Tag Archives: panic disorder

Poetic Breathing

18 Nov

Trying to explain my anxiety (or depression) to others is a tall order.  Generally, my list of responses include: “Oh, we all get anxious!” (Uh-huh.) “I get nervous about going to the doctor, too.” (Is it a week-long obsession for you?) “Trust in the Lord!” (Who says I’m not?) “I totally understand!  One time in [insert year], I went through terrible anxiety.  Thankfully, the Lord delivered me from it [and He will deliver you, too.]” (Sometimes we all just carry around our own “thorns in the flesh.)

I know that most people want to relate to me and are only trying to encourage me.  I used to feel exactly the opposite—misunderstood and discouraged.  Then I met others who shared my struggle, who knew what it was truly like to lie in bed with a Bible as a way to chase away the demons, who understood that getting dressed and brushing my teeth is a major accomplishment some days, and who truly walked this path hand-in-hand with God.

Due to my recent health concerns, I’ve been feeling anxious.  While I am doing a much better job of seeking God in my trials, adrenalin still courses through my veins and my mind screams, “You’re not safe,” while my heart pounds in my ears.  So, the other day I wrote a poem about anxiety.  Sometimes a girl’s just gotta say it with poetry.

“The Panic Attack” by me

Right brain, left lobe

Bouncing to and fro

Never ceasing, never ending, never letting go

Nausea, adrenalin coursing through the veins

Breathe in, two-three

Out, three-four

Hold on, hold still, as the world spins

Heart pounding, hands shaking, sweat dripping

Breathe in, four-five

Out, five-six

Fighting, ripping, raging, screaming

Left brain, right lobe

Breathe in, breathe out

Fifteen minutes go by

Just keep counting

Just keep breathing

Just keep living

It will be over soon

In a reading of “The Panic Attack,” I will quicken my pace as I read to mimic how a panic attack grows and rages and then eventually ends (usually in fifteen minutes).  Unless I make a vlog, most of you will never see this reading, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

“Breathe In, Breathe Out” one of the tracks on Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark, says that we breathe the name of God.  And I even found a video of Jason explaining the song and playing it (by the way, this is almost exactly what Jason said at his concert.  He would probably also want me to tell you that he sounds perfect on his albums, so you should buy one.  If you can’t afford it, you will have a chance win an autographed copy here in the next couple of weeks!)

Let me tell you how, “Yah (1, 2, 3) Weh (1, 2, 3)” can really help during a panic attack; it’s gasping a prayer to the One who can truly provide peace. 

Do you suffering from anxiety or panic attacks?  If so, what silly things have well-meaning people said to you?  What does a panic attack feel like to you?  Do you like Jason Gray’s song?  How can breathing the name of God help you when you are anxiety-ridden?

Advertisements

Anxiety Does Not Equal Lack of Trust

26 May

Recently I was asked, “How can you call yourself a Christian…how can you say you trust God if you have so much anxiety?”  Tears swelled up in my eyes as the truth of the question hit me full force.  It’s the same thing I’ve asked myself over and over and over again.  Why, God, do I suffer this anxiety when I say I trust You and love You?  Why doesn’t reading Joshua 1:9 or Psalm 46 over and over again “work”?  Why can’t I trust You and lean not on my understanding.  Why, God, why?

Yet I realize that I’ve never cleaved to God like I cleave to Him during anxious periods.  I know the anxiety will pass and despite the messages flying through my body screaming, “You are not safe,” I know I can find safety in Him, even as I cry, even as I gasp for breath, even as I scream out to Him.  I’ve also learned that life here on the fallen planet has affected everything, including the way my brain function.  Not only is there an emotional and spiritual component to this anxiety/panic thing, there is a physical one as well.

I suppose if that person were to ask me the same question now I would say, “How could I not trust God and have so much anxiety?  For if I didn’t trust Him in this, I surely would have been driven mad ages ago.”  Simply put, my anxiety is an outlet for which I can trust God more and more.  Not that I welcome it, but I am learning to accept it and manage it (so that it will not manage me).  Anxiety, like many things, is a refining process, peeled away in layers, and not all at once.

When I share about my battles with anxiety, I’m often met with the comment, “We all get scared.”  Uh, yeah, thanks for minimizing my problem.  If it were as simple as that, I would be cured instantaneously.  It’s like an annoying alarm clock that you can’t turn off, no matter how many times you push the off button.  You can throw the clock around, slam it against the wall, and scream until you drown out the noise, but you can never make it stop.  The best you can do is hit snooze to find some relief.  Yet you know it will come back despite what medications you take, despite your therapeutic techniques, and despite your prayers—it will come back and you will be forced to fight the beast again.

Though I feel alone in my terror, God is there with me.  I cannot imagine calling myself a Christian and not having Him with me when I feel so anxious or the knowledge that He is keeping me under His wings during a panic attack.  This is where I place my trust.

