This is a totally different post for me. I don’t expect many people will read it. It isn’t a smoothie recipe or any recipe, it won’t have a vegan tag. This is more like a confession.
In this country there is a stigma surrounding mental illness. Even now I don’t want to say that I have a mental illness, I just have some issues, like everyone else. My particular issue is anxiety. Many Americans are anxious. Some people have crippling anxiety. Others have panic attacks. I rarely have issues like most people. I am allergic to dairy. Impossible, say my doctors. They aren’t really convinced by the welts left by a scratch test. My mental illness is of course also a head-scratcher for my physicians. I have anxiety attacks, but only in my sleep.
One night, in college I was staying at home with my parents. I woke up in the middle of the night with acute nausea. I staggered to the bathroom, threw up and waited for the waves of sickness to ease, as they usually do after you vomit. But the waves did not recede. I spent hours on the bathroom floor, alternating retching and resting on the bath mat. Early in the morning I crawled back to my bed and fell asleep, totally exhausted. The next day when I woke up, I felt tired and sore, but mostly normal. After several months I had another episode of unexplained “night nausea”. My sister urged me to talk to my gynecologist, the same doctor who had recognized her depression. He said it sounded like anxiety attacks and prescribed Xanax. Those pills were like magic. If I woke up with that nauseous feeling I just had to take a pill and get back to bed. I felt like I had been in a fight the next morning, but I didn’t have to spend the night on the bathroom floor. I only have four to six of these attacks a year. I’m not much good the next day, but after that I’m fine. While the attacks aren’t getting more frequent they have increased in intensity. During my last attack I couldn’t open the small safe where we keep our prescription drugs. My husband thought I was having a migraine. I was having trouble breathing, walking, using my hands, using my words. And it didn’t go away with one Xanax. I laid in bed with my muscles clenched, my hands shaking and my stomach rolling for hours before I got up, took another pill and finally fell asleep or passed out. The magic pills didn’t seem so magic any more.
I have had so many people give me friendly advice. Bless their hearts, they are trying. I have been told to exercise more. I try to exercise five days a week, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on these anxiety attacks. Pray more. Always good advice, but when I wake up in the midst of an attack I can’t even form thoughts. I have repeated “help and peace” over and over, but can’t make sense of these words in my mind. Recite scripture. Also a wonderful idea. If only I could get my brain to work, I could remember those words that are tucked into my heart. Meditation. OK. I really should try that, it wouldn’t hurt to meditate daily. Eat better, drink more water, don’t drink alcohol, pretty much if you are physically healthy you should be mentally healthy as well.
So here is where I will lose the last two readers that made it past the mentions of prayer and the Bible. I don’t even know really how to write this. I am an American. Yes, I go to church and I read the Bible every day, but I’m not a fanatic. I am spiritual. I probably believe things even most Christians don’t believe. I believe in ghosts. Or at least the supernatural. Strange things happened in the house where I grew up. I firmly believe in the spiritual world. People may say that they believe in angels, but if you say that you have seen an angel or an angel talked to you, you are crazy. I think I would have a hard time believing someone who said they saw an angel. Some things are just not acceptable in this scientific age.
I have read several Frank Peretti books. Entertaining and scary stuff. Demons, dragons, Sasquatch (what is the plural of Sasquatch?) anyway, stuff of bad dreams. They are compelling books. In my mind I believe in demons, like I believe in angels. I know they exist, but they don’t have any part of my life. Demons are put in the dragon, Sasquatch category. I say that I believe demons are real, but really, I don’t. And here is where my anxiety attacks and my demon rabbit trail intersect. I read another book, The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson. It was recommended to me by a friend I met while she was completing a drug and alcohol treatment program. She knows about bondage, she knows about overcoming your past and living a full life. I thought it was a great book, I was totally following what Anderson was saying until he suggested that some mental and even physical illnesses are caused by demons. What? Wait. Let’s get off the crazy train. Why would Satan be wasting his time making my anxious? Really? He’s sending his angels of darkness to my house to give me anxiety attacks? Hmm. Wait another second. If I do believe in demons, if I believe that Satan is real, why wouldn’t I think that he is trying to shake my faith? Isn’t that what he does? I’m not Job. I’m not special, except that I am special. God knows me. He thinks I’m a pretty big deal. He died a horrible death so I could go to paradise and live with Him. I know it sounds crazy, but waking up in the middle of the night, puking, shaking, having breathing problems isn’t exactly sane. Anderson suggests that if we are new creations in Christ that all we need to do is remember that we are in Christ and Satan has no power over us. The only power that Satan has, was allowed him by God. If I am in Christ I have power over Satan. If Christ Jesus can cast out demons, so can I. The power isn’t in the words “I am in Christ Jesus, you have no power over me”, but the power is in the truth of those words.
I have woken twice in the night with the dread of an anxiety attack after reading this book. I have repeated to myself “I am in Christ Jesus, you have no power over me” and the anxiety fled and peace covered me and I was able to go back to sleep. It still sounds crazy, like alien abduction crazy, but it happened. I’m not throwing out my Xanax. Medication is helpful. I’m not going to stop seeing a doctor or start thinking that everything can be cured by repeating magical phrases. But I’m not worried that I will have an anxiety attack. I’m not panicking, wondering if my next attack will be more than Xanax can handle. I have a weapon to fight anxiety. If it is caused by demons or a chemical imbalance, I am still in Christ and He has dominion over all His creation.
If you aren’t a Christian, this doesn’t really apply to you. (And you probably stopped reading a while ago, but if you haven’t…)The good news is it isn’t difficult to become a Christian. All you have to do is believe that you are a sinner, you can’t save yourself, and believe that Jesus died to wipe out your sin. He defeated death, He rose from the dead. And (crazy) He loves you.
The problem is that it is so simple we have a hard time believing that it is true. It doesn’t make sense. Luckily, I don’t have to understand it, just believe it. I’m not really sure why I was compelled to write this post, but it was something I had to do and I pray that God uses this to His purpose.