Depression, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and other forms of instability can come seemingly out of nowhere to attack our minds, even to the point of paralysis. Honestly, in the black community we often dismiss these things or joke about them to the point of making people feel excluded. However, it's serious and nothing to joke about. Even in my own family (extended) jokes have been made about others who suffer from these issues, and when I faced my own crisis I heard a joke or two passed around about me, amongst family. Let me tell you, it hurts. The most we can do is openly discuss and offer support to anyone who is suffering from some mental health issue.
In August of this past year, I suffered a panic attack from out of nowhere. Driving along I-20 eastbound here in a community of Atlanta, Georgia I suddenly began to feel nervous that morning. Before long, I felt as if I could not control my vehicle in terms of moving to another lane. As I considered pulling off onto the shoulder of the highway, I found that I could not move my foot from the gas to the brake. As if that weren't bad enough I was also unable to pull over into another lane than the one that I happened to occupy.
This was the morning after Hurricane Irma came battling her way through Atlanta leaving the city ravaged, but the citizens thankful that we only suffered mild damage compared with people in other states and islands. Fog hung heavily over the city that morning, almost like a blanket smothering its residents. You could barely see in front of you and the gloom and doom that came with the fog was oppressive in its own right.
Later, I would think back on my experience wondering if the feeling I felt was tied to the weather. I would eventually learn that was not true. Continuing down the highway, I pressed the buttons on the steering wheel trying to call my husband. When prompted to give a command, I could not even open my mouth to speak his name. I tried praying and no words would come forth...eventually, I was able to utter, "Jesus." That's it. When I did, the attack did not stop but I knew that I would make it off that highway safely and to my destination. Tears flowed down my face, my heart rate increased, and I struggled to breathe. I felt as if the car was closing in on me and I became scared I would have an accident or worse be catapulted from the car by some unseen force.
The events that I experienced on that morning steadily grew worse and it was not until I exited the highway at my job's exit that I calmed down. When I parked the car in the lot at work that morning, I called my husband bawling like a baby to share with him what happened. He of course, was very encouraging and loving and wanted to know if he needed to come and get me. I assured him that I would be okay. And I was...for the next few weeks.
In early September it happened again and would continue to happen on a daily basis as I got into the car to drive anywhere. Things got so bad that I began working from home more frequently, and only venturing out if my husband would drive me someplace. When I did go to the office, it was him that would drop me off and pick me up.
During the gradual build up to me not driving at all, I would make daily phone calls to keep my mind occupied off the task of driving. Those calls would include my husband and my mother, and once I received a call from one of my brothers. They would stay on the phone with me until I arrived at my destination, but when it grew to the point that the phone calls did not help, I stopped driving.
Seeking counseling helped a little, but not much. The therapist provided various techniques, which I would have to tweak a little to my specific needs. Sometimes, they helped and sometimes they didn't. Prayers were critical during this time, but it had to be the prayers of my grandmother and others, because I found myself shrinking away from praying the way that I should. As time wore on I noticed a gradual change towards improvement.
The first week of October, my company did RIFs (Reduction in Force), eliminating more than 160 jobs, including my own. Most of us were not really caught off guard, because we knew it was coming...we just weren't sure exactly who it would include. I was not surprised. In all honesty, it came as a relief.
You see, my stress level had grown to inordinate proportions over the previous year and few months. This company was extremely fast paced and the workload caused unrealistic expectations to be set on its workers. Me? As with several others, I rose to the challenge to meet and exceed the expectations. Unfortunately, this meant me working Monday through Sunday, almost nonstop. When I called my husband on the way home that day, his response was "Good! Now, we can finally get you back." I actually hopped on the highway for the first time in over a month. I made it two entire exits, instead of the three required before I got off, and drove the rest of the way home. That day was the first time I had driven myself to work in quite some time.
I had become so buried in my work that I no longer had a life. I felt as if I had something to prove, when in reality I had nothing to prove to any man. Galatians 1:10 says, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." I had lost myself during this time and my journey with Christ was not as close as it should have been. I saw myself slipping further down that slippery slope, yet, I didn't take the steps to draw closer to Him. Instead, I began to conform to the environment I was a part of in my attitude and speech, because it was "easier."
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2
I was never supposed to conform to the climate of the work environment I had been placed in. My mission was to go in and transform it. In some ways I did, but in many ways I took what I perceived was the easy road out. I heard His voice speaking to me several times throughout my tenure there, but I chose to push it down. I chose to act as if I had not heard what I had heard.
When the panic attacks began I focused on the scripture 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Yet, I love how the Amplified version puts it, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]."
As long as I keep my mind stayed on Him, He not only keeps me in perfect peace but He provides me with mental and spiritual stability and clarity and allows me to enjoy the calmness of being in His presence. The battle that I was fighting was not physical but spiritual, because what I was going through was real. The attempts of Satan to thwart my success, my praise, my growth were real, but the God that I serve is bigger and more real than anything I can face. My God, Jehovah Rapha is a mind regulator.
Here we are almost six months after the first occurrence and by the grace of God, I am proud to say that I am doing much better. Prayers, a loving relationship with my husband, children and mother, and support from them and a couple of close friends are what I needed throughout this time. Not condemnation nor judgment.
I don't know if you have ever experienced anything similar or know of someone who has. I have one simple piece of advice: Talk about it and pray. Simple. End of story. #undeniablychelle #myhearttoyours
About Chelle Ramsey...
Women's fiction author and blogger, Chelle Ramsey brings a refreshing perspective into the lives of her readers and wants them to find entertainment, healing and inspiration in each novel. Using real problems and challenges faced by ordinary people, Chelle wants readers to become empowered to rise above life's adversities, with faith in God, and belief in themselves.
Her stories are relatable to individuals of diverse demographics, who have suffered a loss, been hurt, have low self-esteem, have lost hope, or need a word of encouragement. She strives to take your emotions on a roller coaster ride, one page at a time. Chelle holds an MBA in Human Resource Management, which she puts to use in her Human Resources role by day, while she writes her fiction novels at night. And in her spare time, she’s a blogger, freelance writer, and ghostwriter.
Her most important roles are those of a wife and mother of three. During her “me time,” she becomes enraptured with the enthralling stories of Terry McMillan, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and Stuart Woods. Chelle Ramsey resides in a rural community in Atlanta, Georgia and enjoys writing, family time, and watching NBA games.
She hosts the annual 20 Days of Love authors’ blogging campaign, March Madness authors’ giveaways campaign, and showcases other authors on her blog at www.chelleramsey.com/beautifully-inspired-blog. Her novels can be found online at Chelle Ramsey Amazon.
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