I can’t tell you how many thousands of times over the years I have reached out in prayer, desperate for God to take away my anxiety. My panic attacks started at age 7, and have done a ton of praying about them over the years.
Last night at my Al-Anon meeting a friend shared this with the group:
“Don’t ask God for a path if you’re not willing to move your feet.”
I thought that was pretty interesting- and it also revealed a lot of truth about what was really asking for when I prayed about God delivering me from my anxiety as a young girl.
Honestly I think my prayers have always been answered, but in a way that I was not ready to see, at least not until recently.
This little snippet from the Wizard of Oz always makes me mist up with tears, and it’s because it really applies to what I have learned about anxiety:
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
She Had to Learn it For Herself….
When I was younger I wanted the panic attacks to stop. I wanted so desperately to get better and I felt I would do anything – if only I know what the heck to do. I used to pray that a doctor somewhere would discover some surgery that would cure panic attacks. I knew I would be one of the first patients to sign up.
I used to pray for a miracle. After all, I was brought up Catholic and miracles happened to everyday people. Besides, what else could I do as a child except pray? I just felt if I prayed hard and sincerely enough, my burden would surely be lifted. As a young girl, I said rosaries, did novenas, went to mass, prayed in the shower, prayed in the morning, prayed at night. I prayed so much I got scared that God or Mary or an angel or something would actually appear to me. I prayed so much I freaked myself out.
It’s November and I am reminded of this Christmas Anticipation Novena I was taught in 4th grade. You say the prayer 15 times a day starting on November 30 I think and you do this every day until Christmas Eve. When you wake up on Christmas Day, your prayer will be answered.
I used to wake up on Christmas Day so filled with anticipation that my anxiety would have miraculously disappeared. Then of course life would happen and I’d have another panic attack and I would feel so let down.
The point I’m getting at is I used to pray for the anxiety and panic attacks and worry to go away, by some miracle of God , and then when I got older, I sought a medical miracle. I thought all the answers had to come from someone else, someone much smarter and more powerful than me…
I remember in my early 20s when I took my first Klonopin. It was like a small miracle, it really was. I took it at bedtime with so much hope (my doctor was confident it would do the trick) and when I woke up the next morning, the knot in my stomach was gone. I was able to go to work that day at the hospital completely anxiety free. Nothing made me panic, not going on the elevator, not sitting through report, not staying there all day for 12 hours…I felt like I was back to my normal self.
While I am ever grateful for the medicines that have helped me, I couldn’t have known back then all the problems I would eventually have from being on anti anxiety medications for years and year and years…
First they work, then I would build up a tolerance, then the dose would go up, then a new medication would be added because it was what the the doctor said to do. And the tiredness and lethargy, and sleeping 12 hours a day with a nap during the day on top of it. And the weight loss and the weight gain, and then taking something for the side effects.
And then the panic attacks come back stronger than ever, and then the dose is increased again. And then I move and have to get a new doctor and then everything changes again, and 10 years pass and I am addicted to so many pills and I keep on having panic attacks, and I beg the doctor to put me in a hospital but he says no, and 10 more years pass and I can’t get off the stuff and I’m still anxious as ever, and God this sucks so bad, but I just keep taking my pills because if I don’t I will probably have seizures and what has my life become?
And so on…
It never occurred to me back then that I could actually do a lot of things to help myself. Almost from the very beginning there were things I could do to help myself.
Really simple things.
But I didn’t know it. I felt that panic attacks and anxiety were so serious, nothing short of the genius of modern medicine or a miracle from God Himself could help me.
I spent my time and energy figuring out how to mange my pills and all the side effects and making sure my prescriptions were current and all the while and seeking the pharmaceutical Holy Grail that would cure me of my panic attacks and yet somehow alluded me…
I guess that my thinking was pretty messed up, but I was pretty messed up so no wonder I couldn’t see the obvious. I couldn’t see it because my focus was 100% on managing these wonderful/horrendous medications that had taken over my life.
After a harrowing year of weaning off Klonopin and Prozac and finally succeeding, my thinking was not as fuzzy. I was not always in a drugged out state, and I could think and pray again with a pretty clear head.
And that was when I began my journey of anxiety self help. I read my good books by Dr.Claire Weekes and I re read them. Again and again and again.
And I talked on anxiety forums to people who were just like me and were learning to get out there and try exposing themselves to things that scared them.
In the beginning it was really hard.
Sometimes it got too hard for me, and I felt things would be better if I was numbed out on pills again. And that saying I heard last night is true- I asked God from the very beginning for path to help me get better. And He showed me something wonderful:
That I Could Create My Own Path
My very own path of anxiety recovery. I could do it as slowly and gently as I needed. I didn’t have to kill myself and get better overnight.
But I had to at least be willing to do something every day. This meant-
- Learning what Face, Accept, Float, and Let Time Pass really meant, and applying it in situations that triggered my panic attacks and social anxiety.
- Learning to do it afraid and wobble my way to small successes (because Dr. Weekes says “Jelly legs will still get you there.”)
- Leaning how to reduce anxiety to a normal intensity, use my good voice of reason to guide my thoughts, and then go about my day.
- Repeating the above again and again and again….
Yesterday I was having some weird feelings related to fitting in with others in the larger context of being a recovering anxious person. It felt bad when it was happening, and sometimes I do feel lonely and left out.
But I can see that this is part of the process of getting better: re-learning how to make my way in the world comfortably. And today, thankfully, I am doing it without being completely and utterly paralyzed and incapacitated by anxiety and panic attacks.
My path is right before me and it is clear.
I see what I have to do and I know that with God on my side I can do it. Gently and with a lot of self love. One day at a time I am seeing and finally living the miracle in my life that I have always hoped and prayed for.
And this is my hope for all people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
Do you see that you have a big part in *your own* anxiety recovery? What small steps can you take – starting now- that will help you feel better?
I wish you peace,
ps. Read my Panic Away review to learn more about the program that helped me calm my panic attacks after I weaned myself off a very high dose of Klonopin.