Panic Attacks: My Fight Against Fear

panic attacks

[Guest Post by Dr. Gail Bones – We met through our mutual friend and mentor Pam Farrel. I appreciate Gail for her heart of integrating ministry between older women and younger women. Also, this is an excerpt from her new book that JUST RELEASED this month on Living Cross Wise. Hope you are encouraged!!]

I’d just put my baby down for a nap when a tsunami of irrational dread and fear swept over me.

A feeling of impending doom, accompanied by a terrifying sense of unreality took hold, and my heart began to pound. As the room spun, a suffocating panic gripped me. My mind raced to find an explanation for what was happening.

Was this a heart attack?

A nervous breakdown?

Was I dying?

As I struggled to maintain consciousness and control, I fumbled for the phone and speed-dialed my pastor, crying out in terror that I feared I was losing my mind.

The voice on the other end of the line remained calm. The pastor—more John the Baptist than gentle shepherd—matter-of-factly responded,

“You’re not going crazy; crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.”

He prayed forcefully, asking God to comfort me and commanding Satan to leave me alone. After urging me to just get a grip on myself and trust God, he quickly hung up.

But waves of fear continued to grow in intensity.

My sanity seemed to be slipping away, and I felt paralyzed. Unexpectedly, the doorbell rang. My brother, who lived in another state, was on my doorstep! We hadn’t seen each other in months, but that very afternoon, as he was driving home from a business trip, it occurred to him that he was near enough to my home to surprise me.

God had sent help!

In the days that followed, I worried there might be a recurrence.

Was there something physically wrong with me?

Was it all just in my mind?

Or was it simply, as my pastor believed, a spiritual attack?

Or could this unsettling experience have had more than one cause?

My doctor simply called them panic attacks and reassured me it wasn’t uncommon for new mothers: at least 1 in 5 people experience them.

Fluctuating hormone levels and physical exhaustion after having a baby were obvious physical factors. My emotional vulnerability most likely stemmed from feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as the relentless demands of motherhood. But as I read what the Bible said about fear and spiritual warfare, the Holy Spirit led me to conclude that a third element was at work.

Recently, a depressed young neighbor had turned to me for help. Day after day, I spent hours listening as she talked about her many problems. One day, she prayed with me to receive Christ and I watched her outlook begin to change as God gave her joy and strength. Her husband, however, wasn’t pleased with her newfound faith, and he filed for divorce. In the nasty custody dispute, he named me as a cult member who’d brainwashed his wife. This false accusation was my first exposure to the reality of spiritual warfare—the counterattacks launched by our enemy whenever we threaten the kingdom of darkness—and it distressed me deeply.

As time went on, a seed of fear began to grow.

I regularly had to ask friends to pray that I could cope with situations most others would not find threatening. I took to heart my mentor’s advice to memorize Scripture that would help me stand strong and fight this battle.

Four years elapsed before I had another panic attack. It happened on the freeway, a few months after the birth of my second child, as I was on my way to a Bible study.

This time, however, my response was different.

As I handed my baby to the sitter, I asked her to pray for me for the courage to get back in the car and continue. I’d come to understand that Satan uses fear to limit our lives. As I’d matured as a Christian, God had given me both an awareness of the spiritual nature of the war I was fighting and the battle plan that would lead to victory.

The most important weapon I had in my arsenal that day was 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV):

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.”

I hung on to that verse as tightly as I did to the steering wheel as I drove the remainder of the way to the church. Walking up the path to the sanctuary a few minutes late, I heard the chorus of feminine voices, beautifully blended in a soul-stirring hymn.

Shaken but still standing, I was glad I could join in their song.

Living Cross Wise(Excerpted from “Living CrossWise: Hope and Help for Navigating Transition.” Nashville: Treasure House Publishers, 2013).

Gail BonesDr. Gail Bones, a former English teacher and professor of education, has been engaging audiences as a speaker, Bible teacher, songwriter, and worship leader for more than thirty years. Gail and her husband Jeff have two children and one adorable grandbaby. She lives in San Diego, where happiness means always having one or more of the following in her hands: a dog leash, a sailboat tiller, bicycle handlebars, a kayak paddle, an acoustic guitar, a big fat book , or a hazelnut coffee. Connect with Gail on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

[Photo: barryskeates, Creative Commons]


  • joyinmysoul

    After reading your experience, I am compelled to respond….As a mental health professional, my understanding of anxiety and panic has been clinical, but from personal experience and listening to my patient’s, I can totally relate and understand that there is more than meets the eye. Joyce Myer has a great reading on fear called Chasing Fear and this has been a source of motivation to rebuke fear/panic out of my life. It has helped me get on planes again, zip line, and take career risks. I’ve had various encounters with overbearing fear that could be diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but when I accepted that the fears were attacks on gifts, talents, blessings, and power Christ had given me and noticed the distance it caused in my spiritual life, from that moment, I began to incorporate prayer into my relaxation techniques and at times, I just stepped out on faith. The devil knows the power Christ has given us and he will attack at all costs, so 2 Timothy 1:7 is a wonderful weapon. God has created us for great things and fear is only an obstacle that with prayer we can get around. I recently started a blog and at times, I fear I won’t get comments, attention, readers, or support but I have to remind myself my purpose and continue moving forward in faith. Thank you.

    • DrGailBones

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, helpful response. I will check out your website. Gail Bones Be Strong and Courageous!

      • Joyinmysoul

        You are most welcome! Thank you for sharing and for your support! I mentioned a reading from Joyce Meyer and the site is Facing Fear. I’d suggest checking that out as well.