No matter how many waves rise up in your soul, always flee to Christ. The Savior will come to help and will calm the waves. Believe that the Lord has providentially arranged your life for your healing; do not reject it and do not seek bodily rest and imagined peace. It is necessary rather to be shaken and endure much. If you will have a revelation, it will greatly ease your battle and you will have more peace than just by yourself. ~St. Leo
When my youngest daughter was about 4 I had a panic attack. I don't know if you've ever had a panic attack, but it's one of the worst feelings ever. I got a sinking feeling that something was "wrong" and my body responded with an adrenaline rush which seemed to confirm the feeling. I assumed I was just over tired or thought maybe I ate something that didn't agree with my brain. I thought it was a one time thing. It wasn't.
After a while another panic attack came. Then another and another until it felt like my life was just riding the wave of panic. I wasn't my normal optimistic mostly happy self. I was carrying a great weight and I didn't know how to get out from under it. I felt like I was in a dark pit and couldn't see even a pin prick of light for a long time. I wanted to "flee to Christ", but it felt like each foothold I discovered in that pit would melt away and I'd fall back down before I'd gotten far. It was so hard. I listened to KLOVE and read the Bible but the "traffic" inside kept coming. I took medication for a time and while that helped me to peep out of the pit there was still much work to do that the medication couldn't do for me (this is just my personal experience and not to say there is not a place for medication).
I battled with anxiety for two years. It took every bit of effort to be a wife and mommy. When moments of peace came I was thankful, but I also questioned how long it would last. I felt like a little girl clinging to the robes of Christ and dancing on His feet, because I didn't understand the rhythm of life anymore.
My husband was the one who said the words that made all the difference. "Don't focus on what you can't do, focus on what you can do." The first thing I focused on was breathing in and out. I can breathe. I focused on driving or playing with my kids or singing or cooking. Little by little I was able to focus on the "now" instead of the "what ifs".
One of the things that impacted my life tremendously was going to my mom's church before we became Orthodox. It was the Pascha service. It was late at night and I stood there with my mom and two of my daughters. That night was special for a number of reasons. Spiritual reasons. But that night my heart was blessed by words sung over and over again. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!" It was a declaration of truth. It was triumphant. It was bigger than my panic. Then the priest would call out "Christ is Risen!" and the congregation responded "Indeed He is Risen!" They said it in English and Greek and Russian.
When I went home that night my sleep was the most peaceful it had been in months. It seemed every time a dream started to go in a negative direction "Christ is risen from the dead..." would be the reply and the panic was replaced with peace. This went on all night. It was as if my heart was standing guard over my mind.
It was still a few months before I was finally able to stop the traffic. I had been carrying a heavy weight for so long. A lovely woman from a homeschool conference prayed for me and also helped me see I wasn't some freak for having panic attacks. She reminded me of how the enemy of man's soul tries to isolate us and kick us while we're down. She reminded me that thousands of mamas felt like they were all alone in the struggle of anxiety or depression. I went to a quiet spot and prayed. I noticed something. The traffic stopped. I had put up a road block so I could pray. It was only for minutes at a time at first. I realized, by the grace of God, that I didn't have to respond to the traffic or reason with the traffic. I could just put up a road block of silence and when the traffic tried to go around the road block I internally took on the role of Gandalf standing against the Balrog refusing to let the thoughts pass.
Since making it to the other side of the battle I have learned a few things. I figured out some of the "why" behind my anxiety (An attack on my mother by a stranger in the middle of the night when I was 3 and witnessed violence because I happened to be sleeping in her bed that night. A grandmother who was chronically ill and on life support multiple times. A car accident.) I learned how valuable that awful time was and that while I wouldn't purposefully choose it, I wouldn't trade it for the world because it made me rely on the Lord and it made me stronger. I learned that anxiety is a weak chink in my armor and I have to avoid watching, reading or listening to certain things because I feel the sorrows/fears/hurts of this world so keenly. I learned that the Lord is faithful and big enough and strong enough to handle everything.
If you, dear mother, are struggling, or have struggled, with anxiety or depression know that you are not alone. Know that God has not lost sight of you. And know that the Light is there even when you can't see it.
-Lord have mercy upon me. My
thoughts seem unyielding but I know you are more powerful. Thank you that you have not given me a spirit
of fear, but of power, of love and of a sound mind. Help me not to despair, but to draw closer to
you. Let me not forget the challenges of
this world are great, but that you are greater still. For You are Holy now and unto ages of
-Oh Lord of hosts, calm my anxious heart. In Your love and concern for the salvation of my soul bring to mind your loving kindness and grant me Your strength to block out every thought or feeling that does not bring glory to you. Teach me to keep my mind in the present that I may meditate upon your goodness whenever I am assaulted by anxious thoughts. If I may not be freed from the anxiety plaguing me, let me continue to work out my salvation, know Your peace and trust You for each step heavenward. Amen.