I once heard a preacher say that sometimes he had to sit himself down and have a talk with himself. Have you ever felt that way?
For years after I had transverse myelitis, I struggled with panic attacks and extreme fears. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that, just as I had to recover from the physical effects of the disease, I also had to recover emotionally and mentally from the trauma of the disease itself.
We all know anything can happen any time. We’re not guaranteed our next breath. But then when something catastrophic does happen, it can throw us for a loop. Our foundations are shaken, our security is threatened. Looking back now, it’s no wonder I had panic attacks. Unfortunately, some of the things I feared were psychiatrists and psychiatric drugs, so I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through. I was given Xanax for a while in the hospital, but no one explained why. I heard it was addictive, so I didn’t take it when I got home. I even wondered if they thought my symptoms were in my head.
If I had it to do over again, I’d talk to my neurologist, who was primarily in charge of my care at the time. I’d ask why I was given Xanax, explain what was going on, see what he had to say, and evaluate the options. That’s what I would advise anyone else to do.
Instead, I read what I could about anxiety and panic attacks. I learned that breathing in slowly through my nose and out through my mouth had a calming effect. I would think through or sing through hymns to get my thoughts on another track. And I would remind myself of truth and common sense, which I later learned was self-talk.
For instance, on our way to the church we attended at the time, we almost always got caught at a red light on an overpass. This overpass was one that trembled when an 18-wheeler passed, which happened often. When a visiting speaker’s wife mentioned that this overpass scared her, my own fears escalated. We knew no other way to get to church than this route. So I would tell myself, “Seriously, how often do you hear of these things falling down? Not very often. It’s more likely not to happen than to happen. If it does happen, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ll either go straight on to heaven, or God will help you through whatever happens just as He did with TM. Don’t ruin or waste your day by worrying about something that is not likely to happen.” Then I’d sing hymns to myself not only to guide my thoughts away from scary things, but also to remind myself of God’s care and promises.
That helped with things not likely to happen. But what about things that could very well happen? TM was a one-time occurrence with lasting ramifications. But one form of it did cause repeat occurrences. And sometimes what was thought was TM was actually found to be MS when repeated attacks occurred. My TM had started with one hand feeling a little funny, like I had slept on it wrong. Within three hours, my whole left arm and both legs were numb and I couldn’t walk on my own. So every time a limb fell sleep, every time I had a funny, not-quite-right feeling, every time symptoms flared up, so did the fears of a repeat attack. I had to remind myself that this probably was not another attack, but just a flare-up. If it was another attack, God would help me just as He did the first time. Eventually, after multitudes of flare-ups without another full-fledged attack, and after a significant amount of healing, I learned to just roll with the symptoms and eventually to hardly notice them.
Sometimes we have to talk to ourselves over spiritual issues, too, don’t we? A tragedy occurs, and we feel like maybe God doesn’t love us like we thought He did. We remind ourselves that God loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), that He loved us even when we were His enemies. Or we feel worthless and remind ourselves we are accepted in the Beloved.
We have several instances of Scriptural self-talk in the psalms. The psalmist asks himself three times, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5, ESV). Then he answers himself, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” David tells himself to “Bless the Lord, O my soul” in Psalm 103 and then reminds himself why he could do so. He reminds himself about God’s character, what He had done for Israel in the past, what He had done for David himself.In Psalm 57, David is hiding in a cave from Saul. After pleading for God’s mercy and reminding himself of God’s power, love, and faithfulness, David tells himself to wake up and praise God:
My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57:7-8, NIV).
Other psalms don’t employ that exact language, but they show the writer coming to God with a problem or an issue: Where are you? Why are you not acting? The wicked are faring better than Your people. I’m hurting here. People are persecuting me for no reason.
And then the writer reminds himself of truths about his God: He’s here. He loves us. He cares. The wicked will face their consequences some day if they don’t repent. God will strengthen me and help me.
I shared this quote before from David Martyn-Lloyd Jones in Spiritual Depression, but I love it:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”
Instead of being at the mercy of our thoughts, we challenge them and correct them. We need to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We set aside wrong thoughts and actively pursue truth. We steady our souls with God’s truth. We fill our minds with God’s Word so the Holy Spirit can remind us of it.
Have you ever had to give yourself a good talking-to?
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Barbara, I am so sorry for what you experienced, but what a wonderful teaching moment it has become. I talk to myself all the time. It is amazing how it gets in deep especially when I hear the words coming out of my own mouth. In the psalms, we see David talk to his soul all the time and this has encouraged me to do the same.
Thank you, Joanne. We often tell ourselves things all day without realizing it, but we can change the narrative, as the psalmists did.
Barbara, I did not know that you suffered from TM. Thank you for sharing your powerful personal story. I often feel the need to sit myself down and have a talk with myself. I tend to worry about something terrible happening to my loved ones. I know most of my fears are unfounded and that God will get us through one way or another, but sometimes I allow my mind to get carried away. I do need the reminders to steady myself with God’s truth, fill my mind with God’s word, and set aside wrong thoughts. Thank you!
Thank you, Laurie. I can scare myself with “what ifs,” too, if I let my mind go down that path.
