The Gift of Anxiety
My name is Mike Keahbone, and I have been given a gift called Anxiety Disorder. This gift was unexpected, and certainly one that I would have never asked for. For many years it was a silent, painful, and often times crippling curse.
Silent because no one who has not experienced anxiety disorder can understand what it is and how it affects those who suffer from it. From the outside it just does not make sense. Irrational fear that creates physical symptoms. Dizziness, light headedness, chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath are just a few. My fear manifests itself in death. I get an overwhelming fear that I am going to die. It comes from nowhere and can last from a few seconds to an entire evening. Every ache, pain, or discomfort in my chest becomes a heart attack. A headache? That is most certainly a brain tumor. Upset stomach? Stomach cancer. My mind races to the nuclear option every single time.
Of course I am a believer! I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! I am a pastor. I know what the Bible says. I know that God is in control. I know that God holds the keys to life and death. I know that I am not supposed to worry or be anxious about anything. I read my Bible, I pray, I have an intimate walk with the Lord. I know the truths that should dispel the darkness of anxiety, but I am broken. Tragic events from my childhood scream for the attention of my present, as my brain tries to heal itself from the trauma of my past. This is not a spiritual or emotional issue, it is a health issue.
For most people, they suffer in silence because well intending people speak to anxiety without an educated knowledge of what it is. They believe it is something to just “get over” or that relief can be found on the other side of repentance from not trusting God. Silence is much easier than explaining this dark foe. Silence is much easier than appearing weak. As a husband, father, pastor, leader, and public figure, I struggled with even writing this blog post because of how the perception of me might change. Silence is just easier.
Panic Disorder (another name for Anxiety Disorder) has been a painful curse indeed. Not physical pain, at least for me, but emotional pain. It has stolen beautiful moments from my family and I, my friends, pretty much everyone that I love and care about. Instead of being in the moment, my mind races to find relief. I have found little joy in the things that I used to love. Instead of enjoying a round of golf, I wonder if I am going to be able to finish. Instead of enjoying a movie at my favorite theater, I can’t wait until it is over and just get back home. My safe place. Crazy right? It feels that way. A painful curse.
Again, not physically, but mentally. My mind wages war against itself. The emotional part of my brain is in self-defense mode, while the logical side of my brain tries to sort out perception and reality. The logical side is letting me know all of the truths that I should be resting in to know that I am okay. The emotional side is screaming, “I AM SCARED! DO SOMETHING!” Not literally those words, but the feelings that go with those words. These feelings and moments are crippling, and it takes an exhausting amount of energy to fight through them. Maybe the most debilitating part is that these episodes strike like a terrorist. No pattern, rhyme, or reason. A crippling curse.
This is how I have lived, off and on, since 2004. There were seasons of peace and normality, but recently I noticed a consistent incline in my episodes. This prompted an urgency to research this wretched curse. For the last fourteen years I was careful to stay away from the internet because hangnails quickly become cancer in every article and my anxious mind did not need help with that! I broke my internet medical research fast, and began to study my opponent. The first step mentioned in every article, paper, or study was to find a counselor. Success rates for those who went to therapy were extremely high. I found hope! It was the first time that I had even considered a light at the end of the tunnel. I did not have to be this way forever! My desire to heal and get better quickly overcame my pride and fears regarding the stigma of going to a therapist. Fortunately; I had a great connection with New Vision Counseling. The Lord divinely connected me with them a few months ago and I am forever grateful that He did. Here is the exact text that I sent to Shawn, the leader of New Vision:
“Hey Shawn… sorry not to go through your office, but I think I need to see someone
regarding my anxiety.”
This was his response:
“You got it brother, I will connect you with one of our therapists who specializes
in anxiety. Praying for you and we will walk through this with you, Mike!”
I felt peace! Pure unadulterated peace! I knew things were about to change. Within a few days I was connected with my therapist. I did not ask for her permission to use her name, but I will and perhaps you will meet her through this blog in the future. The Lord has used her in a powerful way to provide a powerful breakthrough for me. After our first session I was so excited! I already felt like the bonds of oppression were being broken. I could sense that freedom was going to be a reality and not just something I longed for.
The title of this blog is The Gift of Anxiety. Up to this point I’m sure that you are a bit confused. How in the world can a curse be considered a gift? When God intervenes. The enemy, Satan, had a plan to wreck me. His strategy was simple; wound, debilitate, frustrate, and celebrate. A wounded, debilitated, and frustrated warrior is often defeated. The enemy celebrates his victory over the defeated. The enemy has been celebrating, but the party is over!
My most recent session brought sweet clarity to my plight. As I was being led to retrace some of the most traumatic moments of my childhood and delve into the feelings of those moments, it was as if the Lord was guiding me through a session of game film. He was giving me insight into how the enemy had been attacking me for years. His tricks, schemes, and tactics were being uncovered. My anxiousness, fear, and loneliness were replaced by anger. A righteous anger. The kind of righteous anger that Dorothy had when she discovered that the Wizard of Oz was just a man pulling strings and pushing buttons behind a curtain. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of victory and relief. I could almost feel my brain being rewired; disconnecting my past from present. Healing.
My sense of victory and relief were not allowed to linger. I still felt the comfort that both brought to my soul, but an empathy for others suffering from AD/PD was coming to the forefront. Over 40 million people in America suffer from some form of Anxiety Disorder/Panic Disorder. Very few of those ever seek professional help. Close to one million, last year, took their lives. Many churches are full of people who silently suffer because of the shame that comes with anxiety. Those people need hope, healing, and a voice. I believe that God has allowed me to endure this curse so that I can lead people to Him. In Jesus Christ they will find their hope and healing. I get to be one of the voices that He uses to lead them there. What a precious gift… the Gift of Anxiety.
I do not know what it looks like, but I am now praying through my next steps. I will be gathering resources, studying, connecting with experts in the field, and evaluating the platforms of influence that God has given me. All to be used to set people free! I told my therapist today that if I have another episode, it’s just another chance to look at game film. I’ll learn from it and further expose the guy behind the curtain.