Last Saturday I had plans to join in a D&D [Dungeons and Dragons] one-shot with friends. It was Christmas themed. I had designed my favorite character yet and really invested in her backstory and skills. I had a Christmas sweater, a festive hat, and I had planned a bunch of holiday treats to bring. I was looking forward to it. There’s something fun about a social gathering where you get to be someone else. It makes it easier, alleviates some of the anxiety surrounding the whole get-together somehow — at least for me anyway.
All of that to say, that Saturday I woke up, had a good breakfast, played chess with my husband, went about my morning chores, and felt generally positive about the day. Around lunchtime I started preparing the food for D&D. Somewhere in the middle of chopping veggies and taking things out of the oven, my legs started to shake, I became dizzy, a cool sweat crept over my body, and I felt like I was underwater.
Just like that.
I thought I could work through it. So I pressed on. I kept taking little breaks in between cooking — sliding down to sit on the kitchen floor, laying my face against the cool tile, slowing my breath, repeating over and over I will not let this win. I will not let this win.
But sometimes, it does.
And in this case, it did.
And not because I am weak. Not because I am failure. Not because I am unreliable. Not because I am dramatic. Not because I am moody. Not because I am broken.
Because I have a mental disorder.
I don’t know where the panic attack came from, but it’s as real as any other illness. I had physical symptoms. It took the whole day (and night) for my body to regulate. And by Sunday it felt like I had fought in an all-day battle. I was completely spent, though I had barely moved at all.
If you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, you’re all too familiar with these unwelcome surprises that can interrupt our plans. Sometimes we can work through them fairly fast, other times it can take a day or more. You can’t rush healing. The body knows what it needs.
At these moments, the best thing we can do is be patient with ourselves and trust God’s process.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.