Tears for Fears: My Anxiety and Modern Life

“My Name is Mike; I’m An Anxiety Sufferer.”

I don’t know if there are Panic Anonymous meetings, but if there were that’s how I imagine I could introduce myself. I’ve alluded to this on the blog before; my close friends and even many of my acquaintances know about this aspect of my life…and now I’ve decided to let you, dear reader, in on a significant truth about my life: I suffer from panic. Anxiety. Phobias. Fear.

Apparently, I’m not alone. By my admittedly-sketchy statistical abilities, I estimate that a whopping 10% of the U.S. population suffers from some form of panic, phobia, PTSD, or generalized anxiety. (Crunch the numbers for yourself here) And we seem to be growing in numbers as our social, spiritual, and physical environment continues to complexify in the 21st century.

We all get scared, of course. Certain stimuli – whether interior or exterior – prompt our fight or flight response. A roller-coaster; seeing a snake in the yard; witnessing a bank robbery. Our brains and bodies are remarkably resilient; most of us confront and get over specific fears with amazing adaptability. But for some of us – for a host of reasons – this fight-or-flight (or heightened adrenal state) just stays with us, becoming aroused at increasingly non-life-threatening stimuli. For many of us, it begins to creep up at unexpected moments, or not go away for hours. For growing numbers of us, anxiety, panic, and phobia are a way of life.

This is certainly true for me.

It started years ago – innocently enough at first: I’d be driving with a buddy or a family member on a long, interstate road trip, when suddenly I’d feel overwhelmed. The open road, unpredictable hills and dips, lots of cars, hundreds of miles – it felt like the ocean was spilling into my bathtub – unstoppable. And I’d have to pull over, and let someone else drive. Gradually it became more intense, and more consistent: Soon I wasn’t driving on the Interstate beyond the perimeter of my city, then beyond the more suburban areas near my city. Whenever I tried, I’d become a liability to myself, my passengers, and other drivers; I felt like I was piloting an out-of-control roller coaster, and I couldn’t wait to hit the brakes or pull over. Finally, I wouldn’t drive on the highway at all. This has been my state for quite some time.

Rather simultaneously with this, I was becoming an increasingly troublesome passenger. First I had difficulty, occasionally, riding in the front seat with drivers; I’d writhe and squirm as though I was strapped to a rocket headed toward the moon – on the outside. It wasn’t that I was afraid of an accident per se – I’ve never been in a serious car accident. It wasn’t fear of sudden impact or death; the motion itself is its own source of dread. For awhile the backseat was my safe haven; no more, not necessarily. When this sense of sheer panic would come or go was unpredictable; I could go cross-country with no problem, or go around the corner with a friend and be crawling out of my skin. I began to avoid riding in the car with others besides my wife (who, ordinarily, does not provoke this response). I get out less nowadays.

This is your brain on fear..

For awhile, I considered all of this a simple matter of phobia. I couldn’t stand being in cars, but I was fine in airlines and in social situations. Once I got from Point A to Point B, I was perfectly normal. But then something comically absurd happened: I started trying a variety of therapies – cognitive-behavioral, hypnosis-based, and healing prayer-based – to overcome the vehicle-related phobia. Not only did therapies of various sorts not help, they made things worse: Specific phobias multiplied into new phobias as fast as I could think them up; phobia itself blossomed into full-bloomed generalized anxiety.

What happens when I’m feeling anxiety? Most often, things in my chest: A feeling of ‘heart racing,’ and ‘the willies’ – but super-strong and disorienting. Shaking and shivering. Other times, I’ll feel things in my head: Dizziness, headaches, racing thoughts, approaching ‘insanity.’ Shortness of breath. Chest and head tag-team together a good deal, squeezing me out of the game of life altogether.

This has been effecting me more and more, of late; I love to travel, and I love spending time with people. But lately, I’ve restricted both, significantly, as a panic attack can occur anywhere – at a restaurant, at church; surely on a cross-country or transatlantic flight. More significantly, anxiety (and my response to it) has cost me a move: We’re not going to Colorado Springs as originally planned. I’m still working with the awesome folks at The David Group and Presence, but we’re not able to move to that beautiful mountain country, namely because it’s high altitude made me feel even crazier than usual. Following the advice of two doctors, we’ve indefinitely postponed the move – “While most people adjust to the altitude in a few weeks to a few months, people with your condition sometimes never adjust,” they in effect told me. I just couldn’t imagine feeling as disoriented as I do in the mountains, 24/7. So I had to pass up a wonderful opportunity for myself and my family.

This is no fun at all.

So where do I go from here? I wish I could wrap this post up with a neat ending – “But I’ve finally had breakthrough – I got better!” – but alas, I can’t. I do hope to type these words some day – and some day soon, dammit! But in the meantime, I continue to learn. I’ve had some very illuminating brain scans; I’ll be following their leads on some blood tests next week; I’m trying some alternative therapies too bizarre to share with you just yet (though I certainly will if they yield results). I might have to bite the bullet and try a pharmaceutical approach, at least for a season, though I have to admit I’m biased against this. (I hear that many anxiety sufferers don’t take meds, because – get this – they’re afraid to! Ah, the vicious circle…) In all of this, I’ve become a student of the human psyche, in its cognitive, nutritional, fitness, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. I have way more empathy and camaraderie with those who suffer from mental illness of all sorts, especially anxiety and depression. We’re all in this together, y’know?

