Brian Houston writes…
“In the years after he passed away in 2004, I grieved for the dad I’d known growing up: the loving man who was my hero and role model; the brilliant preacher and evangelist, the man who gathered crowds and had them screaming with laughter one moment and weeping the next as he told incredible stories of faith. And I struggled to come to terms with the realities of the man I never knew, the one who committed acts I could never have imagined. Finally, the stress became too much and I found myself sliding towards depression. Outwardly, my life was going well: our church was flourishing in Australia and taking off globally, the impact of Hillsong Music was on the rise, our television ministry was experiencing unprecedented growth. And yet, I was imploding.
With growth came a level of scrutiny that we’d never experienced before. I felt removed from my life, from my passion and sense of purpose. I was going through the motions, often lost in my thoughts, uncertain how to regain my joy and peace. I was travelling an enormous amount, ministering abroad and building our global campuses. I started using sleeping tablets to get over jet lag. Then I found I could no longer get any restful sleep without taking them.
My family began to ask me if I was OK. I told them I was and tried to keep going as long as I could, preaching and speaking, travelling and leading, as Hillsong continued to grow. However, the physical toll began to manifest as my mind became scattered, and I wasn’t speaking with the same confidence I once had.
Then one day something collapsed within me. Bobbie and I were visiting our campus at Noosa after a whirlwind two weeks of conferences and travelling. I was scheduled to speak that night, and although I’d prepared my message I felt physically weak, and my knees buckled as I walked toward the podium. My words came out jumbled, as if I was speaking gibberish.
Back at our room later that night, I found myself in a state of fear and panic, and I began struggling for air. I felt my heart jackhammer in my chest. I began to sweat and my mouth went dry. A million thoughts raced through my mind at once. I exclaimed to Bobbie that I thought perhaps I was going to die. She knew immediately I was having a panic attack. Even though it was after midnight, she phoned a faithful member of our congregation, a doctor, who was able to talk me through this terrifying episode.
I was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and other doctors suggested I might suffer panic attacks for my whole life, but I determined in my heart that that was not going to happen. In some ways I was shocked by the diagnosis. Surely the doctors weren’t talking about me! I had always been strong enough to handle everything; I was never “that guy” who buckled under pressure. I could not believe I had allowed my life to get to this point.
I took a few days off to think on my priorities, and I changed the way I had been living and leading. I made some big decisions about the way I approached both travel and ministry, I stopped taking the sleeping tablets that were modifying my behaviour and negatively impacting my emotions, and I let God take control of the stresses that were weighing me down. During this time I knew there were many people praying – I have always been blessed with an incredibly loving and supportive family. By the grace of God, I bounced back quickly. I have never had another panic attack and expect I never will…..”
Edited extract from Live Love Lead by Brian Houston (HarperCollins $27), out June 22″