I had a Panic Attack

Not for pity party purposes but just so you have context I need to give you some back story.

My mom died in 2011 after a 22 month battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. She was 5 weeks from turning 49.

Mom got married at 16, and had me when she was 19. She used to say that we grew up together. Her pin number for a long time was 3415 because when she was 34, I was 15…that’s still crazy to me. She always apologized for confiding in me so much. Needless to say, she and I were close.

I was playing golf with a friend the day I got the call. “They found 1 small tumor. Surgery will be on Monday.” I walked off the course, drove straight to the airport and a couple hours later walked into my dad’s arms in the lobby of a hospital. The next 72 hours were hell on earth as we waited.

Monday came and the surgery was more involved than they thought. 1 small tumor became “it’s everywhere” in the words of the doctors.

Life changed. Mom and dad started researching treatment options. I went back home.

Late night phone calls. Mom and dad, who never missed a milestone moment, missed the birth of our 3rd child while mom took chemo in Chicago.

I’m a fixer and I couldn’t fix this.

Good reports. Bad reports. Breaks from chemo. Restarts.

During the 2 years of her sickness I thought I was doing okay. I was trying to be there for my dad, my brother, and my mom as a sounding board. I was processing my feelings with Corrie periodically. I was writing some.

Christmas 2010 none of us knew that would be the last one. A few days after New Years she went into the hospital. She never really got out until the last few days.

Mom made us promise not to let her die in a hospital so while we were fighting for her, we were also aware of dad’s promise to take her home.

One day I was at the hospital alone for a few minutes and I asked the doctor, “If this was your mom, and you promised not to let her die here when would you take her home?”

“Now.”

So we packed her things, requested the discharge and off we went.

She ended up living a few days longer than they said she would, and we felt that we stole those days with her. But her awareness was limited at best. She never got to say goodbye.

As we walked through her final days there was so much going on. I spent most of the last 3 weeks of her life in Ohio with her and my dad. Corrie and the kids came back and forth some. I was trying to help with the doctors, eventually with hospice. I was trying to help manage the family members that were coming and going. I put together the slideshow we would play at her funeral.

Then on Wednesday, March 2 she passed away while I laid right beside her.

We did 2 separate services because of the nature and location of their work. I delivered part of the message at both funerals. I stood in line both nights while literally thousands of people hugged my neck, shook my hand, and offered condolences.

We left the graveside and drove home…and life kept going. I had missed a lot of work so I jumped into work. I tried to be present with Corrie and the kids. Eventually I just slipped back into life.

A few months later Corrie made dinner one night and we were eating on TV trays watching television as a family. I got up to go in the kitchen and I felt like there was an earthquake inside my body. I told Corrie something didn’t feel right and I came and sat down. When I did I literally felt like my insides were shaking and my whole body was going numb. I fell over on the couch and I cried for an hour. I thought I was dying. Later I was told I was having a panic attack. The emotions that had been bottled up in me just came out.

I had cried a little I guess, but it felt as though 2 years of bottled up feelings, worry, fear, sadness, grief and hurt poured out of my eyeballs while my body freaked out releasing this pent up stress.

I thought I was dealing with it in a healthy way. I was wrong. In hindsight I should have gone to a counselor.

I don’t know the correct name for what I had: Panic Attack, Anxiety Attack, Mental Breakdown, Nervous Breakdown, or something else.

I just know I was broken.

It’s never happened again. This year on the 4th anniversary of her passing I was more emotional than I have been since that night. I can’t really put my finger on why that day on this year was harder than the others, but it was.

I write this for 2 reasons:

1) If you’ve been there, you’re not alone. Reach out and help someone who’s walking a similar road to where you’ve been. Your experience could save them in many ways.

2) For those who are under heavy stress, grief, anxiety, or worry. Don’t wait until your body and mind break. Find a healthy outlet and help yourself now.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or contact me through the About page!

