When I had my first panic attack at seven weeks postpartum, I didn’t even realize it. I just thought I was getting sick. Here’s what happened: I woke up in the middle of the night sweating profusely and feeling the urge to vomit. I rushed to the bathroom and subsequently began to dry-heave as I positioned my head over the toilet. My heart was beginning to race, and as I sat there hugging the toilet, these thoughts began to swirl through my head:
- Am I getting sick from something that I ate?!
- Do I have a stomach bug?! (UGH! If there is one sickness in this world that I have a hard time coping with more than all the others, it’s a stomach bug.) I hope I’m not getting a stomach bug!
- I can’t be sick! My husband has to work first thing in the morning until late in the day at a church event and I won’t be able to take care of the kids by myself if I’m feeling like this!
- What am I going to do?!
- What if the kids get this sick?! It’s Saturday and our pediatrician’s office is closed!
- Why do we always get sick on the weekends when the doctor’s office is closed??!!
WHEW! I started to cry and called for my slumbering husband to come and help me. He eagerly held me, assuring me of the practical solution that he could stay home from work if we needed him to. He also began to walk me through the process of trusting God’s plan for me if I was indeed sick.
*NOTE: I’ll do an entire post on this process in the future: how I wrangle my thoughts and
stop spiraling into despair, how I trust in God’s sovereignty, and how I use the sick time to be productive. For now, please reference the chart I posted a couple of weeks ago.
After my husband talked me down from my freak-out, I was able to sleep and woke up the next day feeling tired, but no longer nauseous. As my husband headed out to work, I still thought that I had been experiencing a stomach bug. Though I was feeling much better, I was perplexed by the strange symptoms that seemed to fade so quickly. To survive the day, I put my thoughts about that night on the back burner of my mind.
Not long after this, I began to lose more and more sleep at night and continued to have similar symptoms on multiple occasions. After a couple weeks, I realized that what I was experiencing were panic attacks. Spoiler alert! I survived all of them! But they were incredibly frightening to me. I didn’t even know that I needed help or how to get it. I was only left with a gut-wrenching feeling of hopelessness. This is a season of life that I can now see so clearly how God used those moments to bring me closer to him. At the time, I would not have dreamed that I would be able to one day write this.
I end this post urging you to consider that Christ is with you in the storm. What are the circumstances causing your storm? Is it the stomach flu, panic attacks, devastating loss, financial distress, and/or depression? He is not only there in the boat with you, but he is using them to call you to keep your eyes stayed on him. The Bible tells us that God uses circumstances like this to make us more like Christ and that is something that I have come to love as I experience hardships. Here is a verse I turn to for encouragement when I am sick, especially when I have a gnarly stomach bug. My hope for you is that you will learn to do the same with your circumstances.
Please write to me if you have questions about this.