Grateful for the courage of those in the armed services. Grateful for the courage of those in the foreign service. Grateful for the courage of those who serve on the front line – for those who choose to spend their life’s time as law enforcement officers on the beat; as teachers in classrooms; and social workers on the streets. as grocery store workers; librarians; pilots; musicians and artists; caregivers; journalists; EMT, firefighters, nurses and doctors. Grateful for all people who work their hardest to bring kindness to a world that sometimes seems lost in darkness. Thank you for your service. Thank you for being brave. Just leaving the house these days seems an act of faith.
the instinct is to fold in on myself hide away in a dark corner somewhere away from the cacophony and the bells and whistles – in a quiet padded lair away from worry, stress, and care just close the door to my closet and pray a silent prayer hoping to feel hope again hoping to find stillness in the din to find a place where we can all win and find peace -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Yesterday – before I knew – I felt this sudden deep sense of loss. It was like a shadow passed over me and I felt cold. And scared. And I found myself reaching out in my thoughts to the power and presence of Love that I’ve come to trust is always there for me – even in the darkest times. I asked a question that seemed odd and weirdly morose at the time: “Will you be there for me at the end? Will you help me through?” The answer was immediate – I felt enveloped in this warm blanket of love. “Yes. Always. Trust.”
I’m going to hang onto that – through the cries of “Civil War!” made by the brainwashed and misguided; through the shrieks of “More guns! More guns is the answer!” by the terrified and confused; through the schemes and screams of the financially entitled and politically powerful, of the bigots, busybodies, and bullies.
“Trust. Love wins. Always.” -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Yes, emotional and mental health is a huge problem in our society. People are feeling without hope, discouraged, unloved, disrespected, shamed and humiliated and bullied. We live in a culture that’s big into shaming each other – it’s not healthy. And we need to address all of that, for sure. But all of that is going to take time. You can’t just put a bandaid on that kind of hurt and call it “fixed.”
A more immediate thing we CAN do is put restrictions on guns. I can understand people owning guns for hunting or recreational target practice. But I see no reason why the type of rapid-fire weapon used by that high schooler should be on the market for anyone to buy. That just seems insane to me.
I had this moment of clarity today – everything stilled within me and I realized I didn’t have to be anywhere else or be doing anything else or be anyone else or wait for any other time – I had everything I needed to be happy right there, right then, in that moment. Whoah. -Karen Molenaar Terrell.
Mental Health Story #2 (for Mental Health Awareness Month):
So, a few years after I went through that massive life-changing depression, I had the opportunity to experience another bout of mental dis-ease. (My doctor diagnosed “severe anxiety.”) I think the first experience helped prepare me for the second experience, actually. I went into this one equipped with some tools.
This time the experience wasn’t from inside me – this one was caused by external stress that, I thought, I had no control over and that, I thought, I was powerless to change. I felt trapped and couldn’t see any way to make things better for myself.
Unlike my first experience with mental illnes, this time I did see a professional for help. When I called my health insurance hotline to get help, the woman on the other end of the line asked me a series of questions. One of the last questions she asked me was also one of the hardest questions I’ve ever had to answer in my life: “Have you contemplated suicide in the last week?” I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I told her I had. She asked me if I’d contemplated a method. I told her I had.
She asked me why I hadn’t gone through with it, and I told her I hadn’t gone through with it because “I am a chicken shit, and I thought it might hurt.” She started laughing then – which is the best thing she could have done for me – and told me I’d given her a really healthy answer.
The woman on the other end of the phone found a counselor for me, but when I called the counselor’s office I learned this woman was a psychologist – and I told her office that I didn’t really need a psychologist – my problem wasn’t that serious – I just needed a counselor. The receptionist said she’d have the psychologist call me back. When the psychologist called me back, she assured me that she was, basically, just a counselor with a doctor’s degree and encouraged me to come in and see her. So I did.
My first session with her I just sat there and blubbered. My second session with her I blubbered some more and told her all the things I was expected to change in my current teaching position – things I had no control over – and I didn’t see how I could change “and…and…”
The psychologist asked me, “Do you plan to go back to that positiion?” I told her I didn’t see how I could. And then she asked me a question that completely changed the course of my life: “Then why do you need to fix these things?”
