Posted by loswhit in Authenticity

The first time it happened I was standing on stage at Sandals.
We were in the theater at California Baptist University because the gym floors were being redone or something of the sort.
I had stood in front of this family every Sunday for at least 5 years.
Nothing was different.
Just another Sunday.
We were singing Charlie Hall’s Salvation.
It was the 2nd song of the set.
All of a sudden I felt my heart skip a beat.
Literally I felt it flutter.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
Then it happened again.
Everything started spinning.
My chest got tight.
I remember almost blacking out.
I put my guitar down and stumbled off stage.
The band kept playing and Nathan ran up to me with eyes wide open.
“I think I’m having a heart attack. Get a doctor please.”
They stopped the service and asked if there was a doctor in the room.
After 5 minutes with me he looked at me and said, and I’ll never forget it…
“Carlos you aren’t having a heart attack, you’re having a panic attack”

That was the sentence that began a LONG road for me.
A road littered with me not being able to leave the house for days at a time because I would start perspiring profusely and my heart would race out of control.
A road where I would scream at myself in the mirror and curse God for giving me this thorn.
A road where I would have to pull over driving and sit for an hour because my body would randomly go into terror mode.

That was 10 years ago.
Through counseling, medicine, and everything short of traveling see the Wiz at the end of the yellow brick road, I have gotten my panic and anxiety under the illusion of control.
The truth is that it pops up at the most inopportune of times.
And what used to be strictly panic and anxiety has morphed into it’s ugly cousin called depression.
Depression is newer for me but very similar.
The idea that I can’t control my mind and my body.
It’s all the same.
Zero Control and the fear of it overtaking you.

Over the weekend, after seeing twitter explode with opinions and thoughts on mental illness, my own struggle came pressing her face up against my conscious again.
3 years ago I told my friend Eric, “I can see why people commit suicide. I honestly can. Not because I am near that, but this last bout of depression was the first bout where the fear of the what was coming was greater than the fear of anything else.”
I’ve never been suicidal. Or at least I don’t think I have. I don’t even know what that really means. But I do know this…
I have prayed for God to take this away.
I have fasted for God to heal me of this.

And guess what.
I still have it.

Yesterday when I got to Crosspoint to lead worship I had to sit in the car for an extra 5 minutes and do breathing exercises to slow my heart rate down as it had been palpitating all morning.
Was it because I was nervous about leading worship?
No.
Was it because I was anxious about anything that was going on in my life?
No.
It.  Just.  Happens.

So let me dispel some common myths the church has when it comes to mental illness.
1. A person struggling with mental illness needs to have more faith.
My faith and my seretonin levels have nothing to do with each other.
2. A person struggling with mental illness should forgo medicine and pray harder.
You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to pray harder during an asthma attack. You would tell them to suck on that inhaler.
Same thing.
3. A person struggling with mental illness can’t lead in ministry.
Read the Bible. It’s filled with cray ppl like me killing it for God.
Oh. And you are crazier than you think you are.

Listen…
It’s not easy.
I wish God would take it away.
I wish I could go more than 5 days without a day I don’t have a mild or major episode of anxiety or depression.
But as of now I can’t.
And the church needs to get over it and stare this dirty little secret in the face.
Because when they do…
It will unleash a whole army of Christians who, at the moment, feel like they don’t have enough faith to lead.

It’s better that way…
Los.

  • http://twitter.com/Hokie_Lisa Lisa

    Awesome. I also live with depression. I use it when I can to praise God and show that, yeah, Christians have depression. It sucks, but it is an illness and I use it to educate folks and help those who feel like God has abandoned them.

  • http://twitter.com/tracycallison Tracy Callison

    love this, Carlos. reminds me of Louie’s struggle of anxiety that he told pretty recently at PCC. another thing people need to remember is that they’re not alone – thank you for speaking so openly about your anxiety.

  • Jeff

    Thank you. I have been a long-time reader (and listener!), but this is my first time commenting. Your blog has been a huge encouragement to me, and the three misconceptions are things I struggled with this last week as I scheduled my first appointment with a psychiatrist for next week (and am slightly terrified). Over the last few months, I’ve been stepping in and out of leadership, sometimes feeling OK but often times feeling unworthy. So thanks for bringing this up and for your words of encouragement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bertcrabbe Bert Crabbe

    Los, thank you SO much for your courage and your honesty. This post is going to help a LOT of people.

  • Jean Stauffer

    AMEN!! Thank you for being willing to just lay it out there.

  • M.green

    Amen! Prayers with you. Thank you for being real and honest.

  • Lisa Syler

    Thank-you for being transparent, Carlos, and for not being “ashamed” of depression, anxiety or panic attacks. I’m sorry you struggle with these issues, but the “good” news is that you are certainly not alone! It’s most difficult to live today and not be touched, at least in part, by some form of depression…be it clinically diagnosed or just experienced. Yet, you are blessing the socks off of so many of us with your passionate love for Jesus and His church. Praying for you!

  • luluweav

    Thank You for writing this blog these are things I deal with everyday. I have also been told by church goers how I should pray for God to take it away,and how i don’t need to see a Dr because I will just be put on medications and if I prayed hard enough and had enough faith God can take all my anxiety and anxiousness and depression away. Looks like I will be talking with my Dr this week. Thank You, I just don’t want to feel like a failure or like I don’t have enough faith in God because I do!!

  • Kelly Stone

    You have such a gift for telling it like it is. I have also struggled with panic and depression. Thankfully, I have been released from it (call it healing, call it chemicals getting back on track, whatever.) But I KNOW what you are talking about. When I would get instructions to have more faith, to pray, to just “get over it” I literally would want to tear people’s heads off. They just weren’t listening! I had to come to the realization that the church is not a subject matter expert on everything. Most of the time, the church as well as society in general, just keeps plugging along as best it can with the information it has. I’ve had to forgive a lot of people along the way. I’ve had to confess I’ve expected more of the church than I should have. We’ve all fallen short. I get that.
    You keep going the way you are. Trust me…when you write the honest words you do, you are doing the absolute best you can do. I fully believe that the Truth will set us all free. Keep speaking truth, Los.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brent.dooley Brent Dooley

    Thank you so much for your post. It is a secret and misunderstood thing in the church as a whole. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since i was 12. I have been so embarrassed about my likelihood to tear up in the middle of service it has often paralyzed me from leading at times when I know I should. Today I let the tears flow and admit my fears and doubts to anyone who will listen. I now have a wonderful group (albeit small) of Christians around me that will sit and listen and work through my struggles with me.

    I do see strides in the church moving toward an acceptance and an understanding of this issue and I believe it is because of the courage of men like you who will admit things like this. I applaud you and pray for you daily.

  • Cindy

    I don’t have panic attacks or depression issues but I understand being stigmatized and labeled and found it interesting that you used asthma as an example. Because I did have asthma as a child, fairly severe, and back then (I’m 43), many considered it to be a psychosomatic illness. Including my father who regularly told me it was all in my head. I just needed to suck it up, shake it off, tell myself I can do it. Sound familiar?

    • ragamuffinsoul

      Oh my does it!

  • http://twitter.com/xptworshipguy Kevin Burns

    Thank you for willing to discuss this topic openly. I believe it resonates with more people than any of could possibly realize – especially those in ministry. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for several years now. That feeling when you don’t just fear, but BELIEVE that you are dying can at times overwhelm me. I have struggled with it. My pastor has struggled with it. But we are both fortunate to be involved in a church that recognizes mental illnesses for what they are.

    As for my own struggles, I used to think it was related to the ministry load and the daily burdens of just doing what we do (and maybe that does play a part, when we plow forward in ministry not knowing our own limitations); however, I have since learned that the ministry is also actually one of the best things for depression/anxiety. Mental illness nearly forces you to become self-absorbed in your own struggles, but ministry gets you out of your own head.

    But I realize this is not the norm. Churches, in general, either don’t know how to cope with mental illness or they are refusing to deal with those who struggle with these things. In the past 24 hours, I’ve seen more than a few “Christians” shame themselves on twitter in reaction to the passing of Rick Warren’s son. This attitude is so much more than a dirty little secret; it’s a straight up sin that is in the open for all to see. And the world is watching.

  • http://twitter.com/Bsteven17 Brad Robertson

    Thanks for being so transparent. Your transparency breeds transparency in others, like myself. I’ve never been diagnosed with panic attacks or depression– but I know for a fact that I battle with both. I call them my “bad days”.. Here’s a little insight into how I learned to cope. Thanks for helping. http://musicalmindset-realnoimitation.blogspot.com/2013/04/pierced-crushed-beaten-and-whipped-for.html

  • Karen

    Can’t even begin to tell you how what you just wrote is what I have been trying to say for years, but couldn’t find the words. Thank you.

  • Scott

    Thank You for sharing! I can’t understand your situation but have my own… You spoke real truth here and I hope you won’t be mad at me for sharing this with the leadership of my church. This conversation is a springboard toward the conversation of broken people (people like you and me) leading other broken people toward the ONLY one that is not broken.

    Well said.

  • Suzanne

    Los, I met you and Heather at her blog party a few years ago. I follow your blog regularly but never really comment. I just wanted to thank you for writing this post.You’ve been open about your struggles with mental illness in the past, and I can definitely relate. Cymbalta levels out my serotonin levels, xanax rescues me from panic, therapy helps me talk out my problems. But the dirty little secret is I haven’t slept a night unmedicated by Seroquel in 8 years. WHAT?!? That’s a hard core “crazy person” medication, people usually respond with shock and horror when I (rarely) let someone know. I’m a functional hard working 28 year old with a quirky sense of humor, I love the Lord with all my heart and have a passion for Kenya where I go for mission trips. Yet the pills I take often seem to negate all of that and become a defining feature to others. People, especially in the church, can be so harsh when they find out I struggle with depression and PTSD. I’ve had tons of offers to have people help me “pray it away,” – even from my family. Another favorite is when people tell me that when I “meet someone and fall in love” or “have a happy family of my own” that I won’t need the meds. They have success stories to “prove” it. On the opposite side, there’s the admonishment that all of this is a “spiritual sickness” and I need to get right with God. Or, when I’m having a bad day for a completely normal reason and people ask “have you taken your medication?” My medications are just like my glasses, they are a tool to help me see clearly. I don’t think there is a magic miracle to take this away, I think that the magic miracle is that God has given doctors the ability to give me a medication that alleviates suffering. Thank you for being strong enough to be a voice for those of us who are worn down by the judgements in the name of love. We need you as an advocate.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      Suzanne! I remember you! Thanks for continuing along the journey and I’ll be praying for your own…

    • me

      I can relate to everything you wrote.

    • Jimmie lee

      I used to think like the that, that people that struggled with mental illness {specific depression/anxiety} weren’t praying hard enough or didn’t have enough faith or whatever. Until, I realized that I have been suffering with bouts of depression for years! So, I have been working through all those past view points. Reading your story, Suzanne made me think of something. Sometimes you pray for real physical healing for something like cancer, or a paralyzing issue and you don’t get healed. Some people struggle with physical issues all their life even though they love Jesus, and even pray for healing often. Why would mental illness be any different? Its just like a physical injury that needs treatment and rehabilitation. (of course there are all different levels of mental illness) Its sad that the church doesn’t get it. Hopefully we can grow from this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004563365846 Facebook User

    Thank You

  • bradley

    My wife has told me all of my panic attacks are because I don’t know who I am in Christ. Great support system huh? People who have never experienced it will NEVER truly understand.

    • patriciamc

      Bradley, I’m so sorry your wife said that. Panic attacks are a physical problem just like depression is and has nothing to do with faith.

      • RMC

        I have full blown panic attacks and have had panic attacks which progressively worse as I got older since I was a child making my 1st Holy Communion when I broke out in hives all over my body and pressure in my chest and a severe pain right on the top of my head area. That was over 50 years ago and now I they are as the Dr’s. call them so full blown I am in a area on the scale that few have been. I was in a car accident driving home out in the country in 1996 from one, and was quarter of a mile from my house when one came on no notice at all and I hit the power pole and flipped my car they think 5 times and was life flighted to the hospital. I was in and out waiting on the chopper to get there, my back was broken in 4 different places and part of what I remember was a stranger in my back seat holding my neck and head tight telling me that he was a retired paramedic. I remember my boys who ran down when the power went out

    • http://www.facebook.com/gayle.brosnanwatters Gayle Brosnan-Watters

      Your wife is ignorant. Sorry if I’m too blunt, but that is the truth! I am a biological psychologist with a PhD, and I suffer with panic attacks anxiety and depression. I take meds too. Know you are not alone, and we are sending our love.

  • Brandon Gilliam

    Los – Its almost scary how identical our stories are. My journey with anxiety/depression began about 5 years ago…on a stage that I had led on numerous times, in front of people I had led in front of numerous times. It was a Night of Worship and during the second song I felt like I was about to tip over b/c I was dizzy and my heart was racing – so I walked off the stage and it took months for me to get the courage to step back on the stage to lead again. I won’t go into all the details of my journey since then, but just wanted to say a simple thank you for sharing your story, and to let you know (as you already do) that you arent alone. God will use these stories for good, as I believe the next “big” thing the Church will be dealing with is with depression/anxiety and our pews (well, not really pews, more like rows of chairs) are filled with people who struggle with this and they need to know that they arent alone, that they arent outcast, that they do still have a purpose.

    Thanks again man!

  • Kristie

    Wicked good. Fabulous even. Keep it up.

  • Troy

    Thank you Los. I’ve dealt with these issues for most of my adult life and reading your words this morning has given more inspiration and hope that I can live a happy healthy Christian life and still be able to manage my mental issues. Have a blessed Monday #tgim

  • SFS

    I’ve had the exact same experience that you have so I know what you went through first hand. The very first time it came right out of the blue while I was sitting at my desk working. No rhyme or reason. I thought for sure I was going to die. After about two months of random attacks I had to go see my doctor, yes I am THAT stubborn. As I was driving to see her I started freaking out. I managed to get into the office and the nurse said my blood pressure was indeed high (started really freaking out now). Then I was left in the room waiting for the doctor, scared, sweating, heart pounding. A knock on the door and she walked in. She had the most warm, sincere, caring, and assuring countenance when she said to me, “Sam what’s wrong?” A wave of calm came over me like I’ve never felt before, it was as though she cast a magic spell on me and I was immediately cured. She discussed in detail what was going on with me and I was prescribed Xanax and advised to see a psychologist which I did. We found out that the most likely cause for my attacks was due to the body I had found out in the wilderness a few months before, a sort of pstd. Anyway after being coached for a bit I came to realize that if one person, my doctor, had the power to immediately calm me like that then it was indeed not a real physical problem but rather a mental one that I can control. It’s not easy and in fact just writing this has got me a bit worked up but it does get better if you work on it and I hope my little story can help you in any way possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=650802417 Bob Cleveland

    Good stuff.

    I struggled with massive depression in 1984, at age 46. I studied all there was to study about it, and understanding it disarmed it .. took away the stigma that I had attached to it, in my own mind.

    I’ve never been one to pay a lot of attention to what other people thought, in most cases (not that I don’t use their brains when I can). It finally got to the point where I saw those feelings as old and annoying friends, when they’d come back. That came after I discovered the feelings could only affect how I felt .. they couldn’t touch what I did. Couldn’t make me do anything I shouldn’t and couldn’t keep me from doing anything I should.

    I would guess that, some day, the same sort of pattern will establish itself your panic attacks, and they will be mostly disarmed.

    We don’t denigrate medicating ills of the body, like asthma or a broken leg. There should be no stigma attached to medicating ills of the mind, either.

  • Jennifer

    I’m glad someone get’s what it’s like, because no one around me seems too.

  • Jessica

    Wonderful. I have diagnosed OCD, and as a pastor’s wife, it can be difficult to talk about. So glad to see people understanding that this is not a FAITH issue, this is as PHYSICAL issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1018143537 Jessica Erin Nelms

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s so refreshing to see somebody be so real and honest about an issue that carries so much stigma. Following a rape a year and half ago I’ve struggled majorly with anxiety, nightmares, depression, etc.. and have seen the looks when I shared that I was taking medication to help. Being told to just get back in church and”get over it” is heartbreaking. I don’t like feeling out of control, and when I have a nightmare or a panic attack out of the blue I get really angry at myself… Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone. And God bless you in your walk!

  • Holly Prosser

    thanks for this. Our son (17) struggles with depression. It’s real, and it’s scary. My biggest fear is that he will give up. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your openness in this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/BeckyCastleMiller Becky Castle Miller

      Having supportive patents who are helping him will make a positive difference.

      • Holly Prosser

        THanks for this Becky. I’ve dealt with my own depression, so I get how he feels. SO much harder watching him go through it though! He’s tired, and that’s scary. But he does know he can come to us, and he has… many times! I’m so thankful fr our relationship. This has grown it even more actually. God has a plan for my son, I know. I’m eager to see how it all unfolds. Hope is a beautiful thing.

  • anonymous1

    Thank you so much for this. I am a worship leader, songwriter, and author. I am up in front of people all the time, I teach women’s retreats, all kinds of things. People ask me how I could be so creative. Well it’s pretty simple: I have Bipolar II. Most people with this disease are really brilliant but can also get very depressed. I wear my heart on my sleeve to a point…people know that I get sad. But hardly anyone knows what I’m actually diagnosed with. I’ve thought about sharing it on my blog before, since a lot of people would get solace from it. But there is so much association and judgement that comes with mental disorders that I’d be afraid of losing clout or even jobs. I am really good at handling it….people don’t know. But behind closed doors I have fought and fought for my sanity. I have struggled so much with God over this issue. Thankfully, after 25 years of serious depression, I finally came to grips with the fact that it was ok for me to take medicine. I’d rather not have it but I just can’t handle life without it any more. Thank you for giving a voice to me.

    • SKC

      Anonymous1 — I would like to talk with you.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      I never knew that hyper-creativity went together with a type of bipolar disorder. I’ve been researching Billy Joel recently and found clues that he was bipolar, but this makes me more sure than ever that he suffers from Type II.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      You are welcome friend.

  • anonymous

    As a person who struggles with panic attacks (and has since the age of 6) I completely understand where you are coming from and appreciate you writing this. I keep a very low dose of Xanax with me at all times (though I only actually use it about once every 2 weeks), and just knowing I have it in case I have a panic attack seems to slow their frequency greatly. Thanks for putting this issue right out in the open.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      Thanks for commenting. I’ll be praying over all on these comments. Praying for you friend…

  • http://twitter.com/tara_brittany For His Name’s Sake♡

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your story with us. God bless you!

  • Amanda Arnold

    *Raises Hand*
    Me too!
    Daily consumer of Zoloft, Klonopin, and Trazodone over here.
    The stigma of mental illness in the church is one of the many things that has kept me away from it in the past few years. I’ve struggled with GAD and Depression since I was about 16, but have only started meds in the past year, which have helped me immensely. And I have zero desire to be judged about something that is not my fault, and that I am now successfully managing thanks only to an awesome Nurse Practitioner and daily meds.

  • http://www.stuffaudreysays.com/ Audrey the Turtle

    From one “cray” person to another– thanks!

  • Jeremy Nickurak

    Talking about fear and depression and drugs… very closely parallels my thoughts when listening to Barenaked Ladies’ song “War on Drugs”. Fortunately/unfortunately, I don’t really have a great understanding of what all this depression stuff feels like, but I get the impression that this song hits the right emotional heartstrings. It’s certainly brought me to tears…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vjQ1ii5C0k

  • http://www.jackandmandy.com Mandy Hornbuckle

    Holy cow. This is amazing.

  • Nicole

    Thank you so so so so much for writing this. this post brought tears to my eyes as my husband started getting anxiety/panic attacks the last few years and it is progressively getting worse—much worse. He found himself in the ER thinking it was a heart attack, it was just his first full blown panic attack. Strange things set him off, like Praise and Worship at our church, i just hold tight to his hand and pray. Mental illness runs in his family (mine too, my dad was bi-polar) and was always swept under the rug or joked about. It is not a joke anymore than cancer or heart disease. I just emailed him the link, it is good for people to speak out and not stay quiet so others that are dealing with the same thing know they are not alone. Praying for you, praying for him, praying people can see past the stigma and get help for something that is completely out of their human control. Thank you SO SO MUCH nicolewilkens@rocketmail.com

  • anonymous 2

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Though I am not in ministry as my paid professional, this situation is very close to my own. I have always battled a very mild form of depression and every once in a while I would feel anxious, but nothing that didn’t seem appropriate for the occasion. But this all changed last October for me. I was at work and had the same experience. I felt like my heart skipped a beat then it was racing. I had extreme tunnel vision to the point of almost a blackout, I began sweating buckets of sweat but was actually cold. Arms and legs went numb. SCARIEST EXPERIENCE EVER! I have talked to my doctor about it had have a prescription (though I have yet to actually use it. I think just as scared to take the pill as I am of the panic attacks.) should they become too much for me. But now, though never to the same extreme extent, I have mild panic attacks that can last a couple of days. Some times popping up for no reason. As a Christian, I’ve prayed and continue to pray that same prayer. Like others below, I’ve only shared this with a couple of very close people I trust. One of the most frustrating things about the church is that we can be more judgmental then the world. This isn’t a faith thing, or a not being in the word thing, or bad prayer life thing, (fill in the blank with stereotypical Christian rhetoric) sometimes it just happens. Just because we are Christians, doesn’t mean life will always be sunshine and roses. God allows us to have thorns. The two verses that have helped me through my panic attacks are: 1 Corinthians 10:13, Matthew 11:30, and James 1:3. Though this they aren’t temptations, I still find comfort in the fact that God will not allow us to got through something that we cannot bare.

  • Kristy

    Love that you wrote this. I’ve had panic attacks since I was a kid but didn’t know until a few years ago what they were. It’s the hardest thing to explain to someone who has never had one. I was so ashamed when I first had to take meds for it but I came to see they were necessary. My anxiety is now better than it was but I find it manifests itself in different ways as I get older. But anyway, enough about me, thanks to you for sharing your story. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone.

  • Becki

    Thank you and well said.

  • thormoo T. Davis

    I am so grateful that you shared this with the world. There are many of us who suffer from anxiety, Panic Attacks and Depression and the stereo-typing can be the most damaging aspect of it. The key to recovery is getting the help yet the stigma prevents people from doing so. The more people speak out about their experience…the better for the cause. But that can be WAY easier then staying silent.

  • Pingback: Can we start talking about this? Really? | growing in grace

  • Pingback: My Panic Attacks, My Mental Illness, And The Church’s Dirty Little Secret | Pastor Leaders

  • ruminator

    BTDT and hear everything you say. I’m still a depressive and will likely always have that component to my personality.

    I haven’t darkened the doors of a church much in the last eight years. It’s not that I don’ believe anymore. My faith got me through some pretty bad times the last couple of years. I just don’t care to expose myself to the needs of others to protect myself.

    I was a worship team leader for ten years. I played guitar and sang. I organized the set lists, made the arrangements, shepherded cats, dealt with congregation members who thought they knew how to do it right. When the worst round of depression hit, I quit, quit the band I was playing in, and focused on getting through each day. Medication didn’t help me. Talk therapy did.

    Take care of yourself, brother…

  • Nancy

    Yours is a story that can be told by so many in church ministry, myself included. I, too, have my panic and anxiety under the illusion of control, but still struggled with the shame and stigma of mental illness. I cried as I read your words, Thank you for being our voice.

  • CJ

    This is great! Thanks, Los! One of my best friends struggles with severe OCD and I would never suggest to him that he needs to have more faith or that he should stop taking his meds or that he can’t serve in his local church. But don’t you think that in addition to be a physical condition sometimes there is an element of mental illness that is spiritual attack, too? Look at Saul in the 1 Sam.16…that dude was tormented… and it was sent by God. Why do you think God allows these kinds of things into our lives? I’m certain it’s not because He thinks we don’t have enough faith but could it be that He wants us to continue to turn to Him in everything? Even Paul believed he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to make him more dependent on God. Therein lies the power!…when one who struggles with a mental illness steps out to say “I struggle but God is sufficient and I’m moving forward in His strength (and some xanax)!” Then God gets the glory in our weakness. Isn’t that the whole purpose?

  • abbysnews

    Thank you for this important post about mental illness! I feel like the church needs more awareness and understanding about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard jokes in sermons, poking fun at people who struggle with certain things. Mental illness is not funny, it’s very real and hard to deal with, and something that just doesn’t go away by praying. It’s very much a physical thing and not necessarily a spiritual thing. Medication helps and the stigma sometimes in Christian circles is that you shouldn’t need medication for depression or other related things, you should just trust God. People close to me have mental illnesses and they trust God, but they also need meds. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • annonymous34

    Wow Thank you so much for writing. I left the church because of this reason. I was diagnosed with Bipolar, borderline personality, and Anxiety. I had a Reverend tell me God cursed me because of a past decision I made. Well, I left and gave up on God. I finally come back around found a church that accepts me for me and all my faults. I work with the youth there and also in other ministries at the church. Jesus came for the sick/sinners I wished some “churches” will wake up and quit stereotyping mental illness isn’t a curse you can’t just woke up one day and it’s gone. Like you said the “Bible is filled with “crazy people”.Blessings

  • http://www.boynamedtracy.com/ td

    As the theologian Billy Currington said, “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy”

  • http://twitter.com/rhetter Rhett Smith

    Love it Carlos…..thanks for continuing to share this message.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      Thanks for what you do Rhett…

  • House

    Great post my friend. Something that so many of us don’t talk about.

  • Alisha Blair

    This post makes me cry because I have struggled with severe anxiety and panic attacks since I can remember. when I was little I was afraid of everything I would go into utter melt down mode and into a fit, people and my parents thought I was just being a brat but my doctor says that those were early signs of panic attacks. It wasn’t until I was in college that I had a complete severe panic attack. I thought I was having a heart attack I was for sure dying, I couldn’t see couldn’t hear my chest was numb. That’s when my official “diagnosis” came about. I can remember making worry apart of my everyday life I would worry about going places, and if I wasn’t worrying about going somewhere I had some messed up idea that if I wasn’t worrying about it then it was definitely bad like I became comforted by the worry and panic because that’s all I have known. I have tried everything prayer, medicine, meditation, acupuncture, exercise, yoga, more medicine, cold turkey trying to force it away nothing has helped. And why yes those are merely band aides but seeing this post and being able to just talk about it is freeing! I sometimes wish I had an extra nose something so people would be more understanding for me not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. I am a mother of four and those kiddos are mainly what keeps me moving on, forces me to get out of bed and take care of them. I have been on my knees praying many times and yelling and screaming and kicking and fighting in my prayers with God, but deep down I think he knows that this is a struggle I will always face and that I am strong enough to work thru this. When you said a thorn that’s so true its like you live your life dancing around the rose bush just waiting to be poked by the thorn of anxiety!

    I have followed your blog for a long time now and I am so honored to be able to read your words and know that there are others out there who function the same as I do . Mental illness is not a weakness but something we can all learn from!! Its a battle everyday, but I will keep fighting.

  • Nikki D

    (((Los))) As a fellow panic attack sufferer and worship leader in training- and a mom and a follow of Jesus and a college student and a fellow christian seeking her place in ministry- I so appreciate your honesty and transparency. So often, I read your blog and am grateful. This time, I had to stand up and applaud you. I very sincerely thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deb.rich1 Deb Pierce Rich

    Having it happen, go away, and just thinking of it coming back is unbearable. You live with such dread and fear because you know how bad it feels. and you pray to God, Please Not Again. My heart goes out to you.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    Well, your first two myths are legit myths, but the third one needs more specifics. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes. Some kinds should disqualify a person from ministry. For panic attacks/depression, that’s a nuanced sort of thing too. In your case you’ve never been suicidal, but I would argue that somebody who has gotten to that level should be free of the burden of leadership in the church.

    • ragamuffinsoul

      For how long?

      • yankeegospelgirl

        As long as the illness lasts. I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of. I’s a cross to carry. It’s like a wounded soldier who’s honorably discharged. There are many ways to serve God. But leadership requires freedom, focus, emotional resilience, an ability to take on others’ burdens as well as your own—all things that suicidal depression will drain from you. Suicidal depression places you into a kind of spiritual warfare that limits the extent to which you can lead others—not through any fault of your own but through the sheer physical reality of it.

        • Aimee

          I’m not sure i agree with your comment. Living with GAD, OCD, and paranoia, AND having been in ministry for nearly 20 years, I feel I can say with great certainty that my work for Christ has saved me from myself. It’s so easy to become paralyzed by these struggles, so easy to give into them and let them swallow you. If it weren’t for those moments when I am teaching, sharing, leading worship, counseling, etc. I believe i would fold in on myself. The fact that I am wounded, broken, damaged and vulnerable makes it that much easier to be tender towards the scars of others. My counselor told me once that the fact that I recognize that I need help signifies that there is still a healthy part of my brain. With Gods help, for as long as I live, I will fight to strengthen that healthy part. I will defy mental illness and refuse to surrender to anxiety, depression, or compulsion. Some days are harder than others and all I can do is be still and remind myself to inhale and exhale. But there are days when the world sits right and I must gather His goodness into me and hold on to it for the next wave. When I’ve done all I can do to stand, I’ve just got to be willing to lean.

        • http://www.facebook.com/BeckyCastleMiller Becky Castle Miller

          That sounds similar to saying someone who has suicidal thoughts shouldn’t be allowed to care for their kids. The same skills and needs apply. Knowing my kids needed me was one of the main things that kept me alive. Leading in ministry is still possible in the face of mental illness, as is parenting.

      • Taz

        some superfoods, herbs and a natural diet would fix you right up!

  • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

    Good word, Los … thanks for being real, as always!!

