It was our youngest daughter’s eighteenth birthday. She was in her bedroom getting ready for a few friends to come over to celebrate with her. I was sitting on a small arm chair in her room, legs draped over one arm of the chair, swinging gently, and one arm draped over the back of the chair so I could turn my body to face her. I was chatting with her in a relaxed “no-destination” sort of way, a way that whispered I just want to spend time with you… when she started trembling, her eyes rolled back, and her head jerked to one side, and kept jerking again and again and again.

“O God, O God! NO! Please, God, help her! O God, O God, have mercy! Help!”

She was having a major seizure.

“O God, O God, help her!”

I leapt out of the chair and called an ambulance. While I waited the interminable four minutes for the ambulance to arrive, I thought back to the last big seizure she’d had at age ten on Martha’s Vineyard. It was an unforgettable evening—the same night as Princess Diana’s fatal car crash.

She had gone eight years without having any seizures, just minor “trancing out”. For instance, a basketball would be tossed to her and she couldn’t catch it because she’d be tranced out. In a matter of seconds, though, she’d be back with us. It was inconvenient since she couldn’t get a driver’s license or be alone without phone check-ins every fifteen minutes, but at least these trance-outs weren’t life threatening—until the night of her eighteenth birthday.

Thinking about that night, even right now, is creating a vibration in my chest, a feeling of my throat closing in, a panicky sort of frenzy that makes me want to scream. So, how can I calm myself?

I already know the usual relaxation tools like breathing techniques, resting my body, and mindfulness meditation. I already maintain healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, get regular sleep (well, try to anyway), and avoid junk food.

But while these tools are helpful, they aren’t enough. They certainly didn’t come into play on my daughter’s eighteenth birthday, nor are they helping the post-traumatic agitation I’m feeling right now. What does help me is connecting with God—my help and my salvation.

As I type I am listening to modern worship music. Some songs have lyrics, some don’t, but it isn’t really about the lyrics. Through the tones and beauty of the music itself, I feel in a non-cognitive way the Spirit moving inside me, soothing my soul. Connecting with God through his Spirit and giving myself space to allow him to minister to me is vital for me to return to the calm I had before beginning to write. Talking with you, my fellow readers, is helping me feel more connected to the beautiful body of Christ at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church. This horizontal connection makes me feel less alone, less like a freak, less like something’s wrong with me. We are here for each other, and that knowledge fills me with calm.

What difficult memories do you have? What can jolt you out of your peace and into fear or anxiety? Students, those just entering the work force, those who live alone, you, me—we are all triggered by something.

At the Overcoming Anxiety seminar this weekend we will learn how God—the loving, powerful Father, Jesus the victorious lover of our souls, the exquisitely gentle Holy Spirit—and the active connecting with one another in the body of Christ can help in these difficult times. We will learn how to add to the secular tools we already know about.

OK, signing off. I’m going to lie on the floor and let God’s music wash over me now, and find peace. Thanks for reading my story.

P.S. Our daughter had successful brain surgery later that year. She is now seizure-free and hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro as I write, making up for her years of caution and restraint.