Breathing deep

img_0262I have, in my lifetime, experienced both panic attacks and anxiety attacks.  I’m not talking about nerves, the rumbly stomach before stepping on stage or into the pulpit, but the real thing: an impending sense of doom that is completely out of control.  A fear of nothing and everything.  A heart pounding so hard I think it might explode.  A sense that I might die.  It is excruciating.

The first happened while I was in seminary during a guided meditation, which you would think would be a pretty safe place to be. Not that day. Another happened a few months later while driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, something I’d done dozens of times before. Bridges have been hard ever since.  The attacks are a rare occurrence nowadays, partly because of age and partly because of work I’ve done to manage them.

I find myself using those anxiety-managing techniques again these days.  I don’t experience that impending sense of doom from nowhere, but I do experience a high level of worry about many things.  I worry about funding for programs for people on the margins.  I worry about war.  I worry about economic collapse.  I worry about people never speaking to each other again.  I worry about the state of the world.

As a person of faith, I am well aware of the many, many things Jesus said about not worrying and right now I find them – and him – annoying.  I also know that constant worry is not good for me or the people around me.  I’m keeping an eye on my eating and my sleeping.  I’ve started coloring postcards, an activity I find relaxing.  I cut myself off after one too many articles from the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Atlantic.

I pray that God will lift my sagging spirit.  I pray more regularly.  I practice deep breathing.  I read daily things from Father Richard Rohr (you can sign up for them here – today’s was particularly helpful.)  I turn off the tv and computer. I look for the good, and hold fast to it.

raftEvery night before we go to sleep, my husband, our daughter, our dog, and I all sit on our bed reading (except the dog).  I tell them it feels like we’re on a life raft, this big bed of ours, all together, safe, for the time being amidst the chaotic currents of the day’s events.  They laugh at me, in the good way.  Still, they are my life raft. And that helps me to worry a little less.

Until the next day comes.

7 thoughts on “Breathing deep

  1. Never have had a panic or anxiety attack but have helped a few people vet through them. So true to all you say about things to do now to get us through the crap….I listen to classical music station while driving. I cannot listen even to NPR while driving. And on the lighter side, I bought a trump karmic debt doll … often referred to as a voodoo doll.

  2. There is nothing I like better (to take back my life) than breaking a rule. Pick a little rule, one that shows you are brave, and crush it. Remember how little kids love to knock down a tower of anything? Can you feel their glee? Nothing really happens if a stack of books tumble, but for an instant they are master of their world. Maybe you have too many rules set up for you. Knock a few down and giggle. Grins.

  3. Thank you for the encouragement. I just read the book Joy, by the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is full of great ideas that affirm your thoughts.

  4. Thanks for your honesty. I get that strong infusion of doom sometimes, especially in the night or early morning. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I just got the same book Ethan is reading and it is wonderful. I love the sweet image of the three of you reading together in bed!


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