I tend to think that, in all of this, I’m a living embodiment of the zeitgeist – full of the promise and perils of this age. We’re living such intense lives now, sped up by technology, depthsof knowledge and empathy; its bound to take its psychological and physiological toll. Not all of us have adapted yet; not even (or especially not) those who are most keenly interested in, and dispositionally calibrated toward, these exciting and tumultuous changes happening in our cultural milieu. So we are God’s misfit children and evolution’s maladjusted innovators. God help us all. I only hope that my pain and eventual breakthrough can play some small part in the transfiguration of the world.

So…keep inviting me to get out of the house, and grab lunch or a drink. Tell me about your conference or retreat. But don’t be surprised if I don’t hop in a car with you.🙂  Feel free to share your philosophies of anxiety and fear, or the crazy remedy that you hear worked for your cousin, though please understand that I’ll give far more weight to phobic people themselves weighing in and sharing stories. With open source collaboration and the discovery of Divine ubiquity amidst our mess, perhaps we’ll all learn something in the process!

105 Responses to “Tears for Fears: My Anxiety and Modern Life”


  1. 1 Ryan July 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Mike, Lot’s of stuff here. First, thanks for the honesty because so many, including me, struggle with this at some level.

    And I’d heard the rumor, via Wes R. that you were moving to the motherland and I was looking forward to it. So, I’m personally bummed. But, I understand where you’re coming from and look forward to what’s ahead for you, brother.
    peace… peace… peace…

  2. 2 Dan Brennan July 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Mike, this post is such a precious gift you have given us. Thank you! What courage to do so!

  3. 3 Winn Collier July 11, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Hey, Mike, I’ve struggled with obsessive and debilitating fear over the past 4-5 years, a major subtext of my story in these days. And it took me quite by surprise. Also, one of my closest friends has gone on disability due to panic attacks and such. Thank you for sharing your story. You are certainly not alone.

    peace.

  4. 4 zoecarnate July 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks, Dan!

    Ryan, Winn…any silver-bullet solutions working for you thus far?😉

  5. 5 Winn Collier July 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Absolutely. There is this monkey-hair tonic you drink with 4 baby aspirins and a lime spritzer while praying the Serendipity prayer backwards during a Lunar eclipse. Totally. Works. Unfortunately, it only works in a rainforest, so you and I are screwed.

    No silver bullets, for sure. For me, it has been important to move into my fears, to consciously do the opposite of what my fear encourages me to back away from (within reason – and slowly, over time). This certainly doesn’t mean that I never draw boundaries and change some of what I do, as I learn myself – I do all that as well. But, I have to make proactive choices to step into the places that my fear has taken over.

  6. 7 Heather G July 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Mike,
    I have two different friends that might have solutions. I’ll check with them and get back to you.

  7. 9 Ted July 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I can relate — not on your level, but I can relate. And I recently had to explain anxiety to my eleven-year-old daughter, who was thankful to find out that it had name, and that she wasn’t alone.

    • 10 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:23 am

      Aww. I guess that this is one of the things that (no pun intended) scares me the most – what if I’ve passed this madness along to our daughter?

  8. 11 noisyragamuffin (Scotty) July 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Mike. I am sorry that it has affected the move but I am sure that sharing it here took some of the weight and power out what could seem like a defeat.

    I struggle with general anxiety disorder. Have for years apparently. Social settings were the worst for me through high school and even still to a degree. I am 32. I tried to medicate myself with all the illegal drugs I could get my hands on in the 90s. I was placed on a couple of different pharmaceuticals for depression back then but they made the anxiety worse. As a result I had a biased against them for years.

    Via the blogs we discovered like minded Christians back in 2003 and eventually moved to Dallas, TX from here in rural Indiana. I had so many dreams and hopes for things I/we would do down there with our house church but my anxiety prevented me from meeting up with folks far too often and when I would meet up at say an art show or someone’s house with folks I didn’t really know I would have panic attacks. I got to meet and camp with Andrew Jones and his family in 2005 in Houston but my anxiety was so bad that I hid at the art gallery and stayed in my tent most of the time at the camp site.

    In my home with my wife and three young children my fear and anxiety manifested itself as anger and rage. I would come home from working at Starbucks and know that I wasn’t going to be able to be apart of whatever was going on with the church that day because of the anxiety and I would just yell at everyone. My oldest son and my wife especially took the brunt of it.

    My wife left twice in the few years we were down there. Thank God for the gift that was our church and the fact that many of them worked in the medical field, struggled with anger/rage or some form of mental illness. They were very hands on as well. As apposed to marriage counseling we moved in with the couple that pastored the church and were mentored and discipled 24/7. I went to counseling and also began taking half a dose of 10mg Lexapro. The half dose is because I am hyper-sensitive to everything I put into my body. The first week or so on the meds I actually felt a higher level of anxiety but after that short time I just noticed a calmness. The tension in my head and neck had lessoned as well. Also, I did not feel medicated but if I missed a dose I could really tell. What I noticed after missing a dose or two was all those feelings I felt before coming back. The tension, anxiety, and anger/frustration. The medicine freed me up to learn new behaviors and ways of thinking which brought about healing in my relationship with my family.

    After a couple of years on the meds I was actually off of them for a number of months and doing fantastic until my Mom pasted away in November this past year. That coupled with my new responsibilities as a college student and my worrying about my wife, who had recently been diagnosed as being bipolar, led to me being overwhelmed and all that anxiety and frustration coming back. We noticed it quickly though and I went right back on the meds and am doing fantastic. I still see a counselor periodically as well.

    I am going to school for library technology, working at the library here in town and my relationship with my wife and children is better than it has ever been. Our oldest just turned 11 and we celebrate our 8th anniversary on the 26th as well. All the glory to the Father and his working through our church and their sacrifices for us. His changing my thoughts on the use of medications didn’t hurt either. The Lord has used them to save myself and my family.

