Living with Anxiety ~ 4 Part Series
Part 1 ~ First Panic Attacks
Welcome to my 4 Part Series on Living with Anxiety. This is a hard part of my story and my walk with God to share, but I feel like it is important. It’s important to end the stigma there is especially in the church, and to encourage others who may be going through something similar and let them know they are not alone. I’ve written a bit about my anxiety before (Fighting a Panic Attack ~ 4 Practical Tips) but my hope and prayer for this Living with Anxiety series are that it will help all of us be a little more compassionate to ourselves and to others whether we struggle with anxiety or know someone who does. Here is Part 1 ~ First Panic Attacks
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I just feel like it’s important to start this whole thing off with prayer.
Father God, thank you for loving us just exactly where we are and for who we are. You created each of us in Your own image and said “It is good.” I pray that the words I type here today will bless another heart. I pray that You guide me and give me the words and keep anything out that is not beneficial. In Your precious Name, Amen.
Ok, let’s get started. I clearly remember my very first panic attack. I was in grade six or seven, so around 12 years old. Of course, I didn’t realize or know it was a panic attack at the time. I just knew I was terrified and thought I was going to die.
I was winter camping with the girls group from my church. Usually, it was just the boys group that got to go, but my friends and I wanted to go so badly! Finally, after much begging (I think they finally just got sick of us asking) they said if we found a female leader to go with us, we could come. We asked the French teacher at our school, who was really outdoorsy, and she agreed to take us! Needless to say, we were super excited!!
The day finally came and we were all set to go. We got there in the late afternoon and started looking for a good place in the snow to set up camp. We weren’t sleeping in tents, just right in the snow. Our group decided to build something like an igloo to help keep us warm for the night. Most of the guys just dug out a clearing in the snow and covered it with a tarp. After having supper and s’ mores around the campfire, we headed to bed later that night. That’s when it happened.
Panic in the Night
I had a hard time falling to sleep. It seemed like all the other girls were out in no time. We squished in side by side in this snow bank basically. I started getting really hot and sweaty, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I HAD to get out of there, I was in a panic. So, I wiggled out and pulled out my sleeping bag. I was having a hard time breathing, almost like I was hyperventilating, I seriously thought I was going to die. It was so scary, but I was also really embarrassed about it for some reason. I never did go wake anyone up to help me. I ended up sleeping out under the stars in my sleeping bag trying to calm myself by regulating my breathing. By morning I was freezing.
My Dad happened to be one of the leaders on that trip. I didn’t know exactly where he was sleeping or I probably would have gone and got him in the night. I just remember going to him in the morning in tears and told him I didn’t feel good. My body felt just completely wiped out. We were supposed to ski the entire next day, I spent the day in the Lodge and in our van trying to get some sleep. Everyone kept asking if I was alright. I was ashamed to admit that I wasn’t really sick, I just freaked out during the night for no apparent reason. I’d just say I was fine, my stomach was bothering me.
Second Panic Attack
My second panic attack came a few years later. I was in grade 12, so 17 years old or so. We were on a phys-ed class overnight hiking trip. Everything had been great, the hike up to the lake we were camping at was amazing. We had to backpack everything in and out, so it was a tough hike, but we were having a lot of fun.
When we got there, we all set up our tents. I was sharing a tent with one of my girlfriends, we got it set up no problem. The second night, after we had supper and were starting to get ready for bed, 2 of our guy friends realized that they set up their tent right in a gully that was now flowing with water after it had rained a bit that day (I’m not sure how they didn’t notice that before!) Their tent flooded. We had more room in our tent, so they crashed with us. I ended up squished up against the side of the tent.
Another Panic in the Night
Again, I couldn’t fall asleep. Then I just panicked. I was shivering and sweating and I HAD to get out of that tent! This time I did end up waking up my girlfriend. We were camping in bear country, so we couldn’t go anywhere on our own. When we got out, I had to go to the bathroom, like right now! We were in the middle of nowhere, so no outhouses or anything. We had to dig a hole to use for the toilet. We were supposed to go out from camp a little way, but I couldn’t make it that far. So, there I went, just 10 feet or so down the path from our tents.
I felt a bit better after that but still slept very fitfully that night. I think I made one of our guy friends switch spots with me so I could be in the middle of the tent rather than up against the wall. The next day, we were hiking back down. I felt so incredibly drained and tired, but we had to go. Telling our leaders I was sick seemed like the easiest thing to do and I stayed near that back of the pack with the “slower” hikers. I was so glad to finally get home that day. Again, I felt so embarrassed.
The Worst Part
Not knowing what was happening was the worst part of it all. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, I felt like I was weak or there was something wrong with me. I didn’t want to admit that to anyone! So, I just ignored it and continued on with life. Little did I know that would come to bite me in the butt in the next few years!
If you or someone you know is struggling with Anxiety or any other mental health issue, please reach out for help! I am happy to point you in the right direction for any resources you may need. Here is a quick quiz from WebMd about some of the Facts of Anxiety, what it is and when it might be becoming a problem: What’s Worrying You? The Facts About Anxiety.
Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of Living with Anxiety ~ Jesus & Medication