Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prayer Warriors

Briefly, without the boring details, I occasionally suffer annoying anxiety attacks.

I started one Friday night. The entire ordeal is highly irritating because it's avoidable.

Jeff and I went to see a movie. He said I could pick the movie. I chose The Other Boleyn Girl. Stupid movie. Don't watch it. All I can say is that the costumes are enormous. And the women wear houses on their heads. It's very difficult to take an actress seriously when a little pointy roof on top of her head is bobbing back and forth. Anyway, comical costumes aside, the movie is rather disturbing.

But I think I would have been okay except...

When we went out to dinner afterward at Claim Jumper, I asked distracted, somber Jeff if it would help him at all to talk about what he'd endured on jury duty this week, so he told me all the sad, graphic, gory details of the case. And it helped him.

But I think I would have been okay except...

When we got home, I very curiously went online and looked up the actual history of Henry VIII's wives. The deplorable way all these people treated each other settled uneasily into my bones like a death grip.

But I think I would have been okay except...

While I was browsing Tudor history, Jeff was watching a cranky movie where the people in it did crazy things and yelled really loudly at each other a lot.

But I think I would have been okay except...

I ate dessert at Claim Jumper. The I Declair. I used to really love it. But now that I know I'm allergic to dairy, it is SO off-limits in SO many ways. I react strongly to dairy. Mostly in the area of moods.

So. All things considered, I was blindsided by a bad combination of stuff I can't handle.

When I finally made it to bed at 2:30 am, I brought my book along, in order to keep my mind from dwelling on the stuff I knew would send me over the edge into trembly land.

It didn't work. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, the images from the movie came back to me. I felt my blood heat up and race through my body, my digestive system shut down, and the familiar tremors overtook me.

I knew what to do. Flipping on the Christian music station, I grabbed my Bible and prayer cards and cradled them to my chest. I read several comforting passages and reflected on this new test of my faith so soon after I realized I can believe God because He promised. That helped. A little.

I begged God to let me fall asleep as my body continued to shake uncontrollably in such a way that prevented sleep entirely.

I bolted from the bed for the first installment of the relieving of my digestive system of its undigested contents. Diarrhea.

I stumbled to the kitchen for a glass of water, knowing I would become dehydrated if I wasn't careful.

I took my hair drugs, which I hadn't taken earlier because we'd been out. They make you slightly drowsy. I took a pms drug, which also causes slight drowsiness. I hoped they would make me both calm and sleepy.

Back in bed, I focused on good thoughts, tried to read my book some more, listened to the truthful lyrics on the radio, and shook, and shook, and shook, trying to fall asleep.

But who can fall asleep when they keep having to get up and run to the bathroom? Diarrhea bout number 2.

More sips of water. More violent trembling.

I woke Jeff (which wasn't easy). In a panic, I said, "I need your help. I'm shaking."

My sympathetic sleepyhead husband put his strong arms around me and willed my body to calm itself by squeezing it still. But it didn't work. I shook Jeff. I shook the whole bed.

And then an odd thing happened. Jeff began to pray for peace and sleep for me, and as he did, my body became perfectly still. No more tremors, not even deep down on the inside.

As soon as Jeff stopped praying, there was a calm lull, and then the tremors resumed.

So then I prayed. And my body stilled.

When I stopped praying, the trembling returned.

Jeff began to snore, so I rolled away from him and curled up in a tiny, trembly ball of pure adrenaline. My stomach felt so sick, partly from the anxiety, partly from the I Declair. I knew if I didn't concentrate, I'd lose it all. The nausea mounted.

I finally said to Abba, "So...should I just puke and get it over with?" Not two seconds later, I once again sprinted from the bed, this time to empty all of the contents of my stomach into my white porcelain friend. No more I Declair. No more nothing.

Desperate, despairing, and highly irritated, I stood at my bathroom sink, squinting into the bright light, and brushed my teeth at 4:30 am.

Thumping once again back to bed and giving up on any chance of sleep, I began to hyperventilate. My excursions in the bathroom had re-awakened Jeff, and he buried my face in his chest and demonstrated the breathing pattern I needed to quickly adopt. Deep, slow breaths. He said, "Remember what you learned about breathing during labor. Do that now."