Bebo Norman :: From the Ruins

14 Sep

Talking with Bebo Norman is like chatting with an old friend; except I’ve never met Bebo Norman. However, I’ve closely followed his career.  Easing into our phone interview with a joke, Bebo informed me that he’s running errands while he talks.  Moving into a safe icebreaker, we chat about his family and rearing of his one-year-old son. Specifically, who is better at diaper duty: “I’m better at it; there’s no question,” laughs Bebo.  “I haven’t timed it.  I pride myself on cleanliness rather than speed.”

It’s this articulate attention to detail in lyric and music that has made Bebo Norman a popular singer/songwriter since 1996.  Looking back on the past 12 years is like reading an autobiography. “I really have a unique opportunity, a gauge of where my life story has been and how God has been so strangely consistent in the middle of all that.  I say ‘strangely’ because sometimes I can look up and wonder where God is, but I have this constant reminder of the consistency of Him through these songs and through my story.”

After finishing his first record deal, last year, Bebo signed with Seattle-based BEC Recordings, home to artists such as Jeremy Camp, Kutless, and Chris Taylor. On the heels of releasing an immaculate Christian album, Christmas…from the Realms of Glory in 2007, Bebo’s latest project is a self-titled album and probably his most revealing and vulnerable. “My prayer—and I really do hope this happens—that every year I live, I can be more vulnerable relationally and musically.”

Similarly, Bebo draws from his life humbly noting, “I don’t really know how to write songs unless I’m writing them out of life.”  Take the song “Britney,” a quiet apology to women who have been ravaged by lies about true beauty from culture and media.  Ironically, the song was inspired by Britney Spears.

“Truth be told, who writes a song about Britney Spears?” rhetorically asks Bebo with a chuckle.  “I was up late one night because I couldn’t sleep.  I was flipping through the news channels when I came upon a pretty tragic story about Britney,” referring to Spears’s hospitalization.

“She was being taken off in a stretcher.  My first instinct was to respond cynically, and then there was a freeze frame moment.  She had this look on her face where she was completely lost in brokenness and despair.  The thing that struck me—paralyzed me—was that I’ve had that look on my face before.  I was able to look at her life with compassion, not as a tabloid story.”

Not excusing her poor choices, Bebo continues, “Who, if not the Church, is going to say ‘hope is here’ to the culture, to someone like Britney Spears?  We are called to live with compassion in a broken world.”

Though it is the opening song on the album, “Pull Me Out,” is one of Bebo’s most personal songs to date.  Recently opening up about his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks over the past five years, Bebo lays it all out in this song.  But for the purposes of this interview, he was more than willing to candidly discuss anxiety with a fellow sufferer.

Suffering from panic attacks which seemed to revolve around playing music, Bebo says he felt as though he could not breath and his heart would race and sweat would pour down his face.  “I would try to convince myself before I played a show that I could do it.  ‘I know how to play these songs, which I’ve literally played a thousand times and I can breathe; I’m breathing right now.’  Despite the positive self-talk, Bebo shares that sometimes he would “literally lose it. It is the most helpless feeling I’ve ever felt.”

By opening up to those around him and getting help, Bebo is learning to manage his anxiety.  At first, he was ashamed to tell anyone about his attacks. “I was praying about it and praying about it and reading Scriptures about it and praying that God would heal me from it—all these things.  I don’t believe this, but subconsciously within the culture of Christianity, we communicate that if you’re not alright, then something’s not right with you spiritually.”  But it wasn’t the judgment of others that keep Bebo suffering silently, it was his own inability to reason through his anxiety.

“I’ve always prided myself on my ability or what I thought was my ability to reason my way through things.  This whole struggle with anxiety has been the first thing in my life that I haven’t been able to reason through… that was the scariest moment for me. I didn’t understand why it happened or when it was going to happen again.  For years and years, I felt a lot of shame and frustration in that; I was trying to fix it on my own.”

While anxiety has put Bebo on edge, it has also allowed him to cling to the very edges of his faith. “The older I get, the more I realize that faith is not about this accumulation of wisdom or wealth or knowledge or spiritual gifts.  Faith is literally, as defined by Scripture, a desperate clinging to Christ.  In that sense, anxiety has done nothing but increase my faith because it has forced me to do nothing but cling to Christ.” He thoughtfully adds, “Clinging to Christ doesn’t mean that the anxiety is going to go away, but it does mean that God is in the middle of that anxiety.”

In his musings about anxiety, Bebo swings back to the first song he wrote for the project. Inadvertently, “Ruins” became the theme song for the whole album with its simple phrase: “Let my ruins become the ground You build upon.”  Bebo shares. “Anxiety has stripped me of a lot of things.  It has broken down notions in my mind about control, vanity, and reason. It is from brokenness that I want God to rebuild this faith structure that I have, which isn’t built on my own abilities.”

Rebuilding and starting afresh are what Bebo Norman’s latest project is all about. His admirable vulnerability only add to his ability as a songwriter to strengthen this man of God, as he lets his ruins become the breaking ground of faith.


%d bloggers like this: