The Islamic Garden
On the edge - Anxiety
A true account of how a woman deals with 'panic attacks' and find the eventual cure in the Qu'ran.
Dina lay quietly on the bed with her eyes fixed on a shadow in the corner of the room. She was breathing deeply, trying to relax while her mind seemed to be exploding. She kept telling herself that it would pass, she only had to hold on. Hold on to her mind, hoping that she wouldn't die, not yet. She was sure that if she lost focus for just one second, she would lose control.
After the wave of anxiety passed, she tried to rest but the ever-present fear of it returning kept her on edge. She didn't want to be alone, she felt vulnerable and helpless. Her husband had taken her to the hospital because she felt sick.
"But what do you feel exactly?" he had asked. "I have to know which kind of doctor to take you to."
"Really it's hard to explain," she'd said. "I feel a surge of weariness come over me, then I feel like I'm not getting enough air, my heart palpitates and I start to sweat. I feel like I'll pass out. Sometimes my hands and feet become numb and I have this real fear that I'm going to die." She looked at him, not knowing what he would think.
"Well let's start with a cardiologist and check your heart." She agreed.
Her heart was strong and everything was normal, no blood sugar, no high blood pressure and the blood picture was fine. She was in a good state of health physically. On the way home from the hospital, she started to cry.
"But I'm sick, there's something wrong with me!"
"I think you're really tired Dina, you've been working a lot lately. Just try to rest. Your body is letting you know it's had enough."
She thought that might be right. Also she hadn't been eating properly and she'd been drinking a lot more coffee than usual just to keep going.
Sometimes she didn't feel an attack coming, but she constantly tried to keep herself in a state of relaxation hoping it would just go away. But then from nowhere it would appear again and she would have to ride it out. Often it lasted as long as four to five hours and there could be as many as five or six attacks a day, each of different duration.
Her friend gave her a book on nutritional healing and she started taking vitamins and foods to enhance the function of the nervous system. She stopped all caffeine, sugar and chemical additives. 75% of her diet was uncooked food. Lots of fruit, raw vegetables, beans and lentils that had been soaked in water. Her face had red circles on her cheeks for about two years. She thought it was an allergy to something and had just ignored it. Then one day she was looking through the book and saw that these circles were a symptom of an adrenaline gland disorder.
"Yes that's right," she thought. "My body seems to be reacting to a state of panic, but there's nothing wrong." She was sure her body was spurting out hormones randomly for some reason.
She tried to rest but it didn't help. She was getting worse and one night she phoned her husband at work and told him she could no longer take care of the children.
Then he panicked! This time they went to see a psychiatrist because she knew that it certainly had something to do with her mind and body failing to coordinate.
The Professor was kind and listened to her story. In the end she told Dina she was suffering from Anxiety disorder which is often a lobe dysfunction. She called it a chemical imbalance which she hoped could be treated with drugs. Dina felt relieved.
"But," said the Professor, "the cure will not occur overnight. You will continue to feel the same for at least 5 days and you'll be on medication for a long time. You mustn't stop the medicine and you must follow what I say exactly." Dina listened carefully. She felt that she was falling in a hole from which she could not come out. And now help was at hand. Those five days seemed so long. She took Lustral in the mornings and Xanax in the evening.
"But those drugs are addictive," some people commented.
"I don't care right now," she'd said, "I have to pass this time and then later the Doctor said I'll come off them slowly." Dina decided not to listen to what everyone thought. It's easy to have an opinion when you have no idea how people feel.
She continued to rest at home and eat healthy food and try to keep relaxed. Her children helped and kept the house quiet. She had a lot of time to read and think. Often she closed her eyes and just listened to the birds or she sat and watched the clouds drift across the sky. She'd missed so much of life while being busy chasing after it. She knew she wouldn't be better until one month passed without an attack or fear of an attack. She decided to ignore them and keep herself busy doing things that she liked. Dina learned that women get these attacks more than men and that about 5% of the population suffer from them. She also found that they are linked with maladaptive behavior that has been learned. She remembered the stress she went through during her childhood and the consequent nervousness she had undergone ever since. Being nervous had become so much a normal part of her life that she thought everyone was like that. It wasn't until the medicine made her feel really relaxed that she was able to understand the difference. The medicine gave her a chance to control her nervous habits and watch how her body reacted. When she got tired or there was a problem at home, she discovered that the attacks wouldn't come back if she stopped herself from those habits but if she succumbed to them, then the attacks would reoccur. She learnt to control them and found herself able to do many things that had been difficult before. She managed to unscramble her thoughts and she started to write.
The medicine kept her stable and the attacks become less frequent and less intense. After one year of being on the medicine, she found that the attacks would still come. Would she ever be free of them? Deep down she was afraid of becoming addicted to the medicine. There had to be a point when she would trust in Allah and control herself. She had discovered something very valuable from the beginning of her illness, when the attacks were most intense. When she read the Qu'ran she experienced a sense of calmness and peace that contrasted so drastically with the inner turmoil she was experiencing. So when she felt an attack coming, she would reach for the Qu'ran and get lost in its simple yet profound truths. By the time she finished reading a story like that of Luqman and his son, she would notice that the attack had disappeared. At other times she would lie down and make thikr, and du'a while contemplating on the wonders of life. She would let her mind coast back through time, reminding herself of the mistakes she's made and confronting her weakness. She'd remember people she'd known and loved, who had long since gone and slowly but surely she discovered the sourced of her anxiety and confronted each one. It took about one year and a half. The Qu'ran and her book of du'a and hadith, were always handy. They became her medicine; her permanent cure.Depression