My Journey of Overcoming Anxiety, Panic Attacks, OCD, Phobias and Other Fear Related Battles

One of the common things I hear from people I help is their relief in knowing someone else has gone through many of the battles they have faced. It’s amazing that what God leads you through can become leverage to help others.

I personally understand the torment of fear in its various forms; be it chronic anxiety, panic attacks, OCD thinking and phobias. I know the darkness and what its like to feel like your mind is spinning out of control. I spent many years of my life living underneath fear’s influence. I know first-hand the kind of agony that you can have being gripped in its clutches.

When I woke up, it was there. As I attempted to lay down to go to sleep, it was there. The need for relief was so intense and many times I had no idea how to process what I was going through.

Survival Mode

Like many who struggle, I spent a lot of time in survival mode, not knowing how to break free. In fact, when I talk about my deep struggles with anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, social phobias and more, I basically had a personal nervous breakdown. My cry for help took me from a church counselor to a psychologist, which eventually led to a psychiatrist. Yet over time, I ending up at a hopeless dead end, where I didn’t know where to go next. The darkness increased and took over a lot of my emotional state.

Through this whole season, it seemed that connecting to God was very challenging. I had all these inward hidden blocks and torments that just would not allow me to sense His presence or connect to what God was doing in my life.

At the time I was a pastor, overseeing music and productions. Even though things seemed to be going pretty well from the outside view, inside I was broken and falling apart.

Fear Was Following Me

Fear followed me every day to the point that I could hardly ever sit still or be quiet. I shared my battles with some friends and people in ministry, but many of them just didn’t know what to say. Any small moments of relief were met with fear rising up to steal any measure of peace.

Because of my lack of peace, the only thing I knew to do was to get incredibly busy, from morning till dawn. This led me to feeling like I always needed to have something to do. Busyness filled my calendar. Meanwhile, stillness and quiet prayer was near impossible for me during this time.

The Struggle in Connecting to God

Let me be honest: I believed that if I performed well in ministry, God would be happy and pleased with me. With this dysfunction came a lifestyle of drivenness and a performance mentality that was off the charts. I loved the Lord and wanted Him to touch me so deeply, yet I could not seem to grasp it because I felt I needed to earn His touch and strive for it.

I became exhausted, because I felt God was always mad at me and I needed to work harder to get into His presence. I watched other people get so deeply touched by God and I always assumed it was because they prayed so much and were more spiritual than I was.

I believed the more spiritual I could be, the more God would move. Yet I did not even really know what it meant to be “more spiritual.”

So in a mindset of religious drivenness, I attempted to get God’s attention through somber prayers and more works of ministry. I would pray and pray and pray. When I felt I did not pray as much as I should, I would go into major guilt and condemnation, thinking that God was not moving because I did not pray long enough. Yet when I did pray, it never seemed to be adequate.

At my best moment, which wasn’t great, I felt that God was just OK with me. He was not thrilled with me. He wasn’t going to kill me on the spot, but I felt that God tolerated me more than He loved me.  

When I would slack, sin, or make mistakes, I felt I needed a week or so to earn my way back into decent standing with God. I believed that because I had failed and sinned, He was not pleased with me and would have to give me the silent treatment for a while.  

Fear Pressure

I was riddled with fear issues, but many of them were hidden under the surface. I was able to hide them for a while, until they became so intense I had to start paying attention to my need for heart healing.

I feared making mistakes.

I feared getting hurt.

I feared rejection.

I feared intimacy.

I was afraid of God.

I was afraid of others.

I feared the future.

This was just the start, but I had to get honest.

One thing I feared greatly was that I would end up out of God’s will. I desperately feared failure and was afraid of making a wrong move that God didn’t approve of, which would put me out of His will.

Every decision I made seemed to have an eternal destiny weighing in the balance, so I never felt free to make mistakes or to make simple choices without fear. I was convinced that one wrong move in my life would produce utter disaster.

I could not comprehend that He loved me in my condition. I knew He loved me enough to let me go to heaven, but not enough to let me be close to Him. I served Him diligently for His love, but I never served Him out of receiving His love.

Obsessive Compulsive Battles

Like many of the people I help today, my struggles with anxiety, phobias and panic attacks were also obsessive. One troublesome thought could cycle in my mind through endless loops that never seemed to stop. The OCD aspect of the battle was the most difficult to address, because it twisted a lot of my perceptions and keep me from landing into relational peace with God, myself and others.

I had severe Relationship OCD. I would get into severe fear and torment over it because I never felt safe in committed relationships. I feared having committed dating relationships. I was terrified of commitment. Marriage to me was more tormenting than it was an exciting subject. 

With this in mind, I never had a very peaceful and enjoyable dating life, because I was constantly in fear and in a state of being unable to give and receive love. I deeply struggled to feel settled in letting a woman love me. In addition, my fear of rejection kept me from getting close to just about anyone.  

