In How to Live in Fear, Lance tackles the pervasive problem of fear and panic head-on by inviting readers into his world. In this genuine and practical book, he invites readers into the life of a pastor living with anxiety disorder. Through humorous personal stories—like losing it on an airplane or collapsing onstage as he is about to preach—Lance will win over readers with his transparency. He will also share the remedies that have helped him recover and overcome throughout the years. Lance will show readers that while he may still encounter bouts of panic, he has never let his disorder stop him from living a full life.
First off, I have to say I was completely charmed by the cover of this book! What a perfect illustration of how anxiety can feel! Okay, just had to take a moment to gush over that.
From the age of six, Pastor Lance Hahn has struggled with chronic anxiety to the degree of fighting through dizziness, blurred vision, even convulsions and fainting. He talks of going through periods in his adult life where the symptoms seemed to only worsen, even after counseling sessions and prescription medication (even having the dosages increased!) to try to control it.
Taking vacations and days off, as well as downtime, is now often viewed as some sort of corporate weakness. "Burning the candle at both ends" seems to be an admirable and expected trait of the driven. This mind-set fuels anxiety. Our addiction to digital devices feeds bad news and judgement from all over the world to us all day, every day. We stay in information overload 24/7. How much of the anxiety issues in our society could be eliminated if we would simply slow down, take a break, and find some peace?
Hahn is also open about his struggle with hypochondria. He desperately wanted to escape it all, but how do you get away when the culprit is your own brain? As the saying says...
People often ask me why, instead of being embarrassed, I'm so confident when I talk about my condition. The short answer is that my identity is not wrapped up in what's wrong with me. Not only is my panic disorder not the sum total of what I am, but I didn't do anything wrong to deserve or receive it. We are all so much more than our dysfunction! My identity, as well as yours, is not centered in the fear.
After years of developing coping methods, he shares his experiences and tips with fellow sufferers. Hahn encourages sufferers to push past the fear of revealing to others their struggles. Yes, it's hard for others to understand what's going inside a person's mind because the pain and struggle is internal, often considered invisible / nonexistent. (It was around this section that he discusses how people readily accept medication for physical hurts, so why be ashamed to try it for emotional pain, right!) But Hahn says openly talking about what you're going through "gives context" to your behavior that may be concerning or confusing others. It also releases some of the pent up power created by that defeatist inner monologue. Additionally, you never know when talking about your experiences may encourage other people with this condition to speak up or seek help themselves! Hahn recommends using what he calls the Three I's Plan: Identify Your Triggers, Indicate Patterns, Implement A Plan (ie. course of action or treatment).
The very nature of anxiety leads to isolation. Most people do not understand what is happening to us and cannot relate, no matter how much they care. Because the wound is internal, there is no obvious sign of our handicap, so we don't get much sympathy. If we were in wheelchairs, people would allow for our frailties, but because we usually look fine, the sensitivity drains away quickly. It's hard to explain to someone that even if the fear is imaginary, the physical symptoms are real.
I liked some of the facts that Hahn brings out to illustrate that you are not alone in this condition. As he points out, some of the most creative, most brilliant minds throughout history -- people like Nikolai Tesla, Emily Dickinson, Abraham Lincoln, John Steinbeck, Sir Isaac Newton... even modern celebrities such as Emma Stone, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Depp and Stephen Fry -- have all had battles with crippling anxiety / panic attacks. Hahn also busts out some statistics that provide some small comfort in showing just how many of us struggle with this condition --- some of the ones that stood out to me: 40 million people (18% of US population) suffer from some variation of anxiety disorder, "the most common mental illness in the US", Hahn explains; Rape, not combat duty, is actually the most common trigger for PTSD in today's world; 36% of sufferers experience symptoms for 10 years or more before seeking help; HALF of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
To be healthy inside this disorder, our minds simply cannot be allowed to go wherever they want. We need to be in control of the content we dwell on. I know some days in this life are discouraging and hopeless, but do not lose hope. Don't let the conditions of today shape your soul forever. You might be sitting in a trial right now, but that doesn't have to consume or define you. Just because you have suffered in the past or are suffering now doesn't mean you will always suffer. Lift your head, friend. Salvation is on its way.
Some of the tips he provides are the obvious ones that come up in most of these kinds of books: stay away from known triggers, get your mind off your anxiety by helping others, make quiet time for yourself a priority, try journaling, exercise, seek professional counseling. Other tips he offered I didn't entirely gel with (I don't know how successful I'd be at refusing to deal with any problems after 8pm). But there were some pointers he brought up that did get me thinking. For one, I liked that he got into the difference between sympathy and empathy. An important distinction, I think, as many believe them to be synonymous. I also liked his idea of pausing in bad moments, evaluating the situation and asking yourself, "What released the Kracken?" I think the importance of levity in painful situations is highly underrated. I'm all about embracing my dark humor to push through the dark times :-)
It had a fair amount of good bits I'll take away from the reading, but I don't know if Hahn's particular writing style overall is for me. There was something to the tone that, to me, came off as overly cheery, forced joviality. Then again, that's maybe just my own jaded nature taking it that way lol.
FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com & Thomas Nelson Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.