i had a panic attack last summer. i think one day it will end up being one of the best things to ever happen to me. what followed has taught me the sweetest, best lessons in self-talk, mental boundaries, and God’s true love for me.
it was your standard attack in the middle of the night. that thing where your mind races and it feels like you’ll never breathe a normal breath again and all you feel is the weight of the world and condemnation and you can’t make anything stop and it’s just one massive spiral. yay! FUN. HAPPY TIMES, YALL. i couldn’t tell you how long it lasted, but it couldn’t have been much more than a few awful minutes.
when the worst of it was over, i told my husband (as he literally fed me sips of water. that image still makes me cry.) that i couldn’t get three sentences out of my head. it was like the emotional earthquake i had just endured had unearthed them, and they were there, lying ugly on my earth, in plain sight. three lies. three sentences that i had never consciously thought but that had driven my subconscious for who knows how long.
i have to.
i’m not able to.
i don’t have a choice.
over and over. my entire brain was quietly repeating this condemning mantra. relieved it was finally out in the open. needing me to do something with them. what do you do with that kind of info? when something in you finally wakes up and says, “hello, hi, yes, please help.” and you feel both very awake and also like you’re dreaming.
the amazing part was that it was in response to something i said, post-panic. johnboy had the next day off, a very coveted and celebrated commodity in our home, and i was mad mad that i was gonna be all funky the next day. i can’t even remember my exact vent, but it was something like, “i’m so frustrated that i have to be all catatonic now. we had fun plans. now i have to be all withdrawn and shut down, and i don’t want to. it’s so frustrating. i just want to live life, and i don’t want to stay in bed all day or be miserable.” and that’s how my mind responded, by showing me the lie weeds. “heyyyyy, we actually don’t want to either! you just got these lies trapped in here that make it feel like we don’t have a choice about anything. can you take them for us? yeah? great! also, figure out why they’re there. sure no give it time! whenever you’re ready! we can actually figure out that part together later. but for now could we just stop watering them so they’ll quit growing? wonderful. oh! by the way, we’ve planted some great seeds in their place. gonna be beautiful come spring.”
a pastor told me once that the voice of God will never push you down. it only draws you in. anything other than that voice is His enemy, condemning us and reminding us of what we’ve done and will never be able to do. as a loving Parent to a child, it will never be a voice that doesn’t love me wholly. so, with that knowledge in mind, i began to compare my thoughts and actions within the filter of these three lies. and i found repeated limiting beliefs that lined up with them. let me tell you, when you hold up your life’s work (picture rafiki holding baby simba for the full effect) to the light of Truth, (i DON’T have to! i DO have a choice! i AM able to!) what you find is both life-giving and lots of old grief. i hold space for both lots of days. there’s room within me for all of it. as i’m clearing out lies that don’t serve me or line up with God’s view of me, i find i have much more space than i used to.
as for the lies themselves, i take it one day at a time and carefully measure where my thoughts are coming from. that’s something i’ve learned to do with time and really wonderful, productive therapy. i have to work, daily, to consciously believe some form of opposite of my old beliefs. some days that feels next to impossible. other days, i can feel my whole self gravitating there without effort. ultimately it is really healing and sweet to encourage my own mind to move forward into more and more love and peace and acceptance. when it comes down to it, i’ve just decided to treat myself the way i want to treat others. isn’t that beautifully backwards? we have been told for so long to treat others the way we want to be treated. somewhere along the way, we forgot to start inside ourselves.
when a new lie unearths, and it does, because i’m a constantly healing, growing human bean living in a messy world, i try to imagine my most beloveds feeling it instead. what would i say to them? i would want to hold them, if it was troubling and they felt like a hug. i would want to sit quietly and wait until they were ready to talk. and then i would probably say something akin to, “oh, my sweet friend, that doesn’t line up with your character. you have years and years of proof that this is who you are. that? that’s a lie to get you isolated and wounded and hopeless. that’s stale and boring. that’s how satan wants us because he knows there is healing strength in numbers. here is how God sees you. here is who you really are. this is what He calls you. this is what you were made to be” when i tell you that radical love is life-changing, i mean it is truly, truly life-changing. i now talk to myself like i matter. and i believe, deep in my heart, that i do matter.
i now see that God lives in my heart and helps orchestrate my mind like a symphony. when i speak to myself in love, i’m speaking of God’s creation with love. i know there are things that block that connection within me, and it’s a beautiful, painstaking job to mentally undo all that mess of grief and trauma. it’s all Him working. it’s all me working. it’s Emmanuel, God with us. revealed in us. i did not know that before. as more old, stale beliefs unearth and uproot, i am free to receive God’s love and share it with the people around me. that’s my job now. that’s how i make His name synonymous with love, in my own mind and in the minds of those i encounter. that’s how i help heal the brokenness in me. and i heal a little bit every day.
because, actually, i can.