The other day I went running without diet coke. Slow. Sluggish. No energy. Now please understand I do not drink a diet coke to prepare to run or right before my run. But I usually have diet cokes so frequently it is just in my system on a regular basis. It is usually in me. Not that day and not today.
It was day 4, only day 4, but it felt like forever without my friend, my energy booster.
I am in the process of giving up diet coke. Not because I want to. I mean I kind of want to. But not really. But a trip to the ER, two scopes down your nose and throat, the feeling of choking twice, multiple full-blown panic attacks, might make someone take action. Last week was rough.
Now please don’t hear me say that all happened because of diet coke. I am really not positive why all that happened. But it led me to day 4 and now day 10 with no diet coke and I am hell-bent on making it to day 365 and beyond. Yes I am an addict and I am counting the days. Because apparently diet soda is “one of the worst things” for what they think I have.
Let me back up. On Sunday night I was eating a bagel happily, satisfied after a night of teaching and conversation at church. But one of the bites got stuck in my throat making me feel like I was choking. It went down eventually but it scared me enough to say no more bagel. The next afternoon I was eating toast in the car driving my son to practice. All the while I was battling this mysterious phlegm. Same scenario begins to happen, toast gets stuck, I have to force myself to keep swallowing while I feel like I am choking. Tingles start to shoot through my upper body. I begin to panic but I recover.
On the way back home I begin to have, what I now know is, a panic attack. My body starts to tingle everywhere down both my arms and both my legs. My heart begins to race. I have no idea what is happening. I think there is something wrong with me. “Am I having a heart attack?”
I call my husband. He meets me.
I can’t stop this. What is wrong? I think I need to go an ER. Could it be a panic attack? I don’t know, I have never had one. I shake. I ring my hands. I sweat. My heart continues to race. I am scared. I get the chills. I am light headed. Tingling sensation everywhere. What in the world is wrong with me? I feel like I am going to die. Please take me to the ER.
To anyone who has had a panic attack I am sorry you did. It is a terrible experience. To anyone who deals with them on a regular basis again I am sorry and you are brave. To anyone who deals with some kind of anxiety disorder I am sorry you have to battle it. Anxiety is a complex, crazy beast from what I can tell. Get the help and support you need and keep soldiering on, you are a warrior.
So the doctor thinks I have LPR. A reflux condition in which stomach acids damage the lining of your throat and voice box causing me to feel like I have a lump in the back of my throat. More precisely it feels like a huge piece of phlegm back there. And no matter how hard I tried I could not get it out. Sorry for the graphic language but I need you to try to understand. Supposedly this is a symptom of LPR. I am slowly getting convinced this is my true condition. My doc says the whole throat voice box area is very sensitive and protective which makes sense to me. He assured me I wasn’t crazy and the feeling of choking is a very scary thing. Yes, yes it is.
But this whole thing has got me thinking about spiritual things. Many spiritual things.
But wait, before I go there let me say…when I was having my full-blown panic attacks I was not thinking of anything spiritual. My dominant thoughts were, “There is something wrong with me. What is wrong with me? What is happening to my body? I can’t calm down. I am scared. I think you need to call 911. Am I having a stroke? Am I having a heart attack? Am I going to die? I think I am going to die.” My counselor explained to me that a panic attack is a physiological event in which your body goes ahead of your mind. I never imagined, when reading about panic attacks, how physical they were before I had one. It is mind-blowing.
So spiritual things, these thoughts came only as I was getting the help and support I needed through doctors, family, friends, my counselor, and some meds. I don’t know if I would have ever eaten again without the help of Xanax. It was a miracle drug for me which allowed me to eat a whole bowl of oatmeal!
Here’s the thing. I believe in a world, a reality beyond diet coke, beyond our physical bodies, beyond Xanax, and beyond our present struggles and very real anxieties. I am asking God to show me anything he will allow me to see through all of this anxiety and these physical ailments right now.
One of the things God is revealing is how often I went to Diet Coke to relieve my stress. If all hell was breaking loose around me, i.e. the twins running around like crazies, messes everywhere I look, everyone needing something from me at the same time, not feeling like I have time to do all I need to do and all I want to do in the time I have, feeling trapped in this house, the cracking open of a can of new diet coke and the refreshing fizz going down immediately gave me some relief. It might sound crazy, but it is true. Certain questions and prayers are now erupting in my heart and mind.
I am asking questions like,
what is best for my body? am I taking care of myself? what are the deep anxieties of my soul? how can I reduce the stress in my life? what is best for me to drink and eat?
I am praying prayers like,
sustain me God. what is artificial and what is real, God? i want to see the invisible through this. God, you give strength to the weary, and you increase the power of the weak. give me strength. i am weary. increase my power. i am weak. i want all you have for me through this, God.
Through not be able to eat for a few days and not being able to control my body at the height of the panic attacks, which were both horrendous, I am being drawn closer to the One who gives me breath.
“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29
“…I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4