    …shoot. Sorry for talking so much, Mike. Know that you and yours are in my thoughts and prayers. May the Peace of the Lord be with you.

  9. 13 Tammy July 11, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Mike! This is a great post. Not many people are brave enough to talk about this honestly, or while it remains unresolved. they are only comfortable after the thing is conquered.

    I think I emailed you about my journey this for one intense year in 1998, and in bits and pieces ever since.

    Here is the book I mentioned, I think, in that email:

    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Enneagram-Practical-Guide-Personality/dp/0618004157

    for me, this book was one part of the answer. there were lots of other parts too, but I needed to step back and see myself clearly, and then treat myself with grace and empathy as I would anyone else.

    Jim and I send our love! hand in there, friend.

    • 14 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

      Hi Tammy! You did indeed email me; thank you so much. I’ll reply more there, soon.

      Thank you for the book recommendation. I have Rorh’s Ennegram material, but I saw this one in the used bookstore around the corner from my house the other day. ‘Tis s sign!

  10. 15 Scott July 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Oh how I wish I had a silver bullet for you. I’ve never had panic attacks but I always seem to have a low-level, underlying nervousness about me, and I sleep incredibly tense. No doubt I inherited it from my Mom who deals with exactly the same thing. I’ve heard that anxiety is a disease of avoidance. The more we avoid our fears, the more we reinforce them. But there is a right way and a wrong way to face your fears, and facing them the proper way is the tough part. I have yet to master that. There are times when I succeed, where I feel relaxed and normal for a few brief minutes, but it is almost impossible for me to recapture that. It sounds to me like you might already know this.

    I find that I give an unhealthy amount of attention to this problem in my life. I think the amount of attention I give it is actually reinforcing the problem. But it’s so hard to ignore something that seems so overwhelming. I think if I can TRULY accept that I will always have some amount of trouble with this, it will subside. But there’s a caveat: I can’t accept it BECAUSE I want it to go away–after all, that’s not truly accepting it. It feels like a catch-22 to me.

    Have you ever read “Freedom from Fear” by Howard Liebgold?

    • 16 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:26 am

      Wise words, Scott. There is an ever-widening circle of avoidance in the development of our particular phobias, isn’t there?

      The low-level stuff can be the worst, sometimes.

  11. 17 gene smith July 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Mike,
    thanks for blogging this. i too suffer from chronic depression and have for over 40 years. i am leary of meds as well. recently, a dear friend recommended a book by Dr. Earl Henslin called “This is your brain on joy”. i’ve learned a lot about how the brain works and am practicing some of the recommendations, supplementa and diet/exercise regiments the good doctor has provided. you may find this book as well as Dr. Daniel Amen’s books/research a tremendous help.

    i hope this helps. keep blogging and let us know how it is going.

    Gene

    • 18 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:27 am

      Wow Gene, I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m glad to hear that you’re finding this book insightful – I’ll check it out!

  12. 19 Joelle July 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I won’t leave my silver bullet here since you already know my story😉 With all of the stereotypes out there concerning this stuff, I thank you for your boldness here, Mike…I’m sure it will help many.

    Joelle

  13. 21 Scott July 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I don’t have a silver bullet for anxiety, but for depression I feel like I have found the silver bullet. For me, it was understanding that depression is not due to sadness but due to conflict. It’s caused by believing you are in a no-win scenario. Depression is your body’s signal that you need to take a certain action, and it’s usually an action you do not want to take.

    For more info, see this short article (link below). It is EASILY the most helpful thing I have EVER read concerning depression:

    http://www.articlesphere.com/Article/Depression—What-Really-Causes-It/47483

    • 22 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:29 am

      Thank you, Scott. While depression’s not my main issue, it occasionally rears its ugly head, I think, because I’ve spent so long trying so hard to overcome anxiety, getting nowhere. That can get pretty debilitating, even for a perpetual optimist like me.🙂

      I shall check out this article!

  14. 23 Jonathan Brink July 11, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Mike, thanks for sharing the story brother. I think if we’re honest, we’ve all had some sort of panic attack in our lives and it probably happens more than we’re willing to admit.

    I don’t think its a silver bullet, but M Scott Peck talks about the development of something like this in People of the Lie. It’s one of the more important works I’ve ever read. Talks a lot about the mind and irrational fears, which don’t always seem so irrational in the moment.

    Much love brother

    • 24 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:31 am

      J-Brink! Thanks for writing. You know, I own People of the Lie and, like many of the 4400-plus books adorning my shelves, I haven’t really delved into it yet! So thanks for the recommend; I’ll avail myself of it.

      Don’t worry though…I’ll read Discovering the God Imagination first.

      (You like how I just plugged your book?🙂 )

      • 25 Jonathan Brink July 12, 2010 at 5:07 am

        Of course I like how you plugged my book. ;-P

        I mentioned Peck because that book was one of the more influential books in my library. He develops a case scenario of a guy who gets captivated by an irrational fear. The dialog is interesting. And it was also influential in Discovering the God Imagination.

  15. 26 renee altson July 11, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    mike,
    thanks for this honest and vulnerable post.

    I’m sure you already know, but I will remind you (& myself):

    this doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad christian, mental health is a valid and real struggle, as tangible as any “physical ailment.” there are no easy cures or magic answers.

    Jesus loves you as much as Jesus has always loved you. You are not a failure, or caught up in sin, or not trusting Jesus.

    What is going on with you and so many others (and me, one who has over 80 ECT treatments) is that we are broken people in a fallen world. (i.e. we are humans)

    You are cared for, valued, respected, and loved even in the midst of your brokenness.

    you are not alone. your story matters.

    we would never know the wonder of light without the contrast of darkness.

    shalom.
    renee

    • 27 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:34 am

      Renee, thank you. Your kind words and affirmations mean a ton to me, especially considering what I know of your story. And while I already “know” this, sometimes an unseemly “religious devil” raises its voice inside me, telling me that this is all because I don’t subscribe to the right orthodoxy of version of ‘God.’ Anxiety works on all levels, and seizing the fundamentalist imagination is one of them.

  16. 28 Kent July 11, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Mike, I am a Family Practice physician and am a regular reader of your blog. Two books which I have found to contain helpful, practical insights into anxiety and how to obtain relief are: 1) “The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mind-Body Disorders” by John E. Sarno, MD (2006), and 2) “Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy, and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the ‘New Psychiatry'” by Peter R. Breggin, MD (1994).

    • 29 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:36 am

      Kent! Thanks for being a reader. You don’t live near Raleigh, do you?🙂 I’d love to continue this chat via email; I’ll drop you a line. My attention is always piqued when I hear physicians not favoring the pharmaceutical route.

      I’ll check out these books, but I’ll be curious to talk to you further to see if you think there are cases when drugs (or at least vigorous supplements and/or nutritional changes) are needed to address chemical/biological issues when “therapy, empathy, and love” just don’t seem to be cutting it.

  17. 30 Maria Kirby July 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Hey Mike,

    I would like to add my kudos to everyone else’s:Being honest and naming your fears is a great start.

    I would like to remind you that not all fasting is self-imposed. When we fast, we open our hearts to the spirit’s moving. God is working in your life and he is using your fear to bring you closer to himself. While panic attacks are very uncomfortable and limiting what you can do, that limitation is allowing God to speak into your life and is slowing you down so you can listen.

    When ever anyone met an angel they were terrified. The first thing the angle would say is ‘do not be afraid’. Do not be afraid of the panic attacks. It may be that in those moments of fear God is speaking to you, and not necessarily about the fear itself.

    The peace Jesus gives is not the peace the world gives. Jesus doesn’t take away the pain of this life, but transforms the pain into something that is beautiful and glorious. As we live into the hope of the resurrection fear looses its power. Fear may come or go, but it does not control us because we know the love of God conquers all.

    May you experience the peace and resurrection of Jesus.
    Maria

    • 31 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:38 am

      Thank you, Maria. I’ve gotta be careful sometimes with spiritual interpretations, because my imagination can run away from me and quickly slip into condemnation-mode. At the same time, I have to look at God being involved in the process somehow, because the only thing worse than God being read into my situation in some overly-superstitious or unhelpful way is for me to see God as utterly uninvolved.

      The vision you present here has God being involved without it being some kind of predictable morality play; you’ve given me something to chew on!

  18. 32 The Charismanglican July 11, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Mike,

    I’ve suffered from depression since I can remember (5?) I was very biased against pharmaceutical treatment until it became a matter of life and death and gave in. That’s a long story, with its own pros and cons.

    Just letting you know that you’re not alone. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I see my depression (which I have not been able to treat with anything OTHER than medication) as one more thing to help me look forward to the resurrection.

    Grace and peace to you on your journey, even (or especially) when it means staying put.

    Joey Aszterbaum
    The Charismanglican

    • 33 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:41 am

      Hi Joey,

      If you don’t mind sharing – what were the pros and cons of meds in a nutshell?

      I guess for me, I’m a wimp. I don’t want to spend 6 months to several years making my body a living guinea pig to “see if this works” based on some doctor’s whim. I suppose that’s why I went out and forked over the $$ for a SPECT scan; I wanted to see exactly what my brain ‘looks’ like and what meds (if meds are the route I take) are most likely to be effective. Thankfully, the scan interpretations produced a short-list of possible candidates, should the homeopathic routes prove unsuccessful.

  19. 34 Dan Brennan July 11, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Mike,

    I know a little bit about what you’ve experienced. I will never forget the summer of ’91. I went through an intense panic attack at the beginning of June. Then, afterwards experienced many “dark nights” throughout the summer–feeling intensely vulnerable and getting very little sleep during that summer. I lost the job that I had at the time. The ongoing ripple effects was that we had to move out of the house we were renting. Had to move in with another family for a period of time.

    Prayers and love,
    Dan

    • 35 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:42 am

      Wow, Dan. Yeah, panic attacks can be terrible. None are quite so bad as the ones that landed me in the E.R. several years ago. They, too, messed with my summer. For all I know, ones I’ve had since then are equally intense but they don’t bother me as much; now I know (most of the time) that I’m not having a heart attack or something…

  20. 36 Cynthia July 12, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Mike,I’m a new Facebook friend, and you are a courageous man. Such a debilitating and painful disorder, and you are confronting it honestly. I have no silver bullet either, for you or for my own bipolarity, or for the patients I deal with as a psychiatric nurse. I pray a lot, believe me. Some of us have medications that afford some help– I consider that my life began when I was finally prescribed lithium– but I know of no one with fullblown anxiety disorder who is treated and significantly relieved symptomatically by medication. This includes the man with whom I have been involved for two years. Mike, all I can say is that there are a lot of noonday demons at large and that you are now on my prayer list, and my heart hurts for all of us. “Who’s going to reset the bone?” The peace of God be with you.

    • 37 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:44 am

      Hi Cynthia – thank you for weighing in here! I’m always interested in talking to the medical peeps off-blog, so expect an email from me.🙂 Your prognosis intrigues me because most of my fellow-sufferers here (who are on something) do seem to be proposing meds as a viable path to recovery. So yeah – let’s talk!

