One thought on “Peperkorn on Anxiety

  1. I listened to your interview on anxiety and I hope that my experience will help. I have had a life-long struggle dealing with anxiety and panic starting from about the 2nd grade. I am a life-long Missouri Synod Lutheran.

    I don’t know what triggered my first panic attack but I got that sense of dread that I was going to drop dead any moment. I underwent some tests and nothing was really diagnosed other than to speculate that it might be hypoglycemia. Life went on normally when, about the 6th grade, I had a dream that I renounced heaven and was expelled. I woke up in a panic and for the next 3 years I mentally imploded, believing I had committed the unforgivable sin, fearful of thinking hateful things against the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until my mom took me to talk to my pastor a few times that the feelings finally subsided and I began to life life more happily.

    My freshman year of college I had a brief bout of anxiety after the sudden death of my professor’s spouse, compounded by the death of a childhood pet, work, and playing in a rock band. It was triggered by talking about death in my psychology class. After a brief discussion with my psychology professor and my family physician things settled fairly quickly.

    My sophomore year of college was the best year I ever had. Toward the end of the year however I was beginning to sense something wasn’t quite right. When I worked that summer I noticed I wasn’t tolerating stress as well and I would have episodes where I felt like my brain was leaving my body. I would go through the motions of living but it was more like watching a movie where everyone I knew, including me, were the actors I was watching, kind of being detached. I hoped things would settle down when I got back to school but I ended up in the school infirmary after suffering a severe panic attack in the cafeteria. Even after a week of rest, tests, valium, and counseling by a school nurse (who blamed my anxiety on being a Missouri Synod Lutheran and hating my father), nothing seemed to get better. I dropped out of college for the rest of the year. I worked for a while and got well enough to go back to school. I shifted my diet to a high protein, caffeine-free, sugar-free one. Even with those changes I still felt foggy and became obsessed with finding out what was wrong. I read books, took nutritional supplements, exercised, saw doctors (who recommended more counseling or drugs). I avoided medicating my condition because I felt that it wasn’t dealing with the root issue. Reading a book by Dr. Claire Weeks called “Hope For You and Your Nerves” gave me some emotional support explaining the mechanism of anxiety and Dr. William Glasser’s book “Reality Therapy” helped me realize that we can take responsibility for our own mental health to a great extent.

    Still, feeling at the end of my rope, I elected to see a naturopathic chiropractor. He took a diagnostic approach using applied kinesiology (which I initially dismissed as new-age voodoo). He diagnosed me with some sort of chemical imbalance caused by the continued stress and had me take a natural substance called alpha-keto-glutaric acid. Within 5 days the fog lifted and after about two or three weeks I could finally say I felt normal.

    For the next 12 years anxiety and its effects did not rule my life. I worked for a major airline as a supervisor which required some out of town travel. I never really had much anxiety about flying and actually for a number of years enjoyed air travel. My job began to demand more out of station meetings. Again I began to feel out of sorts but it started getting worse when I was required to travel out of town. It wasn’t the flying so much as feeling ungrounded being away from my family. Still the unsettledness began to affect me in other situations. I stayed in a hotel on the 25th floor in Atlanta and you could look down into the lobby over the half-wall that separated you from falling to your demise. It looked like the abyss in the Death Star on Star Wars. I spent the entire night almost sleepless and my legs felt like jelly the whole time. But flying still didn’t bother me, yet.

    The breaking point came again when I was required to travel to our headquarters for recurrent training. I really didn’t want to go since the training seemed to be useless to me. That coupled with Alaska Airlines losing a plane earlier that year near Los Angeles weighed on me. The day before I had to go I woke up several time drenched in sweat. Then things got more weird when I felt like it took every ounce of energy I had to move my legs. I begged off going to the meeting. I found it difficult to drive on bridges in my town or to be in high places. I got some more counseling with minimal relief. I had trouble with sleeping, obsessive thoughts, and feelings of unreality. I could watch an airplane take off and feel like I was watching something impossible happen.

    I went back to the naturopathic chiropractor I had seen before. He worked with me a while and finally recommended a protocol called EEG Neurofeedback, kind of like biofeedback for your brain. It helps you retrain the way your brain responds and has been used to treat epilepsy and PTSD. Although my insurance refused to cover the treatment despite the documentation we submitted, it was worth every penny I paid. I could finally sleep better. I didn’t feel like I was detached from living my life and I could drive over the bridges without white knuckles.

    That was about 9 years ago. I am 50 now and no longer work for the airlines. I don’t know how I would feel about flying again since I don’t really have the need to. My youngest son wants to go up in the Space Needle in Seattle sometime but I may just send him with my wife. I did try to drive up “Going To The Sun” road in Glacier Park last year but could only go about 1/3 of the way before changing drivers. I can’t say I am cured of anxiety and probably won’t be as long as I live in this body. Yet, I take comfort in knowing that when I fail in my anxiousness, Christ stood in my place and was brave for me. Some things I will be able to do bravely, some I will continue to avoid. I will have my victories and I anticipate that I will have failures that will require professional help. When Scripture tells us that we live in a broken fallen world, that means our brains too. We are not our brain although we are mightily influenced by it. Though I hated every moment of suffering, God used it to draw me closer and continually pointed me back to the suffering of his Son. God loved His Son even though He required His suffering. As I am a child of God by baptism, my suffering is not a indicator of God’s disfavor toward me. Anxiety may still accompany me on my journey through life. It cannot separate me from God because He will not let it. My trust may be feeble but He is not and He will do His good work in spite of my discomfort.

    Some resources that have helped me cope:

    The Bible
    Issues, Etc.
    Dr. Claire Weeks – Hope For You and Your Nerves
    Dr. William Glasser – Reality Therapy and Choice Theory
    Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz – Brain Lock
    Lucinda Basset – From Panic to Power
    Richard Bandler – Using Your Brain For a Change
    Peter Kreeft – Making Sense of Suffering
    EEG Neurofeedback
    Gluten Elimination Diet
    Dr. Kris Peterson -Naturopathic Chiroprator, Hermiston, OR
    Dr. Geoffrey Ames -Naturopathic MD, Richland, WA

    Sorry this is so lengthy. I hope it helps.

Leave a Reply