Sunday, July 26, 2015

Keeping God in Mind During Attacks

Last night I felt a pretty intense attack... but unlike any panic attacks I've had. I wasn't shaking. I didn't feel like I couldn't breathe nor was there a heaviness on my chest. I wasn't lightheaded. I just felt a sudden wave of hopelessness and desperation. I glanced at the iPod next to me (yes, I need to break the habit of having it nearby when I sleep) and it read 1:37 a.m.

"Nooo," I said to myself. "Not when I have to get up before dawn for Mass." I tried to fight it. I could hear Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" starting to play (okay, that's not true but the song pretty much expresses how it felt) as it grew stronger and stronger. Next thing I knew I got out of bed, left my room, and started pacing the perimeter of the living room. At some point I started crying because of the frustration. I hadn't had one of these nights in a really long time; so long that I honestly can't remember when the last one happened. Two years ago? Three?

I know what triggered it. I know what thoughts invade my peace of mind, causing this attack to come to fruition. Though I rationalized them away, they still held strong. "You're weak." "You're doing this to yourself." "There is no hope." Every time a thought like this popped up, I countered it with "But God has my back." "I trust in Him." The more I fought the negative with thoughts of God, the worse the negative thoughts hounded me. Still, I fought.

I tried saying the Memorare prayer over and over, only to not be able to concentrate on the prayer. I thought about praying the Rosary but knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate. Then I did something I never thought I would ever do but it was done without second thought: I literally dropped to my knees and began praying.

The worn out carpet hit my bare kneecaps hard but I didn't care. I cried harder and I began praying. "I trust in God. I don't know why I can't fight these thoughts right now but I trust in You. I trust in God. Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be..." Slowly, the negative thoughts began to disappear. "You won't make it to Mass; you have to get up in 2-3 hours. You won't make it" the thought said. "Yes, I can. I'm used to 2 hours of sleep when I drive mom to work and it sometimes takes me 2 more hours to fall back asleep for a nap. I can always go to Mass and come home to nap," I countered. "I WILL go to Mass tomorrow." My rational/logic explanations and my positive thoughts began diminishing the strength of the negative ones. A few minutes later, it had all passed. It still took me a few more minutes to settle down before I fell asleep again.

I can already hear some of my friends theorizing it was a spiritual attack. It certainly wasn't a typical panic attack but whether it was spiritual or not, I was glad that I was able to keep my thoughts on God. If you suffer from panic attacks, you know how hard it is to concentrate on anything that isn't what you're feeling. Even after having suffered through them for half of my life (they started when I was 15 though they've diminished in strength and frequency over the years), it's still hard for me to focus on God during those times. It's worth the try but I know not to beat myself up if I can't automatically go there.

I'm sharing this because I get a lot of blog hits from people searching the key words "Catholicism / Catholic" and "anxiety." Anxiety and panic attacks are still a major taboo with some people. There is still that stigma that there is something "wrong" or "off" with us. There isn't. We're not going crazy, though it may feel like it at times. Part of my anxiety stems from having medical PTSD (years of adverse reactions to medications and food allergies, plus seeing my dad suffer through 7 years of cancer, have left me nervous when it comes to medical emergencies). Some people have a chemical imbalance in their bodies. All are valid reasons that no one should hold against us... and, trust me, most of the time there is nothing but compassion towards us.

Whatever reason there is for these attacks, please know that it has nothing to do with what's "wrong" with us. Some things are beyond our control. Other things -- such as my medical PTSD -- can be worked through. I am making good progress on it though I know it won't be something that will go away overnight. No matter what we go through, we can always ask Him to help us carry those heavy crosses when we feel like we can't. During our times of weakness is when He's right next to us.

Anyway, that's it from me today. I still haven't gone to Mass but I need to start getting ready for one of the later Masses of the day. :) I hope y'all had a great weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


AnneMarie said...

Wow. This is powerful.

Emmy Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - I hope it was powerful in a good way. lol.

Lauren said...

I agree that this is very powerful - sounds like the attack was a combination of panic attack and spiritual in my opinion. I know that's how they are for me sometimes - when I am in a state of panic or anxiety, I think the devil finds it a perfect time to prey on me.

I am SO glad that you were able to pray your way through it. That can be hard work. And you are so true, about the sad fact that anxiety can be a taboo amongst Catholics. I first received an official diagnosis (depression) during my sophomore year of college. The attacks on me spiritually, were strong, I found myself thinking that if I was "really a Christian" I wouldn't feel this way, that if I "really believed" that God loved me I wouldn't be so hopeless. I remember asking my grandma if doubting God or straying from him as the result of depression or anxiety could still be a sin. For a long time, I believed having this illness was a sin itself. It happened that someone I knew in a ministry role "came out" about their own mental illness, for the first time I saw one of my own role models, someone who had a strong relationship with God, who was successfully living her vocation to marriage who was also living with this illness. I finally felt like it was "okay" to seek treatment! (I previously thought the Church didn't allow for it or some nonsense).

Anyway - sorry for all the rambling. But glad that Mary had her eye on you, and kept her focus on you, even if it was difficult to focus on your own prayers. I admire and appreciate your courage in sharing about what anxiety looks like and how faith can help :)