Whoah. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders in that moment. I saw that these things weren’t my problem anymore. I didn’t need to worry about them!
From that moment on our sessions together became all about creating a new life for myself. She helped me recognize the things in my life that were making me, literally, crazy, and that I needed to throw out; and she helped me recognize the things I needed to bring more into my life – creative things, artsy things, Soul-things. She helped me see there WERE options and I wasn’t trapped.
I ended up being led to apply for a new teaching position – working with students who were dealing with challenges and obstacles in their young lives that most of us have never had to experience. I found a healthy purpose in my professional life again, and a renewed love for teaching.
From this experience, I learned that we’re never trapped, and there’s always an answer – even if we can’t see it right away. As my wonderful friend, Laura Lavigne, says: “There are things we know we know. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are a whole lot of things we don’t know we don’t know – and THAT is where the magic is!”
This experience happened more than a decade ago. I’m retired now. I’m so glad I was able to retire from my career feeling good about teaching, and about myself. I got to give the keynote speech and sing a song at the graduation that year, and celebrate the beauty of education. And all of that happened because I found the courage to make that phone call, and find help for myself. Talking with a professional helped me unlock the mental bars and see the possibilities for my life.
“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.” – Mary Baker Eddy
Because I’m a writer. That’s what writers do. Artists use brushes; I use a keyboard.
But what’s the point? Do you think you’re going to change anyone’s minds about stuff?
No, I know that’s not likely. And that’s not even my purpose. I don’t have a need for people to believe and feel and think exactly what I believe and feel and think about everything. People can believe whatever they want to believe, as long as their beliefs don’t cause harm to others.
You know why I share my thoughts and feelings in writing? Because I know there are other people out there who share similar feelings and I want them to know I understand what they’re feeling. I want them to know they’re not alone. I want to understand the perspectives of other people, too, and I want to give them the chance to understand mine – whether we agree with each other or not, I think it’s cool when we can understand each other.
Writing is how I connect to others. Writing – and reading what others have written – helps keep us from feeling isolated from one another.
“Sometimes you have to lose your mind to come to your senses.” – from The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.
Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.
I did a lot of stumbling during The Year of Insanity, and I learned a whole lot of lessons. It was, in essence, my last hurrah – my final experience with the lessons of “callow youth” and ego, before I could move on to the next stage in my development.
During The Year of Insanity it seemed I was confronted with temptation at every turn. I had to come face-to-face with ego, vanity, pride, insecurity, and addiction to praise. It was a really difficult time for me. It felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit, and I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep, had a constant dialogue going on inside my head about the past and the future, had to keep moving – trying to get away from myself, I guess – and had an actual physical heartache from the sadness I felt. There were times when I just wanted to hide myself away from the world, and not have to deal with this stuff anymore. There were times when I was so full of guilt about the feelings I was having that I just wanted to kill myself, and be done with it. There was a constant battle going on inside me, and it was really wearing.
If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people. Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?
I might have chosen, with good reason, to seek professional help during this time. I might have chosen, again with good reason, to take anti-depressant medications. And after having been through this experience, I can tell you – without any hesitation – that I do not fault anyone, at all, for seeking professional help and using medication if they think it’ll help them get through the kind of thing I went through during that year. And I can also understand why it might be hard for people to cogitate why I didn’t do those things in an effort to help myself.
All I can tell you, really, is that there was some part of me that felt I needed this experience – that I needed to feel the full depth and breadth of it – and there was a part of me that believed if I could survive this, I would come out of it much wiser and stronger than before I went into it. I guess I calculated the costs and rewards and decided the rewards would be worth it. If I could survive.
I give credit to Christian Science, and to my Father-Mother God, for getting me through this time. I absolutely know I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the understanding of God, Good, I’d gained through my study of Christian Science.
