What, me? Panic?

“That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’” – Isaiah 41:13 MSG

photo: Raye Wortel

I had to get an MRI for my aching shoulder that’s troubled me for the past year. I’ve had one before, and survived without incident – even falling asleep, so of course, I thought I could do it again.


Perhaps it’s the years gathered under our belts, and the scars of those years that change how we respond to things. Maybe it’s the weight of responsibility, or too many missed adventures that shrivel our once fearless and carefree spirit. What used to be easy and uncomplicated, are now mountains we strain to overcome.


Panic is something I’ve rarely experienced. My heart breaks when I listen to women share how panic is a persistent presence in their life. At the time, I could only imagine how they fought to find peace and calm in the face of such overwhelming fear, and now, I’m in awe of their bravery.


This is an account of my battle with Panic. I’ve tried to be transparent (even through the vulnerable parts). My hope is that what I’ve learned may help you who deal with it everyday, and those who will experience it in the future.


The Misery


Panic slid into the tiny room just as I was slipped into the metal tube of the MRI machine. I didn’t catch his presence until the technician walked out the door and left me alone.


In the brief moments before the machine started up, an uneasiness settled over me. The music playing in my headphones was upbeat, but not comforting. As I was about to ask to have it changed, the machine started up with a loud clanging sound. The sound unsettled me further, and I began to wonder if I could last the twenty-five minutes needed for the scan.


In the building doubt of my mind, Panic decided to strike with a small wave of anxiety that rolled through my body. It’s like the way a hunter plays with its prey before killing it. The machine quieted down and I took a deep breath to fight off my growing fear, but soon, the deafening sound started again, and Panic moved in to finish me off.


I opened my eyes and the realization of how small of a space I was in hit me. All rational thought was snuffed out like a candle in a swift breeze. Everything became uncertain. I didn’t know if the man in the other room could see or hear me, or if I could escape the machine.


Loosing all control, I started banging on the inside of the tube. Would he hear me? I didn’t know. Then a small voice in my headset promised to be in in a minute. It felt like a lifetime, and I could picture Panic drinking in my fear.


Never before had I felt such deep fear and loss of control. Panic haunted me for hours after I left that room, making me relive each distressing moment over and over.


At first, I tried to sleep it away, but each time I dozed off, an image of the room popped in my head, and Panic feasted once more. I gave up trying to sleep, and decided if I couldn’t beat Panic with slumber, I’d try with movement.


I was going to sweat out Panic’s hold on me.


The Victory


I hit the pavement for a power walk. With every footfall and heavy breath I took, I could feel God ministering to me through the music playing in my earpiece, and the thoughts rolling in my head.


First, I knew I needed the right perspective:

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain (Bring the Rain, Mercy Me)


Turning to God in praise, even in the hard times, not only opens the door for communion with him, but it causes the devil to flee. (James 4:7)


Next, I needed to let go of any shame or embarrassment I felt for “losing control” while I was in the machine.

It won’t be long keep holding on
Hold your head high; hold your head high
Keep standing strong you’re not alone now
Hold your head high; hold your head high
(Come Together Now, Music City Unites for Haiti)


Although this song was written to bring hope and support to the people of Haiti in 2010, the lyrics speak well beyond that tragic event. God reminded me that even though I experienced powerlessness, I’m not alone, and he is a Shield around me who lifts my head high. (Psalm 3:3)


In order to experience freedom, I had to know that tomorrow would come, and I wasn’t bound to what happened today.

It’s a new day
Oh, it’s a new time
And there’s a new way
I’m gonna live my life
All the old has, passed away
And the new has come
Thank God, It’s a brand new day (New Day, Avalon)


God is our Great Renewer! He restores our strength when we hope in him, so we can soar, and run, and walk without weakness. (Isaiah 40:31)


I also understood that experiencing panic isn’t a reflection of the condition of my faith. God reminds us often in his Word not to fear. He says it because fearful times haunt us too often. He also says it, so we understand he has given us a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, and not one of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)


We are more than conquerers through him that loved us! (Romans 8:37)


I know it was a long read today. I’m so glad you stuck it out, and would love to hear from you.

6 Replies

  1. Jackie Rhoden

    I could so relate to your reaction to being in the MRI machine and the total uncontrolled panic you felt as I am very claustrophobic and dread the day I have to have an MRI in a tube like that. Yikes! But so appreciated your ways to get back to peace and calm and trust in the Lord to help you thru it. Thanks for being so open and transparent with us. Bless you lots!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Jackie. One of the first things I did after I got out of the machine was to ask the technician if others had the same experience I did. It’s funny how we want to know we aren’t alone especially in situations like that. He assured me I wasn’t, and I think knowing we aren’t alone helps us be a little braver, and a little more forgiving of ourselves.

  2. Devery Wright

    As always, the way you write just draws me into your very transparent account, and the encouragement one can get from that vulnerability is certainly something God anointed you for. In my case, a panic attack revealed how far away I was from God, working as a wench, at the Renaissance Faire, and that Death was about to be the victor, should I continue putting aside the LORD, for a lifestyle that was nothing but unholy. He took the reins, and began transforming me, and how I saw things, so that fear no longer reigned, but He who came to save me. May He do for your family’s health, what He did for my life…restore, refresh, and renew! Love to you, my Sister.

    1. Wow, what an amazing testimony Devery! I would love to talk with you more about it sometime. You are always so supportive of me and my writing, thank you for being so kind. Praise God for his promises of rebirth!

  3. Karen Uribe

    Thank you Raye, God bless you for sharing this, I am experiencing “panic” in life in general lately, your blog calmed my soul this morning even if it’s just for a bit! I hope and pray you can get your MRI done, I will be lifting you up!

    1. Thank you so much Karen! I’m so glad you had a moment of calm this morning, I will pray for you. BTW… I have my MRI on Thursday, so your prayers are appreciated.

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