Anxiety vs Faith…

Anxiety vs Faith…

According to a statistic I recently read, over 18% of adults in the US experience at least one episode of an anxiety related attack in any given year. That’s nearly 1 in 5 people confronting “Panic Attacks” in some capacity annually!

I’m writing this chapter today from a place of authority because I’ve walked this battle out! It is a given that every persons circumstances and catalyst (trigger) is different, so I’m not necessarily saying “because this happened to me this is for EVERYONE…” But, considering recent events and opportunities to speak into peoples lives on this subject, I think it’s time I shared my story and perspective for those of you who have struggled with this issue and have needed some input…

Let me first say, before I experienced an anxiety attack, I assumed that anyone who did was mentally weak and simply unable to logically control their emotions. My thoughts were, “Just quit worrying about stuff and you’ll be fine…!” Ignorance was bliss to say the least…

As I have elaborated on in previous chapters, I was an officer, moving up the ladder of promotion, Officer of the year, Detective Sergeant, SWAT team member…etc. I embraced the stereotypical tough guy image…and to a fault, much of the pride and arrogance that accompanies what you think of when picturing that “type” of person as well.

I had learned to control fear (which, as a child and adolescent had such a significant influence on me and my actions )… I honestly didn’t think I was afraid of anything any more, and even placed myself in situations where I thought I “might” be afraid just to see how I would respond…I felt that I had reached my fullest potential when I agreed to do the one thing that I was convinced would terrify me…I went skydiving. The plane ascended to 14,000 feet, I stepped to the edge of the door, looked out at the clouds and map below me, and to my surprise felt no fear as I nonchalantly threw myself out the door…

I HAD learned to control the one thing that once controlled me…FEAR! Until…

I sustained pretty significant injuries to my face, head, and most detrimentally, inner ears when a couple of guys tried to kill me on duty. Just as I had always done, I navigated the entire ordeal pretty well… I was really banged up… I had severe vertigo (which lasted for months), I went through multitudes of tests, cat scans, mri’s , I had to have physical therapy for months, I had 3 surgeries on my face …(yeah, I actually used to look like Brad Pitt so… imagine my wife’s feeling of loss…). And honestly, I was ok with all of that…BUT, what I didn’t know is this; traumatic injuries can also adversely effect hormone levels and after a month of walking through all of this stuff, out of no where, I experienced the first of many anxiety attacks… ME…The self-proclaimed tough guy… The guy who didn’t BELIEVE in panic attacks… There I was, beside myself, experiencing what I had previously rationalized and judged others for as “weakness” in their character or even faith… I was overwhelmed with unprovoked and uncontrollable feelings of terror and adrenaline. For me, I would liken it to walking down the street, the sidewalk giving way and you falling into a room full of lions eating another dude… It feels that way but then, your mind tells you, there is nothing wrong, you know you are not in any danger, there is absolutely NOTHING setting off the attack… but still, you feel completely out of control!

It was and is the single most debilitating and overwhelming thing that I had ever encountered. I was the guy that was used to always being in control… and there I was completely floored and unable to function normally because my body was acting completely irrationally and uncontrollably… I literally felt like I going NUTS because it made absolutely no sense… but what I was feeling, as irrational as it was, was MORE than real!

I began having these events take place more and more frequently and I started to experience anxiety about experiencing anxiety! It was a vicious circle of events as the catalyst for the repeated attacks seemed to be directly linked to the previous attack and the fact that I was concerning having another… I constantly felt like I was suppressing another downward spiral that was right on the edge of happening…and it messed me up BAD! I felt very alone! I wondered if anyone had ever REALLY experienced what I was feeling! I questioned if I would ever be “better”…

Taking into consideration all of my preconceived ideas about anxiety and the people who experienced it, my control issues, my obstinate rebellion against fear, the fact that I don’t like taking pills or drugs, and the issue of me being a preacher and how this messed with my ideas about faith and healing, coupled with the fact that I was in physical therapy for my injuries…you can see why I felt that I was COMPLETELY BIFFED UP!

