My Year of Insanity

(Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

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?

Yeesh.

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.

For Those Who Dare to Get Out of Bed

For Those Who Dare to Get Out of Bed

So I’m lying in bed this morning
and I realize I have a choice –
I don’t HAVE to get out of bed today.

If I get out of bed there are sure
to be problems and complications.
I am almost guaranteed to make
SOMEbody angry today.
I am pretty much guaranteed to say
the wrong thing to someone
at the wrong time in the wrong place
in the wrong way.
I may get in someone’s way.
Someone may get in MY way.
I may lose my temper today.
I may be thoughtless and unkind.
I may die if I get out of bed.

On the other hand, I may die
if I stay in my bed, too.
I may miss out on a chance
to be thoughtful and kind.
I may miss an opportunity
to learn something new and to laugh,
and meet a new
friend, and see an eagle soar,
and enjoy the sunshine
on my face.

It takes courage to get out of bed
each day.

To all the courageous people who dare
to get out bed and face whatever comes
between now and tomorrow –
I wish you all the wonder and magic
you find today
because you got out of bed.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Good You Seek

The Good You Seek

I want to take a break, I said.
Can I step out of life for a moment,
or maybe stay in bed?
Can things go on without me?
Can you just pretend I’m not here?
For life is a messy business
and I’m tired and I’m weary
I’ve made too many mistakes to count today
And I’d like to not make anymore, not any.

And the still small voice reached into my thought
– gentle, peaceable benediction –
“All the good you seek and all that you’ve sought
you can claim right now – and that’s no fiction –
for Love is yours to express, to feel, and to be
– you are wealthy beyond description.
Nothing else matters, there’s no other power
no warring opinions, no need to cower
You are loved and you’re loving
and that’s all there is to it
Love’s loving child, and there’s nothing else
but loving, simply nothing.”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, A Poem Lives on My Windowsill

And It’s Okay to Feel That Way

I’m feeling sad tonight. Discouraged and sad.
And it’s okay to feel that way.
It’s okay to feel bad.
Sometimes I just have to sit in it, you know?
Just let myself feel what I feel
and learn what I need to learn, and grow.
There’s no battle I need to win here,
nothing to overcome,
no other place I need to go,
but right where I am.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Note to Self: This Will Pass

Notes to self:
This will pass. You’ve lived long enough to know that. Ride on top of the wave and let it take you to the other side.

Think of all the sunsets and sunrises and new friends you haven’t met, yet, still ahead of you.

Breathe in. Respiration. Inspiration. Breathe out.

Recognize what is truly you. And recognize what is absolutely not. Let go of the false you. You don’t have to waste time tending to it or fretting about it or trying to fix it. Just unwrap yourself from it and throw it in the dumpster. It’s not part of you and never was.

Recognize you can be happy even when you’re sad.

You’re not here for you. You’re here for something greater than you. As long as you can love you have a reason to be here.

Nothing can ever separate you from Love. Nothing can separate you from your joy.

Today is full of magic. Look for it. Find it. Be grateful for it.
Amen.

Getting Out of Bed Was a Good Idea

I did not want to get out of bed today. It was dark and cold “out there.” I figured I could just stay in bed all day. Who was going to stop me, right?

But here’s what happened instead: I remembered I wanted to reach out to someone who’d just lost a loved one. So I got out of bed and printed out a photo to make a card. Went to the post office to mail it. Got back in the car and decided to go exploring. Drove towards Padilla Bay. Came upon a humongous branch across the road. Another car pulled off the road and young Elijah got out of the car. Together, Elijah and I moved the branch off the road. I drove on to the Padilla Bay dike parking lot. There was only one other car parked in the lot. When I got on the dike I realized WHY there was only one other car parked in the lot. IT WAS CRAZY WINDY OUT THERE!!! Huge gusts of wind pushed against me and almost knocked me off the path. IT WAS GREAT!!! Now I was awake, for sure.

Drove home. Made myself some avocado toast and cocoa. Put “Mary Poppins” on the television and surrounded myself in cozy memories of Moz and Dad and watching “Mary Poppins” with them as a young girl.

Getting out of bed was a good idea.

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

Branch Across Road
Elijah

Windy day on the Padilla Bay Dike.

The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book

Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 4):
At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much, but I sure learned a lot from that experience. I wrote about my journey through depression in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book. The Middle Book has six ratings now – all five stars! Here’s an excerpt:

On New Year’s Eve, 2007, I was hit particularly hard by the belief of depression – caught up in weird and intense feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. I don’t know what led me to check out my book on Amazon that night, but when I clicked on Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist I found that just that day someone had added a new review for my book. The review read, in part: “Karen becomes your friend, someone you know and love and you know if she knew you, she would love you the way you want to be loved.” I read those words and was so touched by them I began to cry. This was exactly the message I needed at that moment. If I could love others, I had worth. If others could love me, there was hope. I’ve always felt that the man who wrote that review had been listening to the voice of Love that day. He’d been guided by Love’s direction to take the time to write a review for my book – and, because he did that for me, he helped to bring me out of a place of deep despair.

We all have access to an incredible power to bring good to other people’s lives. That day my book’s reviewer had tapped into that power.
***
My eldest son, Andrew, understood that I desperately needed to get away from “myself” – needed to get away from the routine of my life – and volunteered to go with me to the Oregon coast during our Spring Break. His willingness to accompany me on a fourteen-hour drive (round trip) meant a great deal to me and, frankly, surprised me. What sixteen year-old young man do you know who would volunteer to go with his mom on a road trip? We had such a great time. We’re both kind of easy-going when it comes to traveling. Sometimes I would wander, accidentally or on purpose, off the beaten track, and it would take me awhile to find my way back to our route – but Andrew never panicked about any of this. He just let me take him wherever I ended up going, without worry or concern about it. I remember one time we pulled over at a “scenic viewpoint” to find ourselves looking down on a sawmill and pulp mill that was belching up great plumes of smoke. Without saying a word, Andrew and I looked at each other and started snickering – I knew what he was thinking – scenic viewpoint?!

