Part Three: The Healing Wave
(To read Part One, click here)
I’d become interested in Jesus’s teachings months before I entered the dark tunnel of despair. I’d sat on the roof next to my second storey apartment window reading a collection of quotes, his words burning a hole in my heart.
So, naturally, when the darkness came, it occurred to me to make him an offer: “This would be the perfect time to prove yourself by fixing me!”
I suppose I might have blown him off at this point, but I couldn’t. Because of that hole in my heart. And so, nearly a year into my epic of anxiety, I offered my fresh-pierced heart to the one who’d made it.
I was now officially schizophrenic: My brain was wracked with fear while my heart was flooded with peace. True, God had refused to destroy the tunnel, but he hadn’t simply waved goodbye at the entrance—he’d entered it with me.
I rarely thought of suicide anymore (I’d considered it often before) because now I had a sense of purpose.
If anything I did was truly insane during those first six years of anxiety—yes, six—it was the fact that I applied the fight-or-flight approach over and over again. Fight: “No! Go away! I rebuke you!” Flee: “Think of something else!” Both approaches failed every time. “Why?” I asked God. “Do I need more faith?”
His answer came while I was driving through the Southern California desert late one night. A wave of panic began to roll over me. I looked out at the cactus silhouettes and thought, What if I suddenly stop my car and run over to a cactus and embrace it, piercing my bodies with needles, and then wander in the desert, crazy and alone until I die!” “No! Stop it! That won’t happen!” Normal-Me shouted. “But what if it does?” Crazy-Me retorted. “It won’t!” Normal-Me hoped back. “But what if…”
I suddenly flashed back to when I’d played in the ocean as a kid. I loved it. Except that the larger waves frightened me; I couldn’t beat them back and I couldn’t outrun them. And every time one crashed down on me it drove me mercilessly into the sand and the sucking undercurrent. Then one day I discovered the secret: If I dove into the wave, I came out on the other side just seconds later—unscathed and giggling!
Let it roll over you, a voice breathed into my mind.
I looked out at the cactus-silhouetted wasteland…and dove in with my thoughts: What if I suddenly stop my car and run over to that cactus and embrace it and…what kind of cactus is that? It must be a saguaro because it has those arm things…funny, it looks sort of like a bird…there are little owls that live in cactuses…no, cacti, the plural of cactus is cacti…
The wave had rolled right over me. Barely a minute after my panic attack began I’d forgotten I was having one. This had never happened before. Ever.
I thanked God. And then I said aloud the words that were to become my fight-or-flight replacement response: “Don’t flee, don’t fight—flow.” And God whispered, “He’s finally lost control…
…it’s about time!”
To read the Conclusion: Life Beyond the Tunnel, click here.