anxiety depression jesus

In Defense of Anxiety: A Friend of Jesus’ Walk with Terror

I remember, I believed I was dying. I was wholly wracked with anxiety.

My heart pounded so intensely, you could see the reverberation through my pajama top. If you have ever met me in person, you know, under the mounds of flesh layering my sternum, this is impressive.  “Is this anxiety?  Am I over-reacting?  It’s ‘JUST’ anxiety… you are such a mess.”

I willed myself to calm down, threw up, and staggered to the couch to Google symptoms of a heart attack.

I had been up all night, talking myself out of calling 911, utterly terrified I would be found dead by my children, in my Def Leppard Reunion tour t-shirt and flannel Scooby-Doo pajama bottoms. The image only intensified the physical facets of my condition.

I took my pulse.


I ate a cracker.

Before, I threw up again.

I texted my sister, and she pleaded, “PLEASE HAVE JUSTIN TAKE YOU TO THE E.R.”

Alas, all the things with an emergency room visit assaulted my senses.  They’d weigh me. Then they would announce my weight, and then, I would die of a heart attack.

The mere thought of death by heart attack induced by a public weigh-in, took me further down the path of vomiting, hyperventilating, pulse check… 174… cracker, vomit, hysterics.

I was a “purple hot wreck,” as we say around here.

And my obvious red-hot mess-ness catapulted my pulse to 182.

Which in turn, resulted in more vomiting.

I lie on the couch with a cool rag on my head, chewing gum (I don’t know, don’t ask) recounting my failures at control, weight management, home administration, parenting, my vocation as wife, and most certainly, my lack of faith.

Yes, that was it.

If only I trusted Jesus, as much as I professed on Sundays, Wednesday, religious holidays, baptisms and funerals, I wouldn’t have: Death by Unbelief scrolled across my imminent granite tombstone.  I drafted a pathetic obituary on the back of a Reese Peanut Butter Cup wrapper with a purple sharpie, I found between the couch cushion.

I listed my failures, so my family wouldn’t have the treachery of doing it in the throes of their grief.

No, left to them, they would venerate me.  If I didn’t pen the truth they would compose things like, “her couch cushions were never littered with candy wrappers and she washed her hair every day… also, she ate carrot sticks for lunch and abhorred Chezits.

On top of all my shortcomings, I would not allow them to become liars too.

I pretended to be asleep when I heard Justin fumbling with the coffee pot.  I held my breath as I waited for him to leave for work.  As the sun began to peep through the shutters, I convinced myself I would drive myself to the emergency room.

I stood, and collapsed to my knees, gasping for breath, I fumbled with my phone and dialed 911.

Ye of little faith.

I crawled to the front door and unlocked it and flopped into a rarely sat in chair in the formal living room.  I closed my eyes and imagined what the room would look like later that evening, my suffering over, as family gathered to eulogize me, and neighbors stopped in carting bubbly, gooey casseroles, made with canned soup and corn flakes.

Truly, this is a shame.  Visitors bearing casseroles, this is my love language.

I wondered… do I have time to dust the mantle?

Dread washed over me as I heard the sirens approaching.  Our two oldest children wandered down the stairs, concerned and confused as EMTs swarmed me.  I could barely speak.  It was either a full-blown anxiety attack, a massive coronary, or humiliation.

I should be stronger.

My faith in Jesus should be enough.

A good mother wouldn’t allow her babies to see her in this absurd state.

And finally, Jesus.

“Perfect” Christian women aren’t driven to near unconsciousness by anxiety if they REALLY know Jesus.

Our daughter must’ve called Justin. He bolted through the crowd, frightened out of his wits, but no, not driven to heart palpitations, tremors, sweat… and vomit.

If only. 

Those were my thoughts then.  If only I hadn’t been so foolish, the neighbors wouldn’t be standing in their yards, half dressed for work, rubbernecking to see if I was dead.

On the bright side, casseroles came in by the droves. I lived to partake in the bounty. And a week later I took the washed Pyrex dishes back to the prospective owners, their names neatly written in marker on straight pieces of masking tape.  A tidy printed thank you/apology note inside each one.

I promised myself and them, it would never happen again.

And it really hasn’t.  But for the warning, and the hasty response, not to pray, but to take a pill… sometimes one and a half. Despite that prescription on automatic refill, never to run empty, I would like to say, I do love Jesus.

I love Him, and I like Him.

He is my friend.

I talk to Him often, wait, constantly.

He is more a part of my thoughts than my own. And not in a high faulted, nose in the air, pious, self-righteous fashion.  No, I need Him, and I know Him.

Perhaps it is the handy script that is tucked safely by my bedside, and you may criticize that. Many probably will.  But He knows me.  I know, He knew me before I was knit together, in secret.  He knew, and He knows.

Today, as I watched a dear friend in throes of anxiety, I listened to her. The banter was laced with hurt, worry, and discouragement. There was the moment where I thought, “This is not who you are? You are brave and wise, and… fantastic.

Alas, none of those words would be received in the life-altering reality of a panic attack.

Platitudes, no matter their implied authenticity, were of no value when breath was ravaged with terror. She was plagued with gut-wrenching, chemical releasing, earth-shattering… anxiety. 

And, she believes in Jesus.

She loves Him, and she likes Him.

He is her friend.

She talks to Him often, wait, constantly.

He is more a part of her thoughts than her own. And not in a high faulted, nose in the air, pious, self-righteous fashion.  No, she needs Him, and she knows Him.

Far from the fetal position of terror, the entirety of a true Believer in a God who saves, there is the reality of panic disorder, hurt, and worry.  Emotions that sometimes seem too much or “over.”  They are shunned and rebuked by those who are naturally cool.

No, I am not criticizing the offer to pray or offer a scripture, line, or verse.

However, I am willing to go out on a limb and say, “that probably won’t work friend, and yes, I still believe.”

With a calmer head on my shoulders, (at the moment) and that gnawing terror in my soul, resting comfortably in my bed, I will not forget, NOTHING can separate me from His love.  Nope, nothing.  For those who have experienced the horrid rage of panic, I feel it most important to defend – yes He is enough. And He doesn’t love me any more or less when I am totally losing it, vomiting crackers and composing my obituary on the back of candy wrappers.

He loves.

And He knows.

The Creator of adrenalin… knows.

For you on the front lines of all things anxiety, I pray this is something to take off your list of burden and angst.  In the pit of despair, you are held tight and loved well. He knows the dosage that calms and He overcame the storm.

And for those on the sidelines, who don’t understand, know this, He knows.  He is right there.  The God of your heart is God of ours too.  Avoid adding to the bondage by perpetuating the idea, it is simply a whisper or word that is missed by the afflicted.

In the midst of the struggle – He remains Lord of the suffering.

It is neither over, too, or in access.  It is simply a hyper state of being, that in He alone, we rest.

May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained.  Love, Jami

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35

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  1. Becky Forster on September 19, 2018 at 8:04 am

    As someone who has semi regular panic attacks of varying severity, I thank you for writing this.
    It is always helpful, in non panicked moments, to know there are others out there who understand. Bless you for your candor and your sharing.

  2. Sandra on September 19, 2018 at 9:24 am

    This is perfection. And not in the glossy, beautiful perfection. The perfection of standing up for your sisters for things they cannot control.

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