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Jeremy Isaacs

Campus Pastor at Canton Church
Jeremy is husband to Corrie, father to Cooper, Branson, Tucker and Kinley, and Campus Pastor in Canton, GA. He enjoys reading, writing, speaking, coaching Pastors and leaders, playing golf and watching Netflix with Corrie after the kids go to bed.

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10 Replies to “I had a Panic Attack”

  1. Jeremy… Thx for your transparency. Bless you. Kathy was a good friend and I grieved with all of you. My situation is different as I lost my daughter Dr Susan Rogers a year ago to ALS. I have wondered that I did not seem to grieve outwardly as I thought I would as we were extremely close. After reading your blog, I am wondering if this might not be pent up. I plan to take measures to examine & face same. You are a blessing in so many ways! I remember you as a little boy. God bless you and yours!

  2. Your blog is a relatable. I have struggled with panic attacks before. In those seasons I felt embarrassed and weak. It is as if your body defys your mind and heart. As if your beliefs don’t control how your body responds. It is very isolating. Thank you for sharing your experience. It helps to know other Christians have been there.

  3. Jeremy….I know all too well what you’re feeling. i started having panic attacks when my dad left our family and then had many after my mom died of colon cancer. I finally ‘broke down’ and started taking something to help with the anxieties that I was dealing with. It’s not a weakness…not a lack of faith….your body just physically responds to the stress, heartache and pain of life we carry around inside of us. Thank you for sharing and being so transparent….I know it will help someone to know that it’s ok to ask….to talk about it Your mom’s illness and death will always be one of the most challenging times of my faith….but I know God is good and His ways are higher! God be with you and your precious family!!

  4. Very well said! I had a similar experience after my mom died of ovarian cancer…thought I was processing well, came home from work one evening, went upstairs to put on “floppy” clothes and saw a scarf and hat she had made one of my daughters…I collapsed to the floor thinking that my life would never be ‘normal’ or pain free again. Fortunately, I was wrong. I contacted a grief counselor and saw her for six months. I can always remember the day your mom passed because it’s my parents anniversary and the day Tim asked me to marry him. My prayers are always with you in s special way on that day. The fifth anniversary of my mom’s passing was especially tough…no reason why emotions ebb and flow…they just do. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Hopefully, it will encourage others to reach out for help. Loosing someone so close to our heart is devastating, but that devastation doesn’t have to define us forever. We can heal!

  5. Jeremy, Your post about your Mom’s ultimate healing is so transparent, real and honest. The pain you have is very, very real. To say it will get easier…maybe. Maybe not. Losing her was an incredible loss. But God cares deeply about every detail of your life. He has this. He has you. He has her.

    Your Mother was so proud of you. She was an excellent Mom. Her dedication has paid off with great dividends.

    You and your family will always be close to my heart. We made awesome memories.
    So proud of you and the exceptional ministry you are doing in kingdom work. I love you.
    Oleda

  6. Jeremy, you are such an honest and sincere Man. I remember all of this so well. It touches my heart and so many can relate. We love you, dear brother. So thankful that Jesus is near to the broken hearted and gives strength to the weary. He knows our heart of panic and anxiety. He cares and loves us and we are not alone.

  7. Thanks for your REAL approach to grief and loss. Some believe it is weakness or “lack” of faith to acknowledge we are hurting, grieving, or even angry. Thank you for being a leader who can be honest about how difficult it is. I think it takes more not less courage and strength to do that. Sometimes the strongest thing we can do is admit we don’t know what to do. Your momma would be so proud.

  8. i’ve dealt with panic attacks too. I went the way of medicine and wish I had found a good voucher señor instead. I now have a great group of Christian friends to talk and pray with. My dad passed away on the very day your mom did and the same year. I didn’t get an oral goodbye, but I did get a single tear when I told him it was okay for him to go. Thank you for sharing this article. More people than you might realize battle panic attacks, but God is bigger!

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