Friday, May 23, 2014

Robbing Those Disturbing Symptoms of Power

It was in 1996, at the age of thirty, when I began to suffer weird turns. Frequency varied from once in six weeks to almost daily when I was extremely fatigued or under a lot of stress.

These turns, which I labelled ‘spike attacks,’ were unlike anything I had experienced before. Here is an example of one.

I walked into the copy-room at work to file some bank statements. As I entered the room, a tremendous sense of deju vu overcame me – convincing me that this exact event had happened before in exactly the same way. Somehow, it was happening all over again. As my confused mind tried to understand how such a thing could be possible, a vision of crystal-clarity popped into my mind. I saw a scene from my past, a pair of tennis shoes beside a door. (A mundane vision accompanied each spike attack - once it was a garage door, another time a staircase in the Melbourne tennis centre.)

As the vision faded every single nerve ending in my body spiked with adrenalin – which felt like receiving a billion tiny electric shocks simultaneously. This was following by the sensation that I was falling helplessly down a very deep elevator shaft with my stomach leading the way. When the falling sensation ceased a moment later, my stomach snapped back up into place with an explosion of utter agony that felt like a thousand knives being plunged home. Then it was over, leaving me dazed and confused. I would turn to the Lord and cry out to Him in my mind, “Oh Jesus, that hurt so bad!” Several minutes of frantic reflection was required to convince myself the sense of déjà vu was wrong - I had not experienced this exact event before. These episodes only took several seconds but felt much longer.

I had no idea what these spike attacks were or where they were coming from. There were disturbing, disorientating, confusing, and painful, and I could have lived in fear of them and dreaded their return. They could have turned my life into a nightmare – but they did not.

I did not fear the spike attacks, nor worry about them happening again.

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

I was able to trust in God and have no fear of these attacks by putting into practice a technique that I had learnt from reading “Self Help for Your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weekes. In her book, Dr Weekes explained a very effective system of helping us not to fear depression’s distressing physical symptoms. By not fearing those symptoms, we rob them of their power. Depression typically inflicts its sufferers with a plethora of disturbing physical symptoms such as very bad shoulder or neck pain, aching jaw, tightness in the chest or stomach, heartburn, insomnia, missed or racing heartbeats, a prickling sensation in the limbs, and so on. (Note, the spike attacks were not caused by depression - more on that later…)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

When I had a spike attack, instead of fearing it, I studied it analytically from the perspective of a curious observer, carefully studying each of its phases. I contemplated the visions to see if they had any significance, (they never did) and applied myself to the task of convincing myself that this experience had not happened before. Instead of fearing the return of these turns, when they occurred it was simply another chance to study them.

So the turns were terrible, painful and exhausting, but overall, a curiosity. I did not fear them at all. I accepted that they were part of life and kept on living as usual. My wife was the only person who could tell I was having an attack.

This same technique, when applied the depression’s distressing physical symptoms, also robs them of power by teaching us not to fear them. If you get a chance to read “Self Help for Your Nerves,” she explains this technique in detail in Chapter Six, Cure of the More Constant Symptoms. And for physical symptoms caused by depression, it can cure them, as my life can testify. Once we no longer fear those symptoms and are willing to live with them as background music to our day, the fear related adrenalin flow begins to reduce, causing the symptoms to grow weaker until they disappear completely.

So let us place our trust in the Lord and take refuge in Him, and fear not depression’s distressing symptoms. God will help us overcome such enemies that seek to destroy us through fear.

Psalm 27:1-3
The LORD is my light and my salvation -
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life -
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

Back to the spike attacks – it was in 2002 that I discovered what they were – complex partial epileptic seizures (also known as temporal lobe epileptic seizures), confirmed by MRI and EEG scans. Anti-seizure meds have now stopped those seizures. But I praise God for showing me a practical way of learning not to fear the things that can go wrong in my mind and body. Although I suffered hundreds of seizures, I trusted in God instead of fearing them.

Isaiah 41:13 For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

(All verses from the NIV)

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    1. There are so many good scriptures here to believe in when fearful thoughts come. I like the fact that I can take their power away from them by choosing not to accept them. I praise God with you today for all the healing in your body.

    2. An amazing story, Peter. I am amazed at how your faith helped you deal with this for 6 years before you found the medical cause. Thanks for this inspiring post. wb

    3. Those Scriptures are of course more powerful than the fear depression and seizure bring. Faith is God's gift and because you had so much of that, you were able to overcome those "spike attacks". Glory to God for healing you.
      God bless.

    4. Thank you again, Peter, for encouraging your readers with your personal story, and God's mighty work in your life. The scriptures you include are so pertinent and powerful. I just got a copy of "Self Help for your Nerves" (thank you for drawing it to my attention), and appreciate Dr. Weekes' compassionate explanations. Almost on chapter 6...

      God's blessings to you!

    5. Such incredible insights you have- and those verses are wonderful. Thank you for sharing, as always.

    6. Bless you for being so encouraging.

    7. That's so true, Saleslady. The Bible tells us that Satan will flee if we submit ourselves to God and resist the enemy - by choosing not to accept the plethora of fears he throws at us is resisting him.

      Thanks for your continued encouragement, Warren. It was a strange six years. The miracle is that we discovered that I had epilepsy by watching the only episode we ever watched of a medical drama. (ER I think?)

      Thanks RCUBEs. We would be so utterly lost without God's awesome gift of faith, something which He matures in us through life's trials.

      Great to hear from you Tara, and praying that 'Self Help for Your Nerves' can help you as much as it helped me.

      Thanks for dropping by Joanne and Denise.

    8. When I look back to the beginning of my walk with Christ, it is amazing how He helps us through situations even when we have no idea what is going on.

      Peter thank you for your encouragement and prayers.

    9. Peter I forgot to mention I read a book while we drove to B.C. titled, Your Brain on Joy, by Dr. Earl Henslin, it helped me understand how the brain functions, and how all the daily things we do can help to bring health and healing. The one point he made is we can not judge anyone! I will write a book review as soon as my plate is not so heavy.

    10. Oh, Peter, another terrific, Truth-filled post. The Truth really can set one from lots of things and free to discover how to get well. It is incredible to see the journey God allowed you to travel.

    11. Awesome stuff! Thanks.. Check out my blogs: & - God Bless!

    12. Thanks for your feedback, Robin, and I agree with you completely about those times when we are so bewildered, confused and lost, but God knows what He is doing and never leaves us. Looking forward to seeing your book review.