I have always hated taking drugs. I am very adamant about my beliefs. I believe that the same scriptures in the bible that justify our salvation and freedom from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ also justify and solidify our healing and peace… But, I was in a position that I was not experiencing a “quick work” on the healing wagon and I was getting to the point where I could not function in any capacity while suffering with the anxiety attacks. I simply cannot explain to someone who has never experienced a panic attack how intense and completely debilitating it is…

I spoke with several people whose insight I greatly valued about my conflicting feelings regarding drugs and faith in the Word of God… and from all of them I received the same advice. “Aaron, right now you are not functional in the state that you are in…There are far too many irons in your fire to even be able juggle them or to try to make sense of how to work through… And if you don’t get these panic attacks under control so that you can work through the other issues that you are facing, you are on a road to crash and burn… God will use whatever circumstances you choose for your good…Take the drugs and fight one battle at a time…”

I HATED this position, but I knew they were right… There was no way I could continue having any kind of quality of life if I was experiencing these anxiety attacks so, I called my doctor and he prescribed a very common anxiety drug for me. I took it when I got home and it completely leveled me… I felt like a zombie! I was sitting there with really NO feelings and NO drive… I knew in my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish what I was trying to by taking the drugs if I was not functional… and I WAS NOT FUNCTIONAL! So, I called my doctor and he immediately changed the prescription to a drug that was much better received by my body… ( I share that part intentionally because there ARE options that you may not be aware of if you don’t ask).

I was still struggling with the idea of taking drugs but was SO relieved to finally have some peace in my life and the anxiety under control! Although I was able to focus on my other physical injuries and recovery without concerning the anxiety as well (which made it so much more tolerable), I needed some resolve for myself on the faith front with “the pills”.

I prayed about it, read some materials and finally came to a conclusion that felt acceptable to me. I believe that the Word of God is the truth! And just because my body was not lining up with the Word didn’t take away from what I believed, Jesus body was still torn and His blood was still spilled for my healing… I focused my attention and became more intent on walking this thing out until that healing that I believed was mine, was complete in me…

I did something that may seem strange to many reading this but to me it was a constant reiteration of my faith in God. Every time I took a pill, I took communion first! My actions, to me, were a declaration that I stand first on my covenant with my God and the work that was accomplished when His Son, Jesus sacrificed himself for me… If I was going to take a pill, it was literally going to be covered in and break down in the symbol of and reminder of my covenant, Jesus’ body that was broken and blood that was spilled for my freedom…

Every time I took those pills I told God, “I trust you, thank you for our covenant, thank you for redeeming me from my sin, thank you for healing me and giving me peace.…” then I asked Him to protect my body and that there be no adverse side effects from the pills… as I recall, my exact words were, “Only the good and none of the bad…” .

I’m sharing all of this for several reasons. So many people have experienced terrible things like anxiety attacks and have felt as if they were compromising their faith or somehow letting themselves or even GOD down by taking a pill to help them. In some churches or religious circles, people are looked down upon for issues like these. (Often by people who have never had the luxury of experiencing the hell that they are going through, themselves…)

The bible says that God works ALL things together for the good of them that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I think a lot of the time He leaves the ball in our courts and says, “You choose…and I’ll use it”. I chose to take the pills for a season… I know now it was the right decision for me and I’m GLAD I DID!

I learned a LOT from that entire experience…Quite possibly the most valuable lesson being “Compassion”. I KNOW that I am better for having experienced every aspect of what I went through. I don’t believe that it was “God’s will” or “God put it on me” Per Se’… But I do believe that He looked at my situation and said, “Ok, here’s how we are going to work this out for Aaron’s good and for the tens of thousands who He will influence in his lifetime”. I believe that I actually experienced acceleration forward by seemingly going backward for a season.

I am a different person than I was before experiencing this entire ordeal. It has prepared me for more effective ministry because I believe that my perspective, as it pertains to hurting people is actually more sensitive, seasoned and mature as one who has actually been through some fire myself. I can say with all assuredness (I think I may have made that word up) that I absolutely find myself in more situations where God is using me to relate to others who are hurting than He ever did before.

To date, I have not had an anti-anxiety or anti-depression pill in two and a half years. In that time I have had the opportunity to speak into and pray over many others lives who have experienced similar roads. Some have experienced instantaneous healing, while other’s have had to walk it out in roads more similar to mine. But my belief and confession in it all is “God is Faithful!”

I just want those reading this who have or are experiencing similar roads to know and understand. You are NOT alone and maybe even more importantly, you are NOT crazy for feeling what you feel as it pertains to anxiety vs faith. Do I believe that God heals anxiety attacks supernaturally? YEP ABSOLUTELY! I’ve seen it happen on many occasions… Do I think that some may have to walk it out with some time too…? I do… That was the case in my personal circumstances… Either way, I do believe that God’s Word is Truth…Every persons circumstances are different and as a result, I think that different roads are required toward the same goal. But I would like to encourage EVERYONE of the promise of God’s Word that says, “You shall reap if you faint not” or in a nutshell, hang in there, it’s hot, you’re tired, it’s been a fight… But God is STILL God!

He loves you! He cares about that which concerns you! He will come through!

Psalm 138:8
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever…

If you can dig it, say WORD

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