  • Stacy

    Wow, as a fellow worship leader these posts are healing for me. You put my thoughts into words that I wouldn’t udder out loud, not even to my husband at times. Your transparency is a ministry in itself. Thank you. For everytime I have felt defeated because of taking “the crazy medicine” that I would never tell a soul about, to the times that in mid worship leading, the words that I’m singing are the only tattered rope holding me from losing my mind to the racing heart and blurred vision. It is a thorn. Thank you for sharing.

  • Special Needs Mom

    My heart breaks for you because we on another hand have suffered the ignorance of the church. We have a child with Special Needs and has been loved and accepted in every area of his life for the most part except two places and they were both churches. And it wasn’t the whole church with the bad heart, it was in both cases the person in charge of handling the children’s ministry. ONE person can destroy a child and their family because of the status they hold. When you finally speak up after being quiet for years and try to handle it in the Matthew approach and just get “I don’t believe he would do that” or “we can’t make every parent happy” what do you do? We have not given up on “Church” because we have finally found a church with hearts that bleed for special needs families. God says in Matthew “Let the little children come unto me….” He doesn’t add “unless they have special needs.” Praying for you!

    • momof4

      I too have a special needs child, and the church who said they would ‘be there for the family’ seems to be turning on us. “WE” didn’t educate them enough and expect us to do for the church what the church should be doing for us. I’m supposed to find a curriculum for my child to be able to attend youth group, I am to be in charge of ‘THAT’ youth group. Thank you all for sharing

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Taylor/1324826411 Joseph Taylor

    good word … thanks for the transparency … good will come of this for the Kingdom!

  • http://www.kylechowning.com/ Kyle Chowning

    Love the honesty and transparancy Carlos. I’ve got your back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rochell.manuel Rochell Amanda Brewer Manuel

    Thank you for the good words. I am a Children’s Minister in SC. I have prayed also to have my anxiety taken away but God chooses to hold me in his hands through life. You bless many people by speaking up.

  • rjones217

    Carlos, as a fellow sufferer, I appreciate your honesty. Been suffering depression for about 45 years. It comes and goes, has nothing to do with outside influences. I have been depressed when I didn’t have a care in the world, and happy as a lark when going through a tough time. The feelings are real, but the often don’t reflect reality. There is NO one-size-fits-all cure. I am glad when people understand what we are going through.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynne.elrod Lynne Elrod

    I had to look to see if I had written this myself unknowingly…I too have suffered through panic attacks for 25 years…When I first started I was mearly reading the paper one evening and they began the same way, with that flutter, as if my heart was trying to cut a flip in my chest along with the palpatations…Many years have gone by and I can say; rarely do I even notice now…Once I finally was able to accept the fact that I was not going to die and if I took my meds as soon as I felt them coming on, the fear began to subside…Thank you for posting this because many that suffer with them are hiding behind them in fear that people will think they are loosing it…If you do not have them then you have no idea what they are and how they can consume you if you give in to them.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeHartleyUK Mike Hartley

    Los
    I know how you feel. I’ve been fighting depression and panic for 6 years now. Hopefully people will read this post, and these comments, and

    For me it started with severe depression and a breakdown. Days and weeks in bed with my kids wondering what had happened to their daddy. Everyone treading on eggshells for fear I would burst into tears, curl up in a ball or run out of the room babbling.
    I accepted quickly that this was a chemical imbalance and an illness but it did take stop the thoughts of suicide – yes, I did ponder that and even planned ways of doing it.
    It’s gotten less intense, but I can’t say it’s gotten easier.

    I struggle with people, and really can’t cope with crowds or new circumstances. When life gets tough, the panic attacks grow stronger. When the walls close in I even start to imagine the “what ifs” of suicide. In fact, if it wasn’t for my family I would probably not be here.

    I get upset and annoyed when people start throwing faith (or lack of) at me. Occasionally I can manage to explain myself, but I normally just have to walk away.

    It’s said that in the UK one in 3 people suffer mental related illnesses – and yet there’s still a huge amount of stigma and social unacceptable that just adds to what we have to deal with.

    Of course, as with all illnesses, prayer can bring healing and I will pray for you – if I can ask for people to pray for me also.

    God bless you, and may you know His peace.

    Mike

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1406679568 facebook-1406679568

    You must go to a strange church if they believe THAT stuff. The church I attend doesn’t have ANY of those weird beliefs about mental illness, anxiety or depression.

  • DebD

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. Although I don’t struggle with this, my Christ-following wonderful husband and completely dedicated father who committed suicide 2 years ago did. Oh, how I get this. Thank you for speaking truth into a world (the church world) which so desperately still needs to get it.

  • Rev. Mary Jo Bradshaw

    God bless you, Carlos, for this very eloquent and timely post! I’m a church pastor and am very open about my own struggle with depression because I want other people to know that (a) they don’t need to be ashamed or embarrassed; and (b) I want them to know it’s o.k. to get help.

  • Tara

    Depression is my struggle, has been off and on since my teen years. I have a vivid memory in my mind of a time when I had just started meds to help, and hearing some dear friends, not knowing of my struggles, talk about depression, and how it just needed more prayer, more faith, and no meds…it was so hard to hear, but I wasn’t strong enough then to share what I was dealing with, or take a stand for myself. Fast forward many years, and these same folks had a family member who was struggling with severe depression, trying to find the right medication & counseling to help….my, how their view point changed! I am very thankful to be in a good place now, and also very thankful for folks like you who are willing and able to share the truth of mental illness and how it looks in the church.

  • Fletch

    Amen brother… Keep telling the truth… May God continue to shine His Face upon You.

    Grailin and Lynda Fletcher, The Grove Community Church in Rvsd. Ca

  • http://twitter.com/TheresaWonders Theresa Houze

    I’ve had anxiety and depression for years without the words to describe it, because it wasn’t even an option. Didn’t get a diagnosis until a couple years ago when it all flared up with panic attacks so bad I thought I was dying or losing my mind. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been told to try harder/believe more, snap out of it, and get over myself. That medication is literally of-the-devil-evil. That I just need to get right with God. Thank you for your words. They give me a bit of hope that the church is waking up.

  • Katie

    Your honesty about living with mental illness is what keeps me coming back to this blog. Every voice speaking out against the bullshit that we like to shoot each other with is necessary.

  • Elizabeth

    As a therapist, the daughter of a pastor, and someone who has faced my own battles with depression, I can’t thank you enough for your transparency. God is infinitely gracious and in His unlimited grace, He gave us tools like therapists, medication, and support groups to deal with the brokenness we now face. Until Christ returns to make everything right, may we be bold in our brokenness, utterly dependent on His faithfulness, and may we suffer well and “make war” until we see Him and are like Him.

  • Lynn S

    Thank you for the courage to write this and God bless you. If more people feel free to stand up and say what you said, the stigma around mental illness will go away. I’ve suffered off and on for 24 years with depression and anxiety. I too take medication, and I too am a Christian. God has used your story to touch people and say “it is ok” even if it is only for a moment. Thank you again!

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  • Daisy Rain Martin

    DUDE! I LOVE JESUS AND I’M ON ZOLOFT!

    I’ve never been on your blog and have only just now heard of you–but I’m a fan. I developed an anxiety from having to deal with the parents of my 7th graders. (Note: Some are MEAN! And CRAY-CRAY!) I’d list the symptoms, but it sounds like you know ‘em well. I signed up for your newsletter. I’ll be checking in! :)

    Daisy Rain Martin

  • Pat

    Thank you for sharing this. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for awhile now I can totally relate to everything you said. I have also desired for many years for God to completely heal me of this thorn in my side. Something that gave me a new perspective was something my counselor shared with me. She said that God could heal me of all of this. At the same time it’s part of who God made me to be. My desire is to be able to use the mental energy that I put forth on the inside and direct it outwards. To be able to use it to change the lives of others.

  • http://twitter.com/hapy2 BriAnne Bellomy

    Thank you dot hitting this dead on..I work with kids with mental health disorders on all levels and know so many who refuse God because someone in a church told them they weren’t good enough and didn’t have enough faith… I them the opposite and gave them a flicker of hope… It needs to be addressed the right way starting now…

  • Traveler Wendell

    Los, I call it “the Pit”. The anxiety makes me feel helpless and then the depression makes me feel hopeless, then I find myself in “the Pit”. Mine started when I was a teenager, it has come and gone (but not all the way) many times in my life. I went over a decade without a panic attack and then a few years ago a stressful time at work brought it all falling back down around me. I’m doing better now. A good counselor, good meds and a wife that is my best friend and my biggest fan. I’ve been praying for God to use me for His Glory but I always seem to find myself at dead ends. I’m not so good at being able to tell God’s voice over my own. What you’ve done here has touched me. I need to do some praying but I’m wondering if there needs to be more and more of us that stand up and share our stories. Thank you!

  • teacherdan

    Well said. I’ve experienced the same thing…

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindi.todich Cindi Todich

    Thank you so much for being such a strong Christian and leader! My daughter has been battling bi-polar disorder since she was 13 and she is only 21 now. Some of the people in the churches we have been in have treated her (or even said it to her and us) that she is deep in sin and needs to repent. You are an encouragement to me that there are powerful leaders that truely understand and are willing to speak out! Thank you again!

  • Aleisha Utterback

    This is so true. My sister is in leadership in the church, and she can hardly drive down the highway. We’re talking a powerful, spirit-filled, bold woman of God! It is a physical reaction…not a spiritual one. But, we also tend to separate spiritual and physical to the point that we don’t realize how much impact they have on each other. The amount of anxiety and depression is a relatively new, albeit HUGE problem in the people of our world. I truly believe it has a significant relation to the unbelievably adulterated nutrition in our country and many parts of the globe at large. There are big BIG strides being made with nutritional therapies and depression. Certainly, drugs are helpful for controlling the symptoms and the episodes…but, they will never free you or give you complete victory over the problem. God gave us a beautiful design that was to fuel all the cells and adrenal glands and chemical systems in our bodies, so that we could deal with life how we are supposed to. When you add toxicity and the uber-stressors of our world to the bastardization of our food supply, and it’s no wonder that any of us are standing up straight any more. Next time someone says that your physical manifestation of worldly stress is having too little faith…just remind them that Jesus sweat BLOOD in the garden of Gethsemane due to his anxiety. Would they question HIS level of faith?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nickcarnes Nick Carnes

    My day job is managing a substance abuse program, my second job is planting a church. I know some great, brilliant people that struggle with mental illness. Unfortunately, those in the church who like to keep this a secret typically do so through denial and it prevents them from getting the help they really need. I have some great Christian men in my substance abuse program. Why are they addicted to drugs/alcohol? For a period of time in their life they were in denial to their mental illness and instead of getting the proper medication & counseling to help them gain some sort of control and normalcy, they turned to drugs/alcohol to self medicate. Doctors, nurses, college professors with doctorates, pastors…you name it, I’ve seen it. They all love Jesus, but they all share a similar struggle. Their healing has come through acceptance, counseling and the proper medication. Thank you for your transparency. Someone needs the freedom to face their illness head on and the rest of us need to know that it’s not an evil oppressing our brothers and sisters in the church.

  • C.B.

    Los, I really appreciate this and all your posts on this topic. I think it’s a topic that isn’t openly talked about. About 3 years ago I went through an incredibly difficult situation and my world came crashing down and I was so deep into depression I did attempt to rid myself of the world…twice. By the grace of God I was caught both times. I’ve been through multiple counseling sessions, tons of medicine and still struggle from time to time with depression. I have since ended counseling and stopped the meds and it’s really tough sometimes. I’m not sure exactly what to do about it yet, but this post and a post from the past where you talked about the idea of taking medication for depression helped me realize it’s not a bad or negative thing to do.

    I realize this is a long post, but I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your openness in this matter! God bless man!

  • Abby

    Thank you, just thank you.

  • Susan

    One of the best things I’ve ever seen on the internet. As a psychotherapist, and as one who has had panic disorder, I most humbly THANK YOU. You are doing the Lord’s work, sharing this. Peace.

  • Rachel Rode

    You hit it spot on. This is exactly what I’ve struggled with for years. I tried everything but medication to stop the attacks, and they did get better with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but ultimately, the meds are what have let me lead a “normal” fulfilling life. I prayed to the point of sweating daily, asking God to release me from this horror, but it remains. And thank GOD that we have things to help us get through them! He has never left me amid the fear and anxiety, and in fact, were it not for the panic attacks, I would likely not be nearly as close to my Lord as I am today.

  • Elisa

    Thank you so much for your post Los… I’ve been struggling with depression these past two years for the first time and I’ve been feeling so lost and confused.

  • Sara

    I hate these panic attacks. Just started having them last year. No one understands until they’ve had one. Thanks for sharing, Carlos.

  • JD

    As a Brother in Christ, a veteran, and someone who has struggled with suicide, depression, and, now for the last 8 years since returning from Iraq, has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, I am here on your side. I understand the fear, the struggle, the pain that you go through! The Church has turned a blind eye towards many things…this being one that is ridiculous. Continue fighting for Christ. Continue pursuing him. He puts brilliant minds in the positions he needs them to be, such as doctors, psychologists, and brothers in the battle. Stay strong and God Bless!
    -JD

  • Dave

    “Illusion of control” is perfectly stated, my brother! Thank you SO much for posting this. Those who have never experienced the inability to control their own mind and thoughts tend to take it very much for granted. I, too, have struggled, and continue to do so, with God and why He chose to “bless” me with this thorn. Many of us take physical health for granted. But when you cannot rely on your own mind, what then? Health care professionals say that our attitudes have a lot to do with how/if we heal from injury/illness. Again, those who have the automatic subconscious thought process to conjure up the determination or strength to get well – will never give a second thought as to what they would do if they didn’t have this ability. As a fellow musician in a Praise Team setting, it is especially frustrating not to be able to freely worship without fearing when the next mistake will occur. Psychologically healthy people will never understand. May God bless you, my beloved.

  • Carol

    Here is a great resource that some Christian counselors I know give to their clients, as a help and reference for those struggling with anxiety/panic attacks. It is called “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.” http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia-Workbook-Edmund-Bourne/dp/1572248912. You may have heard of this book already. It was recommended as a reference to us, part of the Masters in Counseling program where I am a student, graduating in June of this year from Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, PA. http://biblical.edu/index.php/become-a-student/degree-programs/counseling-degree-biblical-seminary. God bless you for sharing your story with us!

