During the first 3 years of my marriage, my husband and I were closely involved with taking care of his dad. His dad was diagnosed with ALS just months after we got married and our world was reeling. In the midst of grief and denial, I tried to keep a positive, happy attitude around my father-in-law as his body slowly stopped working. I loved him dearly and I couldn’t believe that I was losing him so soon. After spending a night at their home, cooking dinner and feeding him, helping him steer his wheelchair (which caused me great anxiety for fear he might tip over on a ramp), driving him to work the next morning, then going to work myself… I stood at my desk, preparing for a Midday Connection program and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing and I knew I was going to die. I quickly googled “stroke”, “heart attack”. What I read wasn’t comforting. As I gasped for air, I went to our office nurse to see if she could help me. The nurse checked all of my vitals and assured me they were fine. She gently asked me if any new stressor had entered my life. I immediately said “no”, of course not – I was managing just fine. On the way back to my office, I suddenly felt a surge of emotion. I ran to a nearby restroom and sobbed – it was like all of the grief and pain and sadness could no longer be pushed down in me and it had to get out. I was amazed at how much better I felt after crying. Back in my office, I googled “panic attack”. Oh. I’d never had a panic attack before. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d thought that only really “weak” people had panic attacks. But after experiencing one, I get it. It helped me learn that I can’t stuff my emotions. I’m in a much healthier place now, but I will still occassionally feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I’ve learned instead of pushing emotions away when I feel panic, that I should stop and ask myself what’s really going on in my heart – and take time to address it. Emotions are God-given and they are often indicators of something much deeper going on. The question is, am I paying attention?

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