During my sophomore year of high school, I began to experience debilitating panic attacks that would sometimes be accompanied by lightheadedness and nausea. I hadn’t ever had problems with anxiety before, but I was dealing with a lot of school-related stress, as well as some difficult personal issues. The panic attacks were scary and confusing, especially since I’d never faced anything like this before.
I did immediately begin praying about this problem using what I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School. Our class had talked about and memorized a Bible passage that says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7). It was reassuring to understand that I couldn’t actually be subject to fear, and I turned to this idea frequently. But I also often found it difficult to pray in the middle of a panic attack, and the physical symptoms scared me.
The problem persisted. Importantly, though, so did I.
Concerned there might be something seriously wrong, I visited a doctor, who informed me that this problem was the result of stress, and that if I didn’t get on top of it, it could lead to bigger problems later. He offered some treatment suggestions, but this was a turning point for me. I knew from past experience that relying on God and Christian Science would lead to complete healing, rather than simply managing the problem indefinitely. While I appreciated the doctor’s good intentions, I decided to press forward with Christian Science, trusting that God would lead me to a permanent solution.
As the school year progressed, I prayed regularly with the idea that peace wasn’t something that could come and go, because God is the source of my peace, and He is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). This idea comforted me and helped me continue meeting my commitments, but the problem persisted. Importantly, though, so did I.
Things came to a head when I was on a school bus for a field trip about four hundred miles from home and I began to experience another panic attack. There was nowhere to hide, and I didn’t want to have to explain the situation to anyone. It’s often been my experience that desperate moments force me to get myself and my own thoughts, prayers, and arguments out of the way and just listen for God’s messages. So this time, rather than launching into my usual mental wrestling about why I didn’t need to be afraid or how God had given me a sound mind, I simply opened my thought to God and asked what I needed to know.
All the panic I was feeling melted away, replaced with a feeling of awe and buoyant joy.
Even in the midst of the panic attack, I found I was able to shut out the suggestions of fear and quiet my thoughts enough to listen for this guidance. The truth is that God’s messages are always with us and are capable of breaking through any fear or confusion, no matter how thick it may seem. They come to us in a way we can understand. That was the case for me on this bus ride.
As I was listening, almost pleading, for one of these messages, a gentle thought came to me to look out the window. While this seemed like a bizarre answer, I obeyed. At that very moment, our bus was passing a high school where, carved into the side of the building, were Jesus’ words: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). This passage was especially meaningful to me because it’s also emblazoned on the wall of my branch Church of Christ, Scientist.
This seemed like such a clear message from God that, instantly, all the panic I was feeling melted away, replaced with a feeling of awe and buoyant joy. It was so clear to me that God was right there, and that His omnipotent love was vanquishing this problem. I almost laughed at how blatant the message had been—and how clearly divine. If I hadn’t been told to look out the window at that very second, our bus, which was traveling at freeway speeds, would have sailed right by the school without my ever seeing those words.
While I can’t remember if that was the last instance of the panic attacks, it was certainly the turning point. And while I don’t think I learned anything new in that moment, it was a powerful reminder of what I already knew—almost like waking up. The truth that each of us as God’s children are loved, cared for, and not subject to fear is indeed able to overcome any suggestion of anxiety or panic. Within a month or two, I was completely healed, and I have not experienced a panic attack since.
This was seven years ago. I went on to complete my senior year with five Advanced Placement classes—as well as a demanding college engineering curriculum—with total freedom. Years later, someone asked me if Christian Science can help with mental health issues. I was able to answer from my own experience that it can. Whenever we’re faced with a challenge, be it mental health or something else, God is always there to prompt us to “look out the window” to see the truth. I’m so grateful for Christian Science.