  21. 38 Ed Cyzewski July 12, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Mike,
    So sorry to hear you’ve had these things going on of late. I have had anxiety issues for the past five years or so, mostly manifested with shortness of breath. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling for sure.

    I don’t have anything to offer but my own testimony, and do with it what you will. I don’t offer it as a blueprint, but as something to pray over. I received prayer one day for my anxiety, and I thought of the verse from Timothy “He has not given us a spirit of fear…” It was sorta out of context and yet wonderful as the Holy Spirit used that verse to identify the spirit (as in something not from God) that had been crippling me with fear. That day I prayed that God would send that spirit away from me, and I had this sort of crazy sensation of God’s Kingdom coming to bring healing and to right the things that are broken.

    Since then, I learned to add something else to my prayer. Besides telling that spirit to leave and claiming God’s power over it, I have added, “and don’t ever come back!” I’m still a high strung person, and my wife can tell stories about how up tight I get sometimes, but identifying that spirit of fear has helped me.

    I can’t say you have the same exact thing or that the same thing would help you. I don’t think God uses recipes. Sometimes these things take a lot of time for reasons we don’t understand, and sometimes the lesson for me is to desire God more than the thing I want fixed–learning to let go of the smaller fix in exchange for the greatness of knowing God.

    Be blessed and I pray that you will be blessed with intimacy with our Lord as you pass through this.

    • 39 zoecarnate July 12, 2010 at 12:50 am

      Thank you for sharing this, Ed; I need to hear it. There are so very many passages in Scripture that can be prayed or marinated over, like

      “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things present your requests to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6&7)

      “You shall keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon You.” (Isa. 26:3)

      “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

      “Perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

      “The enemy pursues me…he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me… I remember the days of long ago, I meditate on all your works. I consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 143:3-5)

      “Why so downcast within me? Put your hope in God. I will yet praise him.” (Psalm 42:5, Psalm 43:5)

      …and I have prayed/reflected on these. I can’t say I’ve ‘felt’ anything, and one would think that if there’s feeling to be had, it would come when praying such prayers, eh?

      Yet I’m not discounting this. Research has shown the positive effects of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming, a less-scary term than ‘hypnotism’) in changing brain patterns for the better – what better fodder for NLP than Holy Writ.

      To all: Thank you for your advice, and your prayers. I really appreciate both!

  22. 40 Jack July 12, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Mike, I blog about my anxiety/depression/burnout as a pastor here http://thescrapheap.wordpress.com/ but it sounds like yours is more event related? My anxiety was a sense of foreboding, like a catastrophe was about to happen and I was in a heightened state all the time. Mine came from a lot of causes that all added up to tip me over the edge:
    – not dealing with negative emotions adequately
    – not dealing with stress adequately
    – overwork
    – relationship problems at home
    – identity issues connected to performance
    – no pleasurable activities (outside pursuits)
    – work/home boundaries non existent

    Medication helped as did a psychiatrist, but I ended up resigning because recovery was too slow and I couldn’t get my job as a full time pastor done…

    Most everyone eventually finds the things that can help them and it’s just a matter of putting them into place and holding on for long enough for them to work. I hope you find them for yourself and get on the road to recovery.

    I believe God uses these experiences to transform us, that’s about the only sense I can make of it….

  23. 41 JS Allen July 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    NLP can work well in curing phobias; especially the type you describe. Your post about your phobia is a textbook case of meta model violations, which is unsurprising, since your theology seems fraught with the same sorts of meta model violations. What you need is not technically hypnosis. Hypnosis is the deliberate violation of meta model for therapeutic purpose. Phobia removal comes from the opposite angle — you’ve hypnotized yourself already, and you need to have the meta model violations reversed. NLP can often do this *very* quickly. Yes, I’ve seen it happen many times.

    I highly recommend getting in touch with an NLP practitioner who has experience treating phobias, and get your phobia erased. Then, learn everything you can about the meta model (start with “frogs to princes”) and begin banishing impoverished mental models from your life.

  24. 42 Jay P July 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Mike,
    According to my Mom I started having middle of the night anxiety attacks at about 2 1/2. I had them all through childhood and into adulthood. Finally at age 30 I stumbled on an article describing exactly how they felt and a huge weight stepped off my shoulders. For whatever reason I almost never got them growing up any time OTHER than the middle of the night. I describe it as a “Twilight Zone” feeling. Everything LOOKS fine but it feels so very, very wrong. Needless to say as a teen I was sure that I was losing my mind. I’d get a half a dozen a year (yes in many ways I was lucky and didn’t know it!)

    Once I could put a name to it I found I had a weapon against it. Today I can “feel” one coming and begin some relaxation exercises to hold it at bay. I haven’t had a full blown attack for years till about two years ago when a task caused me to lock up. For some unknown reason very small items set me off these days (the Gieco Gecko in his sports car gives me the willies. No explanation for that one, LOL)but again I simply know to look away. Repeated exposure does seem to ease the symptoms.

    My daughter inherited my rather tense personality and the anxiety attacks with it. Being able to name it I think helps. For us it is mostly about learning to relax and let go.

    So you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. If you find a Panic Anonymous meeting let me know!