I also need to give thanks to three authors whose writings meant a great deal to me while I was working my way through that year. I’ve already quoted one of them – Eckhart Tolle – a contemporary thinker who’s had his own experience with depression, and has generously shared his wisdom and insights about that in several recent best-sellers. The second of the three authors was a liberal Christian minister of the late 1800’s named Henry Drummond. His book, The Greatest Thing in the World, was chock full of wise and wonderful thoughts on love – “the greatest thing in the world.” The third author was a man named Edward A. Kimball, an inspiring and mentally-rousing Christian Science lecturer and teacher during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Regarding my desire to hide myself away from temptation, Henry Drummond had this to say to me: “Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is your practice. That is the practice which God appoints you, and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous.” Drummond goes on to say: “Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles… Talent develops itself in solitude – the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; character grows in the stream of the world’s life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”
Drummond’s admonition to “keep in the midst of life” was really helpful to me. His words helped me look at the challenges I was facing as blessings and needed lessons in my path towards progress, rather than as proof of my weakness, or a reason to feel guilty.
Edward A. Kimball, too, was helpful to me in dealing with the feelings of guilt that seemed to be a symptom of the depression. In his book, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, Kimball writes, “It won’t do you a particle of good to enter upon a career of self-condemnation. Remorse never got anybody into heaven. A sense of regret and all that sort of thing is not the process. The process is reform; it is change; it is correction…”
Kimball writes, “…a purely human giving up endeavor does not give up, but does involve the scientist in a sense of greater fear. Evil is never disposed of as though it were something. It cannot be given up as though it were something…Try to realize that through Christian Science, you are constantly gaining that which will do everything for you, and that you will succeed according to the gaining process.”
This thought helped bring me peace – the insight that trying to fight an addiction by turning it into A Big Obstacle and using human will to force myself to “give it up” wasn’t the way for me to be healed – but that I needed to fill up the holes and emptiness I felt in my life by gaining an understanding of what constitutes true happiness and filling my life up with that. As my friend, Sabra, pointed out to me, we don’t remember the last time we laid down our dollies and moved on to other joys – giving up my toys was not a Major Event or something I had to force upon myself – it was a natural step in my forward way. And it can be that way with every forward step we take – we aren’t so much “giving up” something, as we are gaining something.
Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey. I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression. -Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book
Dear Lord and Father of us all,| Forgive our foolish ways; Reclothe us in our rightful mind; In purer lives Thy service find, In deeper reverence, praise.
Breathe through the pulses of desire Thy coolness and Thy balm; Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, O still small voice of calm.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from us now the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace. – John Greenleaf Whittier
I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I wanted the full experience – a big belly, labor, nursing, holding my baby close in my arms – the whole shebang. When I found out I was pregnant it was one of the best moments of my life. For me, that little zygote was a miracle. For me, that little zygote was my baby from the moment of conception. And when I saw his little heart beating, felt that first faint movement inside me, felt him pushing against me with his feet – it was magic! Labor wasn’t easy – but as soon as he was born and I got that rush of oxytocin – I told my husband I was ready to do this again!
I’m telling you this because I want you to underestand where I’m coming from when I tell you I am pro-choice. When it came to my own pregnancies, I never would have considered an abortion. But my prenancies were planned with happy anticipation. My babies were seen to be healthy in my womb. I was healthy as they grew inside me. I had the support of a wonderful husband and we were financially stable.
Not every woman feels the way I felt when I learned I was pregnant. Pregnancy is not “magic” in every situation and for every woman. Some females lose their lives because they’re pregant. Some females lose their lives in labor. Some females are still children themselves – with their whole lives in front of them and in no place – mentally, emotionally, socially, or financially – to become mothers responsible for other children. To some females, the idea of growing another human being inside of them is simply unfathomable and terrifying. Some females are pregnant because they’re the victims of rape and incest. Some females learn their babies are suffering from severe deformities that will cause them to have short pain-filled lives – and they want to spare their babies from that. For some women pregnancy is not the most magical thing they’ll ever experience, it is the most traumatic.
Every woman is unique – with her own needs and wants and fears – and every woman should have the freedom to choose for herself how her body should be used.
“I’m scared,” she said as she looked at the stars. “I’m scared of the war and the meanness, and the bigotry and the hate. Good seems so far and it seems too late.”
“But, child, I’ve never left you I’ve always been here,” came a voice to her thoughts, strong and clear. “You can’t lose Love – can’t lose what is real. You’re safe in this moment – just let yourself feel the Good all around you – precious and dear.”
And she let herself feel the Good with her then – brought her thoughts close to ever-where, ever-when. The Good hadn’t left her. Love was still there – wrapping gentle arms around her in the still evening air. -Karen Molenaar Terrell