This is so powerful! I went through a period of anxiety not long ago, and it really was not pleasant. I could tell I wasn’t really myself and wasn’t thinking rationally, yet it was hard to just “shake out of it.” I tried many of the things you did — reasoning with myself, repeating hymns in my mind, and often finding a mantra to say over and over again (“Jesus, I trust you” etc). And yes, the deep breathing too. I’m going to bookmark this post to remember if I experience anxiety again. I hope neither of us do!
Me too, Susan! It does seem like anxiety isn’t a “conquered once and for all” type of thing. I have to go through these truths periodically.
What you experienced is awful. God saw you through it and will continue to be with you.
I’m Crystal and come to your blog through Esme’s Senior Salon.
Yes, He did and will, and I am so grateful. Thanks for stopping by, Crystal.
So good to get more of your story here, Barbara, and I also appreciated your common sense thoughts on self talk.
Thank you for this encouragement, Barbarah. We don’t even have to look too far to see how powerful thoughts are. God help us because, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. Many blessings to you!
That’s a good truth to remember. Boma. I wish I had included it! Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you, Michele. I think we’re always telling ourselves something. But I have to remind myself I can take charge and change the narrative.
Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sorry you’ve gone through that. I so appreciate your words of truth though. We don’t have to allow our thoughts to dictate our lives based on their whims. We can, and should, fill our minds with God’s truth. He’s been giving me some practice with Biblical self-talk lately too. Your words are spot on.
Thanks so much, Jeanne. I still sometimes forget to direct my thoughts, and they end up directing me.
LOL I feel like I have to sit myself down and have a good old long talk with me every single day! Love Psalm 57:7-8, and that Martyn-Lloyd Jones quote I don’t recall reading before. Thanks! This spoke to me today and I needed it badly!
Pinned & tweeted.
Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
Thank you, Patsy!
This was such a timely post for me!! Just yesterday during my annual physical, the doctor found something that could be worrisome. I will need to go for further testing. My first response was anger, but then extreme panic took over. I had myself dead and buried. Last night before bed I told God exactly how I felt, and I was brutally honest, the good, the bad and the ugly. This morning once I was up and about, I started “talking to myself” with the Truth of His Word and the Truth of Who God is and my relationship to Him.
I also have a faith journal produced by Well Watered Women Co. ministry which was created to journal through anxious times. One of the sections is, “Preach Truth to Yourself”. It has been a great tool to put my anxious thoughts on paper and to “talk to myself”.
I LOVED the quote from D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones!
Thanks so much for these reminders especially as I wait for blood work results and for the further testing I need to have done to continue employing Biblical self-talk.
That can be so scary. I hate the wait time between “This might be a problem” and finding out for sure. May God give you grace to keep preaching truth to yourself in the waiting and in the results–and I pray the results are good.
Your sharing of your testimony of your physical health is very brave. I employ self talk often although I don’t suffer from anxiety or depression. I’v e gone to the Lord more and more over the years though when I begin to worry about something or have questions like “why this now God?” or whatever. Talking to the Lord God Himself is the best way to remember Who is in control and to be intimate with Someone who loves us unconditionally.
Thank you, Faith. Yes, we need to both talk to God and direct our minds with His truth in whatever we’re going through. I love how the psalms employ both prayer and the writer reminding himself of truths about God.
I often have to give myself a talking to as well. I wonder how many times we have emotional and mental trauma that needs healing, that we aren’t even fully conscious of. It’s good you can look back and pinpoint some of the issues that you were dealing with, and know how to talk to yourself about them with God’s truths. Taking our thoughts captive can be a difficult task, but it’s a worthy skill to develop.
I wonder, too. I remember long periods of “processing” after key times in my life, like my parents’ divorce and my breaking an engagement, as well as TM. I didn’t recognize those as periods of healing, but now I do. I’m glad God gives us what we need even we’re not aware of our needs ourselves.
Thank you for sharing your experience with TM and how you battled the panic attacks. In my small group just yesterday evening, we were talking about those Psalms that show us how David reminded himself to focus his hope on God.
Those psalms are so good, not only as examples of what to do but as reminders that people in the Bible had some of the same problems, issues, and needs as we do.
I love your post! I have also struggled with panic attacks, and learning to filter my thoughts and focus on the truths in God’s Word was essential for my healing. Self-talk reminding us of God’s promises and truths is absolutely needed practice in our daily walk.
Thank you, Hadassah. I remember reading your helpful post about panic attacks. We so need to do this in every area of our lives: correct our thoughts with God’s truth.
I often give myself a talking to. Great post. laurensparks.net
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I’m sorry for all the suffering you went through, Barbara, but these are great lessons you draw from it. I definitely find that my self-talk can get out of control at times. It’s far too easy to give in to fear and anxiety and I have to intentionally remind myself of God’s truth.
I definitely talk to myself, to find strength and guidance from within, divinely offered. I hope you find peace with your TM. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
I’m so sorry to hear what you have been through, Barbara, but I am so grateful you shared it so honestly and openly. I love what you shared about listening to yourself versus talking to yourself, as well as the encouragement in this post. I hope you continue to feel better every day. Thank you so much for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Community.
I’m sorry that you have had to deal with the effects of TM. But I am so thankful that you have shared more parts of your story, and God’s story within you here. What a comfort and encouragement. I love those verses in Psalm 42 especially. I have surely found so many similar things as I’ve been on my chronic illness journey too. Thank God that He is here, walking us through the healing that He knows we need! Blessings and prayers for you.
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