    Peace
    JP

  25. 43 Lori July 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Mike, let me just add my thanks to the many others for your willingness to be so up-front about your anxiety. I’m learning to be public about my own anxiety as well- in many ways I find it’s a discipline to even speak the word out loud.
    For what it’s worth, I’ve found some relief w/ large doses of magnesium (reversing the recommended calcium:magnesium ratio) and NLP ala Greek Orthdox: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Some days, though, I’m just really tired of how much work it takes to breathe properly. You’ll be in my prayers.
    I’ll just add one more thing: you’re clearly such an optimistic dreamer and visionary – your facebook updates are always a treat to read – that you help put a very “normal” face on this condition.🙂 Thank you for being willing to show the paradox of what it means to be human.

  26. 44 sally apokedak July 13, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and telling me about this post, Mike. I can relate to what you are going through and to several of the comments left by your readers, too.

    I had days, like Lori, where I felt like I was too tired breathe. And I agree with JS Allen that you have hypnotized yourself, to some extent.

    I’m going to be posting about this stuff in the next couple of months. I had panic attacks for fourteen years and I have learned to not have them. I haven’t had one in three years. I know it’s not just that I have gotten over some stage (like it was hormonal, but now it’s passed) because I still feel them coming on but I know how to disarm them, now.

    But it’s not an easy process. It’s not about words you say–it’s about what you believe in your heart. It’s about saturating yourself with Scripture so the Holy Spirit can open your heart and remind you of what God has said and how trustworthy and good he is.

    God is good and loving and strong. It is his desire to bless his children with every good gift. Oh, Mike, I will pray for you. I have nothing but sympathy for you. These attacks are awful. Before I got over them I would have literally given my right arm if someone would have been able to promise me that would get rid of them.

    Do you ever listen to John Piper sermons? I’ve been listening to him lately and God fills me with such joy when I hear that man preach. Give him a try. Here’s the Fear and Anxiety page.

  27. 45 dissidens July 13, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Mike, you might try the whiskey-hat cure.

    Hang a hat on the bedpost and drink whiskey. Keep drinking whiskey until you see two hats.

  28. 46 perrymccormick July 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Mike … 2 things are apparent from your post: 1) you have hit a nerve on the anxiety issue and 2) many of us care about you and regret your inability to move as it is clearly what you would like. I , like many of the “commenters”, have had various forms of anxiety since I was a child. I actually have an aversion to July [if you can believe that :)] because I’ve had my worst attacks then.
    My remedies: age; years of deep, intensely personal, wrenching therapy – sounds funny now but true🙂 ; your relationship with the Creator; and the prayer I stumbled onto 15 years ago: when I can’t deal any more with a situation. I ask to be FUNDAMENTALLY changed and mean it. In other words, usually the situation, person, anxiety, etc. will probably not change. You can change; slowly, gradually, with the Creator’s help, your mind maps and ways of thinking can change. The anxiety will be there because it is a response to things we can’t control. You have the ability to cope, even if it is elusive many times. You are supported more than you realize.
    Where does all this anxiety come from? My guess is we do not have time to process what we experience, think about, etc. We have part of the eternal trying to function in a temporary vehicle (soul/body). Technology has sped up so much… One of the biggest parts of the Hopi belief is not to rely on technology. Perhaps they had a good reason. There is so much we really can’t know … until we know, what stress! And of course there is “good. old” demonic attack … Hey, we think that stuff is passe … maybe Jesus WAS casting out demons!
    God’s love and my prayers go out to you.

  29. 47 Rebecca LuElla Miller July 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Mine is acrophobia, Mike. When I’m some place high, I have this irrational fear that I’ll fall/jump. I’ve talked with others who have this same phobia and the common element seems to be this idea that I might lose control of myself (either by slipping accidentally or losing my balance or by doing something irrational, like jumping just so I can see what it feels like).

    I have a friend who is afraid of flying. As we talked about it, I learned that she is fearful because she’s not in the pilot’s seat.

    So here’s my idea. All these fears and anxieties may be linked by control issues. Who’s in charge?

    In my case, I know I’m in charge and I don’t trust myself. In my friend’s case, she’s not in charge and doesn’t know if she can trust the guy who is.

    Except, “I’m in charge/he’s in charge” ignores the fact that God is actually the one in charge.

    Of course the fast-pace world we live in accelerates anxiety—if we believe we’re in charge. How can we keep up? Too many changes, too fast—like the cars whizzing beside you on the interstate. How can we navigate through all that?

    No drugs, no self-talk will change the actual fact that we can’t control our world or our own lives. The economy will tank; the doctor will report malignancy; bosses will lay off workers.

    The only help is to turn to the Person in charge.

    Yes, Jesus did actually cast out demons. He also calmed storms and multiplied bread. He raised the dead and made blind men see. He who is in charge of the spirit world and nature and death and blindness can be trusted with all our fears.

    God is the one about whom Peter wrote, “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” That’s not a mantra. That’s a choice—to trust the one who cares for me more than I care for myself.

    Becky

  30. 48 Epidemic July 19, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Mike,

    I have read that the next epidemic we are going to experience in our nation is adrenal gland failure. I believe we have arrived. With our poor diets, polluted food chain i.e., processed food and chemicals, stress, chemically sprayed vegetables and the like, our bodies are running way below their ability to handle life in general. My suggestion would be to address your adrenal glands as an emergency stop gap and find a nutritionist who can determine the health of your body through hair analysis, blood tests etc.. Medications are unable to fix the body in this situation and all you will find with medications is an is a innocent addiction. When that happens, that is a ride you do not want the be on. Streamline doctors have no clue how to address this issue medications. See http://www.pointofreturn.org resource section for more guidance. Call them and explain your situation. Why do I know this, I have been there and learned all this from experience. May you not repeat the same mistakes I did. You need to address any emotional issues that could be under the surface. See http://www.eftuniverse.com Goodluck!

