I never believed in anxiety attacks until I experienced one for myself. About nine years ago I had a long time friend from high school come up to the last frontier to visit me. We had a blast sightseeing all over Alaska until we made a trip into Denali National Park that I will never forget.
We were handed a sack lunch by the tour guide and found a seat on the green bus that would be taking us on our six hour tour. The driver gave a lengthy safety speech before we set out on our adventure. I found it curious when he talked about the extensive driver training he received, and when he kept reassuring us that there had never been an accident on a tour. Naively, my excitement remained intact as we set off down the dirt road.
About two hours into our trip, I could see the road ahead climbing the mountain side into what is known as Polychrome pass. It looked steep and apprehension began to grow in my gut. That apprehension turned into out right FEAR about half way up the mountain side. My breaths were cut short and I was sobbing as I held on for dear life at every turn, which all adds up to my very first anxiety attack.
At the top of the climb, the bus pulled over to allow the visitors a scenic view. I couldn’t have cared less about the beauty Alaska had to offer at that moment. I was shaking all over when I stepped off the bus and sat down on a nearby bench. It took 30 minutes for me to calm down and for my breathing to return to normal.
I was convinced of my impending death that day, and for days after, every time I closed my eyes I could see myself falling from the mountainside. This experience taught me what a powerful and paralyzing influence fear has on our minds and bodies.
The phrase “fear of fear” has been returning to my mind over and over for months. I have been searching my heart for the meaning behind this thought. It seems like every time I find myself in a struggle with my weaknesses, they can be traced back to this hateful four letter word: fear.
Fear is the gateway for all of my weaknesses to surface.
Every negative emotion can be traced back to fear. I’m insecure because I’m afraid of rejection. I’m defensive because I’m afraid of letting go. I shut down because I am afraid of the truth. Every time I let my guard down, fear comes in and sweeps away my confidence. Fear paralyzes my life, keeping me stuck in the same repetitive cycles.
There is a scriptural reference that says money is the root of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). I would venture to say that fear is the root of destruction. Fear is the root of my destruction, and I have stared it right in the face more times than I can count. “And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell” (Moses 1:20).
Since that day in Denali I have not had any recurring anxiety attacks, but I have noticed anxiety building in my heart over the past few months, maybe I am afraid of letting God be in the driver’s seat. Life feels so much like that mountain side full of treacherous paths, never knowing what is beyond each twist and turn, but if you can get over your fear and trust the driver, there is a valley of beauty to behold with brilliant mountains, rivers, flowers and other wildlife. The only thing that can be seen when your heart is fearful is the stitching on the green leather seat in front you. The blessings of life can only be seen through lifting up your eyes and seeing over those cliffs to behold the glories of God’s creations. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvations of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day” (Exodus 14:13).
I counted at least 87 scriptural references for the phrase “fear not,” and most of them in the context of God speaking comfort to His children. Fear not little flock, I am with thee, it is God, give head unto my words, you are mine, let your heart be comforted, fear not what man can do, be not dismayed, I will save thee, the Lord thy God will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, doubt not, be courageous and valiant, the kingdom is yours! God is there to hold your hand (Isaiah 41:13), but not until all the fear drains away will you truly feel His presence.
My husband gave me a priesthood blessing earlier this year. The Spirit prompted him to say that the day would come when my children would be the only thing that matters to me. I imagined that day to be in my distant future, but it has come sooner than I expected. The Atonement has cleansed my life in a variety of ways, but now my healing process has brought me to a point where I feel completely drained of every emotion this word has exposed me to, including the fear that has prolonged this process. At first this brought a sense of emptiness, until I realized the only things I truly have in this world are the people who are tied to my salvation and know my heart, my greatest gifts of love—my eternal family. I began to pick up my head and see over the cliffs to what life could be, a life without fear.
Looking out I see a path of service if I take this opportunity to let God fill the space the cleansing has left with Christlike qualities. “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:33). I’ve had little glimpses along the way, but now it is time to embrace the spiritual gifts of life.
Video of Polychrome Pass: