I wrote this post, and it appeared today on Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal PARSE blog. Below are the first few paragraphs with a link to the rest of the story on PARSE. A special thanks to Leadership Journal and editor Paul Pastor for letting me share my story about struggling with anxiety and finding God in the midst of it. —Samuel
As the church continues to discuss how better to serve those struggling with mental illness, I’m pleased to share this personal story from Samuel Ogles. Sam powerfully tells how he found hope and healing from a serious anxiety disorder, offering a little practical wisdom for leaders. – Paul
I had my first real panic attack in a Big Boy restaurant my junior year of high school.
I used to think that I just didn’t like change. New places and experiences made me uncomfortable. When I would go to a restaurant on a date I would get nervous. “Everyone gets nervous on dates,” people told me. What I couldn’t tell them was that I got so nervous, I couldn’t even touch my food. I got so nervous that I was afraid I’d vomit or pass out or run screaming from the restaurant. I know now that the “fight or flight” response of a panic attack will do that to you. But it wasn’t until college that I learned the name for what was happening to me: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Panic attacks.
Dominated by fear
Anxiety takes one difficult hurdle and projects a thousand more just like it into your future. What started as one reaction to an isolated incident becomes the script for your whole life.
For the next five years, I experienced severe anxiety every time I went to a restaurant. That’s the power of anxiety—it takes one difficult hurdle and projects a thousand more just like it into your future. What started as one reaction to an isolated incident becomes the script for your whole life. Your thoughts take over and “you do it to yourself.” On a primal level, having an anxiety disorder means that you’re dominated by fear—irrational fear of a particular something, though that something can be anything from traveling on airplanes, to social situations, to (vicious cycle here) fear of panic attacks themselves. Personally, my anxiety mainly centered around two issues: breaking out of my routine, and eating in front of other people.