On the way down, we stopped to visit with my beloved Aunt Junie. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that visit: “Spent the night with Aunt Junie. She is so amazing. She’s like Yoda. I was all weepy, told her I’d made mistakes and had lost close friends who told me I was a bad friend and a bad person. Junie was appalled. She said I am a good person – all her intuition tells her that I am a good person and she has no doubts about that.” Junie believed in me, had faith in me, and trusted in me. And I really needed that at the moment. She told me that “there are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” To be given hope and a fresh start is incredibly freeing.



Beyond the Year of Insanity

A couple of days ago I wrote a post that began thusly: “13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now. I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today…”

The Year of Insanity was life-changing for me. After it was over I found I had to start over and build from scratch big parts of my life – my career, my approach to life, my relationships with friends – because my old way of doing things wasn’t going to work for me anymore. I think this is going to be true for our world, too, once it makes it through its own Year of Insanity.

A few years after The Year of Insanity I found myself in a transition between one job and the next – The Year of Insanity had helped me realize that my mental health was more important than any amount of money and that I could no longer continue in a position that didn’t feel “right” to me. The transition into a new career was a scary, exhilarating, audacious, crazy wonderful time for me – rich with possibilities. I was unfettered and open to whatever new opportunities came my way – ready to create a whole ‘nother career for myself. For the first time I went to a counselor – and she helped me discover for myself what it was I needed to do to bring sanity to my life – what I needed to discard, and what I needed to nurture. Creativity moved up to the front of my life – photography and writing and music. The insane stuff – nonsensical edicts (stuff like that scene from “Office Space” involving “the memo” – you know the one), schedules and bureaucracy, fear and anxiety – got tossed.

And, once I opened my thought to all the infinite possibilities, cool things started happening: I was offered a small salary to work as my church’s Reading Room librarian; I got a contract to proofread and write for an educational publishing company; I made note cards of my photos and started selling them at a little coffee shop; my book, *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist*, was bringing in a small amount in royalties every month. I wasn’t making a LOT of income at first – it was more a symbolic income, really – but it was enough to give me hope that there was something waiting for me beyond the career I’d left behind. And soon I was offered another job, teaching at an alternative high school, that brought my life purpose and great joy for the next seven years – until I retired a year ago last June.

Love, God, has always been with me – through the good stuff and the “bad” – leading and guiding me, and opening up new doors ahead of me, as other doors have closed behind me. I’ve come to recognize that Love will always provide for me and mine, and that I never need to fear what the future holds; It holds nothing but good – because even the “bad” is transformed into something good when we put Love at the helm.

You know that old adage – “Quitters never win and winners never quit”? Well, I have found that sometimes the bravest and best thing we can do for ourselves – and the world – is to quit the course we’re on when it’s not the right one for us, and start something entirely new.

“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
– Matthew 9

“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

Pinnacle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo from the Plummer Peak trail. (Karen Molenaar Terrell)

The Year of Insanity

13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now.

I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today. And recognizing that is what is going on is giving me some compassion for my world and its inhabitants. I understand what this feels like. I understand that shaming someone who is mentally ill is not going to make things better. Laying guilt on someone going through a massive clinical depression – as I went through – is not going to heal that individual, or the world. Hating someone who is not herself or himself or their self, and is already contemplating suicide, is not going to fix the problem.

Having personally experienced mental illness I know the one and only thing that can reach through the fog of insanity and heal mental illness is love.

We need to recognize that those individuals who are experiencing and exhibiting mental illness right now are not themselves. This isn’t THEM. Their real identity – OUR real identity – is secure and safe – “hid with Christ” in Love – where goodness and purity and intelligence and wisdom and kindness and honesty are eternally, indestructibly qualities of who we ALL really are.

13 years ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today – I contemplated suicide daily. But look at all I would have missed if I’d given up on life then! – All the beautiful new friends I wouldn’t have met! The sunsets and sunrises I wouldn’t have seen! The lessons I wouldn’t have learned! The changes I wouldn’t have been able to make! The love and laughter I would have denied myself! When I was deep in the depression I couldn’t imagine a happy ending to my story. I couldn’t imagine I’d ever get out of it. Couldn’t imagine it ever ending.

But then one day the fog lifted and I awakened from the nightmare. I looked out on the world and I was connected again – connected to the joy and the beauty and a sense of well-being. I had myself back again. Now I’m really grateful for that year of learning – that year of shedding the chrysalis (and that feels like what the whole world is doing right now). I learned a new appreciation for the power of love; gained a new appreciation for the power of a moment and a good, deep breath; I came to appreciate the power of choice; and gained renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; I gained greater humility, empathy, and compassion for others; and a stronger commitment to my own spiritual journey.

I learned I can be happy even when I’m sad.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”
– Richard Buckminster Fuller

“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Joyful Without Reason

My joy is not dependent on matter –
not dependent on flattering chatter –
my clothes can be in tatters,
my ego-dreams all shattered,
and possessions scattered –
but I’m alive! I can love! I can learn!
Joy is not something I have to earn –
not something I need a reason
or a special season
to feel.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
– Habbakuk 3:17,18

“Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.”
– Mary Baker Eddy