My Age of Anxiety


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!”

Cue crickets.

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…

desert-dawn-breaking-saija-lehtonenThe 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, “You’ve finally lost control…

…it’s about time!”

To read the Conclusion: Life Beyond the Tunnel, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to My Age of Anxiety

  1. I love this, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Epic of Anxiety – gracetogrowdaily

  3. Laura Grace says:

    this is great. I pressed it onto my blog. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well done! All praise to the Lord who it’s out Keeper!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. says:

    Loving this series, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ekurie says:

    the egg hatched!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wayne says:

    All I can say is WOW 😮😮!! Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: My Epic of Anxiety | Mitch Teemley

  9. Roos Ruse says:

    “—he’d entered it with me.” I adore that – and the image!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh — that last line really got me. I don’t know if it’s right to say this, but I’m enjoying your epic of anxiety. Keep it coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Heavenlyjava says:

    Thankyou. It’s awesome stuff. So true

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I just have to say….I LOVE your writing. You have such a gift for expressing yourself and touching on important subjects truthfully and with grace. Thank you for being vulnerable about your anxiety…I know that helps a lot of people (myself included) who are going through mental health issues to not feel alone, and to be honest about their struggles. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kate Loveton says:

    So true. This resonates with me. Been there, friend! Thank God for his mercy. He continues to astound me with his mercy. Let the waves roll over you – that is a visual technique I have often employed.

    Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Anne J. says:

    Hi Mitch. This is really great writing. More than that, the message is beautiful. It’s marvelous. I really love it. I’ve always been a control freak. I still sort of am… A close friend of mine had often reminded me to relinquish control. I have seen the benefits of it but I guess I’m stubborn so I still foolishly try to control the uncontrollable. But, I’m definitely better. 🙂 I’m glad you got to that realization. God is awesome! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: My Age of Anxiety | Mitch Teemley

  16. Dawn Renee says:

    “Cue crickets” : ) It’s said between brilliance & insanity lies a line so fine many cannot balance upon it. Some will teeter. Some will fall. Maybe some fall in one side & rise from the other: ) Einstein’s hair screamed insanity & his work implied brilliance. It may be he struck balance. Teetering or balancing possibly makes manifest very creative abilities.Also, what you’ve shared is like a good book. I appreciate the articulation of wasteland thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sandi Staton says:

    What a mighty God we serve!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Alfiano Fong says:


    Liked by 1 person

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