As so many of you out there, I feel everything. I feel so many sensations running through my body, my heart, my mind that some days I have to do “inventory” to understand what’s going on. Since fasting, feeling has turned into healing. Because I’m not filling my body with food, my feelings are not suppressed or “stuffed.” The break from food allows my spirit, which is much stronger and healthier than my body, to become more present then my flesh and through the light of God, I can not only balance out, but rise to a higher degree of love and healing. Sounds pretty new-age-ish, but it’s just a beautiful thing that comes with fasting.
When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, this “gift” of feeling everything could be depilating. After I was sexually abused, something vulnerable in me awoke and it seemed to attract dysfunctional men. I couldn’t catch a break. Either I didn’t believe I was worth more or the men I was attracting into my life had some sort of ability to read I was weak. I didn’t have the self-esteem or strength to defend myself. I started having panic attacks, painful periods of time when my heart couldn’t carry my hurt. Rapid heartbeats, inability to breath, panting, crying, fainting – all in an attempt to maintain and hold myself together as my world was falling apart. My mom was the only one who could pull me out of such experiences. Her understanding, soft tone, encouragement, physical touch – it all helped me come back. I had my last panic attack at the age of 26. Thankfully, marrying my sweetheart was a strong influence of love and my body didn’t respond to stress anymore in the form of panic attacks.
I know so many girls and women have and have had panic attacks. 1 out of 3 of us have been sexually abused. I want to find you, to find others and not just heal, but shine.
What was I feeling before I started intermittent fasting? After all, I’d been married for over 17 years, had six children and lived a dream life. Yes, life was good, better than good and with all the love surrounding me, I’d worked through so many of my issues and feelings, but I still carried shame and regret. With all that was on my plate, I couldn’t handle these emotions anymore. Why was I still hiding from hurt? Negativity? Procrastination? Unmet expectations? I was suffocating. Either they had to go, or I was going to break from the weight of it all.
While fasting, I have major breakthroughs specific to my emotional challenges, I mean life-changing ideas and experiences that placed me on a path to higher love and purpose. Just a few weeks ago, I had an experience were I learned the amazing power of repentance. I’ve known about repentance my entire life, but rarely acted on it. The bigger truth of asking God every day to be forgiven of my sins has helped with me be more sympathetic to others, learn from my own mistakes and recognize the addictions I still have to break in my life. Repentance lifts my emotional load and frees me from negativity. Still, I’m stubborn. Even with all I’m learning, I’ll forget or don’t make this task a priority some days. The flesh is so stubborn.
During my first 30-day fast (you can read about this experience in my memoir (Starving Girl), I had an experience one night. I was driving one of my son’s home from basketball practice and I stopped to get something to eat. I hadn’t broken my fast yet, so I had a prayer in the car, then went into Pei Wei for some lettuce wraps and edamame. Once back in the car, I reached for the package of edamame. I put that salty warm soybean pod in my mouth, bit it open and the flavor of the soybean electrified my palate. Food is delicious, but after an 18 hour fast, food is explosive. Those first few bites meant everything. They provided the nourishment I needed and I was not only delighted, but so very grateful. So very thankful was I, so amazing was the taste, with my sweet son in the back seat sharing all the fun things about his day, my car that worked every time I start it up, the love from my family, my clarity of thought, when I heard in my mind “Well, look at you. You’re doing it.” (This happens a lot to me. The Spirit continues to give me so much encouragement.)
I was. I was doing it. Fasting was helping me tackle so many of my emotions, I was present, my health was improving, plus I was losing weight. My heart almost burst, and suddenly, I thought of those awful panic attacks. All those years ago when all hope seemed lost, how I would rather die than endure any more pain, how it was so difficult to breathe I would pass out.
But, no, at this moment, breaking my fast with the wonderful food, this wasn’t a panic attack. Yes, my heart beat was increasing, yes I felt like I might cry, yes, I was overcome, but what I was experiencing was my first a joy attack.
So powerful was my joy. I imagined a line on one end of the spectrum a panic attack and on the polar opposite end, a joy attack. Oh, this was big. I needed my mom. This was too much emotion. I started deep breathing. I couldn’t have a “joy attack.” I was driving. I couldn’t fall apart because I was “so happy.” As wonderful as it was, I had to control this or my eyes would fill and become blurred with tears. In my mind, I started talking to my mom. I envisioned her holding me, but my love for her made my “joy attack” even stronger. I had to block the image of my mom or at that moment, her love would overcome me.
“Breath deep,” I said to myself. “Everything’s fine.”
If it hadn’t been so overwhelming, it would have been funny. I mean really, who has a “joy attack” when eating edamame. But, seriously, a clean physical palate means emotional and spiritual experiences finally have room in my life to manifest.
I did get a hold of my mom and she told me, “Tell your joy it can come in smaller doses or we can get together and you can invite it back while we are holding each other.” My mom, she’s so awesome. She validates everything in my life. To her, I’m never weird.
Joy is an emotion I feel more and more. Swimming with ducks in Sedona 2016
If you have panic attacks, please know you can breathe and heal and overcome, but you have to feel. You have to be validated by yourself. Don’t be afraid. It takes time and work. Believe, hope, remember your worth and pray. Let your spirit (also known as your soul) shine, God is there. He will heal you. I know He can and will.
Image found here.