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Panic in the Powder Room

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© Danny Allison
Face your anxiety so you can embrace your marriage

A couple of years ago my husband, Gabe, and I were in Carmel, California, and stayed in a 1920s house that was built to last, with 10-inch-thick walls and heavy, carved wooden doors.

While Gabe was waiting for me in the nearby village, I used the teeny-tiny powder room and, when the lock jammed, I found myself trapped inside a concrete bathroom miniprison. The fear I felt induced the first panic attack I’d had in seven years.

Even though God provided a way of escape — I managed to climb out of an 18-inch-wide, arched window — the attack left me doubting that I would ever be brave again in tight spaces, heights or crowds.

Fast forward six months. Gabe and I set out on a European adventure to celebrate our 20th anniversary. This was our chance to open our hearts to each other in ways that would deepen our relationship. We knew that we needed to be healthy as husband and wife in order to offer emotional support to each other and our kids. 

While I looked forward to the adventure with my husband, the reality that I could have another panic attack wasn’t far from my mind. I’d have to squeeze into small places, mingle with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on public transportation and, if I dared to climb a mountain, be near the edge of high cliffs. Anxiety threatened to overwhelm me.

Many women have some fear that can keep them from experiencing everything that God intends for their life and marriage: fear that you’re not doing enough; worry about health, politics, career choices; anxiety that you can’t keep up; fear of what other people think. I’ve learned, however, that with a little intentionality and a lot of perserverance, anxiety can be transformed into peace and purpose. The command not to fear is listed more than 100 times in the Bible, and I took that to heart.

Here are two suggestions that helped me keep anxiety at bay during this trip.

Remember your purpose

As soon as I boarded the plane for our long Atlantic flight, I challenged myself to step inside the lavatory and lock the door because it would set the tone for the trip. I had every intention of starting out the adventure by being brave. My purpose for going to Europe became greater than my fear, so I squeezed inside the tiny airplane bathroom and slid the lock closed. I wanted our vacation to foster connection with my husband and our memory-making adventure more than I feared being trapped.

Live in the moment

I believe worry is fear of the future. So when I’m anxious, I’m not living in the present. And I desperately wanted to savor each moment with my husband on this trip, to be fully connected with him and the experience. No regrets.

But early during the vacation I encountered a gondola — a small glass cage, jampacked with people that was going to soar into the sky. I hesitated, but then looked at Gabe, whispered Jesus’ name and got on, stepping toward adventure.

After that, Gabe and I had so much fun, so much play in Europe. The vibrancy of the trip hearkened back to being honeymooners. I was so caught up in the adventure that I forgot to be fearful.

Now I look back and hold to those memories. I have another reason to trust that God will provide a way of escape the next time I’m faced with fear.

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