I had a panic attack that froze me

Decades ago, when I hit my thirties, the age my brother was when he died suddenly on the side of the road, I had a severe panic attack. This anxiety was not just an uncomfortable feeling but a debilitating fear that something catastrophic was going to happen.

My wife and I live thousands of miles from our families so we were going to fly out for a visit. My anxiety had been building for weeks at the thought of being stuck in an airplane for 5 hrs.  My anxiety was being driven by thoughts of my brother.

After boarding the aircraft, I saw the stewardess lock the door and we began to taxi. I was suddenly gripped with a feeling of terror. I am not exaggerating. I felt like I was trapped in the plane and terrified that if I had some kind of medical emergency I would be dead before we landed.

Although anxiety and fear are an illogical sense of danger, they can debilitate a person’s ability to function. Every cell in my body was screaming to get off that airplane. As I tried to reason that I was not going to die, another thought entered my mind, what if I lost my mind and end up in a psychiatric hospital. I know, this sounds extreme and totally irrational, I agree, it was, and I am duly embarrassed sharing this experience except for the fact that God showed up just when I needed him most.

After my wife prayed for me, the fear subsided from what I would call a hard boil, to a low simmer. I was still very anxious but able to function as I thought about all the flights I had taken through out my life with no issues.

The entire two weeks we were visiting I was in a constant low panic state, even though I had access to phones, hospitals and whatever. My stomach was turning and I had tight flexed muscles, like I was resisting a heavy object trying to crush me. What was going on I thought, this is stupid, where is it coming from?

The day came for the flight back and the anxiety ramped up as I thought about being stuck in the plane for an hour longer than the trip out. I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t even know if I could do it. I was exhausted from two weeks of bad sleep, fear and not eating.

I had been praying during the entire visit but the fear and anxiety would not go away. As we neared the departure gate, I was barely holding things together inside while bidding our relatives goodbye. I was convinced in my mind that something terrible was going to happen and I didn’t want to get on the plane. So I had to make a decision, I was either going to trust God and his word, or make up some excuse and not get on the airplane.

Then I prayed and told God I was going to trust him to get me home in one piece. I know how ridiculous it sounds as I write this, and I know some of you are laughing, but I also know, there may be one or two who know exactly what I was going through, and I want to share my experience for them.

We boarded the plane and took our seats. While we were getting ourselves sorted out the plane began to taxi and there is no turning back for me now. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point before we reached altitude, my fear was completely gone. Not only was there no more anxiety, but the flight was very enjoyable, and that is something that I can’t say happened even when I had no anxiety. It was a great flight.

Two weeks of anxiety were wiped away at the point where it should have been the highest. I have learned that real faith, is when you take a step into thin air, and if God is not there to give your foot support, you will fall, and you take it anyway trusting he will be.

Often we have less trust in God then we do an elevator cable, bungee jump cable, aircraft mechanics or the guy who packed the parachute you used on your first jump.

The bible speaks of a child’s faith. It paints a picture of a child jumping off the pool deck into your daddy’s arms, trusting he will catch him. The more we step out and believe God, the more he catches us, the more trust builds, and the more we learn about his love and his character.

Knowing in your head that your dad would catch you if you ever jumped into the deep end is vastly different than experiencing it. The word used in the Greek for knowing God, is one that expresses knowing from firsthand experience, firsthand knowledge, not just head knowledge.

As we experience God’s provision, and learn we can trust him, our faith grows and we know that he is with us.

Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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Thank you,

Robert J.