My Epic of Anxiety


Conclusion: Life Beyond the Tunnel

(To read Part One, click here)

It would be nice, though less epic, if my story of anxiety had ended at year seven. It didn’t. But something had changed. I’d moved from trying to control my thoughts to trying not to control them; from fighting or fleeing the wave, to diving into it. The less I feared my thoughts, the more they became my own.

And the more God filled them.

The following year I titled my journal, “The Year of New Beginnings.” I wasn’t out of the tunnel, but the circle of light was growing—and the Father of Lights was in the tunnel with me.

I had a life. I’d been in a well-known comedy act and was starting another. I was touring, recording albums, shooting videos, and teaching. And yet…

I met with a therapist, but his “let’s talk about your parents” approach felt off. Like taking cough medicine for a sprained ankle. I suspected my issue was more about bio-chemistry than childhood memories. Still, I didn’t know what to “take.” Xanax was all the rage among the cool neurotics, but it felt like a band-aid. I tried running to boost my endorphins, but developed runner’s knee.

When a three-year-love ended, I panicked and tried to control my thoughts again. But God whispered, “No. Let go,” and I managed to resume “Don’t fight, don’t flee—flow” mode.

The following year I met the girl I would marry. She had no interest in being a surrogate therapist, and I had no interest in making her one. Life was sweeter. Completer.

Still, most nights I struggled to locate the elusive doorway to sleep.

So I began to read up on anxiety. My two drugs of choice were coffee and alcohol (I hadn’t been drunk since that fateful night, but still enjoyed a toddy). Both produce celebrated feel-good effects. But I learned that in people with OCD (which I suspected included step-on-a-crack-break-your-mother’s-back me) they can produce the opposite effect. Caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs deplete the well-being cocktail our brains normally produce, and stimulate an irrational fight-or-flight response instead. I also learned that in some people niacin (vitamin B3) can restore the proper balance of those chemicals. So I quit alcohol for a year, cut my java by half, and started taking niacin. Result?

After ten years in the tunnel, I stopped worrying about stepping on cracks, and stepped out into the light. I’ve had a few flare-ups since then, but they’ve been minor enough that I can gratefully say, “I’m the guy who used to suffer from anxiety.”

Would I willingly take that journey again? No! I’m not crazy! (I only thought I was.) But I’m glad I went through it, nevertheless. Because I learned who I was in the tunnel.

A friend who knew me in high school and reconnected with me years later, said, “You’ve lived a charmed life.” Hah! I thought. If you only knew! But then again… I’ve found the proverbial silver lining: my obsessive brain helps me shape stories, enables me to write and make films. More importantly, what I’ve been through has deepened my empathy for others, and empowered me to counsel those with similar pathologies. No, I’m not a therapist, just a seasoned hiker on the emotional trail.

But “a charmed life”?

Well, yes, I suppose it has been.

About mitchteemley

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

21 Responses to My Epic of Anxiety

  1. Pingback: My Epic of Anxiety | Mitch Teemley

  2. nancyehead says:

    I love that you said your obsessive brain helps you develop stories! So THAT’s the blessing behind the curse. I’ve not had horrible anxiety, but I lean OCD. Having had five children kept that in check. Glad to know there’s a silver lining.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. And I agree with you, I never want to go through that again, but the experience does help us to be more understanding, sympathetic, and hopefully helpful towards those who are still struggling. Blessings

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Lucie says:

    Beautifully written piece, Mitch. I needed this piece this morning…(I write as i sit in my Doctor’s office about to request a xanax prescription)😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved your story! Thanks for sharing. It was definitely encouraging to me as a fellow OCD sufferer. I will have to try the B3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      So glad it’s an encouragement to you! Re. B3 (niacin): 1) Avoid time-release capsules. 2) Niacinamide and non-flush niacin don’t work for me. 3) You don’t need super-high doses like heart patients take (you probably won’t need more that 500 mg/day–I take less than that); experiment with what time of day is most effective (I take them at bedtime). 5) You’ll probably experience “niacin flush” at first (flushed itchy or burning skin for 15 min. or so); it’s not harmful, but can be annoying. It generally goes away after you’ve taken niacin for a while.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Mike Cullen says:

    It is so empowering to hear another mans story that is similar to mine in aspects. To know that I (we) are not alone nor do we have to hide any more.I could comment on every line but I wont be that egotistical. You know I am in 12 step recovery and I am there because it’s where I found “my” solution to my problems. Anxiety and panic used to rule me Mitch. Now it’s rare to have a panic attack and anxiety is not very common either. In AA I get to listen to men and women open up and talk about their fears the sharing is intimate;It reminds me I am not alone. Thanks Mitch

    Liked by 2 people

  7. knabbler says:

    Very glad our trails have crossed. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anne J. says:

    Mitch, this whole post is just amazing. There are so many points I’d like to quote because they resonate with me but that’s like re-writing here about half of what you’ve written. 🙂 My OCD isn’t “bad”. I don’t even know why I refer to it as OCD because I’ve read about other people’s condition. Even my anxiety. I, myself, would even sometimes say a charmed life indeed. I guess I can understand your friend. It’s a battle against ourselves really, right? It took long to realize that going with the flow works best. A friend once told me that ignoring or fighting does not work at all but acknowledging does and going anyway. I guess much like relinquishing control. The best thing we get out of having gone through the anxiety is we truly discover who we are; you are spot on.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Heres Your Hope and commented:
    My home page, which I just wrote earlier this month, asks the question, “Is there light at the end of your tunnel?” A few days later, I read this blog. It is so powerful! He said he was not alone in the dark tunnel, as The Father of Lights was with him.


  10. Mimi Seton says:

    I really love this piece, Mitch! It had so many great laughs. Not to mention emotional honesty and some gorgeous writing. Really lovely job.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t even know why I refer to it as OCD because I’ve read about other people’s condition. There are so many points I’d like to quote because they resonate with me but that’s like re-writing here about half of what you’ve written.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Funny that you should mention “don’t step on a crack…” I, too, have always associated that childhood game with anxiety. Love your willingness to be transparent and authentic, Mitch! That is worth its weight in gold!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. sothisisbliss says:

    LOVE this! Self-awareness is king.

    Liked by 1 person

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