By Lake Averie
Fight or flight? She can’t decide.
Hiding out, trying to ride it out until the pain subsides
Praying they don’t find out the fears her body has shouted.
But He knows and where is He?
As close as the air I breathe.
© 2015 Lake Ave
In the fall of 1999, the leaves on the trees weren’t the only things changing. “You had a full-blown panic attack.” My counselor informed me. His words were like being rescued by a shark. “It’s common in people who’ve been around a lot of unpredictable situations in their childhood. You need to buy the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook – and there’s medicine. . .” I left my counselor’s office with an answer and a prescription. I couldn’t believe my new life sentence.
My first panic attack snowballed into an avalanche of terror during a presentation at Grand Valley State University. I was the one of the only English majors who wanted to write, not teach.
I was determined not to let my nerves get the best of me although I couldn’t sleep or breathe the whole night before. When my professor called my name to present, the anxiety laid siege to my whole system. I was no longer in control. I was a ship being hijacked, surrounded by a sea of people and no one could help me.
During the ambush, my throat felt like it was closing. I was sure the class could see my heart beating, because it was about to jump ship. My hands suddenly resembled that of a Parkinson’s patient. I shook and squeaked through it, but at the expense my looking insane. The words of my professor echoed in my mind, “If you don’t present, you won’t pass this assignment.” I wanted to scream and run as everyone’s eyes went from a look of anticipation, as I always had thought provoking things to say during class, to wanting to put me out of my misery.
When it was all over, the tip of my nose and finger tips were numb. The weight of embarrassment and shame made it hard to call my mom and to ask her to come and get me at school, forty-five minutes away. She did; my newfound freedom of adulthood melted away on her shoulders.
I took the medicine for two months. I went from being an introvert to feeling comfortable making small talk with people I didn’t even know. It scared me that a pill so small could so powerfully change who I was, and that the rest of my life depended on it.
I got my counselors permission to try natural alternatives such as Kava, Vitamin B, and Omega 3-6-9; I felt healthier when I breathed deeply, eliminated sugar and caffeine, and started exercising.
As everyone who has ever tried a diet or lifestyle change knows – I couldn’t do it alone. I could only overcome with the power of the Holy Spirit in me and the freedom of Jesus Christ. A scripture that guides me is James 4:17. “Anyone who knows what is right but fails to do it is guilty of sin.” My regimen of proper breathing, diet, supplements, and exercise has become a matter of right and wrong in my life, righteousness or sin – a battle I have to fight every day in order to meet my calling.
Out of everything the happened that day, the biggest question I had for God was, where were you? I had read every scripture about fear and still had a panic attack?
Now, I realize my past petitions were like a prisoner asking a stranger for bail; which is the beauty of salvation. However, in every other area of my life I had told God to mind His business. I wasn’t ready to come under his authority. So why should He miraculously bail me out? I didn’t want to know Him – I just wanted to overcome this, feel better, and walk away.
After going through such monumental embarrassment and living, I learned not to care what people think, because they didn’t know how far I came and they definitely couldn’t predict my future.
Today, I am going into my tenth year teaching. Despite my diagnosis, teaching is the only job that has ever fulfilled me. I have experienced a couple of small panic attacks when I had to present to adults because I went into it cold or didn’t have time to prepare my body by breathing, eliminating sugar, and exercising. But the current embarrassments pale in comparison to my dark past, full of pain and unanswered questions, as I am choosing my future – healthy and righteously bright. Inhaling every new hope, and exhaling every fear and yoke of my past.
A decade’s worth of teaching by day. Dreamer of words and design by night. Mother of three – 24/7. Child of God for eternity. My past is sprinkled with published poetry and articles, copywriting, and assistant editing. My future sparkles like the magnificent sunset on the Great Lake from my home state.