How To Live In Fear by Lance Hahn, is the most important book I’ve read on anxiety, panic, and depression in the last decade.
Panic is not a word I thought would ever be commonplace in my life. I was 29 when I had my first panic attack. Our house had flooded due to a freak rainstorm some months before and while we were able to get everything cleaned up and sealed up I was pacing in the basement. I was walking back and forth down the hall and all I could see in my mind was flood water. The floor was dry. It hadn’t even started raining outside and I was pacing. I kept thinking I saw shiny spots on the corner of the bathroom or the laundry room. I was putting my cheek to the carpet thinking I was feeling water on my face. I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe. My stomach was tightening and I wanted to vomit. I became dizzy and had to sit down on the floor. I was having a panic attack. This would be the first of many to come.
I didn’t acknowledge what was happening. I had grown up imagining things like panic attacks as signs of weakness and inferiority. Who was a man, that couldn’t control his own mind? Little did I know that this would be the thing God would use to help test my trust in Him and shape my faith like it had not yet been shaped.
- My dad died.
- I got a new job.
- We had our second daughter.
- I had a new boss in a new department with new expectations.
- And I was trying to save the world.
- And I was failing.
I woke up one morning and felt like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t tired. I just didn’t care. I didn’t want to move. I began to cry for no reason. My wife was in the shower and I laid in bed crying like a baby. I got so mad. I couldn’t pin point the why behind my tears. My anger made me more mad which made me cry harder. I got up and got dressed and went to work.
We had a party with family and friends. I remember sitting at the table and feeling like I just had to leave. I needed to not be with anyone. I went into the front room of our house and sat for what I thought was about five minutes. My wife came into check on me. “You’ve been in here for an hour. Are you OK?” How could she know? “I’m fine.” I shrugged it off. I didn’t want to bother her with my burdens.
This happened again and again. It started happening at work. I’d go into a quiet room away from my co-workers and cry. I’m a student pastor at a large and successful church. Things were going well. I felt like I couldn’t tell my co-workers what was going on.
I got into an argument with a supervisor. I swore at him and yelled and acted completely out of character. I went home that day and yelled more. I was grumpy and withdrawn. I yelled at my girls. I yelled at my wife. For no reason.
Then I had a trusted friend say something to me I desperately need to hear, as it pertained to my job. “Hey, you know you can’t save the world right?” I was taken back, “What do you mean?”. “If you are going to put on a superhero cape and tights and save the world you do that at home. Your job could be gone tomorrow but your family will always be with you. Don’t push them away.”
The next day another supervisor came to me and asked me about my dad. I lost it. I began to cry.
A few weeks later I was sitting in my doctor’s office. He asked me a few questions that I had only ever been on the asking side of. He asked me if I had ever thought about hurting myself. He asked me about my fears. He asked me about my family. He prescribed a little white pill. And I was beginning to feel again.
I called a friend who had struggled with panic attacks for a while. I was truthfully panicking about taking a pill for panic attacks. I had attached a negative stigma to it. He was available. He listened and he helped me realize it was ok to feel the way I was feeling. He gave me the courage to accept help.
My supervisor had offered to pay for me to go to a few sessions of counseling to talk through my fear and my grief and depression. I realized that I had never properly mourned the loss of my father. I had been running a million miles a minute since He died. I never slowed down. I never rested. I dove head first into my new job and masked my pain and grief. Counseling forced me to slow down. It forced me to deal. It forced me to be vulnerable and honest and open with myself.
Then it began to rain again. Another big storm. Water in a place we didn’t catch the first time. More clean up. Nothing was damaged. We sealed things up again. And so did I. I sealed myself off. I began to constantly check weather reports. My pulse would quicken as the clouds darken. I found myself again in repetitive states of panic.
I then began to pray. I had always prayed about my circumstances. I had not prayed about my focus. I heard a podcast interview with Louie Giglio where he shared about his bouts with anxiety and depression. He shared a prayer/song he had begun to pray whenever he felt anxious. I began to pray the same prayer:
Be still my soul there is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing. His arms a fortress for the weak.
Over and over again I would pray that prayer. Things began to get better.
Truthfully I still struggle with anxiety, depression, and panic. I probably always will to one degree or another. So when I came across How To Live In Fear. I felt like the title alone was different that most books I had heard of on the topic. It focused on life. It focused on the ability to live life in the middle of fear that doesn’t seem to shake. Lance writes from experience. He tells his story. He’s honest and vulnerable and humorous and everything that a book on fear needs to be. He offers practical advice as a person who needs to take the very same advice. It’s the best book on anxiety I’ve ever read. It’s so important for those who struggle and the ones who love them to understand how fear works in the mind and how to help.
This is a MUST read.
Links related to Lance Hahn’s book on fear: