It was two months into my social anxiety treatment. I have learned how some of my thought patterns made my anxiety worse. I have practiced the relaxation techniques that my instructor taught us, but I found my thought wandering and sometimes returning to negative thoughts.
At this point my difficulty was that I had this anxiety disease for so long that certain thoughts can very quickly trigger a panic attack. I have only a few seconds of reaction time before I start to panic.
Still, I was eager to test out my progress by visiting some places that would make me nervous. Restaurants have been unpleasant for me in the past; if someone sat facing me then I could get super nervous in a hurry.
On that day I visited a neighborhood diner. I made sure I visited it early so the restaurant did not have too many people there. Once I finished my order I realized that I might have made a too difficult challenge, because I found my anxiety level increasing. I tried to self talk in my mind that I was in a safe place, but I was losing, and I could feel the start of panic building.
I had been trying to clamp down my fear and it was just not working. Suddenly I had a new thought that just seemed to land in my brain right at that moment: “Love and accept!” Even though it did not make too much sense to me I decided to give it a try. Instead of fighting the anxiety I told myself that it was OK to have a panic attack, and that I would love my fearful self regardless.
I had a full blown panic going on, but I can also feel a sense of acceptance that was comforting. In fact I felt a strong warmth radiate out within my body. My fear just seemed to melt away in the presence of this new feeling of being loved.
I did it! Somehow my fear has completely disappeared, and I realized a heavy chain has been lifted from me. I remember I still had tears streaming down my face, but I had a big smile on my face as well. It seemed as if everyone in the restaurant was smiling with me.
After this experience I never had another panic attack. Whenever I feel one coming near, I can call up this force of love that always calmed me down.
After many years of church attendance, I learned the feeling of love I experienced on that day felt exactly the same as when I got very close with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit showing me a thing or two even when I did not exactly deserve it.
Heavenly father, I thank you for completely healing me. Mold me and humble me so that I can serve faithfully. Remind me to examine my words and actions to keep them true to your will. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.