Friday, May 23, 2008

He Finds My Lack of Faith...Disturbing

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Last night was trippy. My back was hurting, so I took half of a Vicodin at 9 PM and sort of putzed around in a happy little cloud until midnight when I went to bed. Then I had a panic attack.

Ugh, I haven't had one of those in ages. What happened was this – I was lying there under the covers listening to some music, eyes half closed and dreamy, when I started to experience a bit of cotton mouth, you know, very dry - so I got up to get a glass of water. I was just standing at the sink, sleepily filling the glass from the fawcett when it occurred to me that my throat could close up and I wouldn't be able to breathe. I'd seen that happen to a patient on one of those reality medical shows and it looked like an awful way to go. The doctors had to cut a hole in the person's neck to open up his airway but he'd still died. My heart began to pound in alarm at the thought that it might happen to me. In fact, it seemed entirely possible that I was having an allergic reaction at that moment.

Now I knew it was a silly. If I were going to have an allergic reaction it would have been immediately after taking the Vic, not three hours later, but you know how panic attacks are. (If you don't consider yourself lucky.)

I could picture it happening so vividly it was almost real - the horrifying feeling of my throat swelling up tighter and tighter, the desperate gasping for air, the frantic fumbling for the cell phone to call 911 and not being able to find it (I always misplace that sucker) and finally collapsing on the floor and dying, with my hands clawing my neck and my eyes bugging out of my head. Gah! Damn immagination! My heart was racing and my breath became ragged and a horrible feeling of doom descended on me.

"Doom, doom, doom," my brain bleated over and over, and the room became a bit spinny and I nearly fell.

But my rational mind recognized this as merely an anxiety attack, so I put my head between my knees and took deep breaths and told myself I didn't have time for this bullshit and it went away a few moments later. Freaky. They are so awful.

Afterwards, I got back in bed and started thinking about prayer. A panicky friend once told me that she prayed during her attacks, and she found that it helped hers to go away quickly. That led to me thinking about the time my grandma taught me the proper way to pray when I was a little kid. She showed me how to kneel in front of my bed and put my hands in the steeple position and recite this little ditty:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Now I'm sure she meant this as a comforting thing as most people find comfort in prayer, but it terrified me. I spent a lot of time analyzing those lines as I was wont to do as a child. They made me extremely uneasy. I mean, if you break it down it's not really very soothing.

Now I lay me down to sleep --- okay this line was fine since it was true, although I never really liked going to sleep as a kid. I had terrible fears of being attacked by monsters, or possibly having a freezing cold, demonic hand reach out from under the bed and grasp my ankle and suck me down. Plus, it was just so boring to lie in bed.

I pray the Lord my soul to keep --- wait a minute, what exactly was I authorizing here? Was this really a good idea? I wasn't so sure. God seemed like a mean bully from the stories I read in my children's bible. He made a flood and killed everyone but Noah and some animals! He turned Lot's wife in a pillar of salt just for looking back at her old home! And he kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden just for eating fruit from a forbidden tree. How unfair! Why did he put the tree of knowledge there if he didn't want them eating from it? The Sunday school teacher never did answer that one satisfactorily.

I knew I'd have gone straight for the tree. No snake would have been neccessary to tempt me. I was always getting into trouble for stuff like that.

After seeing the movie Star Wars, I began to picture God as looking like the Emperor, all shadowy with his face half hidden. Did I really want him keeping my soul? Heck no!

If I should die before I wake --- I'm convinced that these words are what initially started off my panic attacks. They set off gong sized bells of alarm in me. You mean I might actually die while I was sleeping? What the fuck? Why then were adults always poo pooing my fears of being killed by monsters during the night? Apparently it wasn't so far fetched.

I pray the Lord my soul to take – This was also disturbing. I pictured Jesus lumbering into my room with a hobo sack full of other people's souls, grinning dementedly at me as he prepared to pluck mine. And then what would he do with it? I knew my chances of getting into heaven were dubious at best, and besides, the way my grandma described the afterlife - full of choirs of angels playing harps and singing praises unto the lord as they flew around gold lined streets - well, frankly it sounded really boring. Almost as dull as church which was tortuously dull except for the part in Sunday school when we got to eat donut holes.

