November 18, 2009

In my second semester of nursing school, I had my first and only panic attack.

It was my first day of clinical at a new hospital. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had stayed up too late the night before. I didn’t feel extremely anxious, but my body begged to differ.

I was in a patient’s room with the nurse I was following, when I began to feel slightly nauseous. Then, my heart started racing. Soon I was nearly hyperventilating and I didn’t know if I could stand up any longer. Embarrassed, I excused myself and went to the break room to sit down. It took me 30 minutes to recover.

Thankfully, the episode hasn’t repeated itself since then. I don’t struggle with chronic anxiety or depression, although several people near and dear to my heart do. But I have some particular things in my life going on that cause me to tense up, some situations that cause me sadness and worry, as well as dealing with day-to-day stress. When I showed up to the one-day women’s retreat for my church last Saturday and saw that the topic was “seeking God’s peace,” it didn’t jump out at me at first. But honestly, who doesn’t need more peace in their life?

I went to a very pacifist college, and I have done entire studies and book reports on the concept of peace. But this retreat was not an exercise in theology. It was this:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. –Mark Twain

Peace is a gift of God, and God is the only one who has peace to give. –John Hagee

When I was 21, long before I met my husband, I went through a very bad breakup with a boyfriend. Think the opening scenes of Legally Blonde, where Reese Witherspoon expects her boyfriend to propose and then he breaks up with her instead. The details aren’t important, but up until then I hadn’t experienced anything so devastating. Obviously, in hindsight, the whole ordeal was a blessing. The great thing was, though, that it was a blessing at the time as well. Yes, I was miserable for months and scarred for years. But I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever grown as much spiritually as I did then. Somehow, during all that turmoil, God granted me peace.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world. –Jesus, in John 16:33

The following song was written by JJ Heller, in the midst of her struggle with panic attacks. It was played for us at the retreat, and now it will always be special to me.

No matter what is going on in my life, I know that my good God has it under control. He’s got it. And that’s enough to bring me peace.

Posted in: faith

Comments on Peace

  1. 1

    From dad:

    The Episcopalians would end their services with this benediction “may the peace of God that passes all understanding be with you always”. Makes more and more sense the older i get.

  2. 2

    From David:

    I’m sorry to say that one of the things that caused you so much misery is like pretty much the best thing that ever happened in the entire world ever ever ever as far as I’m concerned. Whoever that boyfriend was (name is soo not important), I really feel like writing him thank you notes every day of my life for breaking up with you. I couldn’t imagine a day without you my love. You have made my life so peaceful and wonderful. I haven’t had a single panic attack since the day we first decided that we should get married, and my family and therapist can tell you what a miracle that is!

  3. 3

    From Megan:

    Oh, Kat. I love you so much. Thank you for writing this. You and David are always in our prayers. And we know we are in yours.

  4. 4

    From Julienne:

    Okay, you pretty much have the sweetest husband ever!

    I’ve suffered from chronic anxiety attacks since I was 11 or 12. As my faith grew in my later teen years they became fewer and fewer. My most recent one was a few months ago and as I was laying in bed shaking, trying to will myself to sleep I began to pray and kept praying until I fell asleep. Feeling God’s presence is the greatest comfort, and I know I can just let my burdens go.

  5. 5

    From Julienne:

    Just listened to the song…so perfect.

  6. 6

    From Erin:

    I had a very similar breakup experience in college. It was awful, and I was sad and miserable…but I also see that time as such a blessing because I was able to grow so much.

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