The Panic Diaries: Fighting Immobility

The Panic Diaries: Fighting Immobility

Hey all. As I announced in my last entry, I now finally have a job!

But with any change comes new adjustments…and new fears.

Thankfully, I’ve built up a pretty sizable arsenal of coping techniques. The unfortunate thing is that I have my moments when even those don’t seem to work…

And those moments are frightening.

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My boss was kind to let me out early this past Friday because many people took the day off and it was a slow day. I was determined to go to Posman Books in Grand Central to buy two contemporary classics–Slaughterhouse Five and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Grand Central was really mobbed on this particular day because it was Black Friday–which meant that the place was filled with travelers and shoppers. I soon felt overheated and overwhelmed, so I plopped myself down on the floor under a closed ticket booth and drank my gatorade as people rolled their luggage and gave me strange looks. Or maybe the looks weren’t strange, but either way, I felt really self-conscious.

And I continued to sit on the floor. And the fear of getting up seized my heart.

I started mentally going over my options. Cab? No, too expensive. Call my mom and ask her to meet me in Grand Central? Not feasible, and she’d probably want to slap me through the phone. I knew two things: 1) My problem was anxiety in and of itself. I wan’t afraid of any particular bodily ailment or any specific threat or dangerous person. I just felt scared for no particular reason. And it sucked. 2) I couldn’t stay on the floor. I had to get up at some point, whether I liked it or not.

I felt anguished. Based on past experience, I knew a good cry would be somewhat relieving, but I couldn’t muster up the tears. So I had to be a big girl and get up. I unlocked my iPod so I could play Jesus Culture’s album Come Away, and I started to repeat Joshua 1:9 to myself over and over again. I needed to remind myself that God was going to be with me wherever I go.

I walked over to the area where I could go down the escalator to catch my train, but when I saw the crowd of people just waiting to get on the escalator, I thought to myself, “Nope. I’ll just take the Express bus.”

Which meant that I would have to walk to the Express bus. In the cold. By myself….Just like everybody else! But when you have panic disorder, even tasks that normal people find trivial can sometimes turn into mountains. So I made a few stops along the way to the bus so I could warm up. It snowed for all of one minute, and I had to laugh at the whole situation. When I finally boarded the bus, I felt a huge sense of relief.

You can’t die from panic disorder, as I’ve reminded myself multiple times. The problem is that when you’re in the midst of an attack, even though you feel like you’re gonna die, you know you’re going to live…and that there’s a huge chance you’ll have another panic attack sometime soon. The combination of these three things makes me feel miserable at times–I feel like I’m dying, but I know I’m going to live, and I know I might feel like I’m dying again sometime soon. But I cannot focus on the what-if’s. Instead, I can look back on the small victories. To you, these things may be run-of-the-mill and mundane. But for me, getting up in the middle of Grand Central station and moving ahead was momentous. Because it proved to me that I’m more resilient than I think I am, and that God is still with me, even when I’m walking alone.

❤ Nikita

PS Is anybody looking to get rid of an old copy of either Slaughterhouse Five or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Please let me know via Twitter @Vacca_To_World. Thank you!

The Most Calming Album

The Most Calming Album

Music’s effect on the brain

I once asked a friend of mine if she believed that the media you expose yourself to can have a negative effect on you. She said no, and since then her opinion has slightly changed. I still believe your input can definitely affect your output, though.

With that said, knowing my personality, there are certain things I avoid exposing myself to. I don’t watch horror movies, I avoid listening to artists with bad messages (i.e. Marilyn Manson), and I don’t read really dark books (iDrakula wasn’t what I’d classify as “really dark.” It was kind of a spoof).

These are self-imposed restrictions, by the way. When I was teenager, I was really into paranormal fiction, and my mom made no gripes about buying these books. Then one day I woke up, looked at my book shelf, and tore these books apart. Then I recycled the mess of covers and pages, because I care about the environment. (I kept the Twilight Saga, though, because those books are tame and don’t dwell too heavily on mythology).

Aaaanyway, this is supposed to be a music post. I think music really taps into something deep within our hearts/minds/souls. An upbeat pop song can put you in a good mood. Listening to fast music while you’re working out can help you keep pace. Listening to a violin and piano duet can make you cry. Why? What is this mysterious thing about music that makes us react to it so viscerally?

Lanny Donoho touched on this subject in his book God’s Blogs, which I plan on writing about in the near future. So for now, I’m going to tell you which album has had the most soothing effect on me.

Around the time I was diagnosed with panic disorder, worship band Jesus Culture released their album Come Away. A friend of mine recommended that I check it out, so I bought it and listened to it.

It was recorded live, so you hear the crowd between songs. Indeed, the album does have that spontaneous, live quality to it, as if you’re there in person. The songs were so encouraging and calming for me that I started listening to the album on my commute to school, and in my room as I got ready in the morning, and I would even play it looped on my iHome as I slept at night.

It’s not an album for music aficionados, per se. If you’re looking for a more artful and experimental worship album, I’d recommend Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth. Come Away has songs with repetitive lyrics and melodies, and some songs are pretty long–but that’s kind of the point. The album isn’t meant to entertain you–it’s meant to uplift you and bring you into God’s presence. And it succeeds in doing just that.

My favorite songs on the album are “Rooftops,” “My Soul Longs For You,” and “One Thing Remains.” All the musicians and singers in this band are very talented and “tuned” to each other and to the Holy Spirit. Worship music can be done one of two ways. You can have a set list and simply stick to the set list, without leaving any room for spontaneous worship and alternate songs. Or, you can have no set list at all, or just have a basic idea of what songs you want to sing, and then let things go onstage as God leads.

Come Away has been my go-to album when I feel anxious, scared, and overwhelmed. If you fall into any of those categories, I’d recommend this album for you.

~Nikita

What albums do you listen to when you are stressed out?