At the Age of 51 I Went Insane

“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?

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.
-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

Lake Padden Forest (Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

One of the Two Best Days of My Life

I thought this Mother’s Day weekend might be a good time to share, again, one of the two best days of my life (the other best day being the birth of my eldest son) :

“O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.”
From the Christian Science Hymnal, words by Mary Baker Eddy

I’d hoped that with the birth of my second child I would have a full night’s sleep before going into labor (having experienced a sleepless night in the birth of my first son) and that, unlike my first birthing experience, this time the process would be quick and easy. Having taken no pain medication in the birth of my first son, I’d also decided that I would ask for an epidural with this one, reasoning that even Christian Scientists usually get Novocain before letting dentists drill their teeth.

It all began as I’d hoped it would. I got my full night’s sleep, started feeling labor pains at nine in the morning, and, according to the midwife who met my husband and I at the hospital, was proceeding very smoothly and quickly through the birth. I asked for the epidural and was given one. Life was looking pretty good. Even the nurse attending me commented on how great it was to have a nice, normal couple to work with and to have a nice, normal birth to witness.

But not long after I was given the epidural, something started to go wrong. Apparently the baby’s cord was wrapped around his neck and he was in distress. It was decided to give me a caesarean section to get the baby out quickly.

As they wheeled me down to the operating room (my rear sticking up in the air in a very undignified position), I called back to my mom, who was following behind the gurney, to phone the Christian Science practitioner at the Christian Science Reading Room and ask her to pray for us.

Once they got me down to the O.R. I was attached to machines to monitor the baby’s heart rate and blood pressure, the staff took Scott away to don him in surgical garb, and the surgical team prepared to slice me open. Everything was happening very quickly, and there was a lot of bustling activity surrounding me, but, strangely, I felt very calm. I knew that no matter what happened, God was in control and the baby was moving at Her direction and guidance.

Now I was surrounded by a team of medical staffers whom, aside from my midwife, I’d never before met. Their eyes flicked from the monitor to my belly and back to the monitor again. I saw they were all puzzled by something. There was a moment of quiet. Then suddenly they all began yelling, “Push! Push!” – like they were spectators at a sporting event. I felt surrounded in Love – love from the medical staff who only wanted the best for my baby, love from my husband, and love from God. In a matter of moments our son entered the world in the old-fashioned way and the medical staff whooped like their favorite team had just won the championship. One of the nurses was crying. When I asked her why, she said that as an operating room nurse she’d never before been able to witness a baby being born naturally, and she felt she’d just witnessed a rare and special thing.

When I asked my midwife what had happened that had enabled my son to be born without a caesarean section, she said, “We don’t know.”

Later my mom shared what the Christian Science practitioner had told her when she reached her on the phone: “Life loves that baby!”

***

For a few hours we called our son Pieter Dee. Then we tried out the name Nicholas Piet. Finally, after a day in his company, we realized that this baby had big presence – his body was small, but something of his irrepressible identity was communicating itself to us – and we knew he needed a big name to match that identity. So we named him Alexander Raymond Dee Terrell. His name had more syllables than he had poundage, but it fit him just right all the same.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell (from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist.)

(Below, my mom with her grandson Xander.)

Christian Science Treatment: She Said, “Of Course!”

Your request for prayerful support
was proof of God’s constant supply –
proof of Love giving all of us
what we need to soar and fly
and celebrate Life together.

You couldn’t have given her
a greater gift than to ask
for her help. She had a choice –
she could have said no;
she could have said her plate was full;
she could have told you she wasn’t ready;
she could have told you she was scared.
But instead she was just so glad you
reached out – she was so glad you shared
this opportunity with her.

And the moment she said, “Of course!” –
the moment she opened herself up
to the power of “The Force” –
she felt her heart flood
with joy and love
and she knew without doubt or fear
that you and she were in the middle
of a healing together –
right now, right here.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

A Christian Science treatment isn’t a one-way giving.
It’s sharing a feast together. It’s Love’s children celebrating
together on holy ground, unbound.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Trumpeter swans in flight over Skagit Valley, Washington. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.


