Friday, January 29, 2021

Kicking Anxiety In the Face During the Pandemic

If it's not one thing, it's another, right? One problem goes away, and another one takes its place. It's life's little "bully" tugging at your backpack straps. Two steps forward, and then next thing you know, you're down on the ground struggling to get back up again. What I'm learning through my own faith, is to trust God in every situation in your life. One of my purposes here is to struggle through certain things, and find out what works best to eliminate it, or to lessen the blows at least. I try to figure out the best solution, and then to share it with others when I have either overcome it, or have gotten better coping with whatever it is. So today I want to share what helped me survive the entire year of 2020. 

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. 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Be At Peace With One Another, and Yourself


It's been a tragic ride this past year. The truth is, nobody knows the truth. Whether you're on the left, or on the right, or somewhere in between those thin lines of political entanglement, it's still disheartening to see our world, our government, our own people, crumble into pieces, shattered like a broken mirror, giving us painful shards of bad luck. Whether you are disappointed that our president is no longer in power, or disappointed that our Capitol got raided by protesters, they're all valid feelings. It's okay to feel what you feel. 

I read this quote from Lori Deschene that says, "You don't have to be positive all the time. It's perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, frustrated, scared and anxious. Having feelings doesn't make you a negative person. It makes you human." 

It Is All Out of Our Control

I've learned to stop internalizing circumstances outside of my being. This is something I cannot control. I can only control my reactions to it. Some would say that by not acting out in anger, is being part of the problem. I only have control over myself. I will not try to "fix the votes" or to try to "censor anyone's freedom of speech." I can only do me. How much truth do we really know to anything that's happening out there? This is where people start grasping for theories, hoping it'll be true. This is also when people start lying in order to get their way. For myself, I don't rely on anything but God. God is still on the throne and whatever people want to do with their power, or lack thereof, have a go at it, because I refuse to be apart of something that's so vile, so disgusting and evil. 

I don't mean to be vague, but I'm trying to make a point. I hear a lot of my friends saying that they're stressed out and they can't sleep or that their heart is racing all the time. Their endless hours of watching the news has made them a walking nerve. I can relate. In recent times, I learned one thing: GOD IS WITH US. "Emmanuel" also stands for, "God is with us." It’s a word written on countless Christmas cards throughout the centuries and sung in some of our most-loved carols. In Scripture, it first appears in Isaiah 7:14, which says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive, and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Emmanuel” (NIV). 

I can only tell you what worked for me.

Releasing the FEAR

Most of my life, I struggled with anxiety disorder. Dis-order and dis-ease ---it's all relative. Whatever you want to call it, the truth remains that anxiety and panic is based on fear. False Evidence Appearing Real. I finally got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired from the stress and anxiety. Not to say I don't get anxiety from time to time, but I sat with God for great lengths of time and learned a lot through prayer and meditating on the Word. Through words of others, as well as the Bible and even through dreams, I keep being reminded that I am not alone. Even through isolated times, when I haven't seen a soul besides my better half in weeks, I know that I am not alone. "Fear not,"---why? Because "God is with you." The thought of an isolated day (even if I have work to do) will set my panic off the night before. I was mocked a few weeks back on a duel live stream by an atheist, who told me that I'm pretending to have an imaginary friend. The "imaginary sky daddy," they call God. Well, all I can say is, eternity is a long time to risk being wrong. And my faith at this point is more of a, "I know that I know that I know," kinda faith. Nothing can shake it. Ever. 

The End Times

I talk about this a lot because I sincerely believe this with all of my heart. I kept receiving these dreams around 4am. I would hear trumpets blowing and a beautiful, androgynous angelic voice screaming out, "Wake up! Wake up!!!" And on the second "wake up" --- I heard the voice loud and clear while being awake. In Luke 21:11 it tells us, "There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven." Haven't we seen enough to know that these are huge signs from above? And whether or not this will happen one hour, weeks, months, years or decades from now, no one will ever know the hour or day. But the Bible is clear on the events itself. Way before this pandemic, and even before I lost my mom, I had given my life to Christ. I was still on the milk, but as I progressed, I have never felt so strongly about my faith as I do today. I can truly say that I am 100% ready for the end of times----this does not mean that I want to end my life. This means, that without a doubt, I am not afraid of Jesus' second coming. Many Christians are. Every knee will bow, as it says. 

Are you ready?

Suffering to Help Others

Through my own suffering, grief, anxiety and depression, I am now able to help those dealing with similar issues. Again, I still suffer from time to time, but it wasn't like it used to be. My panic attacks would send me right into the ER, fearful of death. I was scared of simple things, like being home alone, thinking, "What happens if I have a heart attack and drop dead and nobody knows for hours?" What if?? And if that happened to any of us, we should still not fear that. What's the worse thing that could happen? You enter another world where God brings you back home? My point is, I am (still) in the process of being unafraid of death itself. If I'm not afraid of death itself and know that God is with me all the time, then I won't be afraid of anything else in this world. So that in itself, keeps me calmer, more peaceful and the little things that used to annoy me have absolutely no affect on me. With that being said, I like to share my experiences to others who are having similar struggles. Our struggles are meant to help and not harm. Sometimes if I'm having an off day, those little annoyances can creep in, and that's when it's time to reel it in and pray. Don't leet the devil get a foothold.

Soul Wounds 

Our mental health has much to do with our minds, but it also has a lot to do with our souls as well. When you're hurt and you refuse to forgive anyone in your life, you end up hurting yourself and possibly others. As they say, hurt people hurt people. Through your own pain, you can end up hurting somebody else, due to the pent up resentment and bitterness.  "He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds"---this scripture means that those soul wounds that you are carrying around can be lifted, if you release them. I've stopped caring about the small stuff---not to be mistaken with not undermining other people's feelings, but not sweating the small stuff. And by small stuff: engaging in any drama, or fueling somebody else's anger against another person just because things didn't go my way. I stopped caring about what people thought of me or if they judged me for spending time with so 'n so----what other people think of me and what I do is none of my business. That's on them. I accept it. 

Our world is crumbling before our very eyes. There's more division than ever before. A friend told me, "I have eliminated so many people out of my life, even my own family," due to different political views. How incredibly sad is that? And you wanna know something? Politics don't care about you. Politics doesn't love you. Your family loves you, and most of all, God loves you. What's more important than that? So while you're literally deleting people out of your life, keep in mind that we are all in this tragic movie together....together, yet alone. And maybe it doesn't have to be alone. Maybe, you can actually connect with your loved ones, be fearless and reach out to those you think may reject you. Keep politics out of your conversations and talk about what you used to chat about. Stop letting the government destroy your family. Stop letting the media crush every good thing you once known to be good. Stop letting the media and the government try to instill fear in you. 

Fear not....and you know why.

"Be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com
or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog at DebsCucina.com
for some of her famous recipes!

Your Weakness & Vulnerability Is Your Strength

Once in a while, I get some people asking me, "Why do you write such personal things up on your blog and on social media?" Some pe...