Today, I witnessed an anxiety attack.
I’m not talking your run of the mill hit the panic button, do some breathing exercises and s’all good attack….
I mean the kind of anxiety that totally takes control, the kind of apprehensiveness that makes you feel like your world is spinning….the kind that makes you feel that you just might lose it. :(
I guess I find myself writing here for two reasons….the first is that it’s work/ministry related, and it seems to make sense to post it here.
In my work as a street pastor, anxiety attacks (of all degrees and kind) are not uncommon. They are an atypical response to stress that most of us feel at least once in a while.
For many that feeling goes away after a change of scenery, the touch of a familiar friend’s hand….or the pleasant smell or taste that brings us back to a more balanced state.
For others though (and more “others” than we actually realize) the anxiety doesn’t go away. It’s a feeling in their gut…….a constant vigilance over some potential action that might go awry….a feeling that no matter what precautions we take……. some bad shit is about to go down.
Anxiety for human beings is a natural response…….it’s that flight or fight response which tells us when danger is approaching…….and when we need–above all else–to put our survival at the top of the priority list.
When someone experiences trauma,…..regardless of age……there’s actually a fairly good chance that the part of our brain responsible for our self-preservation develops at a faster rate. As with any muscle or organ in our body, the more hippocampus is used, the more sensitive it becomes.
So why am I telling you this? It’s because the person I saw today not only had an anxiety attack……but she felt guilty about having one :(.
This completely natural response of the body and the brain……which this individual literally had no control over…….caused massive, unrelenting pressure to try and “be normal”……to try and “get over” it on an emotional level.
It was like looking into the eyes of a wounded puppy dog. :(
The stigma surrounding anxiety disorders and mental illnesses need to stop. We need to stop perpetuating the myth that those who want to fight or fly away have something wrong with them. We need to stop judging and start trying to understand.
Are there steps that can be taken by people to deal with anxiety or other mental illnesses??? Absolutely. Are there ways of promoting healthier lifestyles and wholeness in body, mind and spirit??? You bet.
But where we need to start is recognizing that there is nothing wrong with the individual to start with…….they are beautifully and wonderfully made by the hand of God……who just need companions to walk with them as they try to figure out what the best response is for them.
As I reflect tonight……in the second half of my thinking……..I can’t help but wonder……..what is our response as people of faith???
So often……we try to fix things…….narrow down a medical problem………prescribe the right meds…….and those steps are really important……crucial in fact………
But these people are **not** broken……..they are simply trying to live their lives in the best way they know how……I wonder if we are willing to simply walk with them…….to be there for the meltdown even if we can’t do anything……if only to say “I’m here with you. I love you. And you matter to me” <3 +