“Be It Song, Sermon, or Science”

“Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love – be it song, sermon, or Science – blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ’s table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

And in the spirit of that quote –

Here’s a song:
Here’s the first song I sang on “singsnap” – a song by Jason Mraz that feels like an anthem to the world – not just a love song between two people, but a promise to the planet: “I won’t give up on us…we’ve got a lot to learn, but God knows we’re worth it.”
https://www.singsnap.com/#/d/listen/1020508

Here’s a sermon:
We have just a tiny scrap of existence here
– a miniscule piece of our eternity –
to love and learn and live
and leave something good behind.
Let’s not waste it on nothings.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

In his sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond asks,“Why do we want to live to-morrow? Is it because there is some one who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back? There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved.” Drummond writes, “There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful, there is a great deal that is great and engrossing, but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while…You will give yourself to many things; give yourself first to love.”

And here’s some Science:
Whatever furnishes the semblance of an idea governed  by its Principle, furnishes food for thought. Through astronomy, natural history, chemistry, music, mathematics,  thought passes naturally from effect back to cause.  Academics of the right sort are requisite. Observation, invention, study, and original thought are expansive  and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal.”
– from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

Here’s an example of the use of Science for a healing of a puffed-up hand:
Observation: My right hand appears to be puffed-up like a balloon.
Question: Can I use Christian Science to heal this puppy?
Hypothesis: If I use my understanding of Christian Science, then I will experience healing.
Predict: I predict my hand will be healed.
Test: I’ll use my understanding of Christian Science to heal the “ballooned” hand.
Analyze the data and draw a conclusion.
Present the findings:

November, 2011:
I woke up to find my hand inflated to twice its normal size, and really painful – I couldn’t bend my fingers or anything. My first thought was, “Well, this is interesting.”

I got myself dressed and drove to my workplace. I figured I’d just work around my inflated hand until it went back to normal. But when I showed my hand to my co-workers to see if they’d had any experience with something like this, they were all really scared for me. One of them told me about an allergic reaction that had nearly killed her son. Three or four other people mentioned that flesh-eating disease, or other serious infections, that had nearly killed them or their loved ones. Everyone advised me to see a doctor post haste.

Well, I really like my hand, you know – and the thought of losing it was pretty scary to me. So I called our family doctor right away and left work to see him. Normally he laughs with me about stuff, but this time he was not laughing. He was pretty serious, actually. He said he thought it was either a serious infection or rheumatoid arthritis – although my case wasn’t typical of either one of those because I didn’t have any open wounds and my joints weren’t inflamed. He wanted to start me on drugs right away – some to address the one thing, and some to address the other – and he wanted to run blood tests on me. I agreed to the blood tests, but I told him I didn’t want to start taking any drugs until I knew better what was going on with me. (The one or two times I’ve ever actually taken pharmaceuticals, I’ve always had a bad side effect from them. Also, when I’m working out a problem through Christian Science, part of the process for me is real-izing the “reality” of Spirit, and the nothingness of matter – and, in taking drugs, I’d, in essence, be giving power to matter, and working contrary to what I needed to do for a healing in Christian Science.)

So I didn’t take the drugs, I went in for the blood tests, and came home and called for prayerful support from a Christian Science practitioner.