I knew I'd scream and fight Jesus if he tried to take my soul and he'd get pissed off and end up throwing me into the gaping jaws of Hell. Is it any wonder that I've had life long insomnia?

Even now that prayer strikes me as creepy. It didn't take long for me to substitute my own prayer. It went like this:

Dear God,

Please don't kill me while I sleep.

Thank you.

Your friend,


(Although I just put the "your friend" part in there to butter him up, I was still terrified of him. Religion depressed me as a kid because I was convinced there was no way I'd ever be able to get into heaven unless my mom and grandma could persuade the angels to let me in. Otherwise I was screwed.)

I'm still not much for organized religion - none of them appeal much - but I do sort of believe in some higher power. Nowadays when I try imagining God I see him as looking more like Obi-Wan-Kenobi. The old Obi-Wan that is, not the hunky, Ewan McGregor version. (That would lead to blasphemous and improper thoughts!)

Yes, I am a huge Star Wars geek, thanks very much.

Anyway, maybe for the next panic attack I'll try praying. I know just how to start it off:

"Help me, Obi-Wan-Kanobi. You're my only hope."

**I guess this isn't a novel idea. Click
  • here
  • to read about a Jedi church in the U.K.


    Sunshine said...

    I'm a total Star Wars geek also, I pink puffy heart you for this post, SO eloquent!! :)

    Diane said...

    We can go into a hospice together since I decided at 2 am that my bladder infections is actually bladder cancer . . .

    hey - email me that photo at

    CarmenSinCity said...

    That sounds awful. I've never had a panic attack and I definitely don't want one.

    Warped Mind of Ron said...

    Panic attacks are so fun! Right after I always get a Xanax treat from my doctor!!

    xl said...

    Ms Pru, your excellent deconstruction of that little prayer has given us all A New Hope.

    Krissyface said...

    God, Pru, you write like the devil. I'm laughing out loud in my grim little cubicle over here.
    Only you could take panic attacks and parlay them into religion in a way that makes sense. Rock on, sister.

    I once had a panic attack after taking Tylenol PM cold/flu. Who knew it had contraindications with prozac? I mean, really? I was lying in bed with Lily and was certain someone was about to break into our house and kill us. Anyone who's experienced a PA knows how terrifying it is.

    I think praying to the jedi king is really the only hope though.

    Mister Underhill said...

    Ooh, did you see the article about a guy claiming to be darth vador beating some od the jedis up?

    I'd be afraid of God if I pictured him as the emperor, too.

    I picture god as more like a really, really, really sleepy version of John Candy. Once he finishs digesting those ribs he'll straighten out all this shit down here.

    Like making everything take like ice cream, instead of chicken.

    WendyB said...

    I used the Obi-Wan line to a jeweler, whom I needed for a superfast job. I never thought about applying it to a higher power.

    Krissyface said...

    I loved John Candy. said...

    Actually, I would prefer to Jesus to kill me while I was sleeping rather than sending down some horsemen of the Apocalypse or something.

    Helen said...

    My dog's name is Jedi, so yeah, I get the affection for Star Wars. You could also pray to Elvis, I read once there was a Church of Elvis who was waiting for the return of the King. There's even that "Mother" worship with his relationship with Glady, his mum, and a whole litany of hymns just waiting to be sung by a choir, and a televangelist in rhinestones. I'll stop.

    D.O.M. Dan said...

    I learned a 2nd part of that same prayer:

    Hush little baby, don't say a word
    And never mind that noise you heard
    It's just the beast under your bed,
    In your closet, in you head

    Moi said...

    Mmmmm ... Ewan McGregor.

    I prefer my deities to be blazingly hot, thank you very much.

    Mmmmm ... Ewan.

    UBERMOUTH said...

    When you have a panic attack, you are best to use TM and picture yourself in whatever a serene environment is for you. Imagine all the sights,smells, sounds, heat of the sun for ex. This will work wonders when you can put yourself in that zone, which you will be able to do rather quickly with practice.

    Don't you do yoga, Pru?

    The point is to pay attention to respiration and heart rate and get them under control. A panic attack can't continue if your resp/heart is slowed.