s health. For years they have effected mine, from mild to debilitating.
A few years ago, I had one such panic attack. I was walking down a sidewalk on my way to church. I was nearing a plaza where a former ex and I had gone. Suddenly I froze. Just seeing that plaza jolted something in me. It wasn’t even specific memories of him, but the feeling of the toxicity of the relationship and fear of him. My body went into a shut down mode. I was terrified to walk a foot closer to that plaza! A weight enveloped my chest, my throat got tight, and terror filled my being. It sounds ridiculous…but it wasn’t. This was something very real, frightening and frustrating. I really wanted to go to church, but I was being overwhelmed with this spontaneous terror.
I had walked, jogged that sidewalk thousands of times before. ( I love walking and being outdoors. 🙂 ) Yet suddenly, one day, it was different. Realistically, there was nothing dangerous about the sidewalk, nothing wrong with the weather or the traffic and I wanted to go to church. Church is a happy place for me. 🙂 This wasn’t like a Sunday cop out response. Nope, no way…something else in me was responding much stronger than rationale and my spiritual desire.
Something triggered an intense emotional and physical response: anxiety. A visual image tapped into my memory bank and I got a screaming response. Anxiety was overriding my system creating a hurricane force of emotions and physical symptoms.
It literally made me turn around in the opposite direction. I didn’t get to my destination; I reluctantly walked back home instead. I was disappointed I was missing out on church because of this unexpected panic attack. I did not plan on that. One does not plan anxiety attacks in their timeline; no one wishes for them, but they happen anyway.
To someone that knows anxiety, this won’t seem too surprising. If someone has never experienced living with anxiety, panic attacks or PTSD, then it may be hard to grapple this. And gracious, I myself was upset I couldn’t “get over it”…yet I couldn’t deny anxiety and my being just wouldn’t accept logic. Anxiety was bigger. You don’t just “get over” anxiety.
Anxiety is a real struggle and the condition of anxiety is a reality. Anxiety does not allow you the freedom to be yourself. It thrusts you into a different world where you struggle to be. It’s own language fights for rule of your mind.
From what I have experienced, anxiety causes you to juggle 2 worlds: Planet Earth and the Planet Anxiety. One, “Planet Earth”, has reality’s mindset: what you know is true and normal in life, and the other, “Planet Anxiety”, has a contradicting reality: what horrible ordeal might happen to you along with the feelings that ARE happening to you. Planet Anxiety is a confusing, frightening place that trashes reality thoughts. Anxiety creates insecurity and uncertainty, and often fuels more anxiety.
Anxiety does produce real feelings; it’s real. I’ve mentioned this again for a reason. People truly struggle and are in distress; it is one hellish road to be on.
—unreal fears that FEEL real
–suppressed trauma that triggers anxiety
–actual physical symptoms (because the body is stressed)
-(sometimes) psychological symptoms (because the body/mind isn’t meant to be in a state of constant anxiety)
A person may deal with one or more aspects than I’ve named. I’m definitely not the anxiety expert (ha, thank God!) This is part of what I know, have learned by juggling the 2 worlds.
Walking down the sidewalk that Sunday morning was when my whole self became vulnerable to a painful past trauma. The magnitude of the panic attack shows how much ‘my person’ was wounded. Anxiety is more than symptoms. There is the attack, the symptoms, but there are reasons for anxiety.
Going through anxiety, coping with anxiety and healing from anxiety is a process. And much like my healthy living journey in losing 100 pounds, it is not a process of perfection or something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of brave, courage, commitment, support, and tender loving care on yourself and from others to juggle Planet Anxiety and Planet Earth.
It’s a day to day ride, and that’s perfectly okay. Somethings can’t be rushed. Healing is one of those things. It is not predictable, and anxiety attacks seem to be part of the healing road; they help shed light on wounded areas. (there’s a plus!) But healing can happens in the most unlikeliest ways and people, at least I’m finding that. (Unlikeliest…did I just make that word up? 😛 )
The puzzle pieces will come together; I don’t have to force it. The core of anxiety doesn’t have to be solved right now. Giving myself permission to heal slowly, take my time and let others love on me has allowed my life to take a greater shape. I grow; I don’t stay stuck on Planet Anxiety.
Always hope, always have faith, and always love. Love yourself and be loved on this road. I have a feeling love is what bridges the gap between these two worlds. ❤
Hope. Faith. Love. These three remain, but the greatest of these is love. (from 1 Corinthians 13:13.)