Funny. I recalled my labor class and breathing exercises, and I recalled thinking at the time that I didn't need them because I'd learned all about proper breathing during college voice lessons. I do know how to breathe deeply.

So I did it. Big, slow, shaky, trembly breaths.

Then I started praying again. And once again, my body was still. But there was more than the absence of trembling. It was as if God put a blanket on me. A blanket of peace.

But again, when I stopped praying, the despair and anxiety returned immediately.

I said to Abba, "So, I'm just going to have to keep praying until I fall asleep, right?"

Bingo.

I began by telling Abba how lame I thought Henry VIII was. I don't remember much of what I said after that, but I do know that finally, at about a quarter to 5 am, I finally fell into a very peaceful, blanketed sleep.

I woke up around 7:30 am the next morning and struggled off and on during the day to keep the tremors away. It's not too difficult to keep the anxiety at bay during the day. I'm easily distracted. And it's light outside. And my friend Rebecca came over for a cheery game of cards in the evening, and I very nearly beat her, except at the very end she pulled ahead and won by a measly 140 points. Our final Hand and Foot score was 7,355 to 7,485.

I'm sure it was my taste of victory and ensuing upset that brought the tremors back last night!

Just kidding. It's pretty normal for me to struggle for several nights, each one getting progressively easier to handle. So I wasn't surprised (but I was chagrined) when I began to tremble in earnest again, right after Rebecca went home.

But I was actually sort of excited to test my new prayer theory - to see if praying without ceasing was really what put me to sleep the previous night (I mean early morning).

Before going to bed, I did something else as well. I emailed my close friends and family:

"If anyone is up and checking email tonight, please pray for me. I’m on Night Two of an anxiety attack. Please pray that I won’t tremble, and that I’ll fall right to sleep when it’s time. - Becky"

Even before I had a chance to shut off my computer, I got two responses. Promises of prayer.

I betook myself trembling to my soft pillow, turned my heart to Abba, and just started chatting my thoughts at Him. Once again, that overwhelming blanket of peace descended, granted to me by Almighty God and tucked into place by the prayers of my loved ones. I fell instantly into a deep, calm, tremor-free sleep. And slept all night long.

When I awoke refreshed this morning, I was greeted by the gentle words of triumphant prayer support which had been mine just when I needed it. Email after email poured in, encouraging me, bolstering my spirits, lending sweet flavor to my faith.

And then at church today, our pastor preached on anxiety. Go figure. And he made this point, which echoed my recent experience:

God's presence drives away fear.

Or in my case, when I seek God's presence, and when my fellow warriors lift me up to God's throne, my anxiety is covered with a heavy, warm blanket of supernatural peace.

And remember how I said anxiety attacks usually last several days? Not this time. Many people didn't get my email until later today, so my support continues on. I have no doubt that tonight I will sleep long and well.

I want to share the emails I received that impacted me so greatly today. Partly to honor my dearly loved friends and family, and partly to demonstrate the beautiful, powerful effectiveness of simple, heartfelt prayer.

"i'm praying becky!"

"I'm praying too, love you.
Lord, please surround Becky with your truth and peace right now. I pray in Jesus name that the enemy be stopped and bound right now and that only the voice of your Holy Spirit speak to Becky's mind and spirit right now. War in the heavenlies on behalf of our dearly loved sister!
Amen."

"Holy God, Hold your daughter close tonight. Amen."

"I don't know if 6 am matters, but i'm praying too.
Have been, for a few days, for God's balm of healing on your soul."

"I've been praying and will continue to. Hope your sleep was peaceful!"

"Praying for you, Becky."

"My dear Becky, thank you for sharing this request with me. I didn’t get it until this morning but I have been praying for you all day and will pray for your sleep tonight, too. I have experienced anxiety attacks myself and know how disruptive they are to sleep.
Rest gentle my friend."

"i am praying for you, precious one."

"I didn't get this until tonight (Sunday), but praying anyway. Love you, sweet friend."

"Praying for Becky."

"Dear Becky, Isn't good that we know to pray, and even more importantly that we know to ask for prayer. I got your message a little late, but rest assured that I am praying for you as well. I pray that your anxiety dissipates and is replaced by peace and calm."


Thanks to you all. Your prayers are being answered. I'm off to bed.