  • Mary

    Reading these comments and your own testimony about panic attacks has hit right at home for me. I have only recently had this struggle in my life. I have played the piano just about my entire life, and I have been the pianist at my church for over 10 years. Over the past few months, we’ve had a lot of loss in our lives through family and friends, and I believe that may have triggered my panic/anxiety attacks. I have felt them coming on when I accompany the choir for their special on Sunday mornings, and a few weeks ago, I had to step down from the piano while playing for the congregation. My heart was racing and I felt like the room was closing in on me, and I just couldn’t control it. I’ve been nervous before playing the piano, and that is something that has always motivated me to do my best, but the feeling I experienced a few weeks ago was very scary. I couldn’t control it, and I felt like if I didn’t excuse myself I would pass out. I have talked to my doctor about this, and in the meantime have taken some time off from playing the piano at my church. I haven’t used my medicine until about 5 days ago when my husband and I were traveling on the interstate. He asked me to drive for a while, so I did. He asked if I was okay to drive, and I said I was fine, and as I was driving, I starting wondering if I really was fine and not too much longer after that I was sweating, very anxious/nervous, and that same feeling of panic that I had at the piano was coming on again. My husband noticed something wasn’t right, I told him how I was feeling, and he asked me to get off at the next exit. I couldn’t wait that long, I had to pull over on the side of the interstate and take some medicine. I felt so defeated and just don’t understand why this is happening to me, but I took my first dose and I did notice it helped. It makes me nervous though thinking if I will ever be able to perform again at the piano or drive on a long trip when I’ve never had this problem before. Saying all this, I know the Lord will make me stronger through this struggle, and it is encouraging to know I’m not alone. Please pray for me that I will grow through this and the Lord would heal me of this if it’s His will, and that I will be able to perform again and drive on the interstate without these attacks coming on. It has helped me a great deal tonight to read how many of you can still serve in ministry and function daily. Thank you for sharing, because I’m greatly struggling with this right now.

  • Amy

    More public figures need to be transparent about this. It’s hard to live with the stigma. Especially in ministry.

  • Jenny

    You described me with the panic and anxiety and depression symptoms. Thank you for being real and opening up what feels like a private nightmare nobody understands. We don’t suffer alone. Countless others go through nearly the exact same experience. It’s comforting to know this brokenness is common because it feels so lonely and isolating. Thank you for having the COURAGE to share this. And to call it what it is. I too have wondered why God has not taken this from me. I have to trust it is part of his plan. Peace be to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JoHnY05 Justin Davis

    I never have understood that. i get faith healing being a thing but God’s will is quite a bit bigger and that seems to slip past all of us in so many areas. either way man, i don’t care how crazy you are, or how crazy you get, ;) just know you’ve always been an inspiration to me on how to approach the task of leading people is singing praise to the One True God, and in the act of loving God in a real way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SherryinNH Sherry Yeaton

    I know you’ve tried what feels like everything. But just for the record (and I didn’t read any other comments): your brain chemicals are made out of what you eat. You can have a nutritional imbalance.
    We also knew a person who had panic attacks leading to agoraphobia who turned out to have: intestinal parasites and they could fix that. The idea was that she had a nutritional problem,although she ate well. The parasites ate first and stripped out whatever it was that she needed, leading her body to break down the food into usable form and send it out to her organs.
    When she needed her body to function (and usually never sitting at home, drinking tea)…her brain would send the fight or flight reflext to the rest of her body. A nutritional chiropractor doctor helped her fix this. It also cleared up her tooth-grinding, weirdly. Also, another friend was having all kinds of crazy symptoms. He ended up to have Lyme Disease although three tests had come back negative. In the old days, the test had a very high false negative rate. Then he was tested when he was on antibiotics for something else. Then he was tested by the world-renowned doctor who didn’t know to ask for the long form of the test.
    Once they got to a Lyme doctor in MA, he figured it out. The spirochete had made it past the “brain barrier” and it was causing all kinds of symtoms. The doctor told them that he did his undergraduate work in a mental facility somewhere and a statistically high percentage of people (not sure how high) in the facility with mental symtpoms also tested positive for Lyme with the most accurate test at the time.
    So who knows what we’re going to find, long term? Anyway, I love the Lord – He’s made the body in an unbelievably complex way. Keep knocking on doors; sometimes the most unexpected ones have answers behind them. Praying for you today!

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  • The Wretched Saint

    I call my season of anxiety and depression that came over me, my descent into hell.
    Started with not panic attacks but a crushing 24/7 anxiety that lead to dry heaves and sleeping 2-3 hours per night while I tried to man up and face it serving on a mega-church staff. The phone would ring in my office and I would dread answering it. It finally came to a head when I was in a meeting and so exhausted I could see I wasn’t even constructing sentences correctly (and I spoke for a living).

    I got agoraphobia and anti-hedonism. You could offered me a front row ticket to a fave sporting event and I would have said, “No thanks.” I walked around the house unable to focus on any task and my spouse didn’t know what to do with the situation. I got my hunting guns out of the house. You don’t truly understand it if you haven’t walked thru it. Why I appreciate you “coming out.”

    I went to a counselor who explained we have a Christian mind BUT also a biological organism called a brain. He said I needed to go see a psych. My initial reaction was NO WAY. Staff members told me that taking meds would mask what God wanted to do in my life (meh!). I finally ignored them and got real help from Dr. David Henderson in Dallas (Psych and Christian Professor).

    Three things got me through this season

    1. A person who had gone thru this already and walked me daily thru it. Also hearing a hero Tommy Nelson at Denton Bible go thru the same experience. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.aspx?ID={1A0F9D4F-C845-46AD-B196-41C170EFCE27}

    2. Writing out the Psalms in 1st person. I didn’t sense or feel God during this season. I was “flying by the instruments” and understood what CS Lewis wrote about God barring the door. I did all i knew to do.

    3. The meds and solid counselor (Pat O’Malley if you are in the DFW area).

    The BLESSING:

    The experience radically increased my trust in God. Everything else in life now seems more like the second hill on a roller coaster and I know God held me on the first hill on days I thought I was going to come flying out (or jump out).

    Thanks for your honesty.

    TheWretchedSaint.com

  • Sam

    No one person should judge another for their struggles, lest they be tempted themselves! To tell someone to just ‘put the fork down’ or ‘quit doing that’ or ‘get over it’ is easy to say and hard to do unless you are the one with the problem. I say to continue to fight the good fight! Don’t give up, don’t give in. I read that a lot of people dealing with this can ‘control it’ at work. This is a GOOD thing, right?

    Continue to believe God for healing and know there is a time and season for all things. I do believe that how and what we eat can affect our overall well-being, as someone else posted. (Certain vitamins and minerals can help support mental health like Vitamin C helps with immune system).

    Praying!

  • http://twitter.com/raisingrealmen Raising Real Men

    Thanks for this. It’s so true. When we look back through history, we see that many of the greatest Christian leaders of the past struggled with things like this and yet God used them to change the world.

  • vickie1

    Thanks for sharing this. Fortunately, I don’t struggle with any of these things, but I struggle with many other things. I have a mother-in-law who is mentally ill, and I know how hard it can be. I think it is something that needs to come out and be talked about more. Thank you for being bold enough to share your struggle with others. I know I am encouraged by it!

  • http://choosetotrust.com/ Scott Perkins

    Thanks for the brave words. I love your testimony and the simple points for people whose advice has more to do with their own comfort rather than displaying compassion.

    While it is related to marriage in this blog, Romans 15:7 needs to be better lived out in our church communities. Thanks again. http://choosetotrust.com/2013/04/the-accepting-marriage/

  • Georgie Davis

    Thanks for sharing your very personal story here… especially meaningful during this time as we see the Warren’s grieving and having to also endure critics of all sorts.

  • LeAnn Lewis

    Thank you for speaking out on this. You are NOT alone! I suffered for many years and kept hearing from my church (former church) and my family that I needed to pray more and have more faith. When I finally got help for my depression and anxiety, it was like a fog cleared and I could see Him more clearly. A close family member still, from time to time, will take the attitude that those of us with depression and/or anxiety should just “get over it”. I don’t let comments like that pass anymore, but stand my ground so that maybe one day, people will understand.

  • Angel Faulk

    Thank you for sharing! I have family members who struggle with mental illness and It Sucks! Very godly people suffering- Needed to read this today:) BLESSINGS!

  • Eli

    Carlos,
    I wouldn’t be sharing this if my wife, Lisa, was not OK with it. We’ve been married almost 30 years. She’s been sick for 29. Every church we have served or attended has had people who told us they would pray for us (as if the prayers through the years by us and others were somehow insufficient). There were also those who would offer prayer out of genuine and God-led concern. But she’s still sick. 29 years of illness. We our now in our 4th year of stability.
    Stability is not heath, but it is a lot better than unstable. My wife has a substance problem. The substances in question are the chemicals that serve, or rather, fail to serve her mind within the ranges that God established as “normal”. These chemical imbalances are not punishment for sin any more than a child born with one arm (physically imbalanced) is being punished for sin. My wife suffers from bi-polar disorder… treatment resistant bi-polar disorder. Let me not forget to mention that she also suffers from ADD and Seasonal Affective Disorder. We are so grateful that she no longer suffers from fibromyalgia. She is stable now because she takes 6 meds every day.
    Mental chemical imbalances are scary – I know. Untreated, Lisa would cycle twice a day – from the high of literally “seeing God” standing in our living room to the low of planning her death. She is stable now. When someone doesn’t have an arm, it is easy to see how to help – we can carry stuff for them, open doors for them, teach them how to function independently and well with just one arm.
    For the church, the response is tied to knowing what to do. We always respond better if we “know” what to do, than when we don’t. With chemical imbalances, there is only one thing you can do. Understand. Don’t talk about them to others as if this a series of bad choices. I promise you that there is nothing about mental illness that is choice. (Did the child choose to be born armless?) Don’t shun them because you don’t know what to do. You can’t fix it. You can’t do anything… except understand. Lisa would appreciate that response. My kids would appreciate that response. I would appreciate that response. And please pray for us. But don’t for a minute think that we have somehow lacked faith, or failed to know anyone… anywhere… for 29 years that had enough faith to pray for her healing.
    Carlos – please know that I understand.

  • WayTruthLife
  • http://www.facebook.com/rachel.carbonarabyrne Rachel Carbonara Byrne

    I love what you wrote. I have suffered from anxiety/depression. It is weird because when I went to the dr and they gave me these questions to answer they said I was stage 4 of 5 depression and put me on paxil. I dealt with it and went to a therapist and was able to come off the paxil. Years later the dr told me I had anxiety and put me back on paxil and I said that’s what I took for depression and that is when I found out that even though you would think they are totally opposite they are really quite the same. I also am a Christian as is my family and my mother was upset that I went on medication and went to a therapist because in her mind it was the same thing if I was a good Christian I wouldn’t need it. What I have done to help me is make my own Happy Book. I had started collecting posistive articles, quotes, scripture verses and kind of made a scrap book out of all of them. I have 2 pages that just list everything that makes me happy whether its going to the movies, fried chicken, my sons and just made the page colorful and happy so when I start to feel myself sink into depression I get my books (now I have 2 of them) out and start going through it and does help alot. Some of my co-workers and family wrote in it and I have drawings and stuff too. I think the key to dealing with depression/anxiety attacks is the moment you start to feel it then think of something that makes you happy and do it. My big thing is going to the movies. I love it. Get some popcorn the movie comes on and I can just relax and forget all my worries. Needless to say I go to the movies alot but sometimes once I go I come out and it just was the break I needed to go back to life. Our childrens’ pastor recently just resigned and told us that he was suffering from it too and he hid it for a while because of the stigma with it. Me and my family made him a happy book so not sure if it will help him but wanted him to know he was not alone with what he was going through.
    Thanks for this post!!

  • http://twitter.com/MelodyAWriter Melody Michelle

    Los, this was beautiful. Thank you for being honest and sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/reneylow Irene Costilow

    Brave words and I so appreciate your vulnerability! I, too, have suffered with panic/anxiety/depression attacks and have experienced the pain of fellow believers who have “judged” my Chrisitianity! God bless you! We, as the church, need to pray and help our brothers and sisters in love, not judgment!

  • Mike Mack

    Thanks for sharing this and being real. People simply don’t understand mental struggles like depression and panic attacks unless they or someone in their family experience them. Every one of us in my family–my wife and I and our 4 kids–deal with depression, anxiety, or both. It’s somewhat similar to me having Type-1 diabetes for more than 40 years.Akin to what you said, my faith and my dead islet cells aren’t the same thing.

    Yes, I wish ppl in our churches could understand and throw away the religious cliches that really show off their legalism. But, at the same time, those of us who deal with these oft-hidden afflictions get to practice grace. We get to be like Jesus, and simply forgive them, since they really don’t know what they’re doing. We get the opportunity to love unconditionally, even when our brothers and sisters in Christ act like complete idiots. And that’s pretty much what the Kingdom of God is all about.

  • Bradley R.

    Carlos,

    I am 32 and had severe panic attacks for years. Have you tried a combination of Clonazepan and Bystolic to help get them under control. Ever looked into Dysautonomia? It is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. There is a clinic in Birmingham, AL that treats it. I HIGHLY recommend them. Thanks for the transparency.

  • Johnny Robinson

    As someone who struggles with the same exact thing brotha, I could not agree more. I especially love the part about people saying “you don’t need medicine”. I have almost the same response you do that I give people all the time. I have mad love for you man. Keep doing what you do.

  • Danielle

    Thank you for sharing friend! I remember that day well! I appreciate your openness in sharing more than you know. I am proud of How God is using you in your weakness. This experience is one that hits very close to home, and I know God uses this in your life and others’ lives to show His power and Glory!

  • Believingin1

    “All Is Grace” Ann Voskamp would tell you. It’s only by God’s grace Im still here..I have avoided commenting b/c I feel like Im jumping on the wagon. The Dirty little church secret is “the church” doesn’t know what to say to people like us. They don’t know how to make it better, and people say hurtful things and it drives the blade deeper somedays. I would soak in oil if it made it better. I just want to be free of it!! We will all talk about this and give this Depression & Christianity its 5 min of fame and move on to something else. But we carry our thorn until. Until.He. Decides. Enough.

  • Anthony

    Depression and Anxiety has made me feel as if I can’t have the kind of family I want because I might not be able to handle the anxiety of having more kids.

  • minikin83

    Great post! I recently gave a speech regarding this very thing to my MOPS (Mothers of
    Preschoolers) group – about 75 women with at least one child under the age of
    4. It’s real, it can happen at any time. Here is a brilliant statement I think you may appreciate: “I write this with all reverence: God Himself can not deliver a person who is not in trouble. Therefore, it is to some advantage to be in distress, because God can then deliver you. … Therefore,sickness is not an adversity for us, but rather an advantageous opportunity for Christ to heal us. The point is, my reader, your adversity may prove your advantage by offering occasion for the display of divine grace,”
    Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. … I highly recommend Beth Moore’s “Praying God’s Word” Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds to any Christian struggling with anxiety, panic and/or depression, she has many great prayers
    and suggestions to make the most of our condition with regard to our spiritual life.May God bless you on your journey and may you always feel His grace!

