Thirty minutes before the evening service, just as I always did, I was conversing with people and waiting for the service to begin. From nowhere, in an instant, all my strength went out of me. My body went limp in the chair, my heart rate skyrocketed, and my blood pressure rose so high that I could feel my entire body shake. I wasn't sure what was happening. • I went to my office and lay down on a couch. In about 15 minutes, everything subsided, and I went out and preached. I noticed that afterward I had an unquenchably dry mouth. Something wasn't right. I went to the doctor, who had me hospitalized. I eventually learned I was having an anxiety attack or panic attack.
Upon reflection, I can see I'd had signs of its approach for two years. There were mysterious instances of what I can only describe as a strange and frightening feeling. Now I know that it was the approach of anxiety produced by high stress and overwork—an anxiety that would ultimately crescendo into panic attacks and full-blown depression.
I had noticed that in the spring and fall, my body would ache. I thought I was developing allergies, but the fact is that while the post-Christmas season and summertime gave me a chance to rest, church programs always cranked back up in the spring and fall, and the aching would begin again.
After three days in the hospital, I felt some rest and relief. I had taken a break from preaching on Sundays, but on the horizon was the 800-person conference on the book of Romans called "Romans, Texas Style." The conference was going to be taped for a high-quality video series. The people coming had paid for admission. The pressure was on. In 12 sessions, I would teach a book that I normally ...