Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Testimony

When my panic attacks began, I read every book about overcoming panic I could find and put what I learned into practice, but nothing worked. My doctor immediately tried medication, but I ended up being medication-sensitive to the SSRIs prescribed to me. SSRIs help prevent panic attacks and, coincidentally, also treat depression. At the same time I took medication, I went to counseling. I faced the abuse I suffered in the past, the lack of peace in the present, and was told I needed to change my negative thought patterns and change my self-image. In other words, I needed to reinvent myself. No one told me how to do that.

I read self-help books and bought positive self-talk tapes and tried to believe in the statements I was to repeat every day, but the critical side of me would not be silenced. I didn’t have any faith in what those statements said. I wasn’t confident. People didn’t seek me out because I exuded strength. I didn’t believe I was going to have a great day. I didn’t believe I had control of my life. If I couldn’t control my panic attacks, how in the heck was I supposed to believe that I had the power to change my life. The panic attacks just seemed to reinforce that I’d lost all control. I never knew when they were coming, how long they’d last, or if they’d ever stop.

Over time my attacks became stronger, and I began sensing evil along with the fear. I thought I was losing my mind, and I wondered if my husband and doctors knew I was going crazy but were afraid to tell me.

In the spring of 2004, I cried out to Jesus for help, knowing that He would do something. A week later, a friend called me and invited me to Beth Moore’s Believing God Bible study. I hadn’t spoken to this friend in over 2 years. I knew this was God answering my prayer. I was afraid to leave my house, but I said I would go. Later, while watching TV, I fell asleep on the couch. By the time I woke up, the Bible study had already started. I told myself it was too late, that I wouldn't go, but then something inside me compelled me to grab my xanax and my Bible and go anyway.

The video had already started when I slipped into the dark room and slid into the nearest chair by the door—in case I needed a quick exit because of panic. Someone gave me a book and I heard Beth Moore on the video saying that God wanted me to live life abundantly. That I didn’t have to just survive—that I could thrive. Every word she spoke seemed to be aimed at me, and I felt something in me leap in response. I was hearing Truth for the first time in a long time. I poured myself into that Bible study, and I began experiencing real peace. That Bible study helped me understand so much. My faith grew and I went back to church for the first time in 2 years. The next Sunday I went back to Sunday School. The next Sunday, I taught the Sunday School lesson and was singing in the choir!

After Believing God, I bought Beth’s Breaking Free study and began putting into practice her advice about praying God’s Word over my challenges. I compiled a list of Bible verses that dealt with overcoming fear—verses I’ve posted in this blog—and I began reading them every morning and evening. About 4 months later, a panic attack came, and I had had so many days of peace with God, that it felt like an intrusion—something that threatened to separate me from God. I felt a "NO!" in my spirit, and I grabbed my verses and prayed them out loud to God through my anxious tears. By the time I got to the last verse, the panic was gone. I hadn’t even had to take a xanax. I could scarcely believe it! After that, any time a panic attack threatened, I grabbed my verses and prayed and the panic attack would leave. Over time, they stopped coming at all. Praise God!

I still read over those verses when I'm anxious or upset and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for His faithfulness and love. I faciliate Bible studies because God's Word is life and breath to me. I truly do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

2 comments:

Jill said...

oh Joni.. i have such tears in my eyes reading your post...

thank you so much for sharing all of it with us...it especially touches my heart today, as the Lord has been giving me amazing Victory in overcoming my panic attacks and agoraphobia. just last month i started going to church again..have not been in 10 years.

just today a bunch of ladies from that church called me to invite me out to some of the ladies bible studies, and i shared with them that i am just at the beginning of coming out of some huge struggles, and shared all that i have been going through for the past couple years.

then my pastor called, and i shared some more...


and I am thrilled with all the victory the Lord is pouring down in my life,

yet today i have been battling the panic all day long :(

and after so many weeks of being so free from it, it took me by surprise as well, and its been a long, tough day...

and then i came to read your blog, and your testimony completely encouraged me Joni....

this part of my life is all brand new to me, learning how to live again, after being captive for so long...learning how to leave the comfort of my home, and be ok,

learning how to share with others my deep, dark struggles, and let them know i may need to be that girl that sits really close to the door in case i need to run out cause of panic....

thank you for sharing all of this, from your deepest, darkest days, to your days full of complete peace and joy...you are such an encouragement to me as i am just starting to come out of this and push forward.

love you!
jill

Joni said...

Hey, Jill, I'm emailing you.