Although there’s no template or anything for Christian Science healing – sometimes healing can come so quickly – instantly – with just a quick change of thought – that there’s really no process involved. But I usually start my treatments with an affirmation of God, Good, Love, as the only power, the only reality. My application of Christian Science to this problem probably went something like this:

I am the idea of Love and Truth and Life – eternally perfect and whole, healthy and active, unchanged, undimmed, loved, loving, intelligent, alert, aware of all good. The belief that I can ever be less than my perfect, ideal self, is a lie. The belief that I can ever be separated from Love, Good, God, is a lie. As an idea, I dwell forever within the consciousness of Love. I am the image and likeness of Love. I am the perfect child of perfect Love. I reflect nothing but Love, Spirit, Life, Truth, Principle, Mind, Soul. There’s nothing about me that is imperfect, for there’s nothing in my Father-Mother out of which imperfection could come.

And, for the treatment of my hand, I definitely handled the fear in my thought. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook: “Fear, which is an element of all disease, must be cast out to readjust the balance for God… Take possession of your body, and govern its feeling and action. Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man… ”

The next morning my hand was even MORE puffed-up. But the fear in my thought was completely gone, and – even though my hand didn’t appear better – I knew I was healed. By the second morning my hand was completely back to normal.

When I called the doctor’s office to find out what the results of the blood test were, the receptionist said that one of the markers in the blood test indicated rheumatoid arthritis, and they wanted me to set up an appointment with a rheumatoid arthritis specialist. I told her my hand was completely fine now. She was really surprised by this, and called a nurse to the phone to talk to me. I told the nurse the hand was deflated, and there was nothing wrong with me at all. She didn’t say anything right away – I could imagine her trying to process what I was telling her. She finally said okay, that if anything changed to let them know, but she guessed they wouldn’t “go any further” with it right then.

That was ten years ago and there’s been no return of the condition.

Conclusion: Love heals.



The Christmas Dog

It is time, once again, for the telling of “The Christmas Dog” story:

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death.”
From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her. 

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

 “But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal – “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.   

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating. 

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.) 

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist and The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

Readings on Healing

Years ago, when serving as First Reader in the local Christian Science church, I put together readings from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) on “Healing.” Something caused me to think about those readings again yesterday, and, flipping through my old Reader’s binder, I found the citations I’d read that Wednesday night, 25 years ago.

I’d started off the readings with this citation from Genesis 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them… And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The citation that followed was from Ecclesiastes 4: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it…”

I’d followed with citations from Mark in the Bible that showed examples of healing: Jesus’ healing of the leper; the healing of Jairus’s daughter; and the healing of the woman with “an issue of blood.”

I’d begun my readings from Science and Health with Mary Baker Eddy’s scientific statement of being: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.” Later I read this passage from Science and Health: “The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness.” I ended the readings from Science and Health with Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.

I usually put together readings on a topic that I was grappling with myself, and, almost always, I found that there were folks in the congregation who were grappling with the very same issues.

And because it’s come to me to re-look at my readings from that Wednesday night 25 years ago, I figure it might be helpful to others to look at those readings, too. I’ll include a photo of the readings below, and attach a Spotify audio recording of the readings to this post.

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.

“An Angel Entertained Unawares”

The more I think about that delightful phone conversation with the IRS lady yesterday, the more I appreciate the magic of it. (See yesterday’s blog post.) I mean… here’s this thing I’m dreading – one more task I have to take care of. One last thing I need to do to take care of Dad’s business – and I thought I’d already done the last thing when I’d had his 2020 tax return sent it. I’d heaved a huge sigh of relief that I was finally done with my duties. After four years of paperwork, of forms, calls to hospice and doctors, Veterans Administration people and financial institutions – that last tax return felt, to me, like I’d finally crossed the finish line and finished the marathon. And then to get that letter from the IRS, telling me that now I had to verify his identity for that 2020 tax return… it felt like it was just too much, you know?

But it ended up being this incredible gift to me! A gift from Dad. A gift from Love, God. I’d needed this. This was the EXACT thing I’d needed yesterday. But it was the LAST thing I thought I needed. I was feeling sick from the vaccine, frustrated by life-stuff, and cranky. And Love gave me this gift that forced me to go a different direction – that forced me to draw close to Love and allowed me to meet a new friend.

