My Age of Anxiety

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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 reading 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 nip). Both produce celebrated feel-good effects. But I learned that in people with OCD (which I suspected included ol’ 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 that tunnel, and who, under God’s tutelage, I was becoming.

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 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to My Age of Anxiety

  1. I enjoyed reading your “My Age of Anxiety” posts. It is amazing how the Lord brings healing to a person’s life. Incredible testimony! God bless!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks for revealing about your life. Over-coming hard times is good stuff.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Farhadhamsada says:

    What a great post! I have been through anxiety in my early 20’s and it wasn’t fun at all took me over 2 years to overcome it. I feel for you and I’m glad that you’re doing well now!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What a story! Hopefully, the Lord will use it to help others and draw them to Himself! God is so good!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. atimetoshare.me says:

    Thanks for sharing this part of your life. I’m sure it will encourage those with similar issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thank you for baring all. You have probably helped many by doing so. Many feel that they alone, are the only one who has these sort of problems.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I read an article by Cernovich where he spoke about OCD, intrusive thoughts and depression. He quoted several PubMed articles about oxidative stress contributing to these things and how a very low dose of N.A.C. can help and did help him. It’s very cheap, over the counter and is a precursor of glutathione. https://www.cernovich.com/n-acetylcysteine-depression-bipolar-anxiety/

    I’ve never tried it but I may pick up some at the vitamin store today.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. A.P. says:

    From what I can tell so far, I don’t know if you’ve lived a “charmed” life. But I believe you have lived a *fulfilling* life.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thank you for sharing your story with us Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. LOL, that “charmed life” crack is a good illustration of why we should never envy people who SEEM “luckier” than we are. We don’t know the half of it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. librepaley says:

    The old adage is true, you cannot compare your inside to someone else’s outside.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. hey follow my blog for latest movie reviews http://www.moviesandchills.com

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  13. I just had a thought. Looking back, would you not say that the tunnel had a light at the entrance? Oh well. Another great piece Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ann Coleman says:

    I think there is a difference between a “charmed” life and an “easy” life. Yours has certainly not been easy, even though you have accomplished many great things and have sustained wonderful relationships. But I do believe that it has been charmed! And not in the least because of your faith.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve appreciated your transparency on a subject most people shy away from. I have also suffered from anxiety and am certainly OCD, which is a not so good way to try to hold back the panic!! OCD has a way of growing. The best advice I ever had was similar to your dive in, go with the flow. It was that a panic attack would never kill me and not to be afraid of the fear (sounds a little like Winston Churchill doesn’t it!).

    Once I stopped being afraid of the fear, and trust that God was always there no matter what, I’ve been able to do much better. But in some ways, I’m glad it all happened, because those troubled times led me to the Lord!

    Thanks again for posting about your struggles!

    Liked by 2 people

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