Will You Be My Monkey? Living With Panic Disorder

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

Will you be my monkey?

I made up that silly question. It came from a documentary I watched about a woman suffering from severe panic attacks. She had no family or friends for support, so to avoid becoming housebound by her disability, she adopted a companion monkey that went everywhere with her. The monkey gave her a sense of security.

Sometimes, I call my best friend and ask her, “Will you be my monkey?” She’s asked me the same question. In other words, will you support me? The question sounds bizarre to anyone who hears it, except my friend and me. We know exactly what it means.

Like the woman in the documentary, I suffer from panic attacks. The first one happened when I was in my twenties and in college. As I walked down a long, narrow hallway in my dormitory, I suddenly felt my legs turn to rubber. I needed to walk shoulder-to-wall to steady myself and feel safe. I’ve had panic attacks sporadically throughout my life, most often while shopping in grocery stores, standing in lines, traveling over bridges and driving on the Interstate.

I’m not alone suffering with this affliction. Christian author and speaker Patsy Clairmont writes about panic disorder in her book, I Grew Up Little. Food Network star Paula Deen’s panic disorder was so intense she couldn’t leave her house. Charles Schultz had panic attacks, and so did Lucille Ball. The list of celebrities with panic disorder is a long one. How am I like these famous people? I refuse to let these hideous attacks stop me. I push through them and keep moving on with life.

Medication and years of Christian counseling help curb the intensity of the attacks, but I still have them. I’ve learned to live with them. When I feel one coming on, I ask my friend to be my monkey -- to go with me into a grocery store or other place that triggers my anxiety. We all need someone to lean on, and my trusted friend gives me support.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about being given a “thorn” in his flesh. He calls it a tormenting “messenger of Satan.” We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but he suffered because of it. Three times, Paul asked God to take his affliction away, but God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

For decades, I kept my affliction to myself, afraid of being judged and labeled “crazy.” Then, about ten years ago, I went public with my disability. I told family members and friends, and, surprisingly, I received love and support in return. Today, I talk openly about my “thorn.” Acknowledging my panic attacks strips them of their power.

Paul puts it this way: “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10.)

I can’t say I “delight” in my panic disorder. Like Paul, I’ve asked God to take this thorn away. So far, He hasn’t. One thing I’ve learned is I’m pulled closer to the Lord through my affliction. When I pray and ask Him to help me get through an attack, He never lets me down. God and my friend are my “monkeys.” In their presence, I am made strong.

Are you hiding your thorn from everyone except God? Consider sharing your secret with the monkeys in your life! God put them there for a reason -- to help you.

Dear God, our afflictions come in many sizes, shapes and colors. We pray that you will take them from us. But if you choose not to, or ask us to wait until you are ready, then give us strength in our weakness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Learn more about companion monkeys for the disabled at the Helping Hands web site.

Paula Deen talks openly and honestly about her panic disorder and how she overcame it on InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse. Click here to watch.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


tdonnel said...

I've been on prozac for 18 years for anxiety and depression. I think the fear of the panic attacks brought on the depression. Thankfully it is fully under control, although I don't enjoy being in crowds and get very anti-social during the winter months. I do have a light box that helps. The BEST thing for an anxiety attack is having someone with you!! I'm glad Christians are finally accepting medication as treatment for a medical condition. Blessings Terri

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Terri.

Thanks for your comments. I agree that sometimes medication is helpful, and having the support of friends and family is always helpful.

I'm celebrating with you that your panic attacks are fully under control.

Blessings to you, too!


Dee said...

I'm glad to see this post. I am still struggling with my panic disorder, and I even went to a councelor hoping for a "cure". What I did get was an affirmation that having this disorder doesn't make me a bad person! I would rather not have this problem, but I do so I just have to make the best of it. By the way, they have had to change my meds...was on Paxil...then it stopped working. ow I am on Cymbalta. My doc assured me that if the Cymbalta ceases to work, they will work with me to find another med that will help.

Thanks for sharing this message. If I still lived near you, I would be happy to be your monkey anytime!

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Dee!

I was on Paxil for a long time, and then it stopped working for me, too. They switched me to Zoloft, which so far, is helping. I can empathize with you, and I DO wish that we still lived near each other; I'd be your "monkey," too.

Thanks for commenting on the blog.



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