  • Jennifer

    it means the world to me to read this. too many christians have tried to make me feel like christians shouldn’t take antidepressants – that all i need to do is read my bible and work on my relationship with God – they’ve made me feel guilty for struggling with depression and guilty for going on meds. but i’m done. i’m done with their guilt and their shame. i’m done apologizing for utilizing medicine that might lift the fog a little bit and help me see more clearly. and maybe one of these days i’ll be done feeling the infamous stigma that seems to follow “mental illness” and “antidepressants”… at least i can hope and pray…

  • http://twitter.com/brandonshupp Brandon Shupp

    Los,
    My wife and I have been dealing with this for about 10 years. It started for her during pregnancy with our first son and got really scary for a while and I almost lost both of them. At one point it was constant, maybe 15 minutes every few days of clarity. Something I felt like the Lord told me in the darkest times for her was that 15 minutes would eventually turn into hours, which would turn into days which would turn into weeks, months, etc.

    Today, after years of counseling, medication, prayer (you know the list) she has a dark day once every few months, or a year. God is faithful, through medicine, professionals and prayer and faith. Don’t be ashamed. God has you in His hand and He will see you through His way. I don’t know what that way is, but I know His character and His faithfulness toward our family. And, as it turns out, even though we’ve never met – you’re family too.

    much love
    brandon

  • Izabella

    BRAVO!! More peeps need to speak out. Thank you for such beautiful authenticity and vulnerability…and it is that… beautiful (to speak out)!

  • Auntie J

    I’ve commented before on similar posts. I know how you feel. I hate the stigma in many circles, not just the church. In the 15 years since I was diagnosed with moderate depression with marked-severe anxiety, I’ve been on four different medications. Thankfully, I haven’t had issues with the anxiety so much in recent years. But the depression has occasionally been positively crippling. Especially now…I’m in what’s called surgical menopause, and my current meds are sometimes not enough to combat the overwhelming emotional instability that comes with the new me. Yes, I wish God would take it away. I wish I didn’t have it. I wish that I didn’t break down and cry for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I wish that whatever started the tears wouldn’t then trigger a cascade of other things that cause more tears. I wish my husband knew how to help me instead of standing there helpless, which he hates, and I hate for him. I wish I could tell him what I need, but I don’t know myself! I’ve had people tell me that I don’t need the meds; I need a better diet. I don’t have a “Paxil deficiency”; I have a vitamin deficiency. (I managed to not smack the well-meaning woman who told me that.) What I do know is that God created the science of medicine. And I’m going to make use of it all that I can. I’m happier with my happy pills. My family is happier. I’m more the real me. The me, I’m confident, that God designed me to be. I try to be honest and open when discussing these things with my friends and others…I’m glad I have you to point to and say, “I’m not alone.”

  • Bethany

    Thank you for this post!! Thank you so much!! I found myself loudly saying “AMEN” several times reading this post.

    As another Christian that struggles with panic attacks, depression, and other metal illnesses, it’s so beyond wonderful to hear someone else be so open about it and confront the myths the church seems to hold.

    As I told people at my church when I left for residential treatment last year, I have prayed for this to be taken from me. I have prayed harder for that than I have at any time in my life. But God gave us medicine and trained therapists for a reason. You wouldn’t tell a person with asthma to not go to the doctor, why should a mental illness be any different? My meds keep me stable so I can function.

  • http://twitter.com/justbrendap Brenda P

    I was just telling my therapist last night about how crazy it is to me when I look back at the two-ish years when depression was in the driver’s seat. I truly wasn’t myself, or at least I was only a shell of myself. Grades and learning used to come easily, and then I started failing classes. I stopped being able to deal with my emotions in a healthy way and started making really poor choices, choices that I would never make today. My mom was not in favor of me trying medication, and my dad thought depression was just having a bad day and you force yourself to get off the couch. Thankfully I was able to get them a little more educated (my two stints in the hospital probably helped them see how serious it was). Depression made it so I could not see the love of Christ. I couldn’t turn to him in my darkness, and that was really awful for me. It’s so hard to describe to people who’ve never experienced it how your whole world changes when you’re dealing with mental illness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140093330 Pam Hendricks McAbee

    Los…thank you so much. My dad committed suicide almost 35 years ago when I was 19, and 8 1/2 months pregnant with his first grandchild, and other tragedies followed. It sent me into a pretty dark place for a long time. It affected me in every way. I started doing drugs and drinking, then ended up losing custody of my kids for 6 years. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t have a clue what panic attacks were and I didn’t understand depression. People in my life told me I was just a big baby or that I just liked to wallow in self-pity. Even our former pastor told our congregation that medication for depression or anything else was evil because of the origin for the word being ‘sorcery’. I got the same responses as you spoke about…didn’t pray hard enough, maybe my walk wasn’t what it should be. Ughhh! It took me 32 years to get good Godly counseling. Now I get to help others. Thank you for speaking about this.

    Be blessed!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mistyleecg Misty Lee Christman Ward

    “Authenticity”, yet again, Los. Thanks for being real and a voice for so many that need to be understood. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/russellhawkins Russell Hawkins

    You posted something last year along the same lines that made me smile, seeing that I had recently gone through the same. Thanks for keeping it real.

    Here’s a recap: http://mudpuppy.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/russell-3-6/

  • http://profiles.google.com/buffisan Elizabeth Towns

    Thank you for writing this, especially the part about how losing control or not having control of your own being is a thing of fear. It is probably the most frightening idea I have ever faced with fibromyalgia, which also kicks depression and anxiety into high gear. That fear is incredibly disabling at times. I know the church hides from whatever it does not understand, and so do our loved ones at times. But the church is supposed to be a place of help, of rescue, and of understanding. You are right – and let the church say Amen.

  • Brad

    Los, Thanks for your honesty! Mental illness and addiction run in my family, and I’m in ministry. I’ve struggled with depression, gone to counseling and prayed. I still have down days when I hate myself, but those days are becoming fewer and further between. Thanks for sharing your story. You encouraged me to be a bit more honest today.

  • HTanner

    You really get it.

    I get panic attacks for no reason. I have panic attacks that I’ll never see my children again – and I’ve just dropped them off for school. If someone else is driving, I panic about an impending accident – to the point where I can feel my head smashing into the windshield. I must drive everywhere. People think I think they are terrible drivers. Its not that – its just that my panic attacks make every drive terrifying for me.

    I can’t go back to work in my profession because the thought of being in court sends me into panic mode. I do fine once I’m there, but waiting for the hearing to begin, I get panicked to the point I almost pass out.

    When the kids were little, I couldn’t take both of them places with me. I had panic attacks that they would be kidnapped.

    I wake up at night convinced someone is in my home. I startle very easily. I can’t enjoy my own home.

    My panic attacks keep me from going to social events, from seeing friends, from traveling, from doing work I am trained for, from living free and unencumbered. I can’t control them and I don’t know when they are coming.

    That part of life just stinks.

    I, too, have prayed and sobbed and begged and pleaded to God. But I understand he has a plan and this is all just part of it.

  • songcat

    Thank you. I suffer from depression and the occasional panic attack. I’m blessed to have a supportive church family. For me, my road with medicine has been shaky. I’ve had reactions to everything I’ve tried, but I’ve recently discovered some foods that help boost my levels enough naturally. However, I appreciate that it won’t work for everyone. The bottom line is, we need to accept that we’re all different and have different needs and support each other in finding what works. God is definitely in this with me. He never promised life would be easy, just that he will walk it with us.

  • http://www.djchuang.com/ djchuang

    Bold words, yet kind and honest. Thank you for sharing these in a time like this past weekend. It’s tragic. I’m on record of being diagnosed bipolar myself cf. http://djchuang.com/ocr – and by the grace of God, I’ll persevere through another decade or two or more. It’s more than an occasional visit, it’s an ongoing battle. War on.

  • Scott W

    Thank you for sharing your struggle with panic and anxiety.

  • Samantha

    I would like to say thank you for your words here! I have struggled with panic attacks since high school but did not know what they truly were until college went I finally sought help. Everyone always thought I was just imagining things or making it up. When I finally took a general psychology class and read about anxiety attacks, I realized this is what I have had and it had by that time evolved into a state of depression for me. It was hard for me to do what I liked to do because I was afraid I would have an attack. I tried to not go to places with larger crowds for fear of having an attack and not being able to regain control. Thinking, praying, and wishing for it to go away did not help me. Faith alone did not hold me up again. Rather help from medication and support when people DID understand is what changed me. I have become more comfortable talking about it and I wish I could help people who do suffer from it and do not know where to turn. Simply because I have been there and I am still there, but I have realized that I will not let it control my life. So thank you for your inspiration!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pattyb Patricia Bolesworth

    I just wrote an awesome post and then it disappeared! Cest la vie. I know your struggles Los and I think of you often when I find myself having horrible anxiety. I know that you have overcome so much to achieve such awesome things in your life. I know if you can do it then so can I. There are days when I get so angry at God because I’m house ridden and I can’t have the life I used to. But then I see his blessings in other areas and I know that he works for a purpose. So many people have come out of the woodwork after my nervous breakdown and I realize that my struggles are not only mine, so many people including those in the church, have been in my shoes and it’s amazing the way people have come into my life just when I need them. Keep fighting the good fight Los.
    Patty Frumpanera

  • http://www.facebook.com/anbonner Ashley Bonner

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Carlos! Thank you for being open, honest, and transparent. People that have never struggled with mental illness are often quick to judge. It is not a fun road to travel, but you will be in my prayers!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gerri.moshenkomarkham Gerri Moshenko Markham

    Thank you for being real and allowing us to see what you deal with on a regular basis. We all have different challenges to deal with, and it doesn’t mean we love God any less or are ineffective in our faith or ministry. I think our challenges make us MORE effective because we can empathize and minister in ways that others cannot. Thanks again and God bless you and your ministry. gerrimarkham.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1120214338 Stephanie Foggie

    u r living my life in an almost day to day pattern.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.tinsley.56 Joshua Tinsley

    We love and miss you @ sandals my brother. Thank you for encouraging me as a young believer. Your leadership and loving kindness helped bring me back from a very dark place and a life of sin. You touched many lives here and we will never forget you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stacey.goldsmith.7 Stacey Goldsmith

    Thank you for posting this. I have suffered with severe depression for over 20 years. Recently I tried to wean myself off my meds because of what I have heard in church. ‘God is your medicine!’ I felt I was not being a good enough Christian because I was depending on the meds and not God. I am at 1/2 my dosage and had a major ‘episode’ today. The pain, fear and utter helplessness overwhelmed me. I was questioning my decision to stop the meds but feeling guilty at the same time. Reading your testimony really helped me see this through someone else who KNOWS what I’m going through. I don’t understand why I am the way I am but I am. This episode really scared me. I have an appointment with my doctor in a couple of weeks and will talk this over with him. I love the Lord with my whole heart. Unfortunately I still get depressed and scared. I appreciate your openness and thank you again for sharing. God bless you.

  • bttrflynikki

    This is amazing when u open up about ur struggles its amazing how many other people suffer the same thing..ten years and everyday is a new day..most important never say what if? Thank you God bless nikki

  • Steve

    Carlos, TY for sharing .I too live this existence and its not an easy burden, but you are correct that there have been many, many more like us bring glory to God despite this thorn. He makes no mistakes and I am how he created me to be. Blessing man.

  • RAM

    You are amazing! This post is so raw and real and it is time all if us anxious, struggling folk to stand and unite. If we did I think it would end of being more than 1/2 the body of Christ! The events of this week drove me to my knees in sadness for a family that i do not know but has shaped me greatly. May what the enemy meant for evil…tear down walls and cause deep healing across this nation. To GOD be the glory!!

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  • bruceammons

    Carlos! Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this. The exact same thing happened to me. I am a pastor and have spoken in over 500 churches across America. I have experienced panic attacks while on the stage preaching. It was devastating! I received (and continue to receive) help from multiple sources including medication, therapy, the support of family and friends, and God. I really appreciate you shedding light on the truth and going public with your story. You rock! (literally)

  • http://www.facebook.com/marjie.davis Marjie Davis
  • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

    Carlos, I deal with the same exact thing and it strikes me in the same ways. I travel and speak at churches and I’ve had this happen on stage before. Mine were far worse years ago than they are now and I’ve always wished I could explain it to others. I’ve had the same tearful screaming matches with God too. He has been my strength but there are still some really, really dark days. Thanks for this post.

  • Claire

    Ditto. Thank you.

  • http://faithkidslessons.blogspot.com Andrew Doane

    I write the following to, hopefully, be of help to some. I wish someone had told me a lot earlier.

    I’m not claiming this is the answer for everyone, but, here’s my story. I had several “panic attacks”, and by that I mean a rapid heartbeat out of the blue, an impending sense of doom, high anxiety, shakiness, etc. I remember one night having one and thinking it might be a heart attack, since I have a family history of it. I also had a general low-level anxiety at all times. I saw a psychiatrist and he gave me medication for it that helped with the anxiety.

    Unrelated to this, I decided it was time to lose weight. I read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and have basically followed the diet here (http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf)

    What I learned about was something called “reactive hypoglycemia.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reactive_hypoglycemia

    It’s when, after a carby meal, your body makes insulin to lower your blood sugar. But the insulin is still there after your blood sugar has been lowered to normal, so it actually gets too low. Read the list of the symptoms of it and you’ll see it’s almost identical to a panic attack. In fact, one of the symptoms is “Panic attack.” It makes sense that your body would panic with low blood sugar, since low blood sugar is fatal!

    Anyways, since I’ve eaten LCHF, I’ve been off meds for two years and haven’t had any “panic attacks.” Looking back, I’m certain they were blood sugar crashes causing the panic attacks. I also was on meds for generalized anxiety and have been off them. This is due to controlling my blood sugar through diet, I believe, as well.

    Once again, I’m not saying this is everyone’s answer, but it’s worked for me. And it’s worth looking into, especially if medication is expensive or generally doesn’t make you feel that well.

  • JackieSampieri

    even Plum had panic attacks. her saying that reminds me that we are are not perfect. God let’s things happen so we can cling to Him

  • http://twitter.com/NBHLMT Nancy Hudspeth

    I read “wheat gut” by Dr. William Davis & my changing my diet got rid of my asthma & depression. I am so thankful you openly talk about this because myself & so many others struggle with this. Thankful for your blog & your voice!!

