Every two hours, I would choke.
It would happen when I finally, somehow would fall asleep. Out of nowhere, not worrying about anything, I would be jolted awake, as if someone had stuck an electric prong to my side. My heart would pound like a jack hammer, my throat would constrict, sweat pouring out of me, like someone lit a fire and my body was the match.
I couldn’t hardly breathe. I had never experienced a panic attack before. Ever. In my life.
Yet, every two hours, this would happen. On a good night, if I slept at all, I got 3-4 hours.
I never knew that emotional trauma could cause PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. Isn’t that for soldiers, people in the military, who fought with guns and grenades flying through the air?
The Battlefield of Life
Here I was, euphoric over getting my first book contract — a childhood dream finally come true — happily married with two beautiful kids. And out of nowhere, I’m hijacked from this dream, unable to even breathe. Nauseated and overwhelmed with tears and fear.
Apparently, PTSD doesn’t just happen to those who are physically abused. The impacts of emotional and verbal abuse are equal in damage and trauma.
You don’t need to have fought a war in Afghanistan or Iraq to suffer from it and it’s not limited to victims of physical or sexual abuse either.
We are all soldiers in the battlefield of life.
And yet, I felt ashamed for suffering. I was scared because I didn’t understand why it was happening. Or how it could happen to someone “strong” like me?
I’ve survived plenty in life. I was the one who was the encourager.
I’m learning God doesn’t want us just to survive life. God wants us to experience joy. But, not in my head. I had to first learn to receive — so I can experience joy — in my heart.
I had to experience the gift of receiving joy through finding rest. It was on this journey of joy and rest, God brought a sweet kindred to cross my path.
The Gift of JOY
When I didn’t even know if I would ever write again — when the journey looked uncertain and I wanted to hide from my author/writerly friends — a woman who I didn’t know slipped a comment on one of my blog posts — during the months I first publicly confided in my panic attacks.
This is what she wrote:
so proud of you for trying to write this book! May God give you the grace, strength, and courage to finish it!
Margaret would continue to slip notes on my blog posts throughout the months. I was so overwhelmed by the fog of anxiety and insomnia, I couldn’t even read email.
Many months later, when I felt better, I was browsing through my blog comments. Then, I noticed this email in my inbox.
Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. Fight hard and fight back. You’ve got this.
Wait a minute. Margaret Feinberg? … Margaret… Feinberg!?! She was recently named one of 50 women most shaping church and culture by Christianity Today. Her books including The Sacred Echo and Wonderstruck, have sold nearly a million copies.
What?! Oh my goodness, she probably thinks I’m the most rudest person ever! Here she was, taking time out to write encouraging notes to me. And I never even responded.
Of course, Margaret was so gracious. When I emailed to connect with her, it became the beginning of our kinship. Can you imagine the joy of encouragement?
A year later, when I finally completed my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, I emailed Margaret to share the the good news.
This is when I was so heart-sunken to find out Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer: a two year journey.
But, no surprise to me, Margaret has been journeying with God, fighting back with hope and fighting hard with JOY.
Well, one day before our Online Spiritual Whitespace Book Club begins, I want to share that Margaret has written a wonderful book and companion Bible Study about her journey through breast cancer and how God brought her joy titled – Fight back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fear!
Here is an excerpt:
All of us are in a fight. Others can fight with you, but no one can fight this for you.
You see the scars when you look in the mirror or into your soul. And you know you’ll need to fight again tomorrow.
Everyone who wakes to confrontation and crisis—whether you picked the fight or the fight picked you—has an important choice: which weaponry will you choose?
Merrymaking is hard to do alone…Cheer is discovered in camaraderie.
Even if you feel alone, God has positioned people waiting in the wings to spring into action. They may not be the faces of those you expect, but if you keep your heart and eyes open, you may be surprised whom God uses.
If you’d like to get more inspired to fight back with joy, pick up a copy of my friend Margaret Feinberg’s book Fight back With Joy.
Then pair Margaret’s book with a copy of my soul-resting book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.
We can be kindreds with you on this journey to fighting back with joy.
Pull up a chair. Click to share a comment.
How has God surprised you with the joy of a kindred spirit?