  31. 49 Wes July 19, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Mike…we’re gone again through August 2…but…after that, let’s set up times to talk again. You are one good man. What a post! And what genuine responses!!! You and your ladies continue in my prayers.

  32. 50 Mary Perry-McCormick July 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Mike … Just had to comment on “The Christian Watershed”, “Remonstrans” and “Hypnotism & Theology”. I’ve read with interest what these folks have to say but the bottom line is you and others have had panic attacks while in SINCERE mainstream church life. Know that your situation is not about your religion or lack of faith. “Lower Wisdom” is correct about our mind maps which are set relatively early in life and come into play regardless what your current thoughts or theology. However, you have been given good suggestions by those who have your best interest at heart and do not seek to make a point about your philosophy or allegiances. Comfort is there for you from the Creator who made you and Jesus his son. You are being ministered to with the many good suggestions given. Peace to you.

  33. 51 zoecarnate July 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks Mary! There’s a huge difference in tone, I think, between “Remonstrans” and “Lower Wisdom” – I’ll be dialogging more with the latter on his blog as I have the time. But thank you for your kind words.

  34. 52 JS Allen July 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    ck, I didn’t realize the trackback would show up here; I was not intending to link to my post from any comments here. And I only responded in the first place because Mike mentioned NLP, which is something I know a ton about. My post is more of a critique of postmodernist theology than a criticism of Mike.

    Mary, to your points, I certainly wouldn’t claim that “Emergence” causes phobias. My claim is that the exact same underlying language-related processes are happening in phobia formation and postmodernism, and it’s self-destructive to use these language processes out of self-interest and without deep understanding and anchoring in ultimate truth.

    I have to disagree with the idea that phobias are caused by mental maps that are implanted in childhood, or that our mental maps are unchangeable. That’s a cause-effect meta model violation and is contradicted by pretty much all the evidence we have about phobias. People acquire phobias; and change their mental maps to support the phobias. And the mental maps used to support phobias are very often different from the mental map the phobic uses in other areas of his or her life. For example, kinesthetic modality seems to be very common in phobias, but less pronounced in other areas of life. Anyway, we can continue over on my post if you want, I really did not intend to hijack this thread.

  35. 53 Ira July 25, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    “Grounded in absolute truth” is actually a kind of punishment among postmoderns: “If you don’t finish Discipline and Punish by next Tuesday, you’ll be grounded in absolute truth for a week.”

  36. 54 JS Allen July 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    FWIW, Remonstrans is one of my favorite Christian bloggers. I had to think about why I am often bothered by un-irenic people, but not at all bothered by Remonstrans. The times that he has made me squirm, I’ve had to admit he was right, and ask myself “If it’s true, why *must* it be pleasant”? Being from the east coast, I’m predisposed to trust people who are direct in criticism, and mistrust people who flatter me.

    Many times, when you see someone abandoning irenicism, it’s because that person is cornered by their own weak position. That seems to describe most of the blowhards that annoy me — it seems the stupider they are, the louder they argue. But Remonstrans is pretty much the opposite, in my experience. His clarity of mind is undeniable, and it’s usually impossible for me to disagree with him.

  37. 55 Mary Perry-McCormick July 25, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    … Sorry I was not clear if I implied that phobias are caused by mental maps nor are they unchangeable. I simply sought to redirect to an earlier comments Mike had on his post addressing ways of coping and changing how one deals with phobias & panic. From personal experience, I believe Divine Intervention helped relieve physical & emotional pain associated with panic. Changing mind maps about how I chose to deal with panic required {requires🙂 } effort and will on my part. I had to be willing (and I prayed for that willingness) to think in different ways … not the material of what I was thinking but HOW I was thinking.
    And yes, Mike, I agree that the tones of the bloggers were very different.
    I think the majority of the responses reflect genuine concern and empathy/ sympathy. I also wonder how many of us feel safe enough to address these issues in real world time. Just a thought.
    Peace.

  38. 56 Ira July 26, 2010 at 10:51 am

    JS,

    I’m having trouble making sense of your claim that “the exact same underlying language-related processes are happening in phobia formation and postmodernism.”

    This would seem to suggest that “postmodernism” (and I’d be curious as to exact what that conjures for you) might be a prelude to, or a reinforcement of, mental illness. This is a baffling claim to me. And why do I have a feeling that “deep understanding and anchoring in ultimate truth” is a code phrase meaning “believing in the orthodox Christian God the way I do”?

    Even if we concede your conflation of postmodernism and phobia formation, I fail to see how someone who has internalized certain aspects of postmodern philosophy can then say “Oh, you’re right — I’d better acquiesce to some kind of absolute truth for the sake of my own mental health” in a way that is not deeply ironic (and therefore fails to accomplish the reversal in question). If there are aspects of our postmodern condition that are deeply troubling, and there are, the idea that we’d all be better off by cramming the toothpaste back in the tube seems deeply flawed.

    [As a side note, “postmodern” works best to describe a constellation of themes that characterize certain forms of late 20th century continental philosophy, and to describe the present condition of Western culture as explored in those philosophies. Very few, if any, of the philosophers that fall under this banner self-identified as such. If someone says they’re “postmodern,” that might mean something interesting, or it might just mean they’re under 40. If someone says they’re a “postmodernist,” you should probably just back away very, very slowly. Or just nod and smile.]

    As for Remonstrans — or dissidens, or whatever I’m supposed to call him — I have had a couple of brief and really quite enjoyable exchanges with him. But they were enjoyable precisely as snarkfests. He is bright, rhetorically clever, and brilliantly snarky. He’s a player, and I say that kindly. But there’s a difference between not being terribly irenic and trafficking in ad hominems.

    Perhaps he doesn’t bother you because you already agree with him on issues that matter most to the both of you. His clarity of mind might be able to point out (sometimes unpleasant) ramifications of your shared presuppositions, but that does not automatically connect those presuppositions to an absolute, no matter how much you or he need to believe in such a connection.

  39. 57 JS Allen July 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    @Ira – I can’t agree with any of your speculations about my thoughts on postmodernism and phobias; you seem to be making a lot of assumptions. My thoughts were pretty clearly articulated in the blog post Mary mentioned, and you are welcome to read it and respond over there.

    Regarding Remonstrans; I can’t read his mind, but whether intentionally or not, he’s hit upon an interesting way of dealing with postmodernists. Sometimes people ask a question because they want to know the answer, but sometimes they ask because they don’t want to know the answer. It’s always nice to filter out the insincere people. By “dialoguing” exactly opposite to the way the postmodernists demand, he ends up with a very effective filter. The few who are sincere will listen, and those who aren’t sincere will use his style as an excuse to quickly be on their way. It’s a win/win.

  40. 58 Ira July 26, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    A win/win indeed. I did read your blog, though my comments were directed at things you said here. My assumptions were intended as an opportunity for you to clarify, but no matter. If I see one of these “postmodernists” you mention (do they sparkle in sunglight?), I’ll send them your way for some much-needed therapy.

  41. 59 JS Allen July 27, 2010 at 12:37 am

    LOL, Ira. You and I both know that you *are* one.

    Did my blog post clarify things for you?

  42. 60 Ira July 27, 2010 at 1:08 am

    I read your blog before I posted my comments. It did clarify some things, but not the things I asked about.

    And I beg to differ: you seem know I’m a postmodernist. I would wear the moniker proudly if a) I knew exactly what it was supposed to mean (this seems to vary depending on the needs of the person invoking it) and b) I wasn’t afraid that if I did so, the real “postmodernists” would come after me and — what is that they do again? Oh, that’s right: twist language. I’m afraid they’ll come and twist language at me. I shudder just thinking about it.

  43. 61 jen mccarthy July 27, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Hey, there! I had panic attacks in ’02 (fear of eternity) and God did intervene in a pretty major way (after pretty major way after pretty major way…). Would be happy to tell you/send you the story. He is fantastically powerful, kind, and amazing. In my case, I needed to deal with my permissive Christianity “stuff”. Healing was so beautiful. Drop me an email if you’d like the full story.

    A word that was helpful in the worst of it, from a pastor that I called: “Don’t fear the fear.”

  44. 62 makeesha July 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    HUGS. I know the feelings well. I don’t deal with phobias per se but I do have GAD and get panic attacks fairly regularly. I have turned to pharmaceuticals in the past but I seem to be able to manage my anxiety just as well with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, meditation, lots of exercise and making sure I don’t put myself under too much stress (look into treating adrenal fatigue if you haven’t). I’m not doing very well lately because of increased stress and really need to “reset”. Prayer and scripture quoting and all the stuff told to me growing up did nothing and actually further increased my anxiety. Hope you find relief soon.

  45. 63 Rebecca LuElla Miller August 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Mike, a radio ministry I listen to has started a series on anxiety. If you’re curious, here’s the link to today’s broadcast which includes a link to a free download if you want to hear what a Scottish minister living in the US and preaching in a church in Cleveland has to say.

    Just so you know, he believes in the Bible as I do, so you’ll know going in where he’s coming from.

    Becky

  46. 64 Praying Medic August 14, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Silver bullet??

    I was asked to respond to this post by a fellow blogger who knows you. I’m a paramedic – been one for most of my life. Recently God started healing people in the back of my ambulance…and at grocery stores & gas stations and pretty much everywhere I went. I started a blog to tell about all the miracles I’ve witnessed. Now I share healing testimonies from around the world and teach others how to receive and operate in divine healing.

    On my blog I’ve posted testimonies of healing from just about everything you can imagine. Here are some examples: terminal colon cancer, throat cancer, inoperable brain tumors, HIV, hepatitis, PTSD, alcoholism, drug addiction, fear, Chron’s disease, gluten intolerance, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fractured ankles and migraine headaches.

    I’m glad you posted your story. People need to hear about the hell you’re going through. But God is able and willing to heal you. I have a lot of friends on Facebook who pray for people in the chat window. They see long-distance miracles of healing every day. They’ve seen cancer healed on the other side of the world by praying with people over Skype.

    On my blog, you’ll find medical conditions listed in the left hand column that people have been healed of. Click on any of them to see the testimony.

    Here’s a link to one of them. This guy (Rick) suffered from panic attacks, Barret’s esophagus and cancer. He went to the healing rooms at Bethel Church in Redding, California and was healed of everything.

    http://mobileintensiveprayerunit.blogspot.com/2010/07/ricks-testimony.html

    If you live in the California area, Bethel has become the Mayo Clinic of miraculous healing. Thousands of people are going there and getting healed. The IHOP (Kansas City and others) churches are seeing a lot of miracles, as well.

    One more suggestion: The International Association of Healing Rooms has 40,000 healing rooms around the world. There’s probably one close to where you live. They also see miracles on a routine basis.

    Here’s a link to their website. They have a locator tab (4th one down in the left column) that will bring up a list of healing room locations near you if you put in your zip code.

    http://healingrooms.com/

    Hit me up on Facebook if you want to discuss things in person or get prayer. There are Facebook tabs on my blog or you can search for ‘praying medic’.

    Hoping to hear from you,

    PM

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