  • Victoria Sawyer

    Amazing post! I think every voice out there who expresses how it feels to live with a mental illness is another move in the right direction. I must have missed this twitter explosion about Mental Health. I’ll have to check it out. Oh and just so you know, there are others of us out here who suffer just like you do. I am one of these people and I have been living with it for 20 years, since I was ten years old. For a long time it was the dirty secret, but now I am finally opening up about it, so much so that I’ve written and published a novel about what this mental illness can do to a person. My story is a hard read, it’s depressing, scandalous, it’s anxiety and thought provoking and my character does want to commit suicide at one point, but you know what, dealing with it, living with it is on a daily basis is so hard too and I want people to understand! Just know that you are not alone. There are others of us struggling too. My blog is actually pretty much dedicated to mental illness, stigma and writing which is one of my releases for feeling this way. And I try to have a sense of humor about it sometimes, because I too can understand why someone might want to commit suicide. It’s a tough road. I live a restricted life because of it, but I do still live a life and I have good things in my life. Live for those things…and come visit me. I love to meet others who feel the same way. It’s a relief because for so long I thought I was alone. Best to you! http://www.angstanxietypanic.wordpress.com

  • Anna Nicole

    Anxiety is not mental illness, first and foremost. Everyone has anxiety. That being said please understand I come from a position of complete understanding and then some. I was truly a masterpiece of anxiety and have been saved through confession of Jesus Christ as my Lord since 1986. The anxiety was so bad I was diagnosed finally with bipolar disorder and put on Lithium and Effexor. I became suicidal as a direct result of these drugs. I checked myself into a Christian rehab for “emotional core trauma” and through much prayer and counseling was able to work back through heavy baggage that came from an abusive environment as a child. Shortly after I stopped all medication, changed my diet, started exercising and continued to stand on God’s word for healing. My husband also was in the ER thinking he was having a heart attack twice. He stopped caffeine completely and when he feels it coming on is now aware enough to focus on his breathing and calm himself down. Don’t give up and don’t buy into drugs. Anxiety is emotional illness (we feel our way into it) and it can be helped through a great deal of effort AND faith.

  • Rachel Bos

    Good words, old friend! I recently went back on meds for depression (3rd time, now), and I for one am so grateful that these meds and resources are available!! We are broken people living in a broken world and we have to stop expecting each other to be perfect and expecting the same of ourselves. If we don’t start accepting that we’re all flawed and we’re all in this thing together, God won’t be able to do much with us. The moments of panic and the valleys of deep depression have showed me my greatest need for a Savior. And that’s never a bad thing! Love to you and your family!
    -Rachel Bos

  • ErinLaughs

    Thank you so much for being BOLD enough to post this.
    Many people think that if you exercise enough, give yourself enough quiet time, pray, or think happy thoughts your anxiety and depression will go away. I dealt with that when my husband and I first started dating. I can’t count how many times I said, “Please don’t take it personally if I don’t get happier just by being in a happy situation…It’s genetics”
    People are often shocked to hear that someone is struggling with an emotional disorder…but really, some of the most influential people in the world have struggled with emotional disorders in some way…We’re in good company…especially in ministry. Consider MLK Jr. and Jurgen Moltmann
    I look up to many people who struggle with anxiety and depression…and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  • ml413

    Thanks for sharing. On this topic, something that is helping me right now is ‘mindfulness’. It’s based on secular research, but I looked into it and found that Christians have been teaching similar or even the same idea for a long time. In Eastern Orthodoxy they call it ‘watchfulness’, in the West they called something very like it the ‘prayer of silence’. There are all kinds of Scriptures that point to the same idea. It’s basically a way to bring your mind into the present, to step back and step out of the endless cycle of worries about the future and regrets about the past. It’s not a cure-all for everything, but doing it regularly has been shown to have a significant impact on depression and anxiety. They’ve studied it at Oxford, UMass, etc. for 30 years now and the results are both amazing and incontrovertible. MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) has been shown to be as effective, possibly even more effective than any traditional antidepressant, and the plus is there’s no negative side effects. It increases immunity levels against disease and even transforms your brain in a way that they can see on MRI testing. God, in His love for us, gives us the gift of living in the moment, not worrying and fearing about the future, not buried in regret over our past, but it takes some work to change our lifestyle/brains to think that way. Anyway, just throwing that out there in case it can help anyone. Thanks again for your openness in sharing this. May God bless you!

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  • Melody

    Thanks for having the courage to write this – good stuff!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristofer.speer Kristofer J. Speer

    I do believe that anything can be cured through God’s supernatural power, however I do not believe that God chooses to do so in every instance. Perhaps he wants to use a leader in the church to give a strong and wise word to other people through a blog. :)
    My thing is this. I do believe that supernatural healings happen. I have seen people suddenly get physically and mentally well due to prayer and other connections with God, but I also believe that it is rather foolish to think that because you’re praying God will answer it in the way you expect. There are some people who have mental illness and because of it God has great plans for them. He does not want them in such mental pain but he has a plan. Perhaps medication and therapy are part of such a plan. :)
    Another thing is God wants us to follow his law. I have had mental issues and though I didn’t go kosher I did change my diet and though my personality is the same the crazy ups and downs aren’t there anymore. I know for some people it isn’t that easy and I respect them for dealing with such ordeals.
    Thank you Carlos. You’re a wise man.

  • Marina

    Los, I had the same EXACT problem. Panic attacks were my battle for 2 years. Diagnosed with Bipolar II. Manic depression was also my diagnosis. I had a lot of emotional build up in my past. I went through: therapy, psych meds (6-10 different kinds, trying), breathing techniques and I felt that God wasn’t listening to me. I was struggling spiritually. Which effected me, emotionally and physically. I won’t go into further detail about everything. But, I found my solution. It all comes back to Energy. EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques. This was the break through with me and for my friends. I urge you to look up reviews about it. We are more than just a body. Energy is surrounding us always. God is great. He gave us energy so we could heal ourselves from these emotional blockages in our body. What you are experiencing are energy blockages. You don’t need medicine to heal this. Putting chemicals in your body that make you sedated doesn’t help. It covers it, makes you sick and it doesn’t allow you to think clearly. I would love to speak to you about what has been happening to you.

  • Sharon

    wonderful message…i have the same thing as does one of my sons…you are right. It is time the secret came out and maybe more people could deal with it – need to stop brushing things under the table and come on out so that God can talk – I think he has a lot to say!

  • Little Ole Me

    Thank you……just thank you!

  • Chuey

    Carlos, I dealt with this same issue for 2 solid years straight. I was put on buspar and it may have helped or not, I cant remember its been so long. but I do know once I made some diet changes, got twice as much exercise (from almost next to nothing) got into being mindful of my thoughts and not so much about my emotions, the panic attacks stopped. I remember I devoted myself to Christ more then than at any other time in my life and it did help emensely. Hearing words of comfort and strength and SLOWLY letting go of fears and downers that built up over the years I got better. Its been close to seven years since my last fully blown panic attack and even though there were two instances where I can remember one creeping up, I was in control. Read, read read about fears and the power of positive self talk. You will be surpised how much you really are in control too.

  • kp

    Gosh I wish the words would form in my head so I could respond with something educated. All that keeps going through my mind is sadness, sadness that there is such a stigma attached to mental illness! I am so sorry you are having to suffer with panic attacks and depression. I too know only to well how this debilitating circle of fear takes over every aspect of ones life.. I also know the only ones that truly understand are our fellow suffers and some close family members and friends. Thank you so much for writing this blog .. its good to know we are not alone, on the other hand you would not wish this on your worst enemy. Wishing you calm and happiness. KP

  • Lauren

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! I thought I was alone. I actually had my Bible Study teacher telling me I wasn’t giving something up to God and now I’m pretty sure this is just how God made me :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sandra.lee.142035 Sandra Lee

      You ARE fearfully and wonderfully made! What a precious person you are and thanks for sharing

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  • daze

    Los, i dont usually comment, but this is a cause very close to my heart. sad to say, within the body of Christ if you have cancer or any other serious illness that needs the support of christian friends, you have it. BUT if even mention “anything mental” others whether consciously or not FLEE!!!!! at one point it made me very angry. now, i realize that it is something i will deal with till i go “Home”, but until then, each episode shows me more deeply that its Gods grace that gets me thru and makes me realize all the more how much
    i need HIM and God showing me that He is there. i can understand why someone would want to do away with themselves, because their pain can be so severe, but as we walk, as hard as it is with depression as our companion, we walk “through” the valley of the shadow death holding on to an even greater companion, Jesus. And HE has never left me in that valley. i have learned that we are what we are and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. i have also learned many a great christian men who have preceeded us, battled it as we.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leanetta.malone Leanetta Malone

    I am speechless after reading this. If only every “normal” person could read this, understand mental illness, and embrace differences rather than criticize the world would be a much better place.

  • Liz Reeves

    THANK YOU! Awesome post!! Definitely sharing all over the place! Facebook, twitter, my blog…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Susan-Ruck/1745311999 Susan Ruck

    Los, I came across your post today and would like to commend you for being so open, blunt and vocal as you are. I have been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar II so rely on medications to keep me at a place that I, as a person, can copy with God’s help. In the past I have been told that I don’t pray hard enough to get “cured” from a family member. The worst things though that I get from other Christians is that I must be doing something wrong to deserve this, I am inviting Satan in etc. Some days I wish it was that reason because then I could do something to change it. But, alas, I will never be “cured”, I will always need my medications and I will always love God. :)

  • Sad friend

    Actually my friends husband did tell her she should go off her meds and have more faith and pray for healing. She died in front of her four children in their home. And I hope God sends him straight to hell one day.

  • Carrie DeLille

    Tommy Nelson, a pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, TX wrote the book “Walking on Water when you feel like you’re drowning”. He went through a very difficult period of depression and leads a huge church. I hope you’ll read it!

  • http://twitter.com/MlyMattox Emily Mattox

    I grew up hearing that there’s really no such thing as mental illness, that it’s your sin making you “mentally ill” (I guess the guilt?), and you’re just using it as an excuse for sin. It’s wrong to take medicine or see worldly psychologists. Just get your life right and you won’t have any problems. Clearly you’re not trying hard enough. I think the perception and understanding of mental illness is slowly changing for the better.

  • Here in Iowa

    My anxiety and panic attacks started completely out of the blue about 2 years ago in church. Very similar to your first attack. It is the most horrible thing of my life. I too beg for God to remove it, as I also struggle with anxiety and depression. I hate it.

  • LissaKay

    I won’t go into detail as I don’t care to share my personal life on the internet, but I have overcome a LOT of these sort of issues by eliminating certain foods from my diet. Since I have been avoiding sugar, and grains – especially wheat, I am SO much better now. Just something to consider …

  • Robert “Wee Man” McCook

    I’m a cancer patient and I have prayed and prayed to God to please heal me of this terrible disease…I still have it but there is still hope.I’m most likely gonna have to have surgery to get rid of it all but I look at it like this…..it’s God’s way of healing me by providing me with a surgeon who has the knowledge and skill to perform this surgery.He works in mysterious way’s just like with you…you haven’t quit spreading his word despite the fact you still suffer from anxiety and some form of depression,from reading your story it sounds to me like he is using you as an angel to spread the faith and despite the fact that you still suffer,,,you still have FAITH! GOD IS GOOD!

  • Shar

    Stop drinking coffee, pop, tea, eating chocolate….anything with caffine or any other kind of simulant in it! I totally get it! Hopefully, over time you will be abvle to pinpoint the triggers and eliminate them so the attacks are fewer and less in intensity.

  • michelle

    I too lived with similar things for many years, including rage, and the traditional Christian response, ie. prayer ministries, counselling, only served to exacerbate what I felt. I was lead to a new place, to listen to the cues of my body as it having something to tell me. The body and it’s functions are ‘very good’. My body was telling me, there is stuff in here that is killing you, it’s not what you were made for” hence the anxiety and other symptoms. I was fortunate to have a skilled and forward thinking spiritual director and Christian natural health practitioner. Through the practice of spiritual direction, supplements and a newer therapy called Body Talk, I am feeling joy, peace and energy like I never have before in my life. Check out writers like Richard Rohr and J. Philip Newell’s Echo of the Soul. Emotions are like indicator lights on the car, it’s just that we have been raised in a culture and Christian culture that tells us to be suspicious of the body and fight against it, instead of seeing it as ‘very good’.

  • Jlou

    I have had the same issues and this site really started me on a road to physical/mental healing! http://www.pointofreturn.com/gut_health.html

  • ServingHim

    Live it every day. Could’ve written this. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shirley.moraal Shirley Moraal

    I have suffered from Panic attacks for years as well. My take on them is slightly different then most. I have ‘beat’ them through exercise, believe it or not. I really believe we are not meant to be sedentary creatures. We are programmed with a ‘fight or flight’ mechanisim. When we are stressed and trying to do everything all at once our anxiety levels and adrenelin get pumping and with no physical outlet it manifests in an anxiety attack. I was having 10-12 a day at my worst. I begged my doctor to put me on something-he refused and told me to start exercising. Within a year, I was in 10k shape and my attacks subsided. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t worry they’ll come back. I do believe in the power of a long, steady jog or walk. This is not to say that medication does not help or is not warrented in cases. My ‘shrink’ told me that the next time I felt one coming on, take an aluminum bat and attack a tree. Literally-smack the crap out of it. I”ve tried it, and it does help! Or scream at the top of your lungs while driving your car. Another good one! Oh, and the whole ‘you have anxiety because of your lack of faith’ idea? Bull! Prayer didn’t help me. I didn’t feel any calming presence what so ever-no matter how hard I prayed or meditated. Somethings you just gotta do on your own. This was one of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702776422 Christa Frederick

    Thank you for your story. I really needed to hear that today. God Bless you

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.case.96 Daniel Case

    Thanks for posting this bro, have struggled with similar issues (also a worship leader) over the past 8 years. If you have a Crossfit box near by I recommend you stop in and try out a few classes. It has changed my life the past 2 years. Keep killing it man!

  • steph

    I was diagnosed bipolar type 2,ocd,ptsd, with panic attacks and tension headaches related to stress back in 2005. I believe ive had it most of my life but hit rock bottom in 2005 after my 2nd child was born. Since 2005 i have attempted suicide 3 times. Most recent was in 2011. I have been to several doctors who have placed me on tons of different medications all with very little help. I became addicted to xanax and started to self medicate myself just so i could have some peace. in late 2011 i got upset and took over 100 xanax and ended up in the mental hospital for a week. When i was released i was set up with a wonderful staff of doctors, counsilar, and med management group. They FINALLY got me on the correct combination and i feel great. I am a mother of 3 young children and have a wonderful supportive husband. Between the doctors and my families support im now looking forward to the future. I wanted to tell my story just so people know there is hope. Dont give up.

  • Sheri

    Amen. I struggle with depression and I am currently stuck in a pit sitting in the mire. I saw my doctor today and she put me on some medication so I can function. I struggled with that decision. If I was dying of cancer the church would rally around me and pray, cook meals and help me shoulder this, but because mental illness is viewed as a weakness in my faith, I am left to suffer alone. I have my husband who holds me in his arms, assures me of his love and prays over me and the biblical counselor who works with me. I am a broken vessel and God uses broken vessels to reach other broken vessels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kari.esser Kari Foushée Esser
  • Gale

    Very interesting! My husband suffers from this disorder, and honestly, when they first started accuring I was horrified! Here was my husband, big, strong, smart, and then all of a sudden he was like a scared ltiile child. I’m sorry Bradley, that your wife was not more supportive, I was the same way too, at first! and you’re right, no one can truly understand unless they have experienced them themselves… My husband is now taking meds, which have helped immensley! It has nothing to do with “spiritual” and everything to do with a chemical imbalance. I’m thankful he has found relief, I pray that it continues!!