OCD battles led me to have deep social phobias, panic attacks and even night torments. The struggle was real and getting more intense.

There Must Be Answers

Yet through it all, I knew deep down inside that there must be a better way. There had to be a life better than this. Not only was I suffering, but a growing number of Christians around me were falling into the same battlegrounds.

In my hunger for help, God placed people into my life for seasons who helped me address certain aspects of the battleground that I needed to face. In my search for answers, I made myself available to be taught and to learn what it can look like to step into freedom.

Through all of these experiences, God is helping me expose fear’s masquerade, revealing its pageant of lies and illusions.

Now don’t mistake it. I still have many areas that God is continuing to heal. I don’t sit in a hammock, living an easy life. But I am grateful that as I sit down and write this, I am not writhing in torment and intense restlessness. I now have tools and perspectives to overcome. Which is why I am so passionate about I Will Not Fear.   

But as I look back on my journey, there are some important mindsets I had to keep in mind. In learning to experience transformation, I had to be willing to understand some things:

1. Get Teachable

When you realize that you don’t know what you need to know, it can position you to learn in a huge way. In my desperate search for help, I became an excellent listener. Instead of endlessly spouting out what my problems were or sharing what I knew, I asked some simple questions and learned to listen . . . really listen.

Many people I talk to today are not listening. They are thinking of the next thing to say and are not really taking in the truth they need to hear and activate. When looking back, I spent hours listening to, teachers, the word of God and the whisper of God.

In that process, light bulbs went off every day. So much insight flooded my heart that I got tired of writing everything down. It was like a downpour of understanding came to me. It wasn’t because I was super smart or had degrees. I just positioned myself to learn.

2. Make Way for Process

I stopped look for the overnight breakthrough and instead, buckled up my seat belt for a journey. There have been powerful moments of change, but most of my healing came about in process.

I had to position myself to discover and learn. I got highly curious and starting asking questions as I searched the Scriptures.

As I worked through my own process, it showed me that the anxiety I struggled with revealed areas of thinking that needed to shift and aspects of the heart that needed tending to. Those areas needed to be brought to the surface and healed.

The anxiety was really a symptom of deeper issues that needed to be addressed. And that does not change overnight.

3. Address Transformation in Layers

As I made room for process, I noticed that God was working on me in layers.  He knows what I can handle and He also knows what needs to be addressed first.

Sometimes, the things He is working on seems unrelated. For example, in asking God to heal my lack of mental health, He taught me about the importance of worship, praise and spending time with Him, with no agenda but connection.

This seems crazy to a guy who couldn’t sit still and get any peace. But looking back, it was what I needed. Getting out of my head and learning to connect to God from my heart was so critical. It was in that season that the power of Father God’s love for me became a personal revelation.

4. Be WillIng to Help Others

I didn’t wait til I “arrived” to begin encouraging others. Whatever I learned, I began sharing and encouraging others with it. People saw the change in me. The transformation was affecting me even down to my personality.

But there were times where I thought, “When I get more well, I will encourage others.”

Baloni. Start now. Share the insights you are learning with someone else. It’s the best way to get the truth of God imbedded in you.

5. Learning to Receive Love

The biggest thing that my fear battles showed me was that I did not know how to connect to love. God’s love was very challenging for me. So my battle with fear became a cue for me to delve deeper into what receiving the love of Father God truly means.

The very presence of true love gives fear an eviction notice. Yet someone who is bound by fear will have a very difficult time giving and receiving love. It seems impossible to connect love when you are locked in by fear. At best, you can merely go through the motions. You end up feeling trapped.

But the truth is, love is the answer. But it must be experienced. That is why you will need to open up your heart to the possibilities and ways that God can show you the love He has for you.

For many, you’re going to need to face your fears by finding a safe place where you can receive a tangible sense of God’s love. This will enhance your healing process. I know you may have tried this before, but you probably have not taken a risk for your healing like this in a while. It is time to step out again and trust to see your faith met by God and people that He places in your path.

6. Be Kind to Yourself

Let me also encourage you with this word. In your healing process, you’re going to have to cut yourself a break and give yourself time to let God’s love heal you. Too many of us want the “drive-through” fix-up, and unfortunately that can add to the problem.

Love is not a quick fix. Nor is it an addiction rush like many think it to be. Love is not simply something that a minister can slap on you and send you on your way. Love is a divine gift of God, which cannot be simply described; it must be experienced.

God is love. He does not just have love; He is love. When we encounter Him, we ought to be sensing His love in great power. Anything that tries to block you from personally experiencing that pure love is a counterfeit and a deception of satan.

My prayer for you is that you will open up to Father God and ask Him to reveal Himself as Abba (Dad) to you. Begin that today by asking Him to show you His love and allow Him to heal the faulty images of love in your life. Let Him heal your broken heart as you cleanse yourself from fear’s tactics and immerse yourself in His love. That place once tormented by fear can be filled with Dad’s love.