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

“God bless you, too!”

Some powerful (and really unexpected) magic happened today.

I woke up feeling unwell. Yesterday I’d had my second Pfizer vaccine and it had hit me hard. I did not feel on top of my game. I drove to the post office to mail off a package and to pick up my mail from the post office box. There was a letter from the IRS in there – telling me I needed to verify my deceased father’s identity (he’d died in January, 2020, at the age of 101).

The last couple of weeks have been crazy with paperwork: Papers to notarize; papers to co-sign; papers to attest to this and papers to attest to that. So when I got this letter from the IRS, I felt my heart sink. I wasn’t sure I could handle even one more piece of paperwork. And, because of the vaccine, I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to take that on today, anyway. But I figured I’d give it a try and see how far I could go.

I tried going to the website the letter told me to go to – but in order to verify Dad’s identity there I’d have to provide numbers for his credit cards/mortgage/student loans/etc. – and… Dad is dead. He doesn’t have any of that stuff anymore. So I called the number that was given on the letter. The first time I called I was told to try again later – maybe tomorrow – because the IRS is really busy. But when I gave it a chance and called again half an hour later, I was given the option to put my phone number on a waiting list and was told the IRS would call ME back in half an hour.

I used that half hour to prepare – not just gather all the tax stuff I was going to need for the phone call, but to prepare myself with prayer, too. I made a choice. I was going to see this phone call as an opportunity to make a new friend – to connect with another someone who was calling to help me. I would be cheerful. I would be friendly. I would be kind. I would be grateful. I would find healing.

When my phone rang and I answered it I heard a voice on the other end that was warm and rich and a little southern – she sounded kind of like Viola Davis. I explained my problem to the IRS lady and, as she asked me questions, we began to share laughter with each other. She asked me my Dad’s birthdate and when I told her Dad was born in 1918 and said, “Isn’t that crazy?!” – she laughed and agreed that it WAS crazy. She asked me my name and I said, “Well…ummm…this is not a good time to have my name, but I’m Karen.” She started laughing and told me she was sure I wasn’t THAT kind of “Karen,” and when I assured her that I wasn’t that kind of “Karen” – that I actually have marched in a BLM rally – she thanked me for doing that. When we’d started our conversation it hadn’t sounded like I’d be able to verify Dad’s identity right then – that I’d maybe need to fill out other forms first – but by the time we’d ended our conversation the IRS lady had led me through the verification process and I was done! I told the IRS lady that she had been “delightful” and thanked her so much for all her help. “God bless you!” I said.

She said, “God bless you, too!”

Isn’t that lovely?!

I have no idea what this woman’s name is or where she lives or what she looks like – but I felt the love coming through the phone today, and I felt like I’d met a new friend.

And after I hung up the phone I realized that I was feeling much better physically, too.  Love heals.

Love and a Sunrise

I went for a drive as the sun was rising this morning and pondered the concept of Love. I put in a CD of Alison Krauss’s music, listened to her sing the Beatle’s “I Will” – and let the music lift me up into that magical place where there’s no anger or fear, enemies or hate – where all of creation knows nothing but joy and good will. This poem and these pictures are what I brought back…

If I open myself up to Love
I avail myself of all the power of Love –
the warm, healing presence of Love.

Love isn’t some fragile thing.
It’s not destructible.
It’s not pretty in a Christmas tree
glass ornament way.
It’s enduring, dependable;
as solid as a mother’s lap;
as strong as a father’s rescuing arms;
as beautiful as the sound of Beethoven’s
“Joy”-  indestructible, and perfect.

Love fills all space –
every corner, hole, and crevice –
the collective consciousness
of universal compassion and kindness
nurturing and reaching out to
the love in all of us.
And the love in all of us can’t help
but respond.

And that’s how we heal.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Click here for a link to a video I filmed of the sunrise.

Photos of the sunrise over Skagit County, Washington, this morning. Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.