My Age of Anxiety


Part Three: The Healing Wave

(To read Part One, click here)

I’d become interested in Jesus’ 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, I made 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! 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 body 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 shouted 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: So…what if I suddenly stop my car and run over to that cactus and embrace it and…what kind of cactus is that, anyway? 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 new anti-fight-or-flight 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 Humor, Memoir, Story Power and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to My Age of Anxiety

  1. simplywendi says:

    thank you for your willingness to share such a personal story……’s beautiful and it gives me hope. bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. LOVE this story!
    “True, God had refused to destroy the tunnel, but he hadn’t simply waved goodbye at the entrance—he’d entered it with me.” Yes, a big part of my testimony is not that God has taken away the struggle, just that I am no longer struggling alone, and that makes all the difference.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bill Sweeney says:

    This is so good, Mitch! Thanks for sharing this. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nancy Ruegg says:

    That anti-fight-or-flight response, “Don’t flee, don’t fight—flow,” was surely God-inspired. Isn’t it amazing how he took an experience from childhood (playing in the waves) and used it to bring you into a new experience with HIM, as a young adult. I’m with Bill, above: Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Every journey is different. God continues to meet each of us where we are. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This all hits home for me! Thank you for talking about it Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I liked this very much, Mitch. We all have our story and you have chosen to share yours. We are all better for your honesty, and writing talents.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ann Coleman says:

    I love the honesty of this, Mitch, especially in an age where we are all conditioned to share only our best moments. But I relate to your basic truth….we can only begin to really live when we acknowledge that we aren’t really in control of our lives. That is where God comes in. And once we accept that, everything else falls into place.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you!There are no words to describe what I feel right now. There’s hope for me,too! Bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mitch, that sentence, My brain was wacked with fear while my heart was filled with peace, really resonated with me.
    When I was released from jail, I was mentally sicker than I’d ever been in my life and spiritually stronger than ever before.

    Liked by 2 people

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