My struggles actually started way before 2020, but my heightened sense of fear, as well as other ailments that followed it, like a racing heart and palpitations, which started after my mom died back in 2017. I also suffered from loneliness, because I shut many people out of my life. Who would wanna deal with someone grieving so deeply anyway? Without missing a beat (no pun) --- every morning my heart would race so incredibly fast. Sometimes it actually would hit the 200 bpm mark. That's when I couldn't take it anymore and had to be seen either by my cardiologist or be taken to the ER. And yes, I've had a cardiologist ever since I have experienced anxiety.
I thought my life would end. As a child, the worst fear of my life was to lose my mother. What would I do? Who would I laugh with? Who would I talk to? Who would totally "get me?"
Anxiety During the Pandemic
When the pandemic hit, every little sniffle, cough or tickle in my throat was COVID. And then one day, I finally came down with it, realizing my other worst fear came to pass: a pandemic. My mom would always make fun of me whenever we heard stories of the bird flu in other countries or when Ebola struck Africa, eventually hitting the states. My mom would tell me to get my HAZMAT suit on, or to invest in a bubble for myself. As a kid, I wouldn't dare take a sip out of anyone's glass, nor would I share anything with anyone. I don't know where this behavior came from, but I even had a special fork just for me---even if it was sterilized in the dishwasher. I couldn't use anyone else's fork. So the thought of germs, or getting sick freaked me out.
As an adult, it lessened, but I still held onto my germaphobic behaviors. When people speak about the 'man cold' ---- they're speaking about me. I even have an intercom just in case my vocal cords fail to work. When I get the flu, my vocal cords actually give out due to ending up with pleurisy and asthma attacks. So even that in itself is scary to me, especially being alone, so if I need to call for help, I have no voice. Another "phobia."
With all that in mind, you can imagine where my little noggin took me, when the only thing the news had on was "THE CORONA VIRUS UPDATE" --- and of course, watching Gov. Cuomo's daily briefings.
Pray Without Ceasing
For whatever reason, at night, I would wake up gasping for air, heart racing, feeling nauseous. I would try to do meditation videos on YouTube, or splash my face with cold water, but nothing helped. My last resort which should've been my first resort was to pray. It's funny how sometimes we tend to forget God when we are experiencing problems. We want to do it on our own, we want to control the situation and fix it ourselves, but realistically, and I can only speak for myself, I can do nothing apart from God.
So I started to pray more.
I would hear certain songs, or I would read in the Bible similar messages that said, "Look up to me." And so, when I would wake up with that racing heart once again, it resonated in my mind, "Look up to me." I literally would look up, see God (visualizing Him) and automatically, my heart rate lowered. Sometimes, I'd go into the spare bedroom and talk to Him---telling Him everything that's going on in my busy little brain. I'd check my heart rate and from a 130 bpm episode, it would go down to a 77 bpm --- odd that it would always fall at 77, but it made me feel even that much calmer.
So, my reliance on God taught me another thing in recovering from this anxiety. It taught me to also pray without ceasing. I don't pray just when I'm experiencing anxiety, but I pray even before my feet hit the floor in the morning. I thank Him for another day. I talk to Him throughout the day. I keep getting messages of "I am always with you." Again, as I said in a previous post, "Emmanuel" means, "God is with us." He never leaves us alone. We leave Him alone. So to say that I'm lonely today wouldn't be quite accurate. I am not lonely, I am eager to see my family and friends again on a regular basis again.
Meditation Isn't Only For Spiritual Gurus
With the practice of praying without ceasing, comes meditating, even when you are feeling calm. I only meditated when I felt anxiety. Since I was suffering with anxiety attacks every single day, my adrenaline was at an all time high. So the slightest upset would bring my heart rate skyrocketing. By meditating every single day for at least 30 minutes, you develop a calmness about you, just like building a muscle---you are building up your peace.
For instance, since I pray and meditate every single day (even when calm) -- I had an unexpected emergency here at home that would've put me in such a state of panic, that I probably would've needed the medics. But as I calmly responded to the emergency happening, I realized that my "emergency" was just a minor inconvenience. I blew things out of proportion most of the time. When I came back into my house, my heart was calm. There was no spike in my heart rate, no shortness of breath, I was just peaceful. My adrenaline didn't flood me out, nor did my thoughts turn into explosive "what ifs." This stuff really works.
Listen, I ain't no 'zen master' or spiritual guru, but this stuff really works. Whether or not you believe in this or believe in that or don't believe at all, there truly is something to this. No therapist, medication or a sip of wine could do what praying and meditating did for me. And most people think of meditation as some strange practice that you have to be bent in the shape of the pretzel chanting "ommmmmmmm" on a mountain top somewhere. Meditating can be just focusing in on your breath, and how your body feels at that moment----to be in the 'now' and even do some grounding techniques. It can be listening to a guided meditation on Youtube with some visualization techniques to get your stress levels lower. My heart rate is usually around 75-80 bpm, but when I meditate, it goes down to 55 bpm---I trust me---I'm no athlete. Sometimes it gets so low that I scare myself for being too calm. But it has improved my sleeping habits, as well as my everyday routines.
I figured I'd share that with you, in case you're struggling with panic attacks and not knowing what to do or where to go. With practice, you'll notice that even at your most chaotic upheavals will be dealt with in a calmer way. I couldn't believe it. I still struggle with anxiety, but I am coping with it much better. Remember, courage isn't then absence of fear, but the triumph over it. And with God, all things are possible.