  • Shari Lemieux

    Hello Carlos and all my family in Christ who also suffer with mental illness, as I do. I battle Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks. I have also fought the spiritual/faith condemnation battle as well as the guilt over taking meds. I finally came to the conclusion that God is more interested in my quality of life than over the fact that I take meds. When things are bad, I remind myself that I have an enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy and I refuse to let him win! When I take meds, I am able to live and continue to spread the word and love of God. For me, “having done all to stand…” means taking meds so that I may continue to stand. Keep up the brave fight, and like Sir Winston Churchill said, “we shall never surrender!” God bless you all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristelacevedo Kristel Acevedo

    Such a great post, Carlos. I have struggled with anxiety and depression as well and this definitely resonates with me.

  • http://bethmorey.blogspot.com/ Beth

    Yes. Thank you.

  • Dat

    Thank you…For the past two weeks I have had unbearable thoughts of darkness and like I am being swallowed. :( Am I a Christian? Yes. Do I have Faith? Yes. Do I still suffer from depression? Yes. Though my faith is still strong, I still have these episodes and people need to know that they aren’t tied together and are exclusive.

  • Beth

    Thanks for your willingness to be open and honest. I’ve struggled on different levels since I was a child with panic attacks. I’ve been on medication and off it. My panic attacks take different forms, but they are always terrifying. And as an adult they’ve turned into an intense fear in regards to my walk with God. And I’m a missionary. It’s messy. I’ve found freedom in talking to others about the issue. I don’t want anyone to think that they are alone – that’s the worst place to be. Hang in there – keep on keeping on, and I pray that others will read your honesty and find freedom and hope. Thank you!

  • Jessica

    I know you posted this several days ago, but I’m just now finding time to sit down with it. I’m almost 22, and I’ve been dealing with depression since I was 14. I was raised in church, and I always understood that those dealing with mental illness were not committed to their relationship with God, so I prayed, and prayed, and hid what I was going through from everyone. It didn’t go away; as a matter of fact, by the time I was officially diagnosed my freshman year of college, I’d seriously contemplated suicide 3 times. In almost 8 years, my depression hasn’t gone away, some days it’s so crippling that I can’t get out of bed. But I know one thing: through all of this, all the pain, and tears, and hopelessness, God has proven to me over and over again how big His love is for me. He shows me how dark the world can be, and then He shows me time after time how bright my future is in Him.

  • Joshua

    It’s a great relief to read these words. As far back as I can remember I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. I’ve always tried to masked it- that has failed me on several occasions and has caused me to do some crazy things. I am God’s servant and I live to serve Him. The problem is, more times than not, I struggle to enjoy living. I think in some ways, my wife may be worse off than me, or we could be the same level of “crazy” and hers is just displayed on her sleeve. Either way, I have felt cornered into being the strong one- and I’m just getting really tired.

  • Trey Chandler

    “My faith and my serotonin levels have nothing to do with each other.” – I need a tshirt with that on it.

  • Patty

    I. Love. This.

    You have put to ink what I have been living for years. Thank you so much. I’ve read this blog 50+ times. Thank you…. And I hope I didn’t crash your server. :)

  • Patty

    I. Love. This.

    You have put to ink what I have been living for years. Thank you so much. I’ve read this blog 50+ times. Thank you…. And I hope I didn’t crash your server. :)

  • Diane

    Thank you, thank you, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depresssion, 27 years ago. I do volunteer public speaking for the CMHA, and we all need more people like you to stand up, not just for us but for our friends and family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gretchen.lynn Gretchen Lynn

    Thank you very much for writing this! As someone who has many friends with depression/anxiety, it’s hard to understand what is happening when they go through when those things happen. I know I will never fully appreciate what happens on the inside, but reading posts like this help me get a glimpse of what it is like to feel that way.

  • Lynn

    I am a Christian with depression and I share it when appropriate. I have had many heartfelt thank you’s come back to me as another person was helped because they knew something wasn’t right but just couldn’t figure it out. I agree with you. Mental illness isn’t about strength of will. I can’t control the chemistry in my body by willing it. I also prayed for this ‘thing’ to be taken from me but it just got worse with each pregnancy. I don’t believe God would want me to walk around as the person I was. I am very thankful that with the help of my regular doctor and a natural path I have it almost all under control. It’s been 13 great years with medication. .

  • kade

    Thank you. Part of the fear is that we are alone, but its harder to believe lies when we are together. It. Just. Happens…and our God is bigger.

  • Amber

    Thank you! I also struggle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression and have since 2009. I speak about my struggles on my blog because I want Christians to know that it’s okay if they have to be on antianxiety meds or depression meds. I know I struggled with that for months before accepting them as God’s aid for me.

  • LIsa B

    My husband faced this for years!! We finally got help from a Autonomic/MVP clinic in Birmingham, AL. Dr. Moore! My husband has dysautonomia. Finding answers was an answer to our prayers. The church needs to be talking about this more. Thank you for sharing your struggle. My prayers to you and anyone else going through this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejongraham Jon Graham

    Carlos. We used to scamper the hills of Ridgecrest and Glorietta each summer along with Karen Thrailkill and James Tilton. Part of the HMBkids crew. I so appreciate finding your post as it hits so very close to home. A few other myths to dispell: inconsistent church attendance doesn’t always mean undisciplined faithlessness. Harsh conversation has more to do with self-doubt than personality flaws. Sometimes good intentions are the closest thing to hope for healing that a person can come by.

    I’ve been meaning to reach out since your music career has blown up. Hope we can connect sometime.

    Jon Graham

  • http://www.facebook.com/erie3746 Erin Phillips

    Another myth, you are not a sucessful mature adult fit for life unless you fit the “education – real job – marriage – kids” path. It’s hard to fit this when you can’t even leave your house on random days of the week. A 9-5 doesn’t let you come in “whenever ur able”. As a 29 year old bipolar female this reality has been my life for 10 years. I aplaud your post.

  • PirateChic

    Great article! I often feel if people in the church knew my diagnosis (bipolar, anxiety and borderline) then they wouldn’t let me lead. So either I clam up or refuse to lead. Agree with another commentator, when I do lead people comment (positively) on the intensity or creativity. Often comes with bipolar. If they do know I have it the uninformed comment, but you are so smart.” Duh, bipolar and mental illness is not the same as mental retardation! I’ve tested at the genius level. Wish there was more understanding, especially in churches.

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  • DeanCoz

    One of the known (not by very many) causes of panic attacks it living to close to stronger electromagnetic fields (EMFs) such as those given off by high power transmission lines or transformers. Look around where you spend your time. Might get a Gaussmeter and take measurements. Could be in faulty wiring or working around a lot of electrical equipment.

  • mzmerrysunshine

    Bravo! Thanks for so eloquently putting into words what lots of us deal with :-)

  • http://twitter.com/jason1102 Jason Burdette

    How do you continue to do what you do with this plaguing you? Does it ever make you want to just give up and sit at home? Battle through it in spite of the panic?

  • recovering Baptist

    Sir, I do not know you and yet I do for you are me! I tripped over your article on facebook and as I am in the process of learning how to let God heal me of my depression of which I do take medication for, but it didn’t work well all the time until I got a hold of a little unknown book called “Prayers that Heal the Heart” by Mark & Patti Virkler. I still take my medication, but not as high of dose. I always knew the Bible had the answers I just didn’t know what to do with them or how to apply them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DanaCruikshank Dana Cruikshank

    I’ve never read your blog before, but I really appreciate what you’ve said. I get panic attacks in claustrophobic settings like airplanes, which is hard because I travel for work. But just like you, with hard work I’ve gotten it under reasonable control and can function in life. I used to feel like this was something shameful, but the more I talk about it, the more I hear people say “um, me too!” It’s incredibly common.

    I don’t mean to speak for G-d, but after years of thinking and praying about it, I have come to believe these simple things are true when it comes to mental illness:

    - G-d wants you to get help, even if it entails hard work. That hard work brings you closer to G-d.
    - G-d wants you to be compassionate and reach out to others who might be struggling with these issues, any way you can.
    - G-d does not want you to stuff this down the shame hole, because that only leads to a path of self-destruction and spiritual (not to mention physical) death.
    - G-d sure as heck doesn’t want you to be judging others. I do believe G-d’s son Jesus had a few things to say about that.

    Keep on! There’s a lesson in this for us all, thank you for sharing yours.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1102275286 Franklin Erich Hotzel

    I felt I got/get more emotional support and understanding with my mental illness from a former coworker who is like a big sister to me and from the community orchestra I am in then from my church.

  • Katie Hancock

    This is from someone who does not know from personal experience, but I never realized that some with panic attacks feel no conscious “panic” or stress when attacks come. I have a good friend with a rare nervous system disorder, and sometimes the symptoms resemble the panic attack you described. Is it possible that since there is no consious mental engagement when the initial attack comes, that there’s an incorrect diagnosis and it’s not really a mental illness, but rather a nervous system illness? I don’t say this with confidence, just mere speculation.

  • Alecia

    Bravo! I appreciate your candor and your courage!! Keep killing it for Jesus.

  • Anonymous

    Identify with everything you have said. I grew up with a bipolar father (his mother and sisters all lived/live with mental illness) and heard him say over and over that he would never take those “happy pills”. I had the impression over and over growing up in a very legalistic household/church that your faith was the answer to everything. If you were struggling with something you should pray, memorize and quote Scripture, and just have faith!!! Well, after years of dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, puking over the toilet while quoting Bible verses between heaves, I finally talked to a Dr. Thank God after a few years on medication and finding the right dosage, I have my anxiety under control. I still have episodes here and there, but they are so much more manageable. Thank you for speaking out and identifying with those of us who struggle with this disease on a daily basis.

  • Mel

    It has been SO encouraging to read your post. I have struggled and do struggle with scrupulosity and ended up taking medication for a deficiency in my brain. Probably I will be on it my whorl life. I am so lucky. I was able to see a Christian psychologist and God has been so kind to me. I will be praying for you. It is nice to know about other Christians out there who struggle as well. Thank you.

  • blessedtobemom to 3

    Nothing hurts more than having your spiritual and emotional sanctuary (church) turn into a place of judgement because of an illness you can’t control and don’t want… as if anyone would “choose” the path of depression/anxiety or any mental illness. Understandng, love, support, not “interventions” would truly go a lot farther. I love the Lord, don’t question my faith or my spiritual walk because you don’t understand my struggle. Thank you for writing this blog entry. I feel less alone!

  • Kristi

    Thank you for sharing this. I wish all churches would print this in their bulletins. I lost so many Christian friends when I started having panic attacks. A friend of mine put this on her facebook message and just cried as I read it.

  • jimmie lee

    Aren’t we all a messed up people? So glad I figured this out while I am still here on Earth and so glad for Jesus!
    Thank you for this

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1025779522 Russ Noe

    I can completely empathize with your bouts with depression and anxiety. I have been suffering from both for over 20 years. Most of it is chemical. I actually have to have one of those special lights that give you whatever your serotonin needs due to my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I stopped equating my issues with my faith or lack of after much therapy. I am also gay… didn’t ask for that either. God’s love is unconditional. Completely Unconditional. Jesus Christ is the proof. Grace covers all—not just parts of life or certain people. Hang in there. Even though you still suffer, God is with you—with us all. Whatever frailties we might have can keep us close to the ground and close to the Lord.

    Love and grace—from a fellow Raggamuffin

  • TLN

    Well stated post. If we as Christians will admit that mental health like physical health is only in our control to a limited amount we would not be judgmental about mental health. I believe that while God often heals us…He also often chooses to trust us with our diseases. Personally, my limited physical health has kept me clinging to Jesus. Seeing other faithful church members with crippling arthritis encouraged me to not give in to the disease but to faithfully attend church. Because God trusted me by allowing other diseases and situations in my life, I am able to walk with others as they face the same path I have already walked. Comforting others with the comfort I received.

  • Miranda

    In love with this post! Thank you for being brave enough to type these words!!!!

  • -L

    this blessed me so much. i’ve been dealing with depression since i was 13. at this point, my current diagnoses are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder. and i’m in the process of switching over to Bipolar medication because my psychiatrist thinks I’ve gone from major depression to Bipolar II with a large depression component. all of this has been a crisis of faith for me. in the middle of it, though, was when I found Jesus. i was ready to die and i had no hope. one night, after a terrible episode of cutting (i’ve also battled DEEPLY with self injury since i was 12), i just told Jesus he could have me, if he was even real. and that was how i found God. i was talking to a friend and i told him that even though i love Jesus, I still have so much troubles with my faith because of Christians with certain things. and that every morning, (as much as I thank Jesus constantly for the medication that was part of the things that saved me) i have a huge internal battle when i take my medication. every time i put an antidepressant in my mouth, i feel like somehow i’m less of a christian. like, “oh maybe i just didn’t pray hard enough for jesus to give me happiness…other christians seem to be happy just because of Jesus” and things like that. and i struggle with it a lot. like, deep down, i’m SO thankful for being able to be treated. but from the words and actions of other Christians and the stigma of mental illness (especially in the church), and the fact that i’ve grown up in a church that indirectly says “you’ll always be healed if you just ask hard enough and for long enough” it’s been hard. but, like the åuthor of the article said- i’ve asked God to heal me, and he hasn’t. and that’s okay. Jesus created me into the person i am through my battles with mental illness. and so i’m going to let him turn that terrible pain into something beautiful. and me coming through mental illness involves medication. but that doesn’t mean i love Jesus any less or that i’m less of a christian or that i can’t be a missionary for my life. thank you so much.

    thank you so much for being vulnerable. it has really blessed me, especially in this time where i feel like my world is flipping because i’m pursuing treating for Bipolar rather than Major Depression and it’s a very confusing time for a young teenage girl who has to deal with this. i keep repeating what you said: my seretonin and my faith are NOT interconnected. thank you so much.

  • Mari dewitt
    • http://www.facebook.com/maridewitt Mari Dewitt

      Thanks for your candid blog. It inspired mine!

  • Rick

    Thank you for posting this. I suffer from anxiety about uncertainties in life and must say that my faith is fine. When people in church shrug off anxiety and other mental illnesses as lack of faith, they are basically revealing their own fears about the unknown. In addition, their lack of compassion wreaks of hypocrisy. I don’t think that Jesus would have been so judgmental and harsh. He taught us compassion and love. And your point about biblical leaders having mental illness is very true. Case in point: Moses. He suffered from anxiety and actually stuttered. I believe that our western lifestyle non longer gives us time for reflection or meditation, and that people need time to rest their minds, get sleep, exercise and eat right. All the faith in the world is not going to bring those components to any one’s life.

  • Biz

    Thanks for this. I’ve had panic attacks as long as I can remember…maybe since age 3 or so? I came to know Jesus around age 15 after spending years in and out of hospitals and residential treatment centers because of being tormented by suicidal thoughts and the occasional attempt. When I DID come to the Lord, it took me years and years of learning and maturing to the point when I recognized Christians actually DON’T have perfect lives, nor did the bible ever promise that. Condemnation and rejection were close friends of mine. I want to encourage everyone with this though; it DOES get better. One day we will stand before Him, no more pain, no more injustice, no more SICKNESS, no more death. After years of counseling, studying, prayer, good solid relationships, and inner healing I am down to one medication for my attacks and only have a panic attack once a year or so that requires any additional medication. Don’t be afraid, don’t give up hope. Jesus is faithful and good, regardless of whether I have a panic attack or not. One day He will come and make everything right.

  • Dion Evans

    Dang Los! That was great that you shared that, but I am just reading this? There is a huge stigma w/the church and mental illness. I went into depression a while ago, went the psych and got meds and everything. Tried a few times to take my life. My best buy Shaun King reference you when encouraging me to take the meds because I was really not wanting to do it. Thank you for sharing your heart in this.

  • Wesley

    I just had some doctor from god knows where tell me I need to go to church more because of my panic attacks. Mind you this is after having my panic attacks pretty well under control by taking my xanax that my doctor that unfortunately just retired had been prescribing me. Also this new doctor took me off of my pain medicine, acid reducer, sleep aid and my headache pills. He said I am to young to be taking all of these pills and I needed more church. I cannot believe this, age has nothing to do with health issues a person has. Now I am having panic attacks all the time, my throat burns from the acid, I have had a headache for 5 days in a row now. I have had to leave work early 2 days because of panic attacks and have missed 6 days consecutive because I cant hardly stand up because of the pain. Eating tylonol naproxen and ibuprophen like they are going to stop making them and my new “so called” Doctor thinks because I am 31 I just need to goto church … I am so pissed right now I cannot stand it. I want my old doctor back so I can live half way comfortable life and not have to have the 4 surgeries that i will have to have to “maybe” fix my pain and that still leaves a laundry list of things that surgery cannot fix, like panic attacks. Thanks for listening guys and gals

  • Lauren

    Thank you so much for making this post. I have recently been diagnosed with ADHD type inattentive and depression. I’m also recovering from self harm. I’ve beenbeing raised in a Christian home. My dad and many people at church and afew peers at my youth group think that my illness is because I’m deep in sin and am not a real Christian. Which had led me to believe these things leading me to question myown faith. Reading this post really helped me thank you.

    L. Trillium

  • chris

    You probably have a demon that is causing this, and it needs to be cast out. God did not give this to you, and He doesn’t want you to live like that. Love you man-blessings!

  • Anonymous

    Beautifully and so honestly said. Thank you for writing this. I have always thought that if more people talked about Mental Illnesses like Anxiety and Depression then others would not feel so alone – as we often do with problems like this. I am always reminded of the song Blessings by Laura Story – “What if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears, what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know Your near.” Prayer definitely is a must in dealing with these things, but also realizing that counseling and medication are sometimes a NECESSITY in dealing with them is just as important.
    Great job in speaking out!

  • Stephbeams

    Great article! I am a Christian Counselor who deals with people who struggle this on a daily basis. Making Peace with your Past and Moving Beyond your past by Tim Sledge are excellent resources for those struggling with Anxiety or Depression. It is Biblically solid, but also takes a psychological perspective. Helping people to process their emotion and anxiety in a way that they are able to work through it. I have seen lives transformed by walking through this material with them. God is so able to love us through our struggles and hurts. Thanks for your openness!

    • Stephbeams

      Btw-It is available through Lifeway!

  • Joyce

    My husband died because of depression and anxiety. The stigma and shame surrounding this disease is the reason he declined medical help. The disease took his “life” long before his body died. But as we know from Rick Warren’s son, even the best medical intervention does not give any guarantees. Diseases of the brain are under-researched and the research which exists is under-funded due to the same stigma. Terms like “crazy” and “mental” and “psycho” are abused and incorrectly applied by those who choose not to educate themselves about this disease and dive pridefully headlong into casting judgments. Thank you for your post. Let’s remove the silence, then let’s silence the shame. A disease by any other name is still a disease and Jesus died to save the sick.

  • Clara Lynne

    Wow! I can’t believe I just found your blog. My husband is a minister of music/associate pastor to senior adults. We have been through a lot that I am not going to go through, but I have been through panic attacks, depression, agoraphobia, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. I also have other problems now, because I’m a grandma and my body is just gettin’ old. The thing is that I struggle with going to church now, even on my “good” days. All my life I have loved going to church and worshiping the Lord. But now, I cannot get myself out the door to there. It seems wrong on so many levels. Sometimes, I just think if someone would physically hold my hand to get there, it would be easier.

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  • Susana

    Sugar is a drug and causes overexpansion of the brain and heart. It and caffeine and other drugs cause these things. No proper whole grains in the whole grain form, I will share more if you are interested. IS our diet that causes this and no drug will fix or cure it. It takes 27 ft of sugar cane to make 1/4 c of sugar., It changes your brain chemistry. It is a drug.

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  • Ronni

    I know you wrote this a while ago… and I know I haven’t “talked” to you in forever… but I needed this badly today… My pastor won’t let me step down from what I do, and tomorrow I see a counselor for the first time in years. Depression has turned to anxiety. Even Xanax doesn’t work sometimes.. days without sleep… exhaustion and then you have one thing go wrong and I don’t have it within me to respond well…

    And conviction… I can’t feel it anymore over the screaming and yelling of condemnation and I’m so tired of fighting that I’ve stopped and just let them yell and blur into the greyness and constant chatter in my head that reminds me that God won’t use me anymore… the dreams I thought I would some day achieve, well, now I’m disqualified because of “mental illness” and I’m thrown deeper into the pit.

    Pray for me Los. Please.

    • Amanda Harman

      I’m praying for you too Ronni. Bless you. I’ve been there.

  • http://www.thecaveplace.com The Cave Place

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It sometimes seems like an uphill battle to get fellow Christians to see that mental illness is real. I’ve been talking about this with a lot of people as I’m growing a website on mental illness and Christian youth. People just don’t see that it’s a problem and deny that the church is doing a bad job because they are afraid to constructively criticism the church. Then other people will say that it is a problem, but when you really get down to what they believe, they are perpetuating the same harmful ideas that don’t actually believe in biological or chemical factors. So thank you for this reminder that others are fighting the same fight and I’d love for anyone who cares about this issue and youth to check out my site and send me some feedback. I’m just feeling overwhelmed by the depth and the breadth of the topic. Thank you Carlos! http://www.thecaveplace.com

  • messianicomplex

    simply…thank you! For my wife and our journey, as she struggles in the same area and I struggle to know how to be for her as a husband, as we seek to serve the least, last and lost. Her with her depression, me with my issues…more and more and I’m convinced that we are most effective when we minister from brokeness not power…so again, thank you!

  • Amanda Harman

    love this. I always love it when this subject comes up because I have struggled with this for over 10 years. I went on and off meds and saw a few counselors. Finally, this past year, I had to admit to myself that my ego about it was holding me back. I just thought I had to toughen up and just pray for the Lord to heal me more. Finally Jesus kicked my ass into gear and reminded me that we all need a little extra grace sometimes to walk thru the mire. I have been back on meds for several months now and went to counseling every week for the past year….and I’m doing great. But its a daily walk and sometimes I lose. I am looking into adoption and sometimes I get worried I will make a sucky parent because of this junk. But I know that God equips those he calls so….He’ll make me brave. Thanks for giving folks like us a voice, Los. And thanks for reminding us that we are in this together.

  • Allison Swanson

    Thank you for being you and keepin it real Carlos!

  • Kathi Waddle

    Thank you for sharing this Carlos! There is someone that has crossed into my path who I believes struggles with these same things. He is not a Christian yet. But I am praying for God to use me in his life so that he will come to know the love of Christ. I will show him this blog post.

  • AnitaSoler

    I think your intense involvement and identity with The Church is most likely the source of this issue. Church culture, even in so called “grace-based” places that don’t care if you drink or have tattoos, is so full of the unholy vile mixture of grace & law. My panic attacks and depression were never higher than when I was in staff at one of the bigg

  • Dana

    Los, I can’t tell you how this article made me feel. Diving reading appointment. I am working in children’s ministry and struggle with bouts of depression, anxiety and dare I say this the enemy has whispered in my ear “wouldn’t it be better to end it than suffer” because of your honesty and sharing “your dirty little secret” I feel safe knowing I’m not alone and that God loves me regardless. No matter what someone says or tells me I won’t need to feel less of a Christian or like I don’t belong in ministry. God uses the broken and does amazing things through our testimony. Be blessed brother and thank you!

  • kell

    Thank you for sharing this I have panic attack disorder and social anxiety disorder. I take 30 mg of Proxetine daily as I have random attacks. I dont fear people or public places and in fact compete in beauty pageants and am always in front of people go figure. But the oddest things can trigger my attacks police sirens, car accidents, heat, driving. Hearing my babies scream can set it off because I have a fear of blood so when I hear bangs and kids cry I think the worst. Watching TV can trigger them also. I got really mad at god because I thought he was required to remove illnesses and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t. I refused to take meds as I feared the side affects and thought I would be labled as clinically crazy. But I must say I take the meds and they do help besides making me feel tired. I just sat and thought if I dont take these meds then what happens if im driving one day and I have my children in the car when a panic atrack happens will I black out this time and crash. I couldn’t risk taking that chance, I was tired of fighting my mind and thinking I could controll this on my own and fact is I couldnt im not a super hero. I think if more people opened up about it and shared that less and less people would fear seeking help.

  • SF

    Truth be told Rick Warren suffered severe depression and was very open about it to the membership of the church. I wish he had addressed it more openly…perhaps he did by means of he and Pastor John developing Celebrate Recovery. It was a separate ministry, it was tragic that he had to come full circle with the struggle of also loving someone who had a mental illness in private. The church still is not getting it right. But men and women of faith such as yourself must keep speaking out, and serving simultaneously. Mental illness does not make a person less holy than someone who does not have that struggle to manage. We must turn the light on with this reality. No more keeping people in the shadows and imposing shame.

  • Joppa

    Thank you for sharing. I to have battled depression, faith, medication and my husbands compassion and understanding have kept me off medication for 16 years…just recently I had another attack of depression in which I thought I can work through this…but I could not. So I took medicine for a few weeks and cleared my head and I’m back on track again. I’m grateful to know what it is and that when I’m at my lowest I have help through God and when needed medicine. I also read a book by Kris Vallotton called “Spirit Wars” where he battle depression and anxiety…he is a well known speaker, church leader, author etc. check him out:)
    Blessings to you and I’ll be praying for you!

  • Angel Proctor

    Los I really appreciate your courage and transparency. My father was a minister. I assessed every teacher, leader, pastor by the measuring stick of his words and deeds. Then one day I realized, he was just a man. A man as broken and flawed as I was. As we all are. God doesn’t look for perfection. God didn’t necessarily give you this beautiful affliction. One need only to read this post, to understand its purpose in your life. Preach on Brother….Preach on.

  • Dan Pollard

    The text saying my Rx was ready came right before I read this. Depression. Ministry and depression, depression and the church, or mental illness period. Thanks for sharing your story Los. I am heartened though because I’m a little older than you and I can see the church getting better at realizing that to be the hope of the world means to be open, honest, loving, and genuinely caring about people – all people, regardless of how they come through the doors. Yes, we have a ways to go. So we should keep sharing, teaching, and challenging the status quo to move towards transparency wrapped in love. Thanks again!

  • paulette

    I so understand this. A couple of years ago I was at work and this panicanxiety attack quickly but suddenly came out of no where and I could not get control of it. I thought the same thing heart attack and Im fixing to die as everything went black. I went to the hospital and they said panicanxiety attack. It happened about 5 months ago again. I to was sweating like crazy praying and asking God to take it away. I had 3 in one week. I had one not to long ago and I said ok God I need to know how to stop these if your not gonna take it and I heard clear as day speak to it you have the power to speak to it and tell it NO and to STOP in my name as I starred it down in a mirror at work. So now when they happen I find a mirror and say you STOP it now in the name of Jesus and it quickly leaves. So I totally know how this feels. God bless and keep you always.

  • paulette

    I so understand this. A couple of years ago I was at work and this panicanxiety attack quickly but suddenly came out of no where and I could not get control of it. I thought the same thing heart attack and Im fixing to die as everything went black. I went to the hospital and they said panicanxiety attack. It happened about 5 months ago again. I to was sweating like crazy praying and asking God to take it away. I had 3 in one week. I had one not to long ago and I said ok God I need to know how to stop these if your not gonna take it and I heard clear as day speak to it you have the power to speak to it and tell it NO and to STOP in my name as I starred it down in a mirror at work. So now when they happen I find a mirror and say you STOP it now in the name of Jesus and it quickly leaves. So I totally know how this feels. God bless and keep you always.

  • Drew Harrison

    I am still working out what I have to say about this … personally I have been lifted out of what most would assume was bi – polar disorder. ..praise his magnificent name. ..before my renewal I was not able to have conversations with anyone because the symptoms of this “disorder would supercede. I had rapid speech, rapid thoughts, lustful, and devious intentions consistently. There is so much more to this story that I won’t get into right now…I have been liberated from the horror of mental illness through the blood of Christ. I have had no symptoms in almost a year now ..praise the Lord.

  • pammyk

    Thank you for reposting this. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  • Cheryl

    We began this road with my husband 7 years ago. Medication has not helped. It made it worse. Finally seeing light recently when the doc discovered he was deficient in magnesium. Who knew? Praying we finally have an answer.

  • BP

    Thanks for this post! I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for years now and your words really comforted me. It’s great to encounter people who struggle with the same stuff.

  • Anita Lapp Southam

    What a great post and good for you for speaking up! So many people try to hide their anxiety and panic attacks, which really makes things worse for them. It’s very common and nothing to be embarrassed about. I myself suffered with this for years, but now teach a class at my church to help others that are struggling. The response has been amazing! I really felt led to continue helping others, so I just launched a website and will definitely be sharing this post on my Facebook page and my website. Thank you so much for sharing your heart on this matter.

  • Valerie Akins Kopischke

    I, too have suffered from panic and depression. I’ve had panic attacks from childhood. I thought everyone had them. They grew more severe in adulthood and then I finally had to get help for the depression. The church will only heal and help due to extremely brave souls such as yourself openly discussing the matter. Every time I talk about my problem, someone admits to having the same problem, others become more aware of the problem, and the power it has to define me lessens. God bless you.

  • trevor s

    well said, mate

  • cori richards

    Well put.My son suffered(I use past tense because he did commit suicide)from Bi-Polarism and it had nothing to do with his faith.I am thankful that he was saved

  • Theresa Milton

    Right on brother! I’m right there with you. The first time I had a panic attack I was absolutely sure it was a heart attack. I don’t hide who I am. This. Is. Me.

  • grace

    can’t imagine the panic attacks you had in preparing to write this. thanks for your honesty and allowing God to use you.

  • Selmers

    What a load of manure. So, you’re basically saying that I can drink and do drugs because Im depressed, instead of working on a closer relationship with God, learning how to use the power of prayer, positive thinking, and enthusiasm to overcome my chemical dependence.
    Awesome! More Valium! More Beer!

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