A Panic Attack and a God of Love

A Panic Attack and a God of Love June 18, 2023

a bed with messy blankets
image via Pixabay

I woke up in terror.

This happens a lot lately. My circumstances are getting better. My car is working perfectly. My stalker is dead. I am no longer codependent to someone who was genuinely in need but then started using me.  And I’ve discovered yet again that the thing that comes after a time of extreme stress, is that the stress inside you lurches around looking for somewhere to go. It especially floods me when I wake up in the morning. It’s been eating at me increasingly badly the past few days and keeping me from writing, for which I apologize.

This weekend, it’s especially bad.

I think it’s settling around my fear of going to Mass.

You may recall that I went to Mass last weekend. It was not a mistake. I’m glad I did. I just want to get close to Jesus, and I knew Jesus was on the altar in the church. The closest I could get was the supply room off the foyer. That’s where I sat and got sick. That wasn’t wrong of me. But I can’t do it again week after week.

My heart raced in my ears as I curled up like a burrito in the quilts, shaking.

What if I believed God was love?

This is the challenge I keep repeating over and over again. I’ve been doing it for a year now, ever since I rolled into Columbus to confront the person God made me last summer. A god who isn’t a God of Love is not worth my time. What if God was love? What if I truly, honestly, really believed that God was love? What if I believed, to the hilt, that God was, first and foremost, love?

Love is not a light thing. Love can make a thousand demands on you. The times I’ve felt loved have been my most active and courageous times. Knowing you’re loved can make you the bravest person in the world. When I feel loved, I try new things. I learned to drive when I felt I was loved. When I am with friends who love me like Holly the witch, I come up with great ideas and help people who need it. When I am with my daughter who loves me and looks up to me, I do things I’d never do otherwise.

What would I do, right now, this weekend, if I actually believed that God loved me?


I hope, someday, I have another answer to that question, but that’s my answer for the moment.

I struggled for years with religious trauma and going to Mass, even before the horrific revelations in Steubenville last year. Now the panic attacks are constant. I can’t do it. And just at this moment, after the disaster with the Lost Girl, I’m unable to really throw myself into the Corporal Works of Mercy. I can’t do it. it right now. I’m just too sick.

If the panic attacks remain this bad, I’ll stay home all day Sunday. I’ll sit in bed and eat waffles. If they let up a little I’ll go swimming or for a hike because I can pray when I go swimming and hiking. But I can’t go back to a building that makes me so sick I’m exhausted for days afterward. I can’t pray there, at all. Not right now. I want that to change, but it can’t right now.

That was the conclusion I came to, lying in bed on Saturday morning, terrified.

I wondered what God would say to that.

Somehow I think the God of Love was with me in the room just then, understanding.

I wish I had an interesting person to show you, but there’s only me here, and that’s where I am today.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy

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