Living with Crohn's Disease and Overcoming Panic Attacks with Becky Isaacs Bowman

Auntie Anne Beiler
December 21, 2021

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels


Although she's an accomplished musician, singer, and songwriter who's performed in front of people since she's been a young girl, Becky Isaacs Bowman suffers from panic attacks while on stage. Add to that a terminal illness making the anxiety worse, and it's easy to see why Becky has spent a good portion of her life overcoming.

Today on Overcoming With Auntie Anne, we're continuing with our Isaacs Family-themed month. Each member of this family has their own unique story for sure. They all have their own struggles, and I want you to hear from all of them. And today, we're chatting with my good friend, Becky Isaacs Bowman.

Becky is a guitar player and vocalist for the Isaacs and an accomplished songwriter in her own right. She started writing songs as a teenager and earned her first number one with Stand Still.
And her vocals can be heard in the background on projects by Paul Simon, Alabama, Dolly Parton, and Jason Crabb.

Listen to the podcast to hear my entire conversation with Becky, or keep reading to catch some of the highlights.

She's not just a musician

Most people know Becky for who she is on stage. But there's more to her than meets the eye. She also works behind the scenes and runs the Isaacs' nonprofit, The Isaacs Foundation, as well as their record label, The House of Isaacs.

She met her husband, John, in 1991 while they were playing a show together--she with the Isaacs and him with another band--in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (my hometown!) at an outdoor event. They got married three years later, and John joined the Isaacs and spent 13 years as a part of the band. But today, he's following his heart's desire and is an evangelist.

I have to share this story with you. The first time Becky and I hung out, she told me that if we were ever in her hometown, we should stop by. Well, my husband and I were on a motorcycle trip, and I noticed we were driving through the town where she lived. I was so surprised because we weren't planning on going to see her, but we pulled over anyway to a little cafe and called to see if they were home.

We totally invited ourselves over to their house (I'd probably second guess doing that today), but they were so completely kind and hospitable and actually cooked us a meal. Ever since then, we've been connected, and I just have to believe it was meant to be.

Growing up in a musical family

Of all the Isaacs, Becky says that she is one of the shyest. And of the three Isaacs children, she's the one who probably would have never played an instrument or sang in the band. But her dad discovered that she had talent musically--although she admits it doesn't come as naturally to her as it does to her siblings. "I've had to work a little harder at playing."

She didn't always want to be a musician. She actually wanted to go into the medical field. But when it was time to choose a career, her parent's relationship was unstable, and the family leaned on her, so she didn't end up pursuing what she wanted.

Looking back, she says, "I've struggled with my calling because I could not differentiate between whether dad called me or God called me." She always felt like a misfit, like the sibling who shouldn't be on stage with the family, and admits that there's been some internal resentment over the years.

But ultimately, she's come to believe that God did call her to music, not her dad, and believes that the life she has is what God wants for her. And she says that it's helped her grow in life and develop a backbone. She's learned over the years to "relinquish control" and trust that where she is is what God wants for her. I'd say she's learned to surrender.

This surrender has helped her come to peace with where she is in life and she's "comfortable with where God has [her] now." Becky admits that both holding on and letting go can bring pain. But "at the end of the day," she tries to make her decisions based on what she believes God wants her to do "because either one's going to hurt."

Trying builds character

Becky used to question why things were so much more difficult for her if music is what God has called her to. "Why do I have stage fright? Why am I timid? Why am I afraid to stand in front of people?" But she says that those are the very things that have helped her grow as a person.

She used to turn down opportunities out of fear and was afraid to completely step into her calling. She believes she was living out of a "wounded spirit." But, she says, "I have learned that trying is so much greater than the failure of not trying."

So she trusts God to help her through. And she says that he's always been there and has always shown up and been faithful.

Panic attacks

When she was 11, Becky started getting panic attacks. There was a lot going on in life--her parents were having marital problems, the family was making a record, her father got injured--and she was feeling the pressure of it all. One morning, she woke up to a panic attack and didn't know what it was.

It started happening more often, especially when she was on stage performing. She says she felt trapped because people had paid to come to see her family perform, and she couldn't just walk off stage. It made her feel very claustrophobic.

As she got older, life continued to pile on. Her parents were still struggling and there were changes happening in the family members' individual music careers. She began having panic attacks every night they performed.

She was able to talk to her family about it, and they've embraced it and have tried to make her feel comfortable. But what she really wanted was for them to tell her she didn't have to perform. She wanted to be able to control her environment, but all the things she kept hidden inside would manifest themselves when she got on stage, and she'd have an attack.

Learning to cope

Becky began anxiety counseling and is an avid promoter of counseling, especially receiving counseling before you're completely broken. She believes that a lot of people wait to go to counseling. They wait until things have completely fallen apart to get help. But she says, "I'm a believer that counselors keep you from being broken," and she has received all types of counseling over the years: anxiety counseling, marriage counseling, family counseling, and business counseling.

In addition to getting counseling, she's also developed coping mechanisms that have helped her throughout the years, and she's learned to embrace who she is. As she says, "[I] find ways to make myself feel comfortable when I feel the pressure mounting."

She's learned to choose her battles, learned when to say yes to things and when to say no. And she's learned not to overfill her backpack. "It used to be that I had a backpack that weighed me down. And now I choose what I'm going to put in my backpack."

Living with Crohn's disease

Not only has Becky dealt with anxiety, she's also lived with a terminal illness. She had Crohn's disease for ten years and was on 20 medications. She took 60 milligrams of steroids everyday for ten years. (For context, most people never take more than 20 milligrams a week). And she was on chemo treatments for six years as well as other injections. All of this caused an inability to sleep, and it was making her anxiety even worse.

Eventually, she went through a holistic program, although she admits it's unorthodox to many people, and is now free of the medications that used to keep her alive. And she says that "when you detox physically, you have a lot of time to detox emotionally and spiritually."

She acknowledges that "through the body healing, my spirit, my mind, and my soul healed."

Becky has learned to trust in God's provision over the years and admits it's a growth process that makes your faith active. "When God's provision becomes sufficient in every season of your life, then you begin to have faith in his provision because he's proven himself to be true."

She believes that every individual has their own unique journey to go through that's just for them. And what we have to do is learn that God will speak to us in a language that's personal to us, and then learn to recognize that language. What impacts one person may not impact the other, but that's okay. It's our own journey.

And we need to remember that it's okay and good to ask God for help. Becky has a prayer that she prays every night before she goes on stage. And with God's help, she has enough faith to do the things he's called her to do.

Becky, your story is riddled with struggle. And I love the fact that you have shared with us how you've overcome and continue to overcome. We're never done until we're done, and I'm grateful that you've shared openly about your struggles and how you've come to the point where you now have a backbone, as you said.

If you want to learn more about Becky or hear her music, you can check out her family's website, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. They have a new album that just came out called The American Face, so be sure to check that out. And the Isaacs were recently invited to become members of The Grand Ole Opry, and I'm very excited for them.

The post Living with Crohn’s Disease and Overcoming Panic Attacks with Becky Isaacs Bowman appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

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