Sometimes ministry is a pain in the chest.
Especially if you have an anxiety or panic disorder.
Yesterday I learned that first hand. It began like any other day; I was a little more easily irritated than usual and having some trouble breathing, but otherwise ready to do the ministering thing. Staff meeting at 10:30, visits after that.
After my first visit I drove back to the office. What was I doing? I didn’t even know. I did know that I’d had anxiety and panic attacks before but this was different.
After describing my symptoms to the insurance help line nurse, I was advised to call 9-1-1. I said that seemed extreme.
“Ok, then can you go to the nearest ER?”
“Yes,” I said, and hung up the phone.
Psych! I wasn’t about to do that – my ER co-pay is $$$.
I called my PCP whose nurse, after talking to me, asked me to come in right away.
I went to my pastor’s office, super embarrased by the tears I couldn’t keep inside my eyes and said my doctor wanted to see me right away.
So I left.
“What precipitated your chest pain?” He asked
Me: “A conversation with my therapist. I had a chronically ill family member growing up; I was always expecting the worst from one day to the next.”
Dr.P: “Makes sense that your parishioners being in a similar situation might trigger you like that. Do you still talk to her?”
Me: “Of course. We’re great, I was just always afraid she would die. Sometimes I cried until I fell asleep.”
Dr.P: “So, she’s alive.”
Dr.P: “And she’s doing ok.”
Dr. P: “So you’re just traumatized.”
After a physical exam, Dr. P makes sure I have enough Ativan.
“I think you’ll be ok. You don’t have to decide today, but eventually you’re going to need to make a decision about what kind of career you really want so you can have a good quality of life.”
My decision is two-fold:
1) to throw myself into self care and take it seriously; more than I ever have before, and
2) a multi post series on my blog over the next few months on ministering with and through anxiety.
Tonight, I shall rest well after working for a bit on hand